Tonawanda News

December 9, 2013

What to get the book-lover on your holiday list

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Doesn’t it seem like your gift list grows each year?

One new member of the family by birth, three more by marriage. Two “adopted” kids who call you Mom or Dad just because. Friends who have become dear. A new Secret Santa program. It adds up, as it subtracts from your holiday budget.

But here’s a great suggestion: books! Books are cost-effective. They’re like taking a trip without going anywhere. They give and give again, and they’re share-able. What more could you want to give?

So. Without further ado, here are some great books you can give to the people on your give list this holiday season:


So how well do you know that new family member? In <\Bz12>“The Darkling” by R. B. Chesterton, a family takes in a teenager who’s been orphaned and they hire a tutor to get the girl up to speed. But there’s something about the girl that just doesn’t seem right — something that will scare the daylights out of your giftee. Wrap it up with <\Bz12>“Seduction” by M.J. Rose, which is a literary-based novel of suspense and chills.

For the person who likes a little terror with their holiday, “The Demonologist” by Andrew Pyper will give them that, abundantly. This is the story of a professor who accepts a dark offer that’s too good to be true. Problem is, it’s not too good to be horrifying. Wrap this one up with “Domino Falls “ by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, for a perfectly frightful.

Fans of suspense won’t be able to resist opening the covers of “Storm Front” by John Sanford. In this thriller, an ancient stone has been stolen, which sparks an international manhunt that settles in Minnesota. Yes, it seems like a movie plot but for fans of this genre, this book is far from mere drama. Team it up with “Dead Insider” by Victoria Houston, for the most thrilling gift you can possibly give.

If your giftee loves a novel that sprang from real events, then wrap up “My Mother’s Secret” by J.L. Witterick, a fictionalized tale of two women who sheltered a Jewish family in their Sokal, Germany, home during World War II. It’s a bit of a thriller, made even better because it’s based on a true story.

If a danger-filled novel is what that certain someone on your list would love, look for “The Return” by Michael Gruber, a book about a man who isn’t who he seems. Yes, he looks like an easy-going guy, but revenge is really what’s on his mind… and he’s not going to stop until he finds it. 

General non-fiction

Surely, there’s someone on your gift list who fears growing older — or someone who’s embraced it wholeheartedly. For that person, wrap up <\Bz12>“I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow” by Jonathan Goldstein, who recounts his last year before he turns the “dreaded 4-0.” Give it to the 30-something on your list, as well as to the something-something who only barely remembers his 40s. Pair it up with <\Bz12>“It’s Never Too Late” by Dallas Clayton, a “kid’s book for adults” that will make your giftee think about life, love and where both are taking them.

The science fan on your list will love unwrapping “My Beloved Brontosaurus” by Brian Switek. What do we know about dinos — and what do we only think we know? The author’s passion for the giant critters comes shining through here as he writes about new theories, old myths and big truths. Yes, this is a book about dinosaurs, but it’s for big kids only. Wrap it up with “Last Ape Standing” by Chip Walter, a book about our distant ancestors, who they were, and how we out-survived them; or “The Girl With No Name” by Marina Chapman, which is a true story about a girl who claims to have been raised by monkeys.

For the movie buff, “Sleepless in Hollywood” by Lynda Obst is a good bet for a great gift. In this book, your giftee will read about the movie industry, how it’s changed over the last 10 years or so, and why it costs so much money to make fewer movies. Wrap it up with a pair of tickets and “The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies” by Mike Mayo. If it’s a scary movie, it’s likely to be listed in this book, making it a reference guide that movie buffs simply should NOT be without.

If your giftee loves old reruns and can’t get enough of the girl who “turns the world on with her smile,” then you need to wrap up “Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted” by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. This is a book about the people who created and brought you “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and made it a beloved favorite on oldies channels and TV-on-demand. Wrap it up with “The Joker” by Andrew Hudgins, which is part biography, part look at jokes and things that make us laugh.

