Great bling for a literary friend: the "banned books" bracelet.
As book lovers (fanatics, really), we feel compelled and excited to recommend this year’s favorites to those in the market for literary presents. We firmly believe that books and book-related accessories make wonderful gifts for anyone. Really – they do – we promise – trust us.
To help you match the perfect gift with the discriminating readers in your life, we’ve created categories inspired by the types of people in our lives. There are matches for historians, fiction fanatics, gardeners, outdoor enthusiasts, your co-workers, young readers, tough teens and many more. Below are hardcovers and new paperbacks (all published this year), games and even “book bracelets” that will make your holiday gift giving experience learned and painless.
While our regular blog posts link to the national independent bookstore site IndieBound, for the purposes of this special holiday issue we’re “going local” and have linked directly to our favorite neighborhood source – The Norwich Bookstore. And, as always, there’s a little bit of Vermont flair and Green Mountain perspective sprinkled, like snowflakes, throughout post. ~The Book Jam
Fiction for the “I Don’t Know How She Does It” Crowd (Books for Those Who Can Not Spare Time for Bad Fiction):
The style and the story set "The Call" apart from the pack.
The Call by Yannick Murphy. A lovely, funny, touching novel, IndieBound describes it best: “…an absolute delight to read. E.B. White meets James Herriot with just a touch of Jonathan Safron Foer.” Set in Vermont, this is the log of a rural veterinarian’s year and of what happens when his son is injured in a hunting accident. One of the best books of the year. ~Lisa Cadow
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. A well-crafted tale of how Harvard changed the lives of its first Native American students and how they influenced Harvard. It also provides an insightful look at 18th century Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge. This book has love, faith, magic and adventure. (We like this one so much that we also would recommend it as a gift for some of our other categories – “fiction for wise women” and “men who have enough flannel shirts” – see below for these and other categories.) ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
The Language of Flowers by Vannessa Diffenbaugh. It is among the farmers markets and grape vineyards of California that we get to know Victoria, a young woman recently emancipated from the foster care system and finding her way in the world while supporting herself as a part-time florist. Flashbacks and memories help bring us to the present day where this challenging and challenged character is growing a new life and discovering the possibility of love. ~Lisa Cadow
Fiction for Wise Women (Those Who Have Seen More than a Few Winters):
Unanimous pick for fiction. Among the best of 2011.
I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck. I LOVED the beautiful prose and the compelling characters. The plot, which reviews the choices each partner makes from the moment of they met 43 years earlier to the instant the male dies, kept me engaged. I’m jealous of those reading this for the first time. ~Lisa Christie
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. This slim volume is a masterpiece of efficiency and story telling. Otsuka weaves together the impressions, histories, emotions, and journeys of hundreds (if not thousands) of Japanese “picture brides” who came to the US post-WWI in search of a better life and brighter future.~Lisa Cadow
The Time In Between by Maria Duenas. In this inspiring international bestseller, a Spanish woman turns poverty and severe betrayal into a life of success as a seamstress and then dangerous intrigue as an undercover agent for the Allies. A great way to learn more about Spain during WWII, something I honestly had not given much thought to before. ~Lisa Christie
For Men Who Have Enough Flannel Shirts but Not Enough Good Fiction:
Great fiction for the flannel shirt set.
Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Unique in style and voice, this book provides a page turning look at the lives of “players” in the American music business from the 1970s to present day. (We also believe this is a good choice for the “I don’t know how she does it” crowd.)~Lisa Christie
Doc by Maria Doria Russell. I don’t especially enjoy Westerns, but I picked this up because I have loved Ms. Russell’s previous books. I am so glad I did; I was fascinated by this look at the lives and loves of Doc Holliday and his contemporaries and the vivid portrait she paints of the American West. ~ Lisa Christie
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is another book new to paperback this year. A fact for which we are grateful as it is a pleasure to recommend this look at Henry the VIII’s court through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, a member of the King’s inner circle. Others agree as this engrossing read was the Winner of the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2009. ~ Lisa Christie
For People Who Like to Cook Up a Culinary (Snow) Storm:
Mouthwatering. Nigel Slater's "Tender"
Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. This best-selling British cookbook will bring summer into your winter kitchen – eggplant, tomatoes, potato cakes and all. Tender is a love letter to British chef Slater’s garden patch. It’s a beautiful, mouth-watering tome of recipes~Lisa Cadow
Plenty:Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. If you haven’t yet cooked with this talented London-based chef, it’s time to start. He’s a wizard with vegetables and combining spices (like za’atar and sumac) and ingredients (fennel, pomegranate, and celery root) to create alchemy in the kitchen. ~Lisa Cadow
Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck. If your New Year’s resolution is to eat more whole kamut, this book deserves a spot on your shelf. A little taste of the Mediterranean is always welcome in the deep, dark winter as is a guide to making delicious salads with non wheat-based products. ~ Lisa Cadow
How to Cook Everything (Completely revised 10th anniversary edition) by Mark Bittman. This was new to e-books in 2011 so we snuck it in. Why? Because years after purchasing, I still refer to this tome almost weekly. ~ Lisa Christie
For People Who See Fully Formed Gardens Under Ten Feet of Snow:
For the farmers market fanatic.
Markets of New England by Christine Chitnis. BIG NOTE : We are VERY, VERY PROUD that Lisa Cadow’s Vermont Crepe & Waffle food cart is mentioned in this pocket-sized guide. But all bragging aside, this is great for the glove compartment so you’ll always be able to find a market on your travels. ~ Lisa Cadow & Lisa Christie
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball. A wonderful recollection, part love story, part small farming manual, by a Harvard-educated woman whose life takes a sharp U-turn from a city path onto a rural dirt, tractor-lined road. ~Lisa Cadow
This Life is in Your Hands: One Dream, sixty acres and a family undone by Melissa Coleman. An amazing, honest look – from the perspective of a woman who was once a child caught up in it all – at life in the back to the land movement that Helen and Scott Nearing lived in Maine. A family tragedy suffered during this time makes this story all the more poignant. ~Lisa Christie
For People Who Like to Think and Chat While Sitting by the Woodstove:
A must-have book filled with a fascinating take on art, history and culture.
History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil Macgregor. This book is AMAZING, INTRIGUING, MIND ALTERING! Written by the Director of the British Museum, it will provide hours of perusing, discovery and conversation. Don’t miss the page with the “weapons chair” from Mozambique. ~Lisa Cadow & Lisa Christie
For Historians Who Love Vermont but Periodically Feel the Need to Hop a Plane to Paris (or hear a good speech)
The Greater Journey by David McCullough. Armchair travel to Paris, some history of names you have heard of as well as many who will be new to you, and the always reassuring voice that is David McCullough. ~Lisa Christie
Lincoln on the Civil War: Selected Speeches by Abraham Lincoln. A beautiful rendering of some of the most powerful speeches in the English language. A perfect gift for your favorite history buff or speech writer. ~Lisa Christie
For People Who Always Have a Cat in Their Lap:
This will make your cat lover purr...in French
The French Cat by Rachael Hale. This is my favorite coffee table book of the year and an essential for Francophiles and kittyophiles. Take time to appreciate the grace and sophistication of these French kitties napping among the olives, slinking down cobbled roads, and lapping from lily ponds. ~Lisa Cadow
For Those Interested in Looking at The Year in Review Just a Little Bit Differently:
People are just dying to read it.
The Obits: The New York Times Annual 2012 by William McDonald and Peter Hamill. A unique way to review the year. Superbly written, perhaps macabre, but always full of insight, history and intriguing personalities. ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
For People Hungry for a Taste of the Great Outdoors:
A season-by-season guide to understanding the landscape of New England.
Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-Month Journey through the Fields, Woods and Marshes of New England by Mary Holland. This is a perfect book to have on hand up at the camp or cabin…or just in a New England home. Ever wonder what wild flowers bloom in March? Or how to tell a wood frog egg mass from a spotted salamander egg mass? Look no further. Complete with photos, diagrams and easy to understand text.~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
For Lucky People Who’ve Just Moved to Vermont:
Tag Man: A Joe Gunther Novel by Archer Mayor. The latest installment in a superb series that provides an entertaining (and perhaps slightly morbid – really, how many murders can a state of .5 million people have?) way to learn about just about every town in Vermont. ~Lisa Christie
For People Who Enjoy Living Vicariously through Other People’s Memories, A His and Hers Set and a bonus selection:
A memoir of Hurricane Katrina.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. An intriguing look at Katrina and New Orleans. Made me think hard about how we react to disaster. ~Lisa Christie
Just Kids by Patti Smith. This National Book Award winning memoir, just out in paperback, provides a fascinating account of a cutting edge artist’s life in NYC in the early 1970’s. Smith’s engaging writing style and stories evoke and explain an era of political, cultural and artistic awakening. And, it left us wondering – how could one person have been in so many important places with so many important people and survive so many situations and temptations? ~Lisa Cadow & Lisa Christie
The Man Who Couldn’t Eat by Jon Reiner – A moving look at how disease can shape a life. (Could also be good for sitting by a woodstove.) ~ Lisa Christie
Literary Gifts for Your Hostess/Administrative Assistant/Boss/Co-worker:
Roll the dice and find your inner poet.
Haikubes: An easy way to infuse someone’s life with poetry every day. They’re a poet and they didn’t even know it!
Scrabble-like, make-your-own crossword FUN for all ages… provided you can spell.
Banned Books bracelets (with a copy of a banned book): What a great gift for all the rebels and accessory-lovers in your life.
For Families with Young Children to Read Together During the First Snow Storm (Oops…We Already Had Two!):
Discovering the world under the snow while on a cross country ski ride.
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. This gentle picture book explains what is asleep or scurrying about beneath the snow while a father and child ski above. ~Lisa Cadow
My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer. A funny well-illustrated look at the clash of wills between a father and daughter. ~Lisa Christie
Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. A great second book in a SUPERB new series by a master storyteller. Keeps the kid humor, fun adventures and the Greek myths, but adds Roman Gods to the mix. ~Lisa Christie
For Those Beyond Tonka Trucks and Tea Parties, but Not Yet Ready for Teen Topics:
A National Book Award finalist, not just for kids.
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. One of my favorite books of 2011. I LOVED this national book award finalist and I sobbed at points in the narrative. You could pair it with The Wednesday Wars, which is also by Schmidt, and which Lisa Cadow and I both loved. (She has not yet read this one. Thus, she does not yet know how much she likes it.) ~Lisa Christie
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. This has a bit of everything: London, the Cold War, Hollywood blacklists, homage to Great Expectations, magic and new friends. ~ Lisa Christie
The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Malone. This was new to paperback in 2011 so we kept it on this list. A superb combination of The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Blue Balliet’s works. ~Lisa Christie
Tales for Teens Who Still Like to Drink Hot Chocolate and Spend Snowy Days Reading : No gender stereotyping intended, but the first books listed we recommend are for young women and the last two are for young men. That is not to say we’d necessarily stick to that for all teens – it is merely a guide.
The Call by Yannick Murphy. This lovely, touching, funny novel is as comfortable on young adult shelves as it is among grown-up titles. Inde Bound describes it best: “…an absolute delight to read. E.B. White meets James Herriot with just a touch of Jonathan Safron Foer.” Set in Vermont, this is the log of a rural veterinarian’s year and of what happens when his son is injured in a hunting accident. One of the best books of the year.~Lisa Cadow
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Magic, suspense and circuses always seem to prove a winning combination. ~Lisa Cadow
The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkeness. This is a more adult version of “Twilight” but will appeal to the younger crowd, too (my teen reader couldn’t put it down). Time traveling vampires, zombies and witches spend time between London, central France and Massachusetts. ~Lisa Cadow
Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge. Baseball, poetry and even a navigating teen dating component. Can start with Shakespeare Bats Clean-up if you wish, but it is not required to understand the great characters in this book or to appreciate the poetry and prose. ~Lisa Christie
In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the true story of Enaiatollah Akbari by Fabio Geda. The novel begins in a small Afghan village and chronicles ten-year-old Ena’s harrowing escape from the middle east through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and finishes in Italy. His ability to survive, to see the goodness in people, to work hard and to learn along on the way is inspiring. Author Geda does a magnificent job capturing Ena’s voice and in creatively telling the tale. ~Lisa Cadow
That is all for this year’s holiday gift giving recommendations. We truly hope they help you find the perfect book for all the people in your life. Lisa and Lisa
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