Great reads can make some of the best gifts

Terri Schlichenmeyer

The mistletoe is hung, and so are the garlands, the ornaments, window decorations, and lights. You’d be ready for the holidays, too, if you weren’t hung up on a gift for that one certain person.

Colorful Books

Now what?  Now head to the bookstore with this column in-hand, and look for one of these great books ...


If your giftee a lover of memoirs, “Woman at 1,000 Degrees” by Hallgrimur Helgason is a novel she may like, too. It’s told in the voice of 80-year-old Herra Björnsson, who is at the end of her life and she’s in the mood to share… Wrap it up with “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton, a novel of an archivist, a very old manor, and a bit of a mystery that transcends time.

Your cat lovers will take to “Talk to the Paw” by Melinda Metz like catnip. It’s a little bit romance, a little bit angst, a theft, and a purr-fect ending.

Girl with straw hat reading book on the beach on a sunny day

If it’s not too timely to be a good gift, look for “Only Child” by Rhiannon Navin. It’s a book about a school shooting and a mother’s actions when her son is injured in ways that can’t be bandaged.

The short story fan will be glad to unwrap “Sweet & Low” by Nick White. This book is full of Southern fiction, characters you forget are not real, and situations that make a good yarn great. For true short-story fans, pair it with “Everyday People: The Color of Life – A Short Story Anthology” edited by Jennifer Baker.

For the giftee who sometimes wishes for a life-rewind, “The Dinner List” by Rebecca Serle could be a good choice to give. It’s a story about one evening, one meal, a lot of loved ones (past and present) and a chance to make things right. Pair it up with “The Dream Daughter” by Diane Chamberlain, a book about a mother’s first chances.

If you give “The Witch Elm” by Tana French to your suspense-novel lover, be prepared to be ignored for the rest of the day. Not on purpose, but because this is a story of an injured man, a decades-old mystery, and plenty of spine-tingles.

For the historical fiction fan, look for “A Well-Behaved Woman” by Therese Anne Fowler. It’s a multi-generational tale of wealth and high-society (and the Vanderbilts), set in the years following the Civil War, and one woman’s desire – need? – to make it to the top of New York’s social scene.


For the person who can’t get enough of John, Paul, George, or Ringo, “Visualizing the Beatles” by John Pring and Rob Thomas is something they’ll want to hold in their hands. It’s a graphic history of the Fab Four, so lots of pictures, easy to browse, fun to have. Pair it with “The Cutting Edge” by Leslie Cavendish, who was the woman who cut and styled the Beatles’ hair.

For the armchair detective or CSI fan, “The Handy Forensic Science Answer Book” by Patricia Barnes-Svarney and Thomas E. Svarney will be a welcome gift this year. In a Q&A format, this book teaches and answers the kinds of questions any detective-show fan can come up with. It may also chill you… Wrap it up with any good murder mystery, of course!  Or better yet, wrap it up with “Murder, Lies, and Cover-Ups” by David Gardner, a book about conspiracies and the whodunit deaths of celebrities your giftee will surely remember.

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Yes, Earth is a pretty good place to live. Oxygen, water, trees… but what is our presence doing to the planet? “Darwin Comes to Town” by Menno Schilthuizen is one of those books that’ll answer your giftee’s questions while it also invites him to think. How is our world thriving and surviving?  Pair it up with “The Simpol Solution” by John Bunzl and Nick Duffell, a book about fixing the global problems we face today and our children could face tomorrow. Consider more with “The Disaster Survival Guide” by Marie D. Jones, a book that’s a good primer for coming out the other side of nature’s worst and mankind’s unthinkable.

If your giftee would love something otherworldly, try “Sister of Darkness: The Chronicles of a Modern Exorcist” by R. H. Stavis with Sarah Durand. Yes, this book is for real. Yes, it could scare the Dickens out of someone.

For the fashionista, you can’t go wrong when you give “Fierce: The History of Leopard Print” by Jo Weldon. Yes, that’s what this book is about – the evolution of a wild fad that shows no signs of slowing down. You know what kind of paper to wrap this book in, don’t you? Wrap it up for the perfect gift for the giftee who mourns the end of summer from October to May: “Hollywood Beach Beauties” by David Wills. It’s a large picture book full of starlets on the beach, circa 1930 into the 1970s. Not just fun for sun lovers, but for fashion followers, too.  Another book to try: “An Atlas of Natural Beauty” by Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a book of recipes for her to naturally enhance her gorgeous looks.