The trivia buff on your list will love “Life Skills: How to Do Almost Anything” by the folks at the Chicago Tribune. He’ll learn how to trim hair and unclog a sink, how to pack for a long road trip, how to bowl, and scads of other useful talents. Wrap that book up with “How to Win at Everything” by Daniel Kibblesmith and Sam Weiner, which will further those valuable skills; and “Stats & Curiosities” from the Harvard Business Review folks, for even more knowledge.

Sometimes, it’s just fun to read about normal, everyday people and if there’s someone on your list who might enjoy that kind of change of pace, then wrap up “American Story” by Bob Dotson. In this book, Dotson takes a look at your neighbors, your friends, your distant relatives and comes up with some sweetly amazing stories. For another kind of American story, give “Humboldt: Life on America ‘s Marijuana Frontier” by Emily Brady, a book about a Northern California community and legalization of their main product. For the right person, it’ll be the perfect gift.

For that person on your list with the unique sense of humor, “That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick” by Ellin Stein may make your gift-giving easier. This book takes a look at The National Lampoon magazine and its founders, writers, humor, and more. Think: John Belushi. Think: Second City Comedy. Think: perfect gift. And you can’t go wrong if you wrap it up with “Inside MAD” by the “Usual Gang of Idiots” at MAD magazine. This is a look at many beloved, classic spreads from the magazine, and it features essays from seventeen celebs who loved the mag as much as you did.

The giftee who loves to study ancient history, particularly that of Egypt, will love reading “The Shadow King” by Jo Marchant. It’s a book about King Tut’s mummy: where it’s been, what we’ve learned about it, and why we’re still so fascinated with it.

Students of culture and politics will smile when they unwrap “Clash! 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are” by Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Conner. This book looks at eight common them-vs.-us themes: east vs. west, men vs. women, and more, and how it affects us an individuals and the world at large.

For the person who has it all, how about a very unusual book? “Roy G. Biv” by Jude Stewart is a book about color myths about it, history of reds and oranges, purples and blues, what the colors mean in culture, and what they do to us. Be sure to wrap it up with “The Handy Art History Answer Book” by Madelynn Dickerson for a truly colorful gift.

It seems like everybody’s got somebody on their list who’s single, doesn’t it? And the person on your list will love reading “Modern Dating: A Field Guide” by Chiara Atik. This humorous book isn’t just funny — it also offers real advice and tips on loving one’s singlehood, dating etiquette, make-up-or-break-up tips and more. It might not put a ring on someone’s finger, but it’ll make them smile. Be sure to wrap it up with “Data, A Love Story” by Amy Webb, which is the story of Webb’s experiences with finding love by online dating.

Is your giftee happy as a clam this time of year? He’s cool as a cucumber opening gifts but excited as a pig in tall corn underneath? Then wrap up “Similes Dictionary” by Elyse Sommer and you know you’ll get a smile as big as the world. Wrap up “Hard Times Require Furious Dancing” by Alice Walker, a book of verse to inspire, sooth and provoke thoughts; or “A Slap in the Face” by William B. Irvine, which is a book about insults, subtle and not-so-subtle, where they come from and why they’re so darn barbed.

The newlywed, newly single or new college student on your list will love “Don’t Screw It Up!” by Laura Lee. This is a book offers household tips that will make life run more smoothly, whether it’s with finances, home maintenance, cooking or another of life’s sticky situations. And then — just because screw-ups are unavoidable, show your giftee that it’s okay by pairing that book with “Always Look on the Bright Side: Celebrating Each Day to the Fullest” by Allen Klein. The title says it all.

For the person who loves historical photographs, look for “The Big Picture” by Josh Sapau. This book is filled with panoramic photographs from the days when film only came in black-and-white and people dressed up to look good for posterity on picture day. Even the size and shape of this book says “fun!” Make it an awesome gift by adding “The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin.

For the wanderer on your gift list, wrap up “The Turk Who Loved Apples” by Matt Gross. This is a book of unexpected travels and surprising journeys around the world in unusual places. Wrap it up with “Hidden Cities” by Moses Gates, in which the author travels to unusual sites within larger metropolises.


