Holiday Book Suggestions

Carolyn Piper
c 1999

If there is one thing a book lover loves more than anything else, it is a captive audience to listen to their list of favorite books. Since this is a holiday issue, and gift giving time is coming up, I am going to indulge myself. Some of these books I have mentioned in the past, some are new. I hope between the two you will find some useful suggestionsfor those special people in your life.

Books For The Toddler:

Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. A charming tale that is sleep inducing in the very best possible way, no matter what your age.

Mother Goose An old edition is worth it's weight in gold, for there you will find the original poems before the PC police arrived.
For the young child:

Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf. There are deep life lessons buried in this simple story of a young bull following his own path in life.

Winnie the Pooh and When We were Very Youngby A. A. Milne. Dorothy Parker once reviewed Milne in a single sentence for the her New Yorker column "Constant Reader."  The review, in total, was as follows: "Tonstant weader frowd up." I disagree.

All the Chris Van Allsburg books especially The PolarExpress. Pure visual and literary magic that will delight both you and your child.

And as they grow:

All three Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling will enrapture the whole family. The first is now out in paperback and the fourth is due this coming summer. These are books that may well help even the most reluctant reader to guzzle them down and, hopefully, proceed on to other material. Enjoy!

The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. My 19 year old son still rereads these. What more can I say?

My Friend Flicka series by Mary O'Hara. A classic for a good reason, which is still capable of bringing meto tears.

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls. For girls AND boys.

Shel Silverstein poetry and books. Life lessons and tongue twisters galore.

Fairy tales of all kinds- especially the brothers Grimm.

Jack London's stories are too well known to need comment and too good to miss. Look for a collection for your older child.

The diary of Anne Frank. 'Nuff said.
Anything by E.B. White. A master wordsmith that will have you and your child appreciating the joys of simple well written English-not to mention the trials and tribulations of a certain well-known pig whose name is NOT Babe.
Ray Bradbury- short stories and novels. A master of suspense, horror and science fiction for the older child and adults of all ages.

Splurge on a good encyclopedia set, for the bookshelf, not the CD ROM. Yes I know the Encyclopedia Britannica is now on the we bfree of charge, but there is nothing like going to the bookshelf to look up a fact to impress the value of books on a child.

Revisit your own childhood. What books did YOU enjoy?Give copies to your kids and read them again together.!

Adults of all ages:

For the inquiring mind on your list who doesn't object to having that mind stretched in odd directions and enjoys science:

The Halographic Universe by Michael Talbot. Is the universe itself a halogram? Fascinating stuff.

Travels by Michael Crichton. Forget his fiction, this book, his only non fiction attempt, is head and shoulders over his other efforts. None other than John Updike called Travels "vastly underrated."

The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav. Not easy reading but well worth the effort for the scientifically inclined.

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. A new and intriguing way of looking at mankind, its history and future. A must read for those who enjoy having their world views turned upside down.

The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris; a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize this year. The author skillfully, and convincingly, examines what factors REALLY shape ourchildren- and the answer is a bit unsettling. Impeccably researched, and yet eminently readable and even funny. This is a book that helped me to forgive my parents, myself and my children in very important ways.

For the romantic person who may be tired of all those romance novels, try:

A True Story of True Love; The Ballad of Gussie and Clyde by Aaron Latham. This account of the love of two 80 somethings will make your heart sing.

For the history buff:

Confederates in the Attic by Anthony Horowitz. A tour through the modern day South with Civil War re-enactors, which manages to be both hilarious and very very disturbing.

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder. A treasure recovery yarn skillfully inter-woven with history and with a cast of characters that stick to the ribs.

Slaves in The Family by Edward Ball. A descendent of slave owners confronts the past of his ancestors. A National Book Award finalist.

Home Town by Tracy Kidder. Kidder skillfully weaves his true life tale of a city and its inhabitants. Winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize-though personally my vote goes to The Nurture Assumption.

The  adult "take me away to fantasyland" award goes to:

The Griffin and Sabine books by Nick Bantock. A set of three slim books which  delight the eye, even as they mystify the mind.

A Fine and Private Place by Peter S Beagle. Readit and believe. And keep in mind as you go that this book was written by a 19 year old. That alone is magic indeed.

Novels for the adult:

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. A novel in narrative poetry. Superb.

A Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.  OK,it is non-fiction. But this account of a killer storm off the east coast, and its effect on a fishing village, is a page turner.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. A civil war yarn that won the National Book Award last year for a very good reason.
And my personal all time favorite: Catch 22 byJoseph Heller; a classic, and a desert island book for me.
Armchair travelers will relish:

Tracks By Robyn Davidson. The tale of an Englishwoman who crosses the Australian outback alone by camel. Robyn is an original, and this is no run of the mill travel book.

Into thin Air and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. A travel writer who wonders why and not just how.
Alive by Piers Paul Read. A story of the triumph of the human spirit- as well as a question for us all: what would I have done?


Betty MacDonald. Her two best books are long out of print. But if you happen upon Onions in the Stew or The Egg and I, grab them, read them and see why those humor writers ofthe 30s, 40s and 50s have yet to be surpassed in our modern times.

Anything by James Thurber. A Thurber Carnival is a good starting place. Another one of those mid-1900 humorists.

Travels by Crichton. I already mentioned this. Read it. It is a laugh out loud book as well as a mind bending one.

Stillmeadow by Gladys Taber. A collection of essays,about country living, now out of print, but worth looking for. The pieces were originally published in a woman's magazine, and  will make youlaugh and recognize life for what it really is- an adventure unparalleled.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. All of Bryson's books are capable of making even the most dour of us laugh out loud. This one, the account of his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, is both funny and informative. Language fans might also enjoy Made in America in which the same author holds our native tongue up to the light- with delightful and funny results.

For your spirit:

How To Want What You Have by Timothy Miller. A road map, at least for me, out of our time rushed egocentric culture.

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. For once the best seller list is right. Don't miss it.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. Those of you who have read Ms Lamott's earlier book Bird by Bird will not be disappointed. Those of you who have yet to make her acquaintance will enjoy doing so. Original, perceptive and honest to a painful degree, the author offers us in this newest book the story of her journey to faith.

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. It would be easy to dismiss this book as a "disease" book. It would be easy also to dismiss the author as being a few sandwiches short of a picnic. But those of us stubborn enough to see the world as full of as yet unexplained wonders will love this one. Ms Beck, a Harvard doctoral candidate takes us step by step with her through a series of events that lead to the birth of her Down's Syndrome child, and as well as to a  realization ofthe infinite possibilities of life. I loved it. I hope you will too.

And finally the two best first person books regarding living with a disability that I have ever encountered.

Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto. If you ever wondered if denial was good for the soul, read this book and wonder no more. The subject is blindness, but the lesson is universal for anyone dealing with a disability.

A Loss for Words by Lou Ann Walker. Ms Walker has written a stunning and beautiful tribute to her deafened parents, and the result is a searing and honest, yet loving, look at what being deaf in a hearing world means.

And don't forget gift certificates from your local bookstore also make dandy gifts, as do magazine subscriptions.

And the best gift of all for your children: READ to them all year round. It is the gift that will keep on giving, as you watch them learn to love the written word, and puff with pride as their skills and interests change over the years.

Happy reading and Happy Holidays to all!


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