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The writer / reader on your gift list will truly enjoy “The Handy Literature Answer Book” by Daniel S. Burt, PhD, and Deborah G. Felder. It’s a book about books, authors, reading, and more books. Pair it up with “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die” by James Mustich, which is a gigantic tome filled with suggestions that will keep your giftee busy for a lot of Christmases to come. Might also want to think about “Atticus Finch: The Biography” by Joseph Crespino, a biography of Harper Lee and the first man in her life.

New homeowners and those who are still looking may like “A Place Called Home” by Kim R. Manturuk, Mark R. Lindblad, & Roberto G. Quercia. It’s a rather scholarly look at why we own homes, who owns them, and the financial issues that surround owning your own home versus renting. Filled with data and stats, this book is also great for your favorite Realtor. Pair it up with the historic “The Finest Building in America: The New York Crystal Palace 1853-1858” by Edwin G. Burrows, or “Homeplace” by John Lingan, a story of a town, its future, and its musical legacy.

So your giftee likes to have something to take while waiting for his or her part in the community theatre?  “Shakespeare’s Ear” by Tim Rayborn couldn’t be a better book, then. It’s filled with interesting tales and little-known secrets from the world of theatre. For your favorite actor, it is to be. Also look for “Messiah: The Composition and Afterlife of Handel’s Masterpiece” by Jonathan Keates.

Where would you favorite pal be without you – or vice versa?  In “Text Me When You Get Home” by Kayleen Schaeffer, your giftee will see how female friendships are forged, nourished, and kept strong and what happens when they don’t. Will you-know-who share this book with you? Wrap it up with “Girl Talk” by Jacqquline Mroz, a book about female friendships from a scientific perspective, and she might.

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For the giftee who needs a specific understanding boost (and be careful when you give it!), look for “It Takes One to Tango” by Winifred M. Reilly, MA, MFT, a book about fixing a marriage. If it feels right, pair it with “Infidelity: Why Men and Women Cheat” by Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, MD, but be cautious!

The person who loves to explore will love reading “Walking the Americas” by Levison Wood. He’s a British explorer who walked 1,800 miles through eight countries and this is the story of the people he met, the things he saw, and his thoughts on it all. Pair it up with “Tip of the Iceberg” by Mark Adams, a story of a long journey across the wilds of Alaska.

If there’s someone on your list who wonders what the future holds, wrap up “The Next American City” by Mick Cornett, a book about small cities and what the future holds for them and their citizens. Pair it with “Without a Net,” edited by Michelle Tea, an anthology about just getting by.

So you say your giftee has been following politics closely. He read “Hillbilly Elegy.” So now give “What You are Getting Wrong about Appalachia” by Elizabeth Catte. This book nicely balances fact from fiction, and it’ll give your giftee more prospective. It could even be a mind-changer.  Pair it with something your political watcher will like: “Type R” by Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston, a book about resilience and how to get more of it in today’s world.

For the person who’s facing That Certain Age in the New Year, wrap up “The Happiness Curve” by Jonathan Rauch. It’s a book about the wonderfulness of turning 50 and how life is so much sweeter. Pair it up with “The End of Old Age” by Marc E. Agronin, M.D., which is about making the latter half of your life the best part.

For a reader who craves hard, true facts, “A Book of Book Lists” by Alex Johnson might be just the thing. It’s, well, the title is self-explanatory but it also contains a harder look at the classics, literature, and authors’ perspectives on both. Just be aware that it’s very British. Wrap it up with “The Weather Detective” by Peter Wohlleben, making these books a perfect duo for your fact-hungry giftee.

Everybody with a job will love reading “Danger, Man Working” by Michael Perry. It’s a series of essays on having a job.  Also fishing, freelancing, living on a farm, veterans, and other things that’ll make you laugh and / or know you’re reading the words of a kindred spirit. A good book to add to the package before you wrap it is “A Little Tea Book” by Sebastian Beckwith with Caroline Paul, illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton. A good book, a cuppa tea, and a good book about tea will all make an excellent gift.

For the political animal in your family, “Hugs from Obama,” edited by M. Sweeney might be just the right gift. It’s filled with pictures and quotations from the Obama years in the White House, including the end. Pair it up with “The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address” by Joseph Rodota, for a scandalous look back in history. More books for the current events fan: “Chosen Country: A Rebellion in the West” by James Pogue is a peek at the militia movement in America; and “My Brother Moochie” by Issac J. Bailey is a book on poverty and racism.

