Monday, December 9, 2013

Making a (Book) List and Checking it Twice — Books We're Giving this Holiday Season

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: One of my favorite books from childhood is Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. It isn't a Christmas book per se, but the first sentence is " 'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo.'

And I agree with Jo March. Giving people presents —preferably books — as gifts is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. And, even though my life is somewhat head over feet with family and work these days, I'm actually on top of shopping this year! 

Here are some of the books I'm giving this year:

The Hubby — Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Maurice Sendak and Ralph Manheim. Not only are we both huge Sendak fans (both books and artwork), Noel MacNeal's newest show: Mouse King: The Untold Story of the Nutcracker is making its debut this holiday season in Miami. The book will make a great remembrance of this very Nutcracker-y and Mouse-y year.

The Kiddo — The current obsession is Adam Gidwiz's A Tale Dark And Grimm, and the last book in the trilogy, The Grimm Conclusion, will definitely be under the tree. It?s a fantastic series and one we've enjoyed reading together as a family. It's funny and irreverent, even while staying close to the original Grimm brothers' fairy tales. Not for the faint-of-heart, but perfect for kids who want a little humor and gore with their adventures.

The Mother-in-law — Miss Edna, aka Grandmama, reads mysteries and thrillers from the library voraciously on her e-reader, so I?m not going to get her books. But I think the perfect gift for a crime aficionado is Mystery Scene Magazine

Established in 1985, Mystery Scene Magazine is the oldest, largest, and most authoritative guide to the crime fiction genre. Our lively, expert coverage ranges from past mystery masters to today's top talents and tomorrow's bright new stars. We report on novels, of course, but also films, TV shows, audio-books, kid's mysteries, short stories, reference works, and much more.

Can't wait to see what great reads it inspires throughout the year!

LUCY BURDETTE: Books are my favorite thing to give and get. I'm not going to give the particulars for fear SOMEONE might be reading, but here are a few I'm giving: Sujata Massey's THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY, Kristan Higgins, THE RIGHT MATCH, AN ASTRONAUT'S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. There are others that I can't remember... and I'm hoping for the new Wally Lamb and Donna Tartt--oh the list could go on and on! Luckily my birthday comes in January so I can make another list:)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: This is SO HARD. First, you're assuming I'm organized enough to have figured this out by now, which is--wrong.  I did get a signed Ken Follett for my step-son Paul. (He and Jonathan love to read spy books, who doesn't? So now they each have their own copy.)  For my Dad. I think I'll get that book on Beethoven's Ninth--even though my Dad probable knows just as much about it!  I'm drawn to the new Doris Kearns Goodwin book about Teddy Roosevelt..maybe for Jonathan? (Yeah, exactly, then I'll sneak it.) (In my spare time.) And I'm trying to decide just how pushy it is to send THE WRONG GIRL to far-flung relatives.  And I'm tempt to get that One Hundred Things That Changed the World book--is that cool? Or holiday hype?

HALLIE EPHRON: Books are a big part of every season at our house -- in fact, our collection of books is rapidly pushing us OUT of the house. My husband is the book buyer. He came back last weekend with the most gorgeous coffee table book of Steve McCurry's photographs of South and Southeast Asia. Spectacular color pictures fill each page. It's hard to get mad at him when he brings back a book like that. For him, best buys are beautiful illustrated children's books or anything about Brooklyn. And for my son-in-law, anything Star Wars or Hobbity-y. For my daughters, chewy women's fiction. Then I get to borrow them back.

RHYS BOWEN: I am a great re-reader of old favorites--all the Agatha Christies, The Lord of the Rings, Kate Morton... any book that gave me pleasure the first time around I will re-read when life gets stressful. I love giving and receiving books but I have to be quite specific if I ask John to put a book under the tree for me. Or I'll find the military history of WW II or something that HE'd like on the shelf.  Last year as a stocking stuffer I started my son-in-law Tom on Daniel Silva and he's read everything Silva has written, so this year I want to find a new writer to hook him on. Any suggestions?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, he might like Robert Ludlum/Eric Van Lustbader. Classic spy novels brought up to date for the post-Cold War world. Or, for a different twist, how about Barry Eisler's John Rain series? Lots of action, moral ambiguity and exotic locations.

As for what I'm giving - well, Ross and the Smithie read this site, so I can't give anything away for this year. In years past, I've often given Ross a matched series - for his birthday, I
found an almost complete set of Winston Churchill's History of WWII in the original 1951 Book-of-the-Month club edition (yes, collectors, I know it doesn't count for collecting purposes.) For the Smithie, I tend to get a stack of paperbacks for fun reads or that One Special Book she wanted, signed. One year I got her the latest Sookie Stackhouse mystery signed by Charlaine Harris.
For The Boy, who rows for Trinity College (Hartford), a signed copy of FLAT WATER TUESDAY by Ron Irwin, who once rowed for Trinity College. Not a vanity project - the book was blurbed by Nobel Prize-winner J.M. Coetzee. For my sister's little boys, some fun science books from National Geographic (20% off when you buy three or more!) Finally, for my newest nephew, who joined the family by adoption after a long, long wait by his parents, THE SEA CHEST by Maine author Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Mary GrandPre. It's a beautiful tale of a baby who arrives at a lonely lighthouse station floating in a sea chest and who becomes one of the family.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, I highly recommend Blood Over Water by James Livingston and David Livingston, for The Boy.  The brothers rowed in the Boat Race the same year, one for Oxford and one for Cambridge. Fascinating story.  I later found out that my English agent's husband rowed for Oxford the same year.

And, oh, Susan, I have the Sendak Nutcracker! It's one of my treasures (a bit battered, but well-loved.) That's a nice reminder that it would make a lovely gift. 

Last year (not for Christmas) a friend gave me the 75th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit--Rhys, if you don't own it, put it on your Christmas list.  It's gorgeous, and has the original Tolkien drawings. 

I love to give books--last year everyone who reads got The Twelve Clues of Christmas! This year I haven't made up my mind what I'm giving, but I think the new C.C. Bennison Father Tom Christmas book may go on my want list

Are books a big part of your holiday season? Which ones do you like to reread? Give as gifts? Buy for yourself?


  1. I love that version of the nutcracker!! Thanks for reminding me! i will absolutely get that for my son.

  2. Thanks, Emily! I love it, too. And Pacific Northwest Ballet does a fabulous version with Maurice Sendak sets and costumes. I've never been able to see it live, but there's a fantastic movie version streaming on Netflix.

  3. P.S. And yay for giving boys ballet books!

  4. We are all readers, so the book giving and exchanging is huge year round but reaches frenzied proportions at Christmas. I am giving (or have asked for), in no particular order and to various people, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, The Wes Anderson Collection, The Most of Nora Eprhon, The Walking Dead Compendium, Vols 1 and 2, Bully Pulpit, All the Great Prizes, Sherlock Homles - The Stuff of Nightmares, Celebrating Pride and Prejudice, Making Masterpiece, Dangerous Women, Georgian London: Into the Streets, The Cuckoo's Calling, The Book of Ages, and Wellington: Path to Victory. And that is a partial wish list. We need more shelves.

  5. Just getting online today . . . the storm seems to have played havoc with our Internet . . . ::sigh::

    There are always books under our tree . . . John gets books on flying or on World War II; this year the Princess gets the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid; her brother gets a Star Wars book. The Colorado grandbabies get Doctor Seuss and all of them get at least one of those recordable books that Hallmark sells every year. [So when the Colorado grandbaby says "I want Grammie to read to me tonight," there's a special book waiting there, just for him.]

    I'm wishing to find a copy of the special collector's edition of Galileo's "The Starry Messenger" under the tree . . . .

  6. Brenda, off to look up CELEBRATING PRIDE AN PREJUDICE.

    Joan, if you're looking for a great WWII book, I heartily recommend IN THE GARDEN OF THE BEASTS. It's about the U.S. Ambassador to Germany and his family who are in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power. Non-fic and fascinating.

  7. I always love hearing what books are being given for Christmas. But, then I have to remind myself I've already bought the books I'm giving - NO MORE!!!! and that's hard.

