Friday, November 23, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Christmas Shopping Guide 2012

Happy Black Friday!

That beautiful time of consumerism is upon us again, folks. The time when neighbors punch each other over a deeply discounted BluRay player at Walmart, and shopkeepers are reduced to tears by customers arguing about how their coupons should be combined.

Ah, magic.

For those of you who have a book worm on your list, or, more likely based on statistics, you are buying someone their one or two books for the next year, I have a little reference to help get you started. (I've linked to reviews where I have them, to give you more info)

For Movie-Lovers:
Here are books that are the basis for some of the season's biggest blockbusters...

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (related: The Lord of the Rings series) --> basis for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin --> basis for Lincoln
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy --> basis for Anna Karenina
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel --> basis for Life of Pi
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo --> basis for Les Miserables

For TV-Lovers:
A few books that are either the basis for, or in the same spirit as, some of the tube's biggest hits:

  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin --> basis for A Game of Thrones miniseries
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie --> This is not the basis for Downton Abbey, but it is in the same universe. The first Poirot story, it takes place on a British estate during WWI. Mystery ensues. 
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle --> basis for the fantabulous BBC modern adaptation Sherlock
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey --> This is not the basis for Grimm, but it scratches the same itch. It is a modern retelling of a Russian folk tale and the prose is haunting. 

For Dad:
It seems like dear ol' Dad is always one of the hardest people to buy for. You ask him what he wants and he says... nothing. Thank you very much. So here's a few reads that have cracked a smile from my dad (though I can't tell you what I'm actually getting him, since he pops over here sometimes):
  • The Big Short by Michael Lewis --> For the dad who is still pissed off about the 2008 meltdown
  • An autobiography from one of his political party's bigwigs (my dad enjoyed Bill & Hilary's respective tomes) --> For the dad still smarting from or glorying in the election
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg --> For the efficient dad who wants to be more efficient
  • Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner --> For the dad who wants to be the fountain of random facts at his New Year's party

For History Nerds:
There are just so many of us history geeks out there (me, your uncle Sal, your great aunt Sissy...) that I thought I'd call out some options for that contingent...

  • The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes --> Science + the tropics + Romantic era England
  • The Body and Society by Peter Brown --> Romans + Christians + bodily functions + sex + philosophy
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson --> Chicago + serial killer + World's Fair
  • Death in the City of Light by --> Paris + serial killer + Nazis
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kosova -->  (this is fiction, but still delightful historically nerdery) Letters + Istanbul + vampires + Commies

For Jesus People:
Since I'm studying theology, it would be wrong if I didn't include a few of these...

  • The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament by Brendan Powell Smith --> This might be the perfect Christmas gift... it's not something people would normally buy for themselves, but it is awesome. It's the Old Testament acted out in legos. It doesn't gloss over some of the more graphic scenes (Dinah, anyone?) but makes them more interesting. Because they are acted out in legos. Which is awesome. On my list!
  • The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark --> A great sociological survey that provides many insights into the great question: How did Christianity go from being a persecuted cult to a major world religion in 300 years?
  • Prayer by Richard Foster --> I'm working through this devotional gem right now - it's an amazing walkthrough of many different kinds of prayer and is a great companion to his classic Celebration of Discipline
  • Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard --> This is Pilgrim's Progress but with a girl and so much better. Sentimental perhaps, but if weeping over Christ's love for me is wrong, I don't want to be right.
  • Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer --> Deep and inspiring - what else do you expect from Herr Bonhoeffer? A great introduction to his works

For Book People:
I'm a book person. You may have other book people in your life. And there's nothing that book people love more than books about books.
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane --> This is one on my Christmas list... Books + mysteries + secret society + techno fun
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon --> Books + mysteries + secret society + post-World War II Spain
  • The Book Thief by Mark Zusak --> Books + mysteries + death + World War II

For Young'uns:
I believe the children are our future- thank you, thank you very much.* So let's give them lots of fun things to read!

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead --> For the child who has read The Wrinkle in Time and is ready for the next book in the same vein
  • The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo --> For the child who loves fantasy and beautiful, mysterious settings
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson --> For the child who loves England, serial murderers, and boarding school (this was me- drawing what conclusions you will)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart --> For the child who has read The Westing Game and is ready for the next book in the same vein (this was recommended to me by my friend in her 30's and my cousin's sharp as a tack daughter - so there is wide appeal)... this is another one on my Christmas list

For Funsies:
If you're just looking for a fun, well written fiction book, here are a few titles that I think have pretty broad appeal across taste, age, and gender...

  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell --> Jesuits + space + mind boggling Big Questions
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern --> Victoriana + magicians + circuses + gorgeous prose
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt --> Cowboys + family drama + philosophical introspection on the frontier
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt --> Fancy college + clique drama + Greek + death
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan --> Interconnected short stories + music industry + broken time stream + Pulitzer Prize 
  • In the Woods by Tana French --> Ireland + procedural cop drama + childhood trauma + unreliable narrator
  • Johannes Cabal: The Detective by Jonathan L. Howard --> Mystery + pithy prose + steampunk + blimps

For White Elephant:
Or Yankee Swap, or Dirty Santa, or whatever you call it...
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James --> Harlequin romance + bondage + Twilight + mega bestseller 
That was fun! If you have a hard-to-shop for reader in your life, just holler and I'd be glad to take a crack at a recommendation

Who is the hardest person on your list to shop for?

*Name that movie!


  1. Am I your "friend in her thirties"? Ha. I know I am and I embrace that description. I think. Anyway, this is a great post with great suggestions!I'm off to download "The Night Circus" to my Nook! (obviously, I missed the "gift ideas" part of this post and went in a "more stuff for me" direction.)

    1. Yes, you are! If I had been more expansive, I would have said my gorgeous, wise, well-read friend in her 30s :). I think you will really like The Night Circus - I was thinking of you when I recommended it.