The Booklist Reader’s Oddly Specific Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving

If there’s one thing we know about holiday gift-giving, it’s that one size never fits all. Even those white cotton tube socks your Uncle Buzz gave you each year—in the hope that you’d spend less time composing poetry and more time trying out for the basketball team—always fit funny, their lack of a fitted heel strangely symbolic of how you’d never find a place among the jocks. But we digress. In our unceasing quest to find each book’s perfect reader, we offer this perfectly specific gift-giving guide.

The Consultant by Bentley LittleFor your sister-in-law who really, really hates her job

If one thing can get extended families through a day-long firefight of political tongue-biting and oh-my-god-grandma-said-something-racist-again skirmishes, it’s bitching about jobs. Jump-start that safe activity by giving your sister-in-law, the one who never shuts up about the guy in the next cubicle, a copy of Bentley Little’s masterful The Consultant, a horror novel in which one of those expensive workplace consultants—you know, the type who loves to talk in brain-deadening company-speak—is brought to CompWare and begins driving everyone (literally) insane. PowerPoint presentations—with gory crime-scene photos. Mandatory blood drives—with rusty knives. Let’s all hate training sessions together, shall we? —Daniel Kraus, Editor, Booklist Books for Youth

The Big Seven by Jim HarrisonFor your larger-than-life uncle

You know, the guy everyone else in the family hates, the iconoclastic, occasionally weepy drunk who keeps showing up at Thanksgiving with brainy knockout ladies 30 years his junior (it’s somehow clear that the “friendship” is well beyond platonic). If that guy doesn’t know about Jim Harrison’s The Big Seven, you’re about to give him something very special. Harrison’s tale, the second in a series (following The Great Leader) is ostensibly a crime novel about a retired Michigan cop, but really, it’s a showcase for the unquenchable, sixtysomething Detective Sunderson, who somehow combines the boisterous spirit of Falstaff with the neurotic soul of Woody Allen, a boozing backwoods philosopher who sins with raucous abandon, frets about what it means, and then comes back for more, all with a life-loving romantic streak that makes you, well, want to put a little sin back in your own life. —Bill Ott, Editor & Publisher, Booklist Publications

Football Cliches by Adam HurreyFor that annoying friend who calls soccer “football”

These days, it seems like everyone has at least one friend who has forsaken American football for the English kind—you know, where the ball is round and the players can’t use their hands—easily identifiable by the fact that they use the dreaded phrase “American football.” When they’re not “down at the pub” talking about “nil-nil draws,” they’re boring you to tears explaining the concepts of offside, injury time, and relegation. You may want to strangle them with their fan (or “supporter”) scarf, but if they’re a friend or family member, you’re obligated to give them a cheery gift, not an injury. Adam Hurrey’s Football Cliches is the perfect choice: not only is it not called Soccer Cliches, it’s very funny, perfectly on-target, and as an added bonus may wean your pretentious friend from some of the worst linguistic tendencies they’ve borrowed from “across the pond.” Oh, wait. I just realized I’ve been describing myself. Give this book to me. —Keir Graff, Editor, Booklist Online

The Wild Girl by Kate ForