The holidays this year are going to be, well, unique.
Some family members won’t be there. Others are coming, regardless of whatever’s going on in the country. Still others are sending their regards and a box of presents, which is something you might do, too. And here’s the good news: books are easy to wrap, easy to box, and easy to ship. Why not try one of these great books for that person who can’t make it to your table this holiday season?
Does anybody need another book about a natural disaster? Ha, of course they do! So that’s why you should look for “The 2084 Report: An Oral History of the Great Warming: A Novel” by James Lawrence Powell. Yes, it’s set in the future. You can hope so, anyhow....
If your giftee would love a good, multilayered novel about family and best-forgotten memories, then look for “Hieroglyphics” by Jill McCorkle. When Lil and Frank move back to Frank’s childhood hometown, the past moves in with them. Wrap it up with “True Story: A Novel” by Kate Reed Petty, the story of childhood trauma and the chance for those who lived it to recover from it.
For the giftee who’s about to pack up and move across the country, “The Exiles” by Christina Baker Kline might be a good choice for a gift. It’s a novel about three women who are exiled to Australia more than a century ago when exile was punishment. Fans of “Orphan Train,” listen up. Wrap it up with this: “Flyaway” by Kathleen Jennings, a dark twisted tale of vanishings and family horror in Australia.
Surely, there’s someone on your gift list who’s wished at some point this year that they could be cloned. Wrap up “The Mirror Man” by Jane Gilmartin with a “careful what you wish for” note. Wrap it up with “The Operator” by Gretchen Berg, the story of a woman who wishes she’d never overheard what she did.
For the giftee who loves to be surprised, wrap up “The Book of Hidden Wonders” by Polly Crosby. It’s the story of a girl whose father entertained her with a story in which she’s a character, and it becomes a big bestseller. Good for her, right? Or not so much. Wrap it up with “The Falling Woman” by Richard Farrell, a book about a woman who supposedly died in a plane crash – only she didn’t, but she wants to stay “dead.”
The person on your list who loves a good family drama will want “The Lost Orphan” by Stacey Halls under the tree this year. It’s the story of two women and one little girl, and a secret that won’t be able to be kept for long. Pair it with “The End of the Day” by Bill Clegg, a novel of friendship, relationships, and the resolution of long-buried secrets.
No doubt, there’s a historical fiction fan on your list, so there’s no doubt that you’ll want to wrap up “Bonnie: A Novel” by Christina Schwarz. Yep, it’s a fictionalized tale of Bonnie Parker, and how she became one of the early 20th-century’s most iconic outlaws. Wrap it up with “The Big Finish” by Brooke Fossey, a novel about two outlaws that you’d never put together and their great escape.
If you’ve got a big reader on your list, it’s hard to find something they haven’t already seen. That’s why you should wrap up “Layoverland” by Gabby Noone. It’s the tale of a woman who lives a life she’s not proud of, so when she dies, she goes to purgatory. There’s a chance for her to go to heaven, but it involves helping the guy who killed her. Pair it with “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig, the story of a possible place that offers a re-do of life. It’s a spot between living and dying, but it’s not what your giftee thinks it is...
The short-story lover will enjoy “Cat Person” and Other Stories” by Kristen Roupenian, a collection of creepy, odd tales that doubles as a gift of shivers. Can’t go wrong if you pair it with “The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home” by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor. Doesn’t the title tell you everything you need to know?
Is there someone on your list who loves a good sin-your-teeth-in novel? Then wrap up “When These Mountains Burn” by David Joy, a tale of two men wrapped up in the drug trade – one, a father with a son who’s an addict; the other, an addict himself. And the DEA is asking for help... You can’t go wrong if you wrap it up with “Nine Shiny Objects” by Brian Castleberry, a novel of (supposed) UFOs and the legacy the sightings left.
For the novel-lover who professes to hate their job, you can’t go wrong with “Hench” by Natalie Zina Walschots. It’s the super-witty story of a woman with an unusual job (hey, somebody’s got to do it!) and what she does to remain gainfully employed after the next-to-worst thing happens. If you’re smart, you’ll pair it with “Lies Lies Lies” by Adele Parks, the story of a family and the party that changes everything...