    My mother is a lover of jewelry (yes, I am my mother in this regard), so every year I find her a big coffee table book about jewelry. This year's jewelry book is "Imperishable Beauty" about European Art Nouveau pieces. Gorgeous!

    My father-in-law is getting an inscribed first edition of the new Pat Conroy.

  8. Joan, that's a super idea for little ones. I'm going to send a link to the Hallmark recorded books site to my mother, who Skypes a lot with her newest grandson in Virginia.

    I forgot to add another book present I always gave when my kids were in elementary school: Instead of giving teachers a candle, potporri ball or yet another apple-themed ornament (all of which my husband, the teacher, has in plenty!) I gave all my children's teachers gift cards for books. In my area, with its abundance of independent bookstores, I gave the IndieBound gift card, which can be used at any participating independent book seller (which is most of them.) For areas without much access to bookstores, you can give B&N or Books-A-Million or Amazon.

    I've never known a teacher who hasn't been happy with the gift of books - and the great thing about the gift card is that she can use it for her classroom or herself!

  9. Love the Nutcracker suggestion, Susan - I think my 4-year-old nephew will love it!

    Every year my best friend and I exchange our favorite book of the year, and as always I'm having a tough time narrowing my choice down.

    As for the rest of my book gift giving, I've decided to give only books I love by people I adore. Along with giving some books by Jungle Reds and other fellow mystery writers, I plan to give:

    - For the traveler: Almost Home by Janet Brown (about Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong)
    - For the socially conscious: Eternal Harvest (about the legacy of US bombs in Laos)
    - For lovers of time travel: The River of No Return, by Bee Ridgway (terrific novel about a guild in charge of keeping the river of time flowing smoothly)
    - For lovers of cultural learning: Nor Iron Bars a Cage, by Ma Thanegi (about Thanegi's time as a political dissident in a Burmese prison)
    - For lovers of family novels: The Secrets of the Nightingale Palace, by Dana Sachs (a beautiful novel about a granddaughter and grandmother road-tripping across the U.S.)

    Happy holidays everyone!!

  10. Julia, that's a fantastic idea!

    Kim, I'm off to check out the books you recommended now. I have a feeling many are going to end up on my wish list….

  11. No book giving this year(sob), but husband only reads on I-Pad, grandbaby too young, daughters and partners lack space. So I gifted myself! The Goldfinch, Rosemary Harris's Bitches of Brooklyn, and a memoir about a famous NY business, Russ & Daughters, written by a neighbor. (Food and NY history, two of my favorites topics in one place) some of the posts make me wish I could find my original HObbit, with the oringials black and green dust jacket. I belive Tolkien designed it. I KNOW it's here. Somewhere. In back or under some other books? Merry and bright month to everyone.

  12. Susan, I've seen that PNW version of Nutcracker, live, and it is marvelous.

    The traveling nephew, who spent 6 weeks in SE Asia this fall, loves crime fiction, so I'm starting him on Colin Cotterill and Tim Hallinan, and tucking lists of other books set there printed off the excellent reference site, Stop, You're Killing Me.

    The brother loves MT history and the Civil War, so he's getting a signed copy of Montana Territory during the Civil War, by MT historian Ken Robison. Some of you know my fascination with Huguette Clark, the millionaire copper heiress; my mother's getting him the new book about her, Empty Mansions, and I'm borrowing it back. :)

    Others? TBD -- thanks for the suggestions!

  13. LOVE these lists! I was at the bookstore yesterday, signing, and trying to spot what people were buying at the same time. (Research, right?)

    But for those who went to the big display of books in the middle of the store, the "pick up book, look at back cover, open to inside cover, look at front page, put book down" procedure is SO common . It was all I could do not to say--excuse me? Could you tell me what just went through your ind? It'd be so fascinating to know.

  14. Kim, love your list! I'll be at Bestsellers Cafe in Medford Wednesday night looking for these books and talking about my own just released papaerback...

  15. Thanks for the reminder about the Hoffmann Nutcracker book, Susan. I have always put that out for the holidays, for years and years, except the last four that we have spent at my daughter's house. They are coming here this year, and my eight-year old grandson might enjoy discovering this book.

