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The Bookworm Sez: Holiday Gift Guide

The tree looks magnificent.

Your kids did a great job decorating the parts you assigned to them; you took pictures this year, because they really outdid themselves. So you’re ready – almost – for the holidays, except for those few tricky gifts that you just can’t seem to figure out.

How about books? Easy to wrap, happy to get, why not look for these great books…


The person on your list who is Of a Certain Age will absolutely love getting “Killers of a Certain Age” by Deanna Raybourn. It’s a thriller-mystery about four women who’ve worked as assassins for decades but suddenly, everyone thinks their methods are outdated. They’re sent “on vacation” but it’s really no vacation. How do they get out alive?

Lovers of short mysteries will love to find “Reader, I Buried Them and Other Stories” by Peter Lovesey. This book, in celebration of Lovesey’s more-than-fifty years of mystery-writing, is full of mayhem, murder, and you know your giftee will want it.


The reader who wants a little diversity in their selection will love “Latino Almanac: From Early Explorers to Corporate Leaders” by Nicolas Kanellos, PhD. It’s a book that’s absolutely filled with mini-biographies of Latino luminaries, heroes, and inspirations, and it’s perfect for any reader age 14 and up. Pair it with “Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievements and Events” by Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder, and Paulette F. Molin. It’s a book that’s filled with fast facts about the achievements of indigenous Americans.

If you’re looking for something unusual for your science-minded giftee, then find “The Handy Engineering Answer Book by DeLean Tolbert Smith, PhD; Aishwary Pawar; Nicole Pitterson, PhD; and Debra-Ann C. Butler, PhD. It’s perfect for anyone who works in or dabbles with any kind of engineering today; it’s also the kind of book your dedicated science fan needs.

For the person who always embraces the good in life, “Inciting Joy” by Ross Gay” will be a welcome gift. It’s a collection of essays on the things that make us happy, that cause us to count our blessings, smile, and that gather us together. Wrap it up with “Happier Hour” by Cssie Holmes, PhD, and help someone decide what’s worth their joy.

There’s just no way your animal-loving giftee won’t want a copy of “Possums Are Not Cute!” by Ally Burguieres. It’s filled with adorable photos of possums of all ages, in cute poses and just living their best lives. Bonus: possum facts and trivia! Wrap it up with “Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses” by Jackie Higgins, for a gift that’ll make your animal lover roar.

The historian on your gift list will enjoy “Mutinous Women: How French Convicts Became Founding Mothers of the Gulf Coast” by Joan DeJean. It’s the true story of 132 women who were taken from France to the mouth of the Mississippi and released in 1719 – partly because they’d been accused of crimes they didn’t commit, and because they were considered a commodity: women were needed in the new settlements. Wrap it up with “The Women of Rothschild” by Natalie Livingstone, a book about influential women in one famous family, women who left their marks on the world, despite that the men in the family tried to shut them out; or with “The Scandalous Hamiltons” by Bill Shaffer, the story of a Gilded-Age scandal and the beginning of tabloid-style journalism.

For your media-obsesssed giftee, “It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO” by Felix Gillette and John Koblin is a nice eye-opener and a look at how we watch television, even in an age of streaming. Pair it with a book that reads like a movie: “Same Ground” by Russell Wangersky, a book about a journey across America, in search of a family story.

For the loner in your life, or the person who longs for connection, “On Belonging” by Kim Samuel might be a great gift. It’s a book for our times, in four categories: isolation in our relationships, belonging in nature, being alone in political spheres, and a sense of belonging within our inner cores. Wrap it up with “The Newlyweds: Rearranging Marriage in Modern India” by Mansi Choksi, a book about three modern couples in India who’ve set aside tradition and arranged marriages in favor of love on their own terms.

If you’ve got a rabid current events fan on your gift list this year, then wrap up “The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything” by Mike Rothschild. It’s an eye-opener. Wrap it up with “Seek and Hide” by Amy Gajda. It’s about our right to privacy throughout history, what it means, and how the demand for privacy today can be a good thing or a bad thing, or “Conspiracies and Secret Societies, third edition” by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger. How could anyone not want to own one of the last books by these two late, great authors?

The reader who’s concerned about migration and immigration this year will want to unwrap “Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World” by Gaia Vince, who says that climate change will cause world-wide change in cities; and “Somewhere We are Human,” edited by Reyna Grande and Sonia Guinansaca, which is a collection of stories from migrants and new citizens.

Is there a parent on your gift list, one that continually gets to the end of their rope? Then wrap up “What to Do About Your Troubled Child” by Laura J. Stevens, MS and Richard W. Walker, Jr., MD. It’s a book about behavioral disorders in children ages three to eleven, and how to cope with them.

Won’t your reader enjoy “Great Short Books” by Kenneth C. Davis this holiday? The answer is “yes”: this book is about books – specifically, more than fifty short novels by authors you know and don’t know. Wrap it up with a gift certificate to your favorite bookstore.

For the person who is obsessed with current events, “Adrift” by Scott Galloway could be THE gift this year. It’s a book of charts: where America’s been, where we seem to be heading, and how our leaders are leading. Pair it up with “Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies about Our Past,” edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer. Together, these books are both eye-openers, for sure.

The historian on your gift list will whoop when the wrapping comes off “The Escape Artist” by Jonathan Freedland. It’s the story of a man who actually broke out of Auschwitz and lived to tell the world what was going on. It’s a true story that reads like a deadly thriller.

If there’s someone on your list who is interested in the paranormal, then wrap up “Here & Hereafter” by Tyler Henry, who is a Hollywood medium. What can your giftee learn from the dead? Find out by pairing it with “Hollywood Horrors” by Andrea Van Landingham. Oh, the scandals and murders in Tinseltown past!

Season’s Readings!