Book Buying Gift Guide

BlogHer Original Post

As a reader, one gift that I always appreciate is a book ... so, of course, I hardly ever receive them. People are often worried that they'll get me a book that I've already read or own, or they just simply just don't know what books to get. The end result is that I hardly ever receive books as gifts. Let me say it loud and clear - a reader would rather receive a book that they've already read rather than never receive a book at all. If you are struggling with idea for what books to buy for the reader in your life this year step on up. I've got plenty of ideas for you.

For the obscure fact lover or science geek - The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean. This book has everything you never knew (or never knew that you wanted to know) about the periodic table of the elements. It's not hard science but stories about hard science which is my favorite kind of science book.

For the biography and memoir lover - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot or Autobiography by Mark Twain, Volume 1. The biography of Henrietta Lacks is one of the hottest books of the year. Even Oprah is on board and working to turn it into a made-for-tv movie. I feel a bit bad putting Twain's biography on here because it just may be the hardest book to procure this year. If you can get your hands on a hard copy you are one lucky individual. If not, it's available as an e-book as well.

For the inner-rocker - Just Kids by Patti Smith and Life by Keith Richards. Smith won a National Book Award for her book and Richards got a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

For the historian - Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resiliance, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand and A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness - and a Trove of Letters - Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup. You might recognize Hillenbrand's name since she was the one that brought us Seabiscuit. A Secret Gift speaks to the spirit of the season as it reminds us even a small kindness can make a difference in a person's life.

For those who like books that are just a little bit scary - The Passage by Justin Cronin and Horns: A Novel by Joe Hill. Yes, Cronin's book is about vampires, but I promise you his don't sparkle. It's also the first book in planned trilogy so you'd have ample gift-giving opportunities in the future with this selection. Joe Hill is the expected heir to the creepy book throne -- it would be hard not to be when Stephen King is his father. He's earning that throne though, as he mixes his father's preferred genre with his own voice and style.

For the literary fiction fan - Room by Emma Donoghue, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson or The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. All three novels have heaps of praise, and Donoghue even hit the the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize. Donoghue's book is narrated by a five-year-old boy who has never left the room where he and his mother are being held hostage. Major Pettigrew is more of a British comedy of manners with a twist. I think it would be a hit with Wodehouse fans. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is the story of the daughter of a Danish woman and an African-American GI who stuggles to find her own identity in 1980s Portland, Oregon.

For the mashup fan - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Stephen Hockensmith and Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin. Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a prequel to Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which was an amusing but uneven read. Since this is almost exclusively original material it's a much more even read and many reader claim to like it more than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Jane Slayre is a retelling of the Brontë classic with 100% more vampires. Let's just say that Bertha Rochester isn't exactly a madwoman.

For the mystery lovers - Faithful Place by Tana French and Vaults by Toby Ball. Vaults is a dystopian 1930s novel with classic noir elements. Now, I'm a fan of dystopian fiction but it really is not for everyone. You need to let your grip on the current reality slip a little when you read it. If the mystery lover in your life would prefer a more contemporary mystery then Faithful Place is a better option. French follows in the tradition of so many Irish novelist I've read by writing a hefty book. This one weighs in at just over 400 pages.

For the food lover - I'm leaning on the Italian grandmothers for this one. For a cookbook meets non-fiction choices there's Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux. Theroux traveled around Italy talking to Italian grandmothers and gathering their wisdom. On the fiction front there's The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate which is about a woman learning about love, family and life with cooking as a backdrop.

For the chick-lit lover - Maybe This Time Jennifer Crusie and The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig. Crusie's latest combines romance, children and a creepy housekeeper with a side of exorcism. What's not to like? It's no secret that I love Willig's Pink Carnation series but this is a special book because it's all about Turnip Fitzhugh and I adore Turnip Fitzhugh. It's also just a nice Christmas romance that's not overly sappy or saccharin. If you've ever read Christmas romance novels you know that can be hard to find.

Happy book shopping and reading!

Contributing Editor Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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