For the Christian who has questions about their faith, “50 Simple Questions for Every Christian” by Guy P. Harrison may lay some of those queries to rest. This is a book that’s both light and deep. It touches upon big questions and small ones. It asks the things your giftee didn’t even know he wanted to know. And it’s going to be a great gift. Wrap it up with “Living a Life of Gratitude” by Sara Wiseman — a book about appreciation for all we have — for an even better gift.

For the person on your list who appreciates history, photographic art and a warm-hearted narrative, wrap up “The Mormons: An Illustrated History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” edited by Roy A. Prete. This lavish book is filled with information and pictures, stories and plenty of history on the Mormon Church, as well as myth-busting paragraphs and more pictures.

Here’s a book you’ll want your giftee to open before dinner is served: “Bless This Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World” by Adrian Butash. This slim little paperback includes prayers of gratitude and blessings from many different faiths and cultures. Wrap it up for even more blessings.

New age

For that person on your gift list who wants to dress for more than just success, wrap up “Magical Fasionista” by Tess Whitehurst. This book teaches readers to consider their innate characteristics and personal elements to enhance their lives, from hats to shoes and all that’s in between. There’s astrology in here, feng shui, intuition, moon phases and more so your giftee can make magic with her appearance.

If there’s a whole lotta scoffing going on with your giftee, then wrap up “The Science of Miracles: Investigating the Incredible” by Joe Nickell. Nickell is a paranormal investigator and in this book, he examines several types of “miracle:” images, relics, healings and more. Go ahead. Wrap it up and start some arguments. Wrap it up with “Real Encounters, Different Dimensions, and Otherworldly Beings” by Bran Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger, because you know there are two sides to every good paranormal tale.


No doubt, your giftee will want to put a little color on the table with “Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts” by Jackie Alpers. The recipes in here — I need to warn you — are fun and addicting. I mean, who won’t want to eat homemade pop tarts, homemade donuts, cupcakes, waffles and more? Pass the dessert, please, but don’t pass up this book.

True crime

If you’ve got a true crime lover on your gift list this year, then look for “Stories from Jonestown” by Leigh Fondakowski. This book delves deep into what happened 35 years ago in Guyana and why it happened, and it includes interviews with survivors. This is chilling stuff, and not for the faint of heart — which is why you must give it to your favorite true crime buff.

For anyone who cares for someone who’s elderly, for anyone who’s online all the time, and for anyone who thinks nothing is too good to be true, “Faces of Fraud” by Martin T. Biegelman is a book you need to give early. This book tells readers how to fend off fraud, how to spot something that just doesn’t seem right, and how the problem is more wide-spread than they might think.

Surely, there’s a big CSI fan on your gift list, perhaps someone who loves to solve the unsolvable? Then wrap up “The Sixteenth Rail” by Adam J. Schrager. This is a book that may solve the case of the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby some eighty years ago. Science, it seems, is now pointing at the guilty party ... or not. Give it, and see if your armchair detective agrees.


Perfect for photography fans and fashionistas alike, “Kylie Fashion” by Kylie Minogue & William Baker is a huge coffee-table-sized book filled with photographs featuring the fashion and career of the award-winning singer. Yes, there’s a little bit of narrative here (and a forward by Jean Paul Gaultier), but mostly it’s pictures and more pictures.

If there’s a future musical star on your gift list, you’ll be wrapping up a winner when you give “The Worst Gig,” by various musicians and band members, as told to Jon Niccum. In this book, rock and roll has never looked more soul-crushing or more fun.

Relevant to LGBT publications

For the political animal on your list, Christine Quinn’s “With Patience and Fortitude” may be just the right biography to wrap up. It’s the story of Quinn’s life, her rise to power in New York City, her battle with breast cancer and the secret she knew would eventually come out.

If there’s a novel lover on your list, look for “The Revelations of Jude Connor” by Robin Reardon, the story of a young man who desperately wants to reconcile his church life with the life he senses he needs to live. Can his belief stand beside temptation?

