Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best Book Gift Ideas

I'm a reader. Always have been. And I love books. And I love nothing more than getting and giving books as gifts. In fact, my family invented a whole holiday around the idea of buying ourselves new books. And I love giving books. I think it takes the anxiety Chris described yesterday out of giving gifts. It's a book you love that you think they will love too. And if they don't, well then it is probably months after the gift giving occasion so you never have to know about it.

So with that said, I present to you my top books to give as gifts this Christmas. These are not necessarily my favorite books (stay tuned for PT Author's year end wrap up the week after Christmas for that!) but are books that I think you could unequivocally give as gifts (or buy for yourself.)

For your dad, who is a bit of a nerd and who once bought you a 6 foot long map of the world of the Book of Mormon to enhance your personal study
Maphead by Ken Jennings Remember Ken Jennings, that Mormon guy who won a bunch of money on jeopardy and became like the best player ever and even played against a computer? Well, turns out he is super funny and wrote a book about maps. Which sounds weird and boring, but is actually fascinating and funny and well written. And your Dad would love it. It's full of lots of odd facts that he can tell you later when he's already talked to you about the weather when you call home. What's that? That's just my dad? Ok.
For your sister who is a nutritionist but who likes dystopian fiction and was super excited when the Hajukari Mini line launched at Target because she loves anything Japanese.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is one of those books that throws you into the deep end and expects you to figure out who everyone is and how this world works. Basically, it takes place in a future earth where the world has been ravaged by climate change and bio-terrorism. In this world where oil wells have run dry Anderson is a calorie man - a corporate employee who must seek out new foods that haven't been destroyed and lost by rampant genetic engineering. I know my description is making this sound like the Steam Punk version of the Weight Watchers handbook, but it isn't. It is gorgeously written and I'm a sucker for a good world-builder, which Bacigalupi certainly is.
For your Aunt who loves to watch CSI but got her major in Medieval Studies from an all girl's liberal arts college.
The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch. Apparently, back in the medieval days of yore, hangmen weren't just executioners. They were also police officers, jailers, interrogators and detectives. And when a drowned boy is pulled from a river with the mark of a witch on him, the hangman has to find the real killer before the town gets wrapped up in Witch Hunting Fever. Also, he has a daughter. Thrilling and well written - it just feels grimy, like a book set in 1659 should.

For your Mom who got a kindle last year and only reads ebooks now and who loves a good science fiction tale and secretly likes when girls kick butt.
Wool by Hugh Howey. This book is newly available in actual paper book form because when I first read it it was only available on Kindle. It's one of those inspiring/depressing stories about someone who wrote a book and then ventured out on their own and published it (this one was published in 5 parts no less) and now has a movie deal and a contract and a writing career. But Howey deserves it. This is a clever science fiction book set in a world where humanity all live inside a giant hanger buried underground because the rest of the world is unsafe to live in. And when people get too restless and antsy for the outside world they are put in a suit and sent out - ostensibly to clean the camera lens that shows the outside world. But no one ever returns from these cleaning trips.
For your recently divorced Uncle who is a foodie and a gourmand and a glutton, but who thinks Sandra Lee is for a knob. 
Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. I, too, got sucked into the food writing world post Kitchen Confidential. And even though there were some great food memoirs, most of them were just garbage interspersed with lame recipes. But this book is different. It is unromantic look at food and an honest memoir about Hamilton's less than perfect life. It's compelling and beautifully written, even if you are not a wannabe chef.

For your goth Nephew who dresses in black and paints his fingernails and keeps telling you how you need to watch Dexter because it is so amazing.
I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. John Wayne Cleaver is obsessed with serial killers (He also happens to be accidentally named after one and after a knife.) But he works had to seem normal and keep his creepy instincts in check. But then, someone starts killing people in his town. And it seems to be the work of a serial killer. And John has to release the beast inside himself to get into the mind of the killer to stop him before he strikes again. I loved it.
For your best friend who was teased in high school because of that giant mouth piece she wore.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman is severely deformed and has always been home schooled so he doesn't have to deal with the inevitable teasing mainstream school would cause him. But in the 5th Grade, he decides to attend public school where he wants to be treated like a normal kid, but his classmates have a tough time getting past his looks. The story unfolds from the points of view of different characters, so you get to see sides of the story you though you already understood through someone else's eyes. If you have ever been bullied, or felt left out, or bullied someone or did something to fit in, or have a human soul, you should read this book. 

Let's see...yep, I think I covered everyone on your list. And if you are done with your shopping, pick up a couple of these for yourself. No pressure. If you hate them, you don't have to tell me. Any books you are buying as gifts this Christmas? Any books you hope you get? Let me know in the comments. 

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