    I have pretty much stopped buying gifts, except for him, and stuff my husband needs, although I do give books once in awhile. I gave my mother a Nook a couple years ago, and I usually give her the gift of helping her load it up with mysteries on my dime. And I bought my husband one this year. He will protest, but then will love having it, I predict.

    My grandson is a big fan of the Wimpy Kid series, and Harry Potter, and several others, but he's read them all. So this year I bought three of the four "best" kids' science books, per the Washington Post.

  16. Rachel in MassachusettsDecember 9, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Little Women is always the first book I read every year. On January 1 I start it over a virtuous breakfast and nothing else gets read until I finish. I feel like it starts the year out "right." Louisa May Alcott has been my hero since I was in fifth grade.

  17. Rachel, I love your idea of starting Jan.1 each year with Little Women!

    And Kim, the time travel book is going on my wish list.

    So many books, so many interesting choices... And like Hank, I wonder what goes through readers' minds when they pick up a book, look at it, and put it back.

    I haven't had any time for book store browsing in the last few months, and I miss it. There's always that treasure that you would never have thought of...

    PS Julia, is the book by the former Trinity rower fiction?

  18. Julia, love the gift card idea for teachers--yay!

    Kaye, totally agree--it's hard to stop, especially with all these great ideas.

    Thelma, funny, I don't care how young a baby is, I still give books. Last year gave Hallie's new grandchild a signed Babar book. And gave a nieces' new baby THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT. So cute!

  19. Several friends received the first two Louise Penny books in the past few years. I thought it would get them hooked on the series. I bought three copies of "The Twelve Clues of Christmas" this year. Two are for friends, one is for me. Thought it would be perfect to actually start reading it on Christmas day.
    And a couple people are receiving "An Answering Flame" this year. It is the story of the Frontier Nursing Service in the 1940s in Kentucky. It is by a local author.
    A couple years ago I bought several copies of " Blind Your Ponies" by Stanley Gordon West to send to friends in Kansas. A very good book about life and high school basketball in a small town in Montana.
    May I name one non-book item that several people are receiving this year ?? The Christmas CD by Joshua Bell, "Musical Gifts". I bought two for friends and one for myself (there might be a trend here) and I love it.

  20. Of course I'm giving books- A signed Charles/Caroline Todd for my Mom, William Kent Krueger for my brother, a Margaret Haddix for my nephew, and always signed books for the new little ones (Phillip and Erin Stead books as they are in the area and I love the illustrations. Susan and Julia-I can't bear to give away the copies you signed so those will be my gift to me. Hank, your book was the October birthday; as was one of the books you signed Rhys. But I have several others ready to go. My family now knows what to expect (and I still manage to surprise them).
    Kathy from Michigan (somehow I notice my comments aren't tagged)

  21. Leslie, I'm so jealous you've seen the PNB Nurcracker live! And please stop by tomorrow, when Kem Fay will be our guest. She's the author of the Edgar-nominated THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES, which is set in Cambodia.

  22. Rachel, I love that you start every year with Little Women! I'm going to try that this year. I think we may be, as Anne of Green Gabled would say, "kindred spirits."

  23. Kathy, I think you have to fill in that "choose your identity" form if you want your name to show up...

    And I'm always happy to sign more copies! : )

  24. Thank you, Kathy from Michigan! Hurray!

    And with you on Kent Krueger and the Todds! Wonderful.

  25. Well, today's topic is a timely one for me, as I am trying to finalize my book buying list for the family. Kim, you certainly had some interesting choices. I'm adding the time travel book and the Burmese prisoner book to my list for myself. Brenda, I just finished The Cuckoo's Calling and love it. You also gave me a good idea for my husband, as we both are huge fans of The Walking Dead. Susan, I think I'll have to add that Nutcracker book to my Christmas books I have. Rachel, Little Women would be a lovely addition to the books I'm giving my older granddaughter (age 12, almost 13). Julia, lucky teachers.

    The person that's easiest for me to buy books for is my older granddaughter, who will turn into a teenager (13) on Valentine's Day. For Halloween, I gave her the first book in the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series by Charles Gilman, and she now wants the rest of the series, #2, 3, and 4. She, also, told me last week that she is interested in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. May have to save those for her birthday.