Pets and animals

If your giftee has lost a beloved family member this year, then show your support by wrapping up “Furry Friends Forevermore: A Heavenly Reunion with Your Pet” by Gary Kurz. Will we meet our furkids someday again? Will they be waiting for us? The author answers those questions in a very comforting way. Be sure to wrap it up with a big box of tissues. It’s that kind of book. Or add “One Big Happy Family” by Lisa Rogak, to the gift box. It’s a heart-melting book about animals of different species that care for other animals, and it might be the soothing balm that’s needed.

For the new doggy parent on your gift list, you can’t go wrong with “The Complete Book of Home Remedies for Your Dog” by Deborah Mitchell. This book starts off with the most basic of health care (nutrition) and will help your favorite pet lover take care of the new family member. Wrap it up with “Throw the Damn Ball” by R.D. Rose, Harry Prichett, and Rob Battles. It’s a book of puppy poetry, as told by several short-haired Longfellows.

No doubt you’ve got a bird lover on your list, and no doubt that bird lover would love to unwrap “1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know” by Sharon “Birdchick” Stiteler. This is a book filled with fun-to-know facts about all kinds of feathered friends: their physical quirks, migratory habits, diet and more — plus, tips and hints on being a successful birdwatcher. Give it to show you’re no birdbrain.

Regional books

So your giftee thinks that there may be ghosts in New Orleans. For sure, in the French Quarter, right? But if you wrap up “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” by Cherè Dastugue Coen, you’ll see that NOLA doesn’t have the corner on scary. This book includes tales of ghosts, ghouls, and yes (bonus!) pictures.

The true crime fan on your list will love unwrapping “The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Pennsylvania” by Ron Franscell and Karen B. Valentine. This book takes a look at murder, scandal, robbery and other mayhem from around the state. Would your giftee want to visit the crime scenes? He (or she!) can — there are addresses included in this book.

Is there someone on your list who likes to shake her head and say, “Only in California?” Then you’ll want to wrap up “California Fruits, Flakes & Nuts” by David Kulczyk. It’s filled with lots of true, short tales of the crazy, wild things that happened in the Golden State, and it’s plenty of fun.


One in 88 children is diagnosed in the United States with autism, and our knowledge about the autism spectrum has grown over the years. Author Temple Grandin has contributed a lot to that knowledge and in “The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum,” she writes about autism science, what the future holds, and she offers tips for parents on raising a child who’s just been diagnosed.

So the only thing on your giftee’s want list this holiday was a day of “peace and quiet”? Then wrap up “The Power of Silence: The Riches that Lie Within” by Graham Turner. This is a very introspective book on solitude and quiet in religion, music, medicine and in some unlikely places where you wouldn’t expect to hear a pin drop. Wrap it up with “Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference” by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler for a gift that loudly says “I understand!”

I also liked “Quiet Kids” by Christine Fonseca. It’s a book about introverted children, and how to help them deal with being that way in a world that definitely is not. Wrap it up for parents and add “A Private History of Happiness” by George Myerson, which is a book of joy from around the globe and through time. 

If you’ve got a giftee who’s kicked the bottle to the curb, then look for “Her Best-Kept Secret” by Gabrielle Glaser. This book takes a hard (though gentle) look at women and drinking — not that at-the-bar-all-night kind, but the glass-of-wine-after-work kind. It’s a hidden epidemic, it’s possible to overcome, and the book will show your giftee that she’s not alone.

Any medical pro on your gift list will love unwrapping “In the Kingdom of the Sick” by Laurie Edwards. This is a look at long-term, chronic illnesses — how they’re proliferating, how we deal with them, and what’s being done about them. Doctors, nurses, and PAs will love this book. So will anyone who’s facing a long-term disease. To counteract the sadness here that may go with it, wrap it up with “Grace, Under Pressure” by Sophie Walker, an uplifting story of a girl with Asperger’s syndrome and her mother, who decided to do something about it.