The giftee who loves to laugh will love having “Laughter Totally Is the Best Medicine” by the Reader’s Digest folks. Filled with jokes, cartoons, and other funnies, it might also make a great stocking-stuffer. And if your giftee loves to laugh, look at “The Incomplete Book of Running” by Peter Sagal, for a fast chuckle.

And for the cook on your list, “Buttermilk Graffiti” by Edward Lee would make a great gift. It’s part history, part memoir, part foodie paradise with recipes and it’s yummy. Pair it with a brand-new cookbook for a tasty 2019, or wrap up “Moonshine: A Celebration of America’s Original Rebel Spirit” by John Schlimm with it. See what your giftee can cook up now.

Happy little boy is young reader which is jumping between high piles of books.


Parents and parents-to-be may get a kick out of “Achtung Baby” by Sara Zaske. It’s about Zaske’s time spent living in Berlin, Germany, and what she noticed about the way the Germans parent their children. If that person on your list tried being a Tiger Mom, give this book a whirl and see if selbstandigkeit, is right for her kids. Pair it with “The Power of Presence” by Joy Thomas Moore, a book about being a lingering positive influence for your children.

For the new dad, “Rap Dad” by Juan Vidal might make a great First Christmas gift. It’s an examination of what makes a Dad in America today, how stereotypes come into play in being a Dad, and how Vidal learned to father.  Pair it up with “Beyond Birds & Bees” by Bonnie J. Rough. It’s a book about teaching children about love and equality between the sexes.


What does it take to be a man? Can a boy learn it from his father?  In “Air Traffic” by Gregory Pardlo, the author looks at the legacy his father left him, and how it made him the man he is today. And if your giftee loves to read about legacies left, wrap up “Jackie, Janet & Lee” by J. Randy Taraborerelli, a book about the former first lady, her mother, and her younger sister.

For the teacher who’s most important in your child’s life, look for “Once a Professor: A Memoir of Teaching in Turbulent Times” by Jerry Apps. It’s a book about education – both of students in the 1960s, and the teacher who watched them protest.

If the first thing your giftee turns to each morning is a weather forecast, he’ll love “The Man Who Caught the Storm” by Brantley Hargrove. It’s the story of Tim Samaras, who was a legend in storm chasing, until his death by…. Uh, nope, read the book.
For the giftee who’s considering adopting, “Someone Has Led This Child to Believe” by Regina Louise could change the path. It’s the story of Louise’s life in and out of the United States foster care system and what happened to her after she “aged out.” Wrap it in tissues. Seriously. And for more current-events memoirs, look for “A Dream Called Home” by Reyna Grande, a story by a woman who immigrated to Mexico by herself at age 9, to find her parents who came here before her.

Here’s to the hobbyist: the car lover on your gift list will love to have “Driven” by Melissa Stephenson. It’s a memoir about loss, bittersweet memories and keeping them alive, all written with vehicles as backdrop. For the nostalgia lover (and Hollywood fan), “My Days: Happy and Otherwise” by Marion Ross (with David Laurell) will be a delight to unwrap. It’s all about “Mrs. C” and the woman behind her, and it’ll leave someone rocking and rolling all week long.

Another highly-anticipated (and much-desired) gift to look for is “In Pieces” by Sally Field, a book by the girl America has grown up with. It’s filled with behind-the-story stories and celeb names you’ll also recognize. Wrap it up with a “The Flying Nun” DVD or two, or a copy of “Smokey and the Bandit.”

If you’ve got someone on your gift list who’s a Kennedy Watcher, they’ll love reading “Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World” by Eileen McNamara. It’s, of course, about Eunice Kennedy Shriver, her life, and her times. Another celeb biography to try is “Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon” by Charles Casillo. It’s for the giftee who only thinks she knows everything about MM that there is to know.

And for the Vietnam veteran on your list, look for “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam memoir” by George Trowbridge. It’s a memoir set in the waning days of the war and what it was like before, during, and after being a solder in the Navy then.


