As the holidays approach, I begin to look for the right titles to give to the special people in my life. Books make wonderful presents. In these difficult economic times, I like to give my loved ones something with real value, and what has more value than a book? Books can entertain, inform and delight. If I choose particularly well, books are gifts that will be opened again and again throughout the years. Following is an eclectic list of some of the books that are on my Christmas list for 2009.
A Pop Up Book of Nursery Rhymes
By Matthew Reinhart
Simon & Schuster, $26.99
If you haven’t yet experienced A Pop Up Book by Matthew Reinhart, head to the nearest bookstore and treat yourself. It is truly astonishing. Brilliantly engineered, A Pop Up Book of Nursery Rhymes contains six nursery rhyme spreads with Reinhart’s traditional “mini books” on each page. The colors are beautiful and each section is detailed enough to lend itself to repeated examination. My favorite is “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” — the page opens onto a child sitting on his bed looking up at stars that twinkle as you open and close it.
Reinhart’s books are compelling and fascinating, making them excellent gifts for any age; however, I like to think of them as “together books” for anyone under five. Young children will need guidance in order to enjoy a Reinhart pop-up book without damaging it. My 19-month-old giggles with delight as I turn the pages, but I have to be certain to put it up out of reach when we are done so that we can enjoy it for years to come.
By John Howe
Lost Worlds is a visually stunning window into 24 real and imagined “lost” kingdoms. John Howe, concept artist from the acclaimed Lord of the Rings movies, feels that “history is like a jigsaw puzzle,” and when creating Lost Worlds, he wanted to give children enough pieces of that puzzle to spark their desire to read further and learn more. Archaeological and mythological lost worlds from Aratta and Mohenjo-Daro to Atlantis, Camelot and Mt. Olympus, are illustrated in lush detail. This book will make a wonderful gift for the young person in your life who enjoys history, mythology and books like the Percy Jackson series. It is already on my 12-year-old’s “must have” list this Christmas.
The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
By Theodore Gray
Black Dog and Levanthal, $29.95
Gorgeous photographs and the diverse colorful stories behind the building blocks of the universe make The Elements by Theodore Gray a wonderful addition to the library of any science-minded individual. This book, containing never-before-seen photographic representations of the 118 elements of the periodic table, is fascinating and beautiful. Its broad appeal has led to recommendations from everyone from Nobel Laureates to television personalities like Adam Savage of Mythbusters. If you are interested in seeing more, check out Theodore Gray’s Web site. My engineer husband loves the book. It would make a fabulous gift for anyone ages 12 to 112 who is curious about our world and how it is put together.
Great Lakes Fishes
By Gerald Smith
University of Michigan Press, $24.95
For the angler, fishery professional or conservationist in your life, Great Lakes Fishes is a wonderful gift choice. This guide to fish of the Great Lakes describes 62 of the region’s most commonly found species, from giants like the sturgeon all the way down to the minnows and shiners, some of the Lakes’ smallest residents. Beautiful color illustrations accompany color photographs and line drawings to highlight distinguishing characteristics of each fish alongside quick facts about distribution, diet, behavior and conservation status.
Stones into Schools
By Greg Mortenson
For anyone who read and was moved by the bestselling Three Cups of Tea and the simple yet extraordinary effort of its author to change Pakistan and Afghanistan one school at a time, Stones into Schools is a must. The story picks up where Greg Mortenson left off at the end of Three Cups of Tea in 2003. This dramatic first person narrative chronicles Mortenson’s work to establish schools for girls — the unique ways he has built relationships with Islamic clerics, militia commanders and tribal leaders. Mortenson tells of his work in Azah Kashmir and Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake and his eight-day armed abduction by the Taliban. His broader vision to promote peace through education and literacy, and the “cascade of positive changes triggered by teaching a single girl how to read and write” are extraordinary and profound. Treat yourself or someone on your Christmas list to Stones into Schools.
By Daniel Orr
Indiana University Press, $29.95
FARMfood is the perfect gift idea for the person who cares about good food and the environment in which that food is grown. Renowned chef Daniel Orr has created this beautiful cookbook chock full of recipes that illustrate his culinary career from around the globe, while at the same time highlighting the importance of fresh, locally grown ingredients. FARMfood includes recipes for breakfast, soups, burgers, sandwiches, snacks, appetizers, suppers and sweets; sections devoted to sauces and seasonings; beverages and FARMpies, Orr’s gourmet pizzas. “Honor yourself, your community, and your table with FARMfood and take simple pleasure in the true essence and flavor of great food,” said Indiana University Press.