    For the younger granddaughter, age 4, I am still deciding, but several in mind are Hattie's Walk by Pat Hutchins (daughter's family has chickens--even have a chicken in the family Christmas photo, so funny--also, one of her favorite stories is Chanticleer and the Fox), The Littlest Christmas Elf by Brandi Dougherty and Kristin Richards, Gifts of the Heart by Patricia Polacco (heard Patricia Polacco speak at National Book Festival in 2012 and am still inspired by it), and A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel. I've pretty much already loaded the grands up with all the Christmas classic picture books.

    For my adult son, who love H.P. Lovecraft, I'm giving The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H.P. Lovecraft. For son's girlfriend, I'm giving Leonardo's (as in Da Vinci) Foot:How 10 Toes, 52 Bones, and 66 Muscles Shaped the Human World. Girlfriend had checked this book out of the library and didn't have time to read much before it was due back.

    For husband, Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of WWII by Dennis E. Showalter. I'm still looking for another book for him, too.

    For daughter and hubby, I'm waiting to hear back from her later today. She likes non-fiction, like Jeanne

    For me. I always buy myself what I all my "box of books" for Christmas, as books are what I want most. I choose and buy them myself because for me that's sheer delight. I won't list all of the books I plan on buying, but here are a few. 1) No Place to Call Home: Inside the Real Loves of Gypsies and Travellers by Katharine Quarmby 2) The Abominable: A Novel by Dan Simmons 3) The Luminaries: A Novel by Eleanor Catton 4) 1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies, Shaun Whiteside, and Jamie Lee Searle 5) Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin

    Also for me will be some more Molly Murphy from Ryhs, Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan, and Come and Find Me by Hallie. I've been through most of the books by all the fabulous authors here, and I'm trying to get to the ones I haven't. I'm never disappointed when I read a Jungle Red author.

    It's kind of interesting to me that I read mostly fiction, but for Christmas I always seem to have some non-fiction titles that I've been waiting for and can't wait to buy.

    Excuse my long,long posting, but it has helped me solidify some of my reading purchases. Of course, if anyone has suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them.

  26. Oops, I didn't finish the line on what my daughter likes. She seems to prefer hard-luck or overcoming great difficulty stories, such as Jeannette Walls. She also reads quite a few classics, since she gets them free on her Kindle. Her husband likes maps. Any suggestions for them are most welcome.

  27. Kathy Reel, if you really want to splurge, the new National Geographic Atlas is out. It looks absolutely fabulous, and I am SO tempted....

  28. Deb, thanks so much. If it's the one I found on Amazon, it would be perfect. It's marked down from $50 to $25, and it came out Oct. 1st. Here is the link to it. Is this one the right one?

  29. A good friend of mine and I started giving each other two mystery paperbacks each Christmas. This year she's getting The Twelve Clues of Christmas and In the Bleak Midwinter. I got my husband 2 books-one about Bill Mauldin, the other a collection of his WWII cartoons. My granddaughter reads, just not anything I've sent her so far. So I'm not booking her this year. I like to set out The Cajun Night Before Christmas for the holidays. Always get a kick out of that one.

  30. Great suggestions!

    I was surprised I liked the John Rain series.

    I ordered my husband a new biography of Lyn and Larry Pardey, sailors who cruised many times in different parts of the world in beautiful little boats. They built their last few boats themselves. We've been following their journeys for a great number of years. Husband has this vision of building one himself. Umm, yeah.

    I'm giving my sisters THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS. We've stopped exchanging gifts since we're rarely together for Christmas but this year a niece is getting married on the 28th so we'll all be in one place.

    I won a new book, AT THE WINDOW by Joseph Forte. It's a children's book about an orphan and his sister and he's always looking out the window to see a star. He is adamant that he has to be there to look up at the sky. On the last page he looks at the star and smiles and says "Good night, Mom." Sniffle. I haven't decided which great niece will get that.

  31. Susan, like Rhys I enjoy rereading the old favorites I love. I also enjoy books from my early school years—probably not a separate category.

