My wife went to the Macy's in New York's Herald Square on Saturday afternoon and described joining the holiday shopping mob scene as the worst decision she had ever made.
In the name of keeping it simple and avoiding jammed stores, I've compiled a list of my recommendations for books to buy from Amazon.com for everyone on your gift list. I've found books as gifts (or bonus gifts) to cost relatively little and provide longlasting enjoyment and appreciation. They give you something to talk about. Books are also great for little above-and-beyond gestures to score some brownie points from people not on your main gift list. Have a happy and literary holiday season!
For a Sports Fan:
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Krakauer was on Mount Everest in May 1996 for the mountain's deadliest storm ever. His bestselling book about the storm, the titanic mountain, and the driven characters who seek to conquer it is hard to put down.
For Your Dad Who Doesn't Read:
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
This everyman-learns-from-dying-sage story has sold millions for a reason--reluctant readers love it.
For a Teenager, Any Teenager:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This profane, hilarious, heartbreaking novel about life on and off the Spokane reservation for an Indian teenager is a must-read. Alexie deservedly won the 2007 National Book Award for young adult literature for this semi-autobiographical brilliance.
For a Teacher:
The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle
by Dan Brown
Yes, this is my book, so I'm in engaging in some shameless self-promotion here. This memoir of my first year teaching in the Bronx has gotten an incredible response from educators across the country, and New York City's teachers union bought 200 copies of it last month. Get it for a teacher or soon-to-be teacher you love!
For an Office Colleague:
Company by Max Barry
This smart, goofy, satiric adventure/mystery novel set within a faceless corporation keeps the pages turning.
For Your Socially Conscious Pal:
Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Journalist LeBlanc's immersion into an extended family in the Bronx for over a decade yields an incredible window into American inner-city poverty and its far-reaching, cyclical effects. Unforgettable real-life characters.
For Your Scholarly Relative:
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
This Vietnam novel just won the National Book Award and the New York Times called it a masterpiece, so as a gift-giver you'll seem behind the eight-ball on current literary what-not.
For Your Nephew in College:
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
One of the funniest and craziest books ever, a nonfiction drug-addled romp through Vegas with Dr. Gonzo.
For an Intellectual Female College Student:
The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Allende's dreamy stories of magical realism or Rilke's tender, eloquent wisdom will win over anyone.
For a Super-Smart Elementary School Kid:
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman's storytelling is deceptively simple and masterfully creepy. Watch out for "the other mother!" Also, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas has made a film of it, due next year. I've read this book to fourth- and sixth-graders, and it's a unanimous winner.
For a Musician:
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
McEwan's slim, airtight thriller is unputdownable. You'll win points for this one. One of the main characters is trying to compose a special millennium symphony to be heard around the world.
For a Traveler:
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Bryson is a charismatic and knowledgeable guide through a weird trip across Australia. It'll make you laugh, teach you something, and stoke the wanderlust spirit.
For a Jokester:
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
This classic 1980s novel, written in unconventional second-person, is flat-out hilarious from the first page to the last.
For a Newshound:
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs
World-gallivanting economist and groundbreaking Columbia professor Sachs takes you across the planet with a lucid, compelling explanation for how to root our extreme poverty on earth. Bono wrote the foreword. This book makes you smarter.
Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments section and to email this list around!