Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Gifts Picks from Some Favorite Bloggers & Writers

With the holidays fast upon us, I was curious to know what some favorite blogging & writing colleagues recommend as gifts this season... so I asked them! and got the most marvelous answers. Here are their fabulous and unique suggestions for the book lovers on your list:

My brother-in-law - whom I love dearly, by the way – knows everything. I mean, he knows EVERYTHING. If I turn on a light, he will tell me the wattage of the bulb. If I write an article, he will cite the source, history, and alternative spellings for at least three of the words I use. He is that irritating sort of soul who feels the need to share his vast knowledge of all things unimportant with everyone he sees. And so, that is why, I am giving him Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (Penguin, 2007). I’m not giving it to him because the story is fantastic, which it is. I’m not giving it to him to enjoy the brilliant writing, which it has. No, my brother-in-law – whom I truly love dearly – is getting this book because it is so thoroughly footnoted, is filled with hundreds of obscure literary references, and has a character that rivals my brother-in-law in terms of arrogance and intellectual snobbery. And though he probably won’t see himself in it, I know that this book will keep him busy for a long time, more than likely trying to find every reference and every line the author cites to try and find a mistake. And that will keep him busy for quite a while. Unless he knows all them. Which he might. Did I mention I love my brother-in-law? - Adina Ciment

Adina is an English teacher by day, mother of five by night, soon-to-be famous author in between. She writes for Tailslate and has contributed to The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. You can also find her on twitter.

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory (Penguin Books, 2011) are the most curious stories you’re likely to behold this holiday, right through to the next, and I’m not certain how much they inspire by way of seasonal cheer, but they are a superlative offering for that one girl, or guy, in your life, who’s always ambled by merrily on the opposite side of the tracks. Within them, a wistful, urban city-dwelling octopus curates a gleaming collection of spoons as fortification against the constant lure-reminder of the ocean from whence he came. A tree, having grown dissatisfied with remaining rooted to the earth, unplucks its moorings and begins to rove. A wife strives to resolve her conflicted feelings for the amiable Martian she and her husband meet at an astronaut’s home during the course of dinner. Many other mysterious, sweetly and sincerely absurd, grittily incredulous occurrences make their appearance in ‘Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day’. Your ideal recipient will delight in them, calling you back days (or hours) after receiving the book to tell you that, really, none of these magical terror-tales are truly beyond the pale of possibility. - Shivanee N. Ramlochan

Shivanee is a twenty-five year old fiction writer and book reviewer who lives and works on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. You can follow her eclectic, bookish musings on Novel Niche: A Place for Books, as well as ‘like’ her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter and befriend her on Goodreads.

Gandhi: A Manga Autobiography, by Kazuki Ebene (Penguin, 2011) is part of a new series of manga biographies aimed at teens being published by Penguin; other titles include Che Guevara(which I'll be reviewing soon) and The 14th Dalai Lama. But this volume takes as its subject Mahatma Gandhi, the famed and revered activist who lead his country out of British rule and into independence, through nonviolent civil disobedience. It would make a fine choice for tweens and up, including adults, wishing to learn the basics about this important figure and leader. I like the emphasis on deeds versus beliefs (though you'll certainly get a sense of what he believed and why); I like the message it sends about individuals making a difference, motivated by principle as well as the experience of injustice. The reader gets a nice sense of Gandhi's development in these ways, and how this ordinary man grew in influence and reach until millions followed him and an entire nation (or two, depending on your point of view) was lead out of the British empire and into freedom. It's an inspiring story and this book is a great starting point. - Marie, The Boston Bibliophile

Marie is a librarian by training and a bookseller by trade. She blogs at The Boston Bibliophile, and you can also find her on twitter.

Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett (Shadow Mountain, 2011) is the book which I would recommend for the holiday season. The book follows the life, death and after-death of its title character whom many people will recognize from the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Mr. Bennett tells in a language reminiscent of Dickens, evoking a classic feeling to this heartwarming tale which would be perfect for the Christmas season or to any fan of Dickens’ timeless fable. -Zohar Laor, Man of La Book.

Zohar is a father, husband, book blogger, software engineer & wood worker who is known the world over as a man of many interests and to his lovely wife as “an idiot.” You can find him on his blog and on twitter.

Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away (Christie Watson, Other Press, 2011) is one of my favourite reads of 2011. Set in the Niger Delta, this is the story of Blessing and her family. We see the world (as it changes, crashes and rebuilds) through the innocent eyes of this young girl. This wonderfully nuanced story deals with humanitarian issues and coming of age with equal grace. Not just a Christmas or holiday read, this book will appeal to anyone who appreciates the power of stories and the strength people have to rise above their difficulties. As in all good stories, this is one that makes you think and wonder about the opportunities you get, the decisions you make and the yardsticks we use to measure success. Do you know someone who loves well-told stories? Likes to read about cultures that many of us know very little about? Enjoys celebrating strength in all its forms? Get them Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away. (Don’t forget to get yourself a copy.) - Pujitha Krishnan, Stargazer Puj

Pujitha blogs at Stargazer Puj. You can also find her on twitter

Years ago, after I had complained of being without a good book to read, a friend of mine hoisted into my hands, a very large book and said “Here, read this - it’s great.” The book was Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (HarperPerennial, 1993), and my friend was right, for it is a great book. Set in India during the 1950’s, the novel tells the story of Lata Mehra and her families attempts at finding her a suitable husband. The story will appeal to anyone who embarks on an annual reading of Pride and Prejudice or Gone with the Wind, as it is a saga of enormous proportions, full of quirky characters, history, etiquette, social and religious prejudice, tricky family relations (what other kind are there?) and of course, love. Give them the book and then be sure to stay on good terms with them, because you’ll want to borrow it when they’re done. - Lisa Emig

Lisa is a writer and book reviewer for She can also be found on her blog and on twitter.

If you and/or a friend like Little Women, despite it being a bit moralistic and possessing the world's worst romantic pairings ever and ends with our heroine getting shamed into writing literature that improves rather than the trashy stuff she enjoys, then I recommend Louisa May Alcott's delightfully dramatic pot-boiler, A Long Fatal Love Chase (Dell, 1996). This is the kind of book Jo March was writing before Professor Bhaer got all judgmental on her, and it's awesome. It's ridiculously over-the-top, lurid, dramatic, Gothic, dependent on improbable coincidences and lacking in character development. But it's also going to be the best afternoon you've had in a while. Creepy but not scary, big on mood, this is like a chocolate martini or maybe Yoohoo -- it's not good for you, but wow, does it taste awesome. - Audra, Unabridged Chick.

Audra blogs as Unabridged Chick and can also be found on twitter. Audra is a 30-something married lesbian with a thing for literary fiction and historical novels. But she's also having a pretty torrid affair with gritty noir and some paranormal/supernatural fiction. She loves interesting heroines, gorgeous prose, place as character, and the occasional werewolf.

For the literary fiction lover on your list, I can think of no better book than Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Random House Trade, 2004). The story is really six, set one inside the other like Russian nesting dolls. Throughout these mini-masterpieces runs a fine thread of connection, linking each to its neighbors. The whole presents an absolute joy into which to sink one's mental teeth. Cloud Atlas has all the bases covered: a captivating story, a bit of a puzzle, dazzling prose, and characters about which one can care deeply. I have no doubt my favorite read of 2011 will delight fellow fiction aficionados this holiday season! - Erin, Erin Reads

Erin is a lifelong reader and a bookstore employee. She blogs at Erin Reads and can also be found on twitter.

What books are you recommending/giving as gifts this season? Share in the comments below!

Happy reading, and Happy Holidays! 


  1. Thanks for putting this together, Jennifer! I had fun participating, and it was really interesting to see what others chose. My own TBR list has grown because of this post!

  2. Outstanding list. Some of these I already own (but haven't read), some have long been on my wish list, and some are new to me. If I were giving gifts this season, I'd probably opt for "The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt" by Caroline Preston (for the Gatsby lover), "Volt" by Alan Heathcock (for the Faulkner lover), and "The Tiger's Wife" (for everybody who appreciates the beauty and craft of words).

  3. Thanks to you both for participating - such wonderful choices! Erin - mine too, and got some great new gift ideas as well.

  4. David, thanks, awesome suggestions - will have to check out the Caroline Preston! (Volt was one of my top reads this year too, and Tiger's Wife is truly so lovely.)

  5. There are great books in this post! I particularly like Special Topics in Calamity Physics", Stories for Nighttime and "Some for Day", "Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away" and "Cloud Atlas" which I recently found at a library sale.

    A dear friend of mine adores good literature and is a romantic at heart so I am going her "Everything Beautiful Began After" and "Love Begins in Winter" by Simon Van Booy.
    I'm getting my husband "The Pale King" by Dasvid Foster Wallace, "A Confederacy of Dunces" by Kennedy O'Toole and "The Quotable Hitchens" by Christopher Hitchens and for my mom who loves the classics I'm getting a couple of the beautiful hardcover classics...maybe Pride and Prejudice or Emma and Little Women.

    This is a fun post! Thanks!
    Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

  6. Thanks for kind words & such wonderful suggestions - great ideas! (So many people have loved the Simon Van Booy books, sound beautiful- on my must-read list as well.)

  7. Oh wow, the cover for Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is really great... I'm going to have to check that out!


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