Books: The Perfect Last-Minute Gift

Great books to consider from this year’s crop
By Terri SchlichenmeyerFFW-12-17-09cover

For about a month now, you’ve been on a mission. You’ve been doing a bit of spying and stealth is the name of your game. Bravely, you’ve ventured forward in search of your prey, always aware, eyes constantly roving. You’re not sure what your target looks like, but you’re confident you’ll know it when you see it. Able to leap tall trees in a single bound, speedier than shoppers at a buy-one-get-one bin, more powerful than a 75 percent off sale, you’re invincible. Whew. Holiday shopping is hard work.

So how about some relief? How about one-stop shopping at your local bookstore? Here are some great suggestions to get you going and to shorten your gift buying load.


Travelers, particularly those interested in old buildings and beautiful architecture, will love “Stories in Stone” by David B. Williams. This book discusses art, geology, old buildings and more. If you’ve ever spied a gargoyle atop a building and wondered why he was there, this book will tell you why.

No doubt there’s a drama queen (or king) on your gift list. For her or him, there’s no better gift than “How to Be Famous” by Heidi Montag & Spencer Pratt. This tongue-in-cheek book gives step-by-step tips on getting your name in the tabs and becoming the one everybody talks about. Hint: not just for grown-ups, your teen may get a kick out of this book, too.

Trivia fans will enjoy reading “The Final Four of Everything” edited by Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir. This fun book is filled with argument starters and trivia on a variety of topics, including lousy husbands, absurd college nicknames and Richard vs. Dick. Another trivia-type book for fans of minutiae is “The Handy Geography Answer Book” by Paul A. Tucci and Matthew T. Rosenberg, which is also great for kids.

This was the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, and if you’ve got someone who still longs for summers of Peace and Love, wrap up “By the Time We Got to Woodstock” by Bruce Pollock. Complete with pictures and lots of memories, this book is groovy, man. Also look for “The Sixties” by Jenny Diski, a memoir as seen through the eyes of someone who lived through those psychedelic times. “The Rock & Roll Book of the Dead” by David Comfort, is a look at the lives of Hendrix, Elvis, Lennon, Joplin and Morrison and their impact on our music.

While it may seem like an odd gift to give this holiday season, “Nontoxic Housecleaning” by Amy Kolb Noyes would surely be appreciated by anyone concerned about the environment. There are lots of good suggestions, all ideas that your going green giftee will enjoy knowing. Also look for “Earth Talk” by E! The Environment Magazine and “Now or Never” by Tim Flannery. Both of these inexpensive and quick-to-read books will help your green-thinking giftee be even greener.

No doubt there is someone on your list who will be overjoyed by Brad Steiger’s “Beyond Shadow World,” the third volume in Steiger’s “Shadow World” trilogy in which he discusses spirits and the supernatural.

Then there’s “Real Vampires, Night Stalkers, and Creatures from the Darkside,” a book that’s, well, it’s about the things that go bump in the night.

And finally (this is my favorite), “Real Miracles, Divine Intervention, and Feats of Incredible Survival” co-written by Sherry Hansen Steiger. This fun-to-read book is filled with amazing stories that are surprisingly inspirational and would also be a good book for anyone who believes in angels.

If there’s a weather junkie on your gift list, here are two easy-to-give books: “Weather’s Greatest Mysteries Solved!” by Randy Cerveny is a book about weather, history and how one affected the other. This is a great book for science aficionados, too. Also look for “The Handy Weather Answer Book: Second Edition” by Kevin Hile. Better for kids or cumulonimbus neophytes, this book will also be welcomed by people who love talking about the weather.

“Before They Changed the World” by Edwin Kiester Jr. is a book filled with mini-biographies of men and women who made a difference. Also look for “The Sharing Solution” by Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow. This book, filled with useful ideas for saving money and community, really will make a difference.

Holiday get togethers can be fun … or not. If you’ve just about had enough of one another, then have “How to Hug a Porcupine: Easy Ways to Love The Difficult People in Your Life” on your bookshelf, just in case. This cute book will give you step-by-step ways to cope during the holidays and in the New Year.

Linguists and word lovers will love ripping the paper off “Ifferisms” by Mardy Grothe. This book is part quotation, part word play, part anecdotal anthology and all fun.

Would your giftee remember where he or she was 40 years ago on a Sunday? Chances are, the answer would be: gathered with the family around the TV. In “Sundays with Sullivan” by Bernie Ilson, fans of Ed Sullivan and pop culture will see how this one show changed music and the way we think about it. This book includes a lot of pictures and even more memories for Baby Boomers and their parents.

