With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving upon us, a pit of dread has formed in my stomach indicating the necessity for Christmas shopping to begin. To stave off the majority of stress and some of the financial burden of the holidays, I’ve decided to give each person on my list a book, and to purchase them all – at independent bookstores, of course – in one fell swoop on Black Friday when the deals roll out. There truly is something out there for everyone, including all of my very content family members who often leave me wondering: What could they possibly want or need?
For Dad: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
My father and I read every Harry Potter book aloud (after I had read it first; of course, I didn’t have a job preventing me from gobbling up 700-plus pages in two days). Now, I’m all grown up and so are J.K. Rowling’s—sorry, Robert Galbraith’s—storylines. Dad loves crime novels and this book combines the unique Rowling brand of narrative suspense with vibrant characters as it follows Private Eye Cormoran Strike’s hunts for supermodel Lula Landry’s killer.
For Mom: One Summer by Bill Bryson
Ever since Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods made its appearance in our house sometime in the late ‘90s, we’ve been dedicated fans. Though I’ve never actually read a Bryson book from cover to cover, I feel I know him and his writing quite intimately thanks to the number of times I insisted my mom or dad read out loud the passage that had made them laugh so uproariously. Bryson’s newest book One Summer: America, 1927 follows that tumultuous season – which included Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs, and the great Mississippi flood – with, if we’re lucky, the same humor and attention to detail my parents have enjoyed in the other books of his they’ve collected over the years.
For my older sister: This Won’t Hurt a Bit by Michelle Au
My sister, a third-year medical student, doesn’t have much time for recreational reading, but I plan on pitching this book to her as supplemental course reading material. Au’s memoir covers her progression through medical school and her first years of practice, as well as her life outside the hospital, most significantly her marriage and children. I know part of my sister’s vision for her immediate future includes having kids, and Au has potential to be a good role model and mentor for her. The book came out in 2011, but Au continues to update her blog “The Underwear Drawer,” so Sis will be able keep following and learning from this woman just a few years ahead of her on a similar life path.
For my boyfriend: The Sports Gene by David J. Epstein
My boyfriend works with athletes every day as a sports performance coach. David Epstein, a Sports Illustrated writer with a master’s degree in environmental science, describes his book as a “chance to blend in the petri dish of elite sports what initially seemed to me to be wholly separate interests in athleticism and science,” a combination of interests that my boyfriend shares. I think this book will inspire some productive thoughts in his professional life and interest him as a lifelong sports fan.
For my sister’s boyfriend: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
My sister’s boyfriend and I share an obsession with Malcolm Gladwell. I love his genius ability to structure nonfiction essays so they read like stories and still convey the messages with scientific efficiency, but I think for my “bro-in-law” the attraction stems from the tough, intellectual and political issues that Gladwell takes on. In his newest collection of essays, Gladwell brings to light the advantages of being an underdog, something I think my sis’s bf will appreciate as a former basketball player for a struggling Division III program.
For little cousin number one: 1984 by George Orwell
I read 1984 my senior year of high school, but my super-genius little cousin, at 14, has been reading far above his age level for years, and I’m confident he can handle it. The 64-year-old book only seems to get more relevant with each passing year, breaching the topics of privacy and censorship that I’m sure will be a part of my cousin’s life for a long time to come.
For little cousin number two: Magic Tree House boxed set by Mary Pope Osbourne
I remember devouring books by the armful when I was 7, like my young cousin. I read and collected Magic Tree House books all through elementary school and strongly believe they helped develop my imagination and love for both history and literature. With 28 books in this set, she should be kept delightfully occupied until spring break at least, which my aunt will surely appreciate.