Book Review

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Happy holiday season! Instead of reviews, this column is chock full of gift ideas for your nearest and dearest—read on and find the perfect gift for the readers in your life.

Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving, edited by Katherine Paterson, would make a lovely Thanksgiving hostess gift. The selections range from prayers from many world religions to sayings and songs from cultural traditions from the Inuits to Vietnamese farmers. Cut paper illustrations by Pamela Dalton beautifully complement the text.

Cookbooks abound at holiday time. Two new ones this season are Daniel: My French Cuisine by Daniel Boulud and Mollie Katzen’s newest vegetarian cookbook, The Heart of the Plate. Daniel is a gorgeous, glossy ode to restaurant level French cooking, definitely not meant for beginners! Katzen’s newest is vegetarian recipes for a new generation that is likely to become just as much a classic as her original Moosewood Cookbook.

For kids, this year’s runaway favorite books will be the newest Rick Riordan, House of Hades, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney. If you want to break away from the pack, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo features a superhero squirrel, a quirky plot, and comic book sequences that keep the story moving. For older readers, Elizabeth Wein has written a companion novel to 2012’s Code Name: Verity, entitled Rose Under Fire. Both books deal with World War II from the point of view of older teenage girls who join the war effort by working as pilots and resistance fighters; there are no romantic triangles, no supernatural elements, and no horrific childhoods, just young women who grow up fast when their country needs their service in a time of war.

A perennial favorite for kids of all ages is Guinness Book of World Records. First produced in 1955 as a way to settle bar bets, it has grown far beyond its humble beginnings to become a worldwide bestseller. The new edition is guaranteed to keep your child absorbed for hours—just make sure you have the stamina to listen to hundreds of record-breaking facts!

Another favorite is the Best American series of books—Short Stories, Mystery Stories, Essays, and many more. This year they introduced The Best American Infographics 2013, perfect for anyone who enjoys visual depictions of arcane information. It is impossible to put down and beautifully produced; if you buy it as a gift, you might end up buying one for yourself, too!

For non-fiction, I suggest Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927. Bryson describes a microcosm of American history in one year, featuring famous people (Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth) and those unknown whose influence on history was just as important. My favorite narrative non-fiction from last year was just released in paperback; if you were waiting for the more portable version of Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon, your wait is over. An important book about childhood differences, parenting, family dynamics and what makes us human—I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

And to round out the list, I have three fiction titles. Helen Fielding has just released the third Bridget Jones novel, Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy. Perfect for the chick-lit reader in your life! In mysteries, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s newest Adirondack title is out and she will be in town November 15  & 16 to sign copies of Through the Evil Days, her eighth Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne book.  Clare and Russ are on their delayed honeymoon in an isolated cabin when the storm of the century hits and all heck breaks loose in Millers Kill. It is a thrill a minute! For animal lovers, W. Bruce Cameron has written The Dogs of Christmas, a sweet, schmaltzy, sentimental tale of a man whose life is changed forever when an unwanted pregnant dog is thrust into his life. Happy holidays—may you give and receive the perfect book!   

Susan Taylor has been in the book business since 1982.

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