    You've given me a great idea of what to put on my Christmas wish list when the kids ask. I never know what to say. This year Mystery Scene Magazine will be of the top of my list.

    Debs, you've given me the answer of what to give Steve. He would love the 75th anniversary edition of The Hobbit—and—Blood Over Water. Thank you!

    One book I've had great success giving adults and children is the beautiful little hardcover edition of Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman.

    I always buy books at book festivals and have them signed by the authors to give my friends throughout the year for birthdays and holidays. They're always a huge hit.

  32. The comments about Little Women bring back such good memories of our daughter, Jeanie. She loved Louisa May Alcott—especially that book. Jeanie grew up in California and never had an opportunity to visit Concord until she was an adult. We took her out to the Alcotts' Orchard House where Louisa May wrote little women. I was thrilled to be able to give that to her, because it turned out to be a special gift to Steve and me. We have a beautiful memory of Jeanie in a place special to all of us.

  33. Hallie - So glad you liked the list. I'm lucky to know so many fabulous writers. And speaking of ... I'm halfway through Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, and it's changing my life!!

    Deb - the time travel novel is WONDERFUL. I wouldn't have picked it up, but the author and I share the same agent, and so I bought it out of curiosity and ended up loving it.

    Kathy - You will love the time travel book & the book about Burmese prison is incredible. T (as her friends call her) has the most amazing sense of humor and can find light in the world's darkest corners, including the one she inhabited in prison.

    I'm now off to research the many wonderful suggestions everyone has shared here!!

  34. I'm delighted that some of you are giving The Twelve Clues of Christmas as gifts this year. It's now out in paperback so it makes a great stocking stuffer.

    I'm about to go to Book Passage, my local indie book store and browse what new series to put in my sil's stocking. I love it when someone didn't grow up as a reader. It's such fun to watch their excitement.

  35. Kim, The River of No Return kind of rang a bell with me, and when I looked it up, I had already put it on my Amazon wishlist. LOL! In looking at Nor Iron Bars a Cage, I think I've hit on one that both my daughter and I will equally enjoy. I'll give it to her for Christmas and borrow it back. Sneaky. Also, the author of No Iron Bars a Cage, Ma Thanegi, has another book entitled Defiled on the Ayeyarwaddy: One Woman's Mid-Life Travel Adventures on Myanmar's Great River. Its description begins, "As she approaches her sixties, Ma Thanegi decides to satisfy a lifelong dream. Jumping on any boat that would let her onboard, she begins a leisurely exploration of Myanmar’s thirteen hundred-mile long Ayeyarwaddy River." I'm putting this one on my Christmas list, too. So, your suggestions took me further than I even expected. Thanks.

  36. Rachel and Susan, I am totally up with reading LITTLE WOMEN starting January 1st. (My annual re-read is BLEAK HOUSE in November, which I didn't get to this year, because touring.) There's something about the combination of cold weather and Victorian literature that just feels right.

    Deb, FLAT WATER TUESDAY is fiction, but it's heavily based on Ron Irwin's life; he went from a hardscrabble Buffalo NY high school to The Kent School and had to learn how to fit in with the sons of wealth and privilege in the boat with him. The Boy, going from a rural Maine high school to Trinity, is experiencing some of the same issues.

    Thanks for the tip on BLOOD OVER WATER! I'm going to order it from my local independent. I love to give books in themed groups, don't you?

  37. Oh, and chiming in to say I also read RIVER OF NO RETURN and love, love, loved it. Perfect for the historical fiction/romance/fantasy/thriller reader.

    Off to check if the sequel is coming out soon.

  38. Kathy, I'm so thrilled that you found Ma Thanegi's other book. It's quite different from her prison memoir but she is a unique voice in the world - one of the only ones writing out of Burma these days. For further travel suggestions, two authors I recommended also have some excellent books that seem right up your alley. Janet Brown's "Tone Deaf in Bangkok" is a wonderful look at being an American woman in Thailand. And Karen Coates' "This Way More Better" details her insightful travels through Asia. I know these books and the region so well because we are all published by ThingsAsian Press - the press published my Vietnam food memoir "Communion" and my travel guidebook series. If you need recommendations for specific countries, please let me know. And I hope you enjoy Ma Thanegi's books!!