For the giftee who loves to study humans and what makes then tick, “The Fear Factor” by Abigail Marsh is going to open eyes. Yes, there’s a darker side of humanity and March exposes it. It all has to do with fear, and she’ll explain how. Speaking of fear (and the lack thereof), wrap it up with “On Call in the Arctic” by Thomas J. Sims, a memoir of a doctor’s life in the Alaskan frontier. You may want to put “Tooth and Nail” by Linda D. Dahl with it, too; that’s a book about a woman who became a ringside doctor in New York City.

If you know someone who has surgery planned this year, give “Counting Backwards” by Henry Jay Przybylo, MD. Dr. Przybylo is a pediatric anesthesiologist, and he not only shares stories in this book, but he’ll also put a mind to rest. (Hint: even if your giftee isn’t having surgery, it’s still a don’t-miss). Pair it with “The Pain Companion” by Sarah Anne Shockley, a book about living with pain.

For the person who asked for a genealogy test, wrap it up with “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh” by Carl Zimmer. It’s a book about heredity, genetics, and what you inherit from your family and your family’s family. Also look for “Because I Come From a Crazy Family” by Edward M. Hallowell, MD,  a memoir about inherited afflictions, childhood, and the ways that even a beloved family can be a challenge.

The forever dieter might enjoy reading “The Weight of Being” by Kara Richardson Whitely. It’s a book about being overweight, losing a whole lot of weight, and finding out why we fat-shame in America.

If there’s someone on your list this year who’s suffered tragedy after tragedy, a gentle reminder that things will be better is “Resilience: by Linda Graham, MFT. Its subtitle says it all: it’s filled with “Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster.”
For the person who loves to read about cutting-edge medicine, wrap up “The Breakthrough” by Charles Graeber. It’s about what’s new in the effort to cure cancer with immunotherapy. Pair that good news with “Sound: A Memoir of Hearing Lost and Found” by Bella Bathurst, for medical updates you should hear.

The giftee who loves to read about bravery in the face of illness will want “We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying” by Bruce H. Kramer with Cathy Wurzer, which couldn’t be a better gift. Until his death in 2015, Kramer had ALS, but it didn’t stop him: he was a teacher, a blogger, and a radio personality at the end of his life.  This book was published just after Kramer died. Pair it with “I Found My Tribe” by Ruth Fitzmaurice, a memoir about Fitzmaurice’s family, including her husband, who has ALS.

And here’s a book you might to buy for yourself this year: “Guardianships and the Elderly: The Perfect Crime” by Dr. Sam Sugar. It’s about the various ways that guardianship can go wrong, how to recognize any problems, and how to deal with them.

For the diabetic on your gift list, a copy of “Hardhead Diabetic in a Nutshell” by Rica Rich might be the thing to unwrap. This book takes a look at new treatments and old ideas; it dispels myths, and offers nutrition information.


Loss doesn’t stop during the holidays. If your giftee needs any kind of comfort, try “The After Death Chronicles” by Annie Mattingley. It’s a book filled with stories of everyday people who were surprised to receive communication from “beyond the veil.” If your loss was a child, then pair it with “The Unspeakable Loss” by Nisha Zenoff, PhD, which is a book especially for parents.

The history buff who is also interested in historical cemeteries will want to read “Birth of a Cemetery” by John F. Llewellyn. It’s the story of the beginning of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, but it’s also somewhat of a history of California and of fame as well.


In the middle of World War II, when armed personnel were needed more than ever, the U.S. Army Air Forces finally allowed something that was long overdue: they let their 1,100 female pilots in the air. In “Fly Girls” by P. O’Connell Pearson, your giftee will read about the brave service of those women and how they did what they did – with less pay, harder duty, and no military benefits.

For the political watcher, there’s a lot to choose from this year. One of the neutral books you can give is “Partner to Power” by K. Ward Cummings. It’s a book about the people who have surrounded Presidents, listened to them, and advised them on matters large and small.

If your giftee has devoured everything on Custer, hold on. Have they read “Thieves’ Road” by Terry Mort yet?  It’s a book about why Custer focused on the Black Hills and it’s your golden opportunity for more on the soldier and the battle. On a similar note, horse lovers who also crave history books will love to have “Ghost Riders” by Mark Felton, a book about saving white Lipizzaner horses during World War II.

Here’s a book steeped in history, and it may be perfect for someone on your list: “Our Year of War” by Daniel P. Bolger. It’s history, but the unique thing is that it’s also a memoir about two brothers who end up in Vietnam together. One was a supporter of the war. His brother was not. It’s a book about bravery, differences of opinion, and brotherhood, both in war and at home. For another side of the coin, look for “In Search of the Lost Chord” by Danny Goldberg, a look at the Hippie Era, circa 1967.

