Terri Schlichenmeyer | Contributing Writer

Wild-eyed and panicked — you must’ve been a sight last year, two days before the holidays and with four final what-do-I-give presents to find. That’s when you stop, deep-breathe and find yourself a bookstore for these great last-minute gift ideas.

Let’s start with the biography fan. You can’t go wrong with Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman, a biography on the movie star, his work and his life. Based on Grant’s own papers, this is a keeper. Also look for Barack Before Obama: Life Before the Presidency, photographs by David Katz; though the foreword is by former President Obama himself, there’s little narrative here — enough to keep someone happy but with more pictures. And for the sports-minded, there’s My Brother, Muhammad Ali: The Definitive Biography by Rahaman Ali with Fiaz Rafiq.

For the reader who loves mysteries, you really can’t go wrong with anything by C.J. Box or William Kent Krueger. There are no cozies here: Both these authors write rugged mystery-thrillers with gorgeous scenery and the baddest of killers. Hint: You can grab any book in either man’s series and let your gift stand alone. Your recipient can look for the rest in both series later.

Any science-minded person on your list will truly enjoy Fossil Men by Kermit Pattison, a book on paleontology and the race to find the remains of our most ancient ancestors. Then seek out A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of The Animal Rights Movement by Ennest Freeberg. It’s about a Dr. Doolittle-type man who fought Gilded-Age robber barons and celebrities on behalf of animals. Part history, part science, all good.

You know how politics have consumed our lives in 2020, so The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again by Robert D. Putnam is something to wrap up for that certain family member who’s been worried about rifts. Putnam proves here that we can heal — and we will. But it’s going to take work.

This year, crafting may have taken a front-seat at your home and American Axe: The Tool That Shaped a Continent by Brett McLeod is a unique one in the genre. Filled with pictures of people using and enjoying these basic tools, as well as statistics, ad reproductions and plenty of backstory, it’s also something of a history book.

Finally, if there’s a kid on your list and you’re out of ideas, look for Pet That Dog by Gideon Kidd & Rachel Braunigan. Gideon is a Twitter star who started petting dogs and tweeting about it. And so: this book about dogs. It’s perfect for kids ages 7 and up, and for grown-ups, too. And if your little reader is even younger, look for The Grinny Granny Donkey by Craig Smith, illustrations by Katz Cowley. If you’ve seen the Wonky Donkey video, you’ll know what you’re in for.

Need more ideas? Then ask, look around, ask and then ask your bookseller again. They’ll help keep you from wild-eyed panic. Happy Holidays!