  39. PS - Julia, I'm SO happy you loved The River of No Return. Bee is a wonderful person, and her writing deserves to be adored!!

  40. Ooooh, I see a Little Women January book group!

    Kathy, if your husband is into WWII books and you're looking for another, think about In The Garden of the Beasts, by Eric Lawson. Excellent non-fiction book that reads like a thriller.

  41. Oh, and for everyone enjoying Kim's comments, she (Edgar-nominated Kim Fay) will be the Jungle Red's guest of honor tomorrow, talking about the "vice" of research and lots of other fun stuff!

  42. Susan, thanks for reminding me about In the Garden of Beasts. That will be an excellent second book for my husband, and I want to read it, too. And, count me in for the Little Women group read. Maybe I can get my granddaughter to read it then, too.

    Julia, thanks for your seconding the River of No Returns book. I'm definitely buying it for myself.

    Kim, I'm not really heavily into travel books, but ever since reading Amy Tan's fictional Saving Fish from Drowning, I've had an interest in Mayanmar/Burma. We even have a Burmese population here in Owensboro, KY where I live. However, I would be most interested in your book, Communion, and I plan on buying it. Thanks for yet another great book idea.

    I wanted to reiterate that all the fantastic authors here that I didn't mention buying for Christmas meant that I have already bought and read most of your books and loved them. I'm catching up with the ones I still need to read, and thank goodness that I have so many favorites coming out next year from this group. Kaye, you are on my TBR list, too.

  43. I found the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker as a rent or download on Amazon.
    I am giving my sister the first Inspector Gamache by Louise Perry, and my grandson is getting a Chris Grabenstein. Many great book suggestions in these lists. Thanks!

  44. The River of No Return is good! I also am waiting for the sequel. Also I just read The Thinking Woman's Guide to Practical Magic and hope the author writes fast. I need that sequel.

  45. Reine, I love Phillip Pullman's books and had no idea about Lyra's Oxford!

    And how amazing about you and your daughter's trip to Concord. I'm absolutely serious about a January Little Women reading group!

  46. Susan, I'm so pleased to have introduced you to Lyra's Oxford. Look for the little red hardbound book. It's very lovely and has wonderful visual treats like a fold-out map.

    Little Women January Readers Group?

  47. Ahhh... That should have been Little Women January Readers Group!

  48. Wait, wait....I love Phillip Pullman and think about The Golden Compass (etc) every day......what's Lyra's Oxford?

  49. Hank,
    Lyra's Oxford is a physically beautiful mini book set in the alternate Oxford universe as his Pullman's trilogy. My favorite special feature is a fold-out map of Lyra's Oxford. In the introduction, Pullman says that the map and items in the book "might be connected with the story, or they might not." And they might have something to do with stories that haven't happened. but they might. He doesn't know. "It's difficult to tell." If you like the trilogy I suspect you will love this little book. xo

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  51. ok this time I'll get it right! Thanks Kim for recommending my book, of course, but mostly thanks for these amazing lists, everyone. Just yesterday I hit that weird wall where you're like, is it possible that I don't know what to read? NO MORE. Plus that nutcracker on Netflix will be tonight's watching. Also, re. Little Women, I have to admit I was one of the haters for many years. Then I started teaching it in a class called "American Girl." Almost immediately Alcott taught me to love her, even as I was teaching the book to others. I am now her devoted admirer (in spite of, you know, "handsome teeth," etc).

  52. Yes, books are a big part of my Christmas gift giving - my nieces and nephews know they can count on one aunt to give them books every year. Last year was the first time I was able to continue to tradition with great nieces and nephews. I've just recently discovered this blog because of Susan Elia MacNeal's book, so I'm reading the recommendations with interest.

  53. I am delighted that so many of you have mentioned that version of the Nutcracker. My darling husband was the publisher. BTW He and Sendak were friends. The three of us had dinner once (charming man) and I was gifted with original cells of Really Rosie.

  54. I will try "Blood over water" soon. It looks like a great deal. Thanks,