You give books for Christmas. Here are a few ideas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 12, 2019

By Deirdre Parker Smith

You’re a book lover, so you give books for Christmas. Do you share your favorites or look for something new? Here are some suggestions:

“Women: The National Geographic Image Collection,” by National Geographic. It includes the iconic photo of the young woman staring at the camera with haunted eyes, but there are interviews of a number of powerful women, including Jane Goodall and Michelle Obama, as well as Melinda Gates and others. This is a great gift for a teen, or for anyone who has been moved by the incredible photography in National Geographic.

“The Water Dancer,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book has won so much praise that it may seem overhyped. But it’s worth it. Young Hiram Walker seeks to escape slavery in the South to the idealistic North. The almost impossible circumstances and his determination make this an important story.

“Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever,” by Gavin Edwards. Give this to someone who grew up with Mr. Rogers, or someone who needs an uplifting story of a genuinely caring man who had a positive effect on children for many years and is still an influence today.

“Letters from Father Christmas,” by J.R.R. Tolkein. Just as it sounds, this is a book of letters Tolkein wrote to his children from the point of view of Father Christmas or a talking polar bear. The illustrations are whimsical and charming.

“The Body,” by Bill Bryson. A book for anyone, a book you’ll bug people with to tell them an amazing fact. It’s big, but you can dip in anywhere and learn something from Bryson’s exhaustive research. And it’s easily digestible.

For music fans, there’s “Me,” by Elton John. His first and only official autobiography, filled with stories of his extraordinary life. “The Beautiful Ones,” by Prince is the story of his coming of age and becoming a superstar, told in his own words, with photos, scrapbook and lyric sheets and the memoir he began writing before his untimely death.  Fans of Debbie Harry can dive into “Face It: A Memoir,” the story of her tumultuous life as the head of Blondie and her fusion of rock, punk, disco, reggae and hip-hop.

For the foodie, there’s “Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers,” by Natalie Eva Garrett, Anthony Doerr, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and more. This is a collection of autobiographical stories in which food is featured, along with recipes. Authors tell stories of growth, loss, healing and homecoming.

If you’re looking for cookbooks, there is a feast of those. Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, appeals to a wide audience in “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier.” If ever a cook was approachable, Drummond is, with her homey style and hunky rancher husband. Plus, her dishes always turn out as planned.

Chef Mark Bittman has “Dinner for Everyone,” which speaks to the skills of every variety of cook. You fell in love with Mary Berry on “The Great British Baking Show,” now she has a new book, “Quick Cooking,” that delivers on its promise.

For diehard Downton Abbey fans, there’s “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook,” expanded edition, by Emily Ansara Baines. Cute, British, nostalgic.

“One Day: the Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America,” by Gene Weingarten. The author asked strangers in a bar to pick a day at random out of a hat. They chose Dec. 28, 1986. Weingarten researched and wrote beautiful and compelling stories about the events of that Sunday, funny, sad, ironic, profound.

This book has shown up on every conceivable list this year. Some have found it fascinating, others, too depressing. It certainly evokes emotion. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” by Ocean Vuong. Vuong emigrated to the U.S from Vietnam when he was 2 and this autobiographical novel explores the strange situation of a child who surpasses his immigrant parents. Tt’s written in the form of a letter to his illiterate mother who works in a nail salon.

For short stories, Karen Russell’s “Orange World” is nothing ordinary. Her stories include a boy who falls in love with a 2,000-year-old dead girl, a woman possessed by a Joshua tree and more unrealities. She’s an original and outstanding.