The cook who also loves history will enjoy “Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin: A Founding Father’s Culinary Adventures” by Rae Katherine Eighmey. It’s a book that’s perfect if someone on your list likes American history, cooking, or reading while she eats.

For the giftee who loves ancient history, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “Rome: A History in Seven Sackings” by Matthew Kneale.  Yes, it’s about war. But it’s also about natural disasters, Emperors, and travel. How could your giftee resist?

Early American history buffs will whoop when they open “Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin” by Joseph Kelly. It’s a big thick history book that will take your giftee back, so remember to wrap up a bookmark, too.


Who doesn’t love a day at the beach?  Your dog lover and the dog they love do, so they’ll want to unwrap “Dogs on the Beach” by Lara Jo Regan. It’s filled with photos of doggos in the surf & sand, enjoying warm weather and taking every advantage of summer there is.

Here’s something you don’t have to tell an animal lover: animals have personalities. Even so, your giftee will enjoy “Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes: The Science of Animal Personalities” by John A. Shivik. It’s all about the science, yes, but it’s also about the stories, you know?  Wrap it up with “How to Be a Good Creature” by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Rebecca Green. It’s a memoir that includes thirteen animals Montgomery knew and loved.

For the future farmer or the person who is clucking awesome, wrap up “Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance” by Martin Gurdon, a book about raising chickens of all kinds. It’s helpful, interesting, and it contains full-color pictures. Your giftee will crow about it!


Who doesn’t like a mystery?  Your giftee sure does, and if there are chills inside it, all’s the better so wrap up “Sodom Road Exit” by Amber Dawn. It’s the story of a small but dying village that’s lost its last reason for tourists. Even so, one young woman lives there with her mother because she has nowhere else to go. She wishes she did, though, because her small hometown holds terror… Wrap it up with “Ruin of Stars” by Linsey Miller, the second book in a fantasy series in which the main character is gender-fluid.

For the reader who loves books that may make him think, look for “So Famous and So Gay” by Jeff Solomon. It’s a book about Truman Capote and Gertrude Stein and how their fame still lingers while so many other almost-celebrities barely get a nod today, no matter what they did for LGBTQ rights….

The person on your list who is thinking about transitioning (or who recently has) will love unwrapping “Trans Like Me” by CN Lester, a series of essays on gender diversity, being trans, and how to tackle tacky people whose questions are too nosy. Pair it with “Being Emily” by Rachel Gold, a book about a trans woman, now updated to include new material.

For the traveler on your list, the person who also loves history, you can’t go wrong with “Riviera Dreaming” by Maureen Emerson. It’s the true story of an architect and an ex-officer in the British Army, how they teamed up to create a mansion that took society by storm, and who vied to hire these two men to decorate their Riviera mansions. Wrap it up with “Global Gay: How Gay Culture is Changing the World” by Frédéric Martel, for a very well-traveled gift.

More fiction for the gay reader: “You Can’t Tell By Looking” by Russell J. Sanders, a romance about love between two high school boys, one of whom is also dealing with his anti-gay Islamic family; and “Aesop Lake” by Sarah Ward, a unique book based on three of Aesop’s Fables to tell a tale of a hate crime and its aftermath.


Here’s a great read-aloud for your little one: “In Your Hands” by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. It’s a quiet, comforting story of holding hands and protecting, and will be a great bedtime tale. Also look for “My Magic Breath” by Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor, pictures by Michelle Polizzi. It’s a book about mindful breathing and calming thoughts.

The birthday kid will appreciate “I Got a Chicken for My Birthday” by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Sarah Horne. Yes, it’s about a chicken and the fun his girl has with him. If the birthday kid is an animal lover, pair it up with “Mela and the Elephant” by Dow Phumiruk, illustrated by Ziyue Chen.

Parents of toddlers will definitely want to unwrap this book: “People Don’t Bite People” by Lisa Wheeler, art by Molly Idle. Yes, it’s about the appropriate use of teeth, in a format that 2-to-3-year-olds can absolutely understand.

Children who appreciate the friends they’ve got will love “May I Come In?” by Marsha Diane Arnoml, illustrated by Jennie Poh. It’s the story of a wet raccoon, a stormy night, and the love of a true friend. Wrap it up with “Friends Stick Together” by Hannah E. Harrison, a book about friendship between personalities.