Lovers of family-drama-type novels will whoop when they open “Louisiana Lucky” by Julie Pennell. It’s the tale of three sisters and a big lottery pay-out that will make all their dreams come true. Or not. Pair it with “Betty,” by Tiffany McDaniel, a lovely novel of family and what happens when you learn things about them you don’t want to know.
And for the science-fiction-fantasy reader, you couldn’t find a better gift than “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” by Christopher Paolini. It’s a story of new worlds and a journey to make sure that the universe survives, it’s thrilling, and it’s edgy. Hint: it’s also over 800 pages, so add a bookmark to this great gift.
FOR THE MYSTERY – THRILLER – CRIME NOVEL FAN
The giftee who loves a good historical mystery will relish “The Streel: A Deadwood Mystery” by Mary Logue. Set in Deadwood, South Dakota, this story sees a teenage Irish immigrant whose brother is involved in a kerfuffle and she’s got to clear his name. The problem? He has a golf claim and it ain’t no small thing. Historical mystery lovers will also love “The Day Lincoln Lost” by Charles Rosenberg, a thriller-type novel that asks “What if...?”
If there’s someone on your list who likes smart crime-solvers, you’ll be glad you wrapped up “The Revelators” by Ace Atkins. This novel features one of Atkins’ best-loved sheriffs, Quinn Colson and a crime syndicate that’s threatening everything he holds dear.
CHILDREN – PICTURE BOOKS
For the littlest giftee who’s just learning their ABCs, there are two great options: superhero fans will love “T is for Thor: A Norse Mythology Alphabet” by Virginia Loh-Hagan, illustrated by Torstein Nordstrand. Pair it up with the slightly gentler “H is for Honey Bee: A Beekeeping Alphabet” by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen. These are A B-U-tiful pair of gifts.
For the kid who loves to sing and dance, or the child who loves silly poetry, Dan Brown’s “Wild Symphony” is a great book to give. Written by the “The DaVinci Code” author, this is a book of poetry with kid-friendly inspirational sidebars, and it comes with a free app so your child can follow along, musically. Wrap it up with “Lions & Cheetahs & Rhinos Oh My!” by John Platt and Moira Rose Donohue. It’s an informational book filled with artwork and wild animals, and it’ll absolutely appeal to your wild child.
Little animal lovers might also like “Memoirs of a Tortoise” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers. It’s a clever, sad, and oh-so-sweet tale of a long and wonderful life and loss and love again. Pair it with “Tails from the Animal Shelter” by Stephanie Shaw, illustrated by Liza Woodruff, a book about pets for adoption, pets looking for a new home, pets your child could love.
What do you get your favorite little horse lover? This: “The True Story of Zippy Chippy, The Little Horse That Couldn’t” by Artie Bennett, illustrated by Dave Szalay. It’s the tale of a racehorse who didn’t race. Who would ever love him then?
For the youngest book lover who seems fascinated with medicine, “The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine” by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Lisa Anchin might work. It’s also a great idea for the child who hates shots. Wrap it up with “All the Way to the Top” by Annette Bay Pimentel, pictures by Nabi H. Ali. It’s the tale of Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, who uses a wheelchair, and the very brave and inspirational thing she did just before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Keelan-Chaffins wrote the foreward to this book.
Farm kids and kids who love to visit farms will adore “Prairie Days” by Patricia MacLachlan, the story of being in the country. Kids will love it; you’ll enjoy the artwork by Micha Archer. Pair it with “This Land is Your Land,” words and music by Woody Guthrie, artwork from Kathy Jakobsen.
For the “I Don’t Wanna” kinda kid, “Otis P. Oliver Protests” by Keri Claiborne Boyle, illustrated by Daniel Duncan is perfect this holiday. It’s the tale of a boy who hates baths and will go to unusual lengths to avoid them. Wrap it up with “Christopher Pumpkin” by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, illustrated by Nick East. It’s about a little boy pumpkin who’s not your usual scare!
Since the littlest person on your gift list loves to hear stories about other kids, “A World Together” by Sonia Manzano would make a great gift this year. Written by Sesame Street’s “Maria,” this book is from the National Geographic folks, so you know it’s full of great photos from around the world, too. Wrap it up with “Our Favorite Day of the Year” by A.E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, a book about holidays and celebrations around the world.