Also look for “Watching What We Eat” by Kathleen Collins, which is about cooking shows then and now.

So you’ve got a know-it-all pet lover on your gift list and you don’t know what to give. Look for “The Smartest Animals on the Planet” by Sally Boysen. This book is definitely not about humans; rather, it’s about birds who aren’t bird-brains, monkeys with better-than-human smarts, dolphins, rats and more. Also look for “Guardians of Being” by Eckhart Tolle. This is one of those sweet gifty books that makes you want to go hug your four-legged family members.

Now out in paperback, animal lovers will want to read “The Daily Coyote” by Shreve Stockton, a true story of love, danger and living with a creature that’s wild at heart, set in rugged Wyoming country. Wrap it up with “Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time” by Richard Conniff, which is a book about adventures with dangerous animals both in water and out.

No doubt, you’ve got a free spirit on your gift list. You know who she is, and I know she’ll love “Don’t Miss Your Life!” by Charlene Ann Baumbich. This book weaves faith, fear of failure and fun together in a guide for making a life worth living and laughing about. Hint: wrap it up with a fun toy or joke book.

Does it seem, every holiday, that a lively discussion of current events precedes the feasting at your house? If so, be sure to have “The Ultimate Peace: America’s Challenge in the Middle East” by Charbel E-H Moussa around. This book offers a unique look at what’s going on in the Middle East, as well as some suggestions to broker an end to war. Short and quick to read, it might settle (or ignite) more discourse.

The history buff on your list will love is “Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure” by Matthew Algeo. In this “can-you-imagine?” true story, Algeo tells about the trip that Harry and Bess Truman (yes, THAT Harry Truman) took by themselves (no Secret Service) to visit friends and see the country. If you can believe it, they hoped not to be recognized. Fun, and a sign of those times, this book will appeal to anyone who loves quirky history.

More for your history fan, “The Great Depression: A Diary” by Benjamin Roth, a book featuring a diary written by a lawyer who watched the world crumble and rebuild around him.

Does someone on your list long for a vacation retreat? He or she might think twice if you wrap up “The Weekender Effect” by Robert William Sandford. This small book is a plea, and packs a lot of big ideas; mainly that we need small towns and undeveloped areas. Hint: wrap it up inside a backpack because it might inspire someone to go hiking.


Without a doubt, there’s someone on your gift list who loves a mystery. Wrap up “Heat Wave” by Richard Castle. When a real estate tycoon falls to his death on a New York City sidewalk, it’s obvious that he didn’t just fall. It’s up to Detective Nikki Heat to turn up the heat on NYC bad guys in this hard-bitten novel. Also try “The Big Wake-Up” by Mark Coggins (with a very noir ’50s cover).

Need a book for someone who loves the out-of-the-ordinary? Check out “Death Wish” by Nicole Cleaver. Following a tragedy, a woman escapes to another life where nobody knows her background to try and put her life together. When she meets a man she’s sure she can love again, well, let’s just say your giftee will want to take a bite out of this unusual novel.

If your giftee loves historical novels, there are lots to look for this holiday season. “The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire” by C.M. Mayo is based on the true story of the reign of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. “Lady Vernon and Her Daughter” by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan and is set in Regency England.

Does anyone ever outgrow their love of the classics? If your giftee is a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson, then your gift will be the favorite when you give “Flint and Silver” by John Drake. A prequel to “Treasure Island,” this novel imagines what happened before John Silver and Joseph Flint met up in the classic. Hint: wrap it up along with a new copy of Stevenson’s book for a great gift.

Maybe someone on your gift list is missing home. Show her you understand by giving her “Evenings at the Argentine Club” by Julia Amante. This is a book about family, generations and loving those who love you. Also look for “Tell Me Something True” by Leila Cobo, about family, secrets and things you never, as a child, want to know.

What will the world be like two generations in the future? If you’ve got to find something for your favorite science fiction fan, then go for “2045: A Story of Our Future” by Peter Seidel. This novel — part fiction, part call-to-action will make your giftee think and it might even scare him to action. For further hair-raising reading, wrap up “The Touch” by F. Paul Wilson, a novel about a doctor whose new powers of healing come with at a frightening price.

If a little international intrigue and a fast-paced, complicated story is exactly what your giftee will love, then look for “Condemned” by Jon Nicholas Iannuzzi. Set in New York, Russia, Columbia and Romania, this novel takes its readers on a whirlwind tour of the dangers of drug trafficking, organized crime, street dealers, and corruption.

And if none of these books are perfect, ask your favorite bookseller for his or her expert help because, hey, that’s what they’re paid to know, right?

Season’s Readings!

Categories: Features