Children who are on the edge of Too Old for Picture Books, Too Young for Chapter Books may still like to see “Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story” by Lindsay McDivitt, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen. It’s a biography in picture form about a Detroit artist and nature lover, and your little one would surely love it read aloud. Wrap it up with “Aim for the Skies” by Aimee Bissonette, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger. It’s the true story of two women who dreamed about following in Amelia Earhart’s footsteps and flying around the world.

For kids who are looking for more than a picture book or for the most curious kid you know, wrap up any of the “Tell Me” books by the Barron’s Educational people. These handy-to-have books cover a wide variety of subjects, including geography and science, they’re indexed plainly so answers are easy to find, and they’re written so they’re understandable by kids ages 6 or 7 and up. Here’s a hint: they’re great for parents, too.


For the kid who’s computer-crazy (and what kid isn’t?), “Cool Coding” is the book to find because it teaches without “dumbing-down” and kids, of course, appreciate that. For your 10-to-17-year-old, it’s a “LIKE.”  Wrap it up with another science book: “The Hyena Scientist” by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop. It’s perfect for the budding zoologist or die-hard animal lover.

For kids who love books that let them do fun things, why not wrap up “Turn This Book into a Beehive!” by Lynn Brunelle, illustrated by Anna-Maria Jung. It’s a book that will teach your child about bees and environmentalism, and then it turns into the coolest craft around. Wrap it up with “The Brilliant Deep” by Kate Messner and Matthew Forstythe, which is a nonfiction book about coral reefs.

Remember those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that you used to love? Well, those are updated now: imagine what would happen if you took a graphic novel and let kids pick their own storylines and endings? That’s what’s behind “Knights Club” by Shuky, illustrated by Waltch and Novy; and “Hocus & Pocus” by Manuro Gorobei. Are they comic books?  Are they games?  Your kids might think they’re both!

Young historians will thoroughly enjoy reading “Time for Kids Presidents of the United States.” This book offers a quick biography, stats, and fun-to-know facts about the men in office, and includes a chapter on our current Commander-in-Chief. Pair it up with “Weird but True! Know-It-All U.S. Presidents” by Brianna Dumont or any of the “Heroes of History” books, like the one on George Washington or the book about Alexander Hamilton.

The child who craves a most meaningful gift this year will enjoy opening “The World of the Bible” from the National Geographic folks. This book includes Bible stories and the science behind them, as well as trivia, and excellent artwork.

For the kid who’s interested in animals, “Book of Bones” by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sam Brewster is perfect. This book takes a look at the skeletons of animals – the biggest, the longest, the thinnest – and the animals who need those bones to live and thrive. Pair it up with “Stuff You Need to Know About the Human Body” by John Farndon & Tim Hutchison, a book about human insides.

And for the child who’s into adventure plus weirdness, look for “The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid” by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco, illustrated by Joy Ang. It’s a book filled with maps and sites and places your child can go, even if they do it through paper and imagination.


The teen who has embraced STEM will also want to read “Radioactive!” by Winifred Conkling. It’s the parallel story of two women: Irene Curie, who discovered artificial radioactivity; and Lise Meitner, who, four years after Irene’s discovery, learned the secret of nuclear fission. Get it for your teen and read it yourself.

The scientist on your list will love “Junk Drawer Geometry” by Bobby Mercer, especially if she is also a mathlete. This book is full of experiments and gee-whiz coolness. Wrap it up with any other book in the “Junk Drawer Science” series.

For the budding activist on your list, look for “You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World” by Caroline Paul, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki. This hardcover book offers ideas to create change in many different aspects of society, and it includes places for your teen to take notes and jot down ideas. Pair it with “Illegal” by Eoin Colfer and Adnrew Donkin, a graphic novel about a boy who crosses the Sahara desert and beyond to forge a new life elsewhere.

The basketball fan in your life will love “Here to Stay” by Sara Farizan. It’s a novel about a boy who saves the day and becomes a school hero and, oh, incidentally, he’s Muslim. Who’s friend and who’s enemy?  Who can resist such a book?

So there you are. A bunch of different ways to use that gift certificate for fun, learning, and winter reading anticipation. Remember: if none of these suggestions seem to fit that Special Someone on your list, ask your weary-but-smiling bookseller. She’s the one who has all the right answers.

Happy reading!