For the giftee who loves a good memoir, look for “Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia” by Kristina Morgan. It’s a book by a woman who isn’t afraid to pull out the stops when writing about her life. It’s honest, it’s painful, and (spoiler alert!) it’s got an awesome ending.

Is there someone on your gift list who’s in chronic pain? Show them that you’d love to help by wrapping up “Holistic Pain Relief” by Heather Tick, MD. This book is filled with worth-a-try methods of managing pain and may even help get rid of it altogether. Best of all, in addition to helping with physical pain, it can help with the emotional side of pain, too.


If there’s an hardwired someone on your gift list this year — someone who wants to break the too-available cord — then wrap up “Boundaries in an Overconnected World” by Anne Katherine. This is a book especially for someone who longs for communication the way it used to be. Someone who wants to know how to get away from it now and then. Someone like your giftee, right? 

It’s always nice to have a plan for the new year, which means your business-minded giftee would appreciate unwrapping “Financial Fresh Start” by Shari Olefson. This book offers a step-by-step process for adapting to the “New Economy,’ and some of the tips can be used the minute your giftee rips the wrap.

For the person on your list who needs to know how to kick-start creativity in the workplace, “The Myths of Creativity” by David Burkus will be a welcome gift. It’s a book about how innovation starts, where the best ideas come from, and how to put that knowledge to work. Pair it up with “Unlimited Sales Success” by Brian Tracy and Michael Tracy for a well-rounded (and very helpful) holiday gift.


For the first-time parent or for an “only” adult kid who loves a little controversy, look for “One and Only” by Lauren Sandler. In this book, Sandler discusses being an only child and the advantages of stopping at a family of three. It’s thought-provoking and conversation-provoking and the right giftee will love it.

If there’s a mother-to-be on your gift list, then “One Good Egg” by Suzy Becker is a good choice to wrap up. This is the (true) story of a much-wanted baby, a mom with a dream, fertility treatments, and the long, sometimes hard journey to being a parent. 

Don’t leave the new dad out of the picture when you’re holiday shopping. Wrap up “Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood” by Drew Magary, a humorous look at raising a family, being a parent, making mistakes and knowing that your child loves you anyhow. Wrap it up with another book that looks at parenting the way your parents never did: “Twenty Something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck” by Robin Marantz Henig and Samantha Henig. It looks at what it’s like to be young and not-so-carefree in the 21st century.

And if there’s someone on your gift list who’s contemplating a look at science to make a family later, then “Motherhood, Rescheduled” by Sarah Elizabeth Richards would make a good gift. This is a book about egg freezing, spurning a biological clock or an illness, and having a family when the time is right. It’s written from the POV of women who’ve done it, which is just a bonus.

Children’s picture books

For the sensitive kid who worries about the whales, “Hot Air” by Sandrine Dumas Roy, Emmanuelle Houssais and Sarah Ardizzone offers more information on global warming and enviromnemtal concerns, and it leaves off with a big question for little minds. Give it along with “Jasper’s Story” by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. That’s the story of the endangered moon bear, and efforts to save the gorgeous creatures.

If a Christmas book is mandatory for gift-giving, you’re in luck this year. “Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus” by M.P. Hueston, illustrations by Teri Weidner is just perfect for smaller children. It’s a seek-and-find book with flaps and windows that are perfect for the kid who loves to be a part of the story. Wrap it up with “Santa Claus: All About Me,” compiled by J & J Atkinson. It’s a lovely gift book filled with lots of information about the holiday through history, and while it may sometimes seem too advanced for little kids, it’s a book they’ll grow with. You might also look for “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry and Sonja Danowski. It’s a classic with new, gorgeous artwork.

If you’re a grandparent looking for the perfect book for your favorite little one, look for “Grandma Loves You!” by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Petra Brown. This absolutely adorable book explains, in rhyme, all the ways you love your grandchild and, of course, the child who gave you grandkids. Bonus: There’s room in the back of this book for a personalized letter from you, which makes this a wonderful keepsake.

If reading a new Christmas book is a tradition in your home, then wrap up “Deck the Walls! A Wacky Christmas Carol” by Erin Dealy, illustrated by Nick Ward. With this book, your child will want to sing along with the silliest of songs, and maybe even make up her own funny verses.