For a kid who can sit a little longer than most, “Pirate Nell’s Tale to Tell” by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty is a great book to try. It’s a longer, more involved tale of high seas and hijinx, whales and swashbuckling. Wrap it up with “Jules vs. The Ocean” by Jessie Sima, a book about the water, a sand castle, and guess what happens...
Young scientists and dinosaur fans alike will enjoy “Dinosaur Lady: the Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist” by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. Hint: share it, and then share the details in the author’s notes.
The little monster maven on your gift list this year will really enjoy “Travel Guide for Monsters” by Lori Degman, illustrated by Dave Szalay, a travelogue for the creature-on-the-go. Wrap it up with “I Love My Fangs!” by Kelly Leigh Miller, a tale of a very important lost tooth. And on that note, why not put “Letters from My Tooth Fairy” by Brooke Hecker, illustrated by Deborah Melmon in the package, too?
The budding politician on your gift list might enjoy unwrapping “Elizabeth Warren’s Big, Bold Plans” by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Susanna Chapmen. It’s a kid-friendly version of Warren’s biography, meant for older storytime lovers. Pair it with “Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story” by Lindsey McDivitt, illustrated by Matt Faulkner, for a great gift for your future politician.
For the kid who enjoys current events, “Your Voice is Your Superpower!” by Jessica and Sandy Bohrer, a book about voting and the First Amendment.
CHILDREN — BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
For the kid who loves animals and mysteries (not necessarily in that order), wrapping up “The Great Pet Heist” by Emily Ecton, art by Dave Mottram, might be the best thing to do this holiday. It’s the story of Butterbean the weiner dog, his fellow pets, and what happened on the day that Mrs. Food fell and hurt herself. Will someone come to take care of them, or will they have to make better plans?
The princess on your list will love “Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror” by Natasha Farrant, illustrated by Lydia Corry. It’s the story of a mirror cast by an enchantress, and in it are eight princesses who flat-out refuse to act princess-like but instead are brave, fierce, and tough.
If there’s a football fiend on your list this year, wrap up “Gridiron: Stories from 100 Years of the National Football League” by Fred Bowen and James E. Ransome. It’s a book your young fan will read again and again. Here’s another book that young readers will reach for repeatedly: National Geographic Kids Almanac 2021. Filled with photos, sidebars, graphs, and fun information, it’s one of those I-know-this-and-you-don’t kinds of books, and it’s perfect for your child’s stocking.
BOOKS FOR TEENS
Think before you wrap up “The Body Image Book for Girls” by Charlotte Markey. Is your giftee ages 12 and up? Will she be okay with this as a gift? Are you okay with it? If your answer is yes, and yes, then YES. Wrap it up with “Body Talk” by Kelly Jensen, a book of essays on “radical anatomy.”
The fantasy lover on your list will love “Poisoned” by Jennifer Donnelly, a Snow-White-type tale of an evil queen and her efforts to kill a princess. But was the queen really behind the plot to cut out the princess’s heart? Wrap it up with “Little Creeping Things” by Chelsea Ichaso, a story of repressed memories, bullying, and a murder that may (or may not) have happened the way one girl thinks it did.
For the romantic on your gift list, look for “More Than Just a Pretty Face” bySyed M. Masood. It’s a novel about a boy and a girl and another girl and love with the perfect-for-you person. Pair it with “The Voting Booth” by Brandy Colbert, the timely story of a boy, a girl, a vote, and a fight to maintain democracy.
If there’s a car nut on your gift list, then you can’t go wrong with “Racers” by Neal Bascomb. It’s a true World War II story of a woman race car driver, a Jewish racer, a fast car, and showing Hitler a thing or two.
Your young cook is going to love unwrapping “The Healthy Junior Chef Cookbook” from Williams Sonoma; the recipes are easy but challenging (be sure to point out your favorite) and oh, those pictures! Wrap it with a new kitchen tool set for the best gift.
And now the housekeeping:
Release dates change, titles change, nothing’s set in stone, and books can get canceled. If you need help finding these titles or something like them, raise a flag, wave your hand, and throw yourself at the mercy of your favorite friendly bookstore owner or librarian. If you don’t have a favorite, it’s imperative that you treat yourself to a favorite bookstore owner or librarian today because they know all the secrets of the literary universe. They are, indeed, magical beings when it comes to books.
Season’s Readings, y’all!