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Book gift ideas for children, cooks, history buffs

Book gift ideas for children, cooks, history buffs

As the holiday shopping season begins, it is once again time for my annual "books as gifts” column. Books make great gifts because they always fit, they are never the wrong color or style, and they can take your gift recipient to a place they’ve never been.

This is the year of Lincoln, and even kids can get into the action with Mary Pope Osborne’s newest book in her popular “Magic Tree House” series, “Abe Lincoln at Last!” for children ages 6 to 9.

“The LEGOS Idea Book” is perfect for the child who loves to create and build with LEGOs toys. Jeff Kinney’s seventh book in his “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, “The Third Wheel,” will be a hot seller this year for kids.

Lois Lowry is back with “Son,” which finishes her brilliant “The Giver” series. R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder” teaches children empathy and kindness with her story of a fifth-grader who has a severe facial deformity, yet wants to go to school with other children even though he faces ridicule.

John Green has written the critically acclaimed “The Fault In Our Stars” about two teens with cancer who meet in a support group and fall in love. Daniel Hander teams up with illustrator Moira Kalman on “Why We Broke Up,” about the relationship between a popular teen and an unpopular teen.

As I said, it is the year of Lincoln, and the basis for the popular movie “Lincoln” is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” now in a new paperback edition. (Goodwin appeared last month in Auburn to a sold-out crowd.) Walter Stahr’s “Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man” has a local interest and should be under every history buff’s tree this year.

Other good choices in non-fiction include Lynn Povich’s “Good Girls Revolt,” about the sexual discrimination lawsuit women writers brought against “Newsweek” magazine in the 1970s. For the person who likes to do good, Erin McHugh’s “One Good Deed” tells her of year’s journey to do one simple good deed every day.

In biographies, while “Cronkite” was a bestseller, Dan Rather’s “Rather Outspoken” was also an intriguing read that records the news of the last 50 years through his eyes. Andy Cohen’s memoir “Most Talkative” spans his days as an intern at CBS’ "Morning Show" through his current position at Bravo TV mediating fights between various “Real Housewives,” and is very funny.

For the chef in your life, Marlene Koch’s “Eat More of What You Love” takes favorite recipes and lightens them up while keeping the flavor. “Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen” features 100 of his tastiest recipes. “Top Chef” finalist Mike Isabella’s “Crazy Good Italian” is for the serious chef on your list, with lots of Italian specialties, including many of his family’s recipes.

On the fiction side, if your list has someone on it who likes to be scared, Chase Novak’s “Breed” mixes “Rosemary’s Baby” with a vampire/werewolf vibe. It’s not for the faint of heart. Justin Cronin’s “The Twelve” is a sequel of sorts to his huge smash “The Passage,” about a group of prisoners who have been injected with a virus that turns them into something deadly.

There are many great choices for fans of historical fiction. “Downton Abbey” fans will love Phillip Rock’s “The Passing Bells,” set during and after WWI in Britain, and now available in reprint.

Chris Bohjalian’s “Sandcastle Girls” is set in Syria during the Armenian genocide, telling the story of an American aid worker who becomes involved with the victims, and falls in love with an Armenian man. It is timely given the current conflict there.

M.L. Stedman’s “The Light Between Oceans” recounts how a young couple isolated on a lighthouse in Australia after World War I finds a shipwrecked baby, and the repercussions when they decide to keep her.

Popular writer Adriana Trigiani wrote an epic love story based on her grandparents, “The Shoemaker’s Wife,” that spans 60 years and goes from Italy to New York City to Minnesota; it is her masterpiece with a gorgeous cover.

Fans of Turner Classic Movies will appreciate Emma Straub’s novel “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures,” about an actress who leaves Wisconsin to make it in Hollywood in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Courtney Miller Santos has written a multi-generational novel about a family of women who runs an olive grove, and also lives to a very old age. It has elements of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” that mesh nicely within this fictional story.

For those who love a good tearjerker, journalist Lee Woodruff has written her first novel, “Those We Love Most,” about a family in crisis after a child dies in an accident. Make sure to give a pretty box of tissues along with this one.

I hope you find something for everyone on your gift list, and maybe something for yourself as well. Happy shopping!

Diane LaRue is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and blogs about books at You can follow her on Twitter @bookchickdi, and she can be emailed at


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I edit The Citizen's features section, Lake Life, and weekly entertainment guide, Go. I've also been writing for The Citizen and since 2006, covering arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.

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