Children’s — middle grades

What middle-grader doesn’t like money? For sure, your giftee does, and she’ll also like reading “The Short Seller” by Elissa Brent Weissman. It’s the story of a young girl who discovers that she’s very good at investing. Almost too good, in fact, and that’s a dangerous temptation. Wrap it up with “Jack Strong Takes a Stand” by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by Melissa Mendes. It’s a novel about a boy who’s mad as heck about his overscheduled life, and he’s not going to take it any more.

For the child who already loves the classics, you can’t go wrong with “Tales from the Brothers Grimm,” selected and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger; or “Aesop’s Fables” from Ayano Imai. These books are filled with stories your giftee will love, and new artwork that definitely adds to each story.

For the next star in the family, wrap up “Lulu in La La Land” by Elisabeth Wolf. It’s the story of a girl whose entire family is glamorous, but she’s not. Lulu likes what she likes and what she’d like is to have her whole family at her birthday party.

Your young shark fan will instantly want to bite into his gift when you’ve wrapped up “Shark Wars: The Last Emprex” by EJ Altbacker. This is the story of an undersea battle that could result in a change of power between two warring groups that both want control of the oceans. And here’s a hint for the future: this book is part of a series.

Savvy young consumers will love “Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know” by Shari Graydon, illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux. This excellent book teaches kids to understand how and why they’re being manipulated by ads, what they can do about it, and how to avoid wasting their money because of a flashy commercial. Tuck a gift certificate inside this book and see what happens.

Here’s a great suggestion for your “Charlotte ‘s Web” fan: “The Web” by Nette Hilton. It’s the story of a young girl who loves spending time with her great-grandmother, the small creatures that share her yard and the memory-making things they do. This is a perfect book for girls ages 8-to-12, and for their tenderhearted mothers, too. 

For the historian on your list, “Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles” by Tanya Lee Stone is a great book to wrap up for the holidays. It’s the story of America’s first elite team of black paratroopers, explaining why their story is so important, the segregation and racism they endured to do what they did, and how their achievement impacted the world.

Your budding gymnast will be so excited when she unwraps “Raising the Bar” by Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas. This picture-filled autobiography includes inspirational words, advice for life, and Douglas’ story in her own words and that of her family. Kids, especially those who tumble through each day, will love it.  

Young adult

Young historians will really enjoy “The Graphic History of Gettysburg” by Wayne Vansant. This graphic novel (a type of comic book, for those of you not in the know) tells the story of what may be the Civil War’s best-studied battle. This may be your young giftee’s best-studied gift.

What’s more fun than a paper airplane? Making your own motorboat, that’s what, and in “The Motorboat Book” by Ed Sobey, your giftee will learn how to take everyday objects and some ingenuity, and make them into something that’s fun in the tub or the pond. This is perfect for science lovers, age 13 and up, and it’s definitely fun for their dads, too.

For the fantasy-romantic on your list, wrap up “Midnight Frost” by Jennifer Estep. This latest in the Mythos Academy series brings more danger to Gwen Frost — and someone else who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, this is the newest part of this series. Yes, your giftee would probably be happier with the whole series. You know what you need to do.

Inspired by a true story, “Odette’s Secrets” by Maryann MacDonald is the story of a young Jewish French girl who’s sent to live in the countryside during World War II. Without her parents, she assimilates into the new family she’s living with, but she wants desperately to find a confidante. Wrap it up with “Little Fish” by Ramsey Beyer, an illustrated novel memoir of fitting in and finding your place in life.


First, the housekeeping: Some of these books may be challenging to find. Titles may be slightly different. Still, there you have it: gift ideas for everybody you love. And if you don’t see the perfect book on this list, throw yourself at the mercy of the friendly bookseller in your hometown. They know books and making someone smile makes them smile, too. 

Season’s readings!

Terri Schlichenmeyer reviews books from her home in LaCrosse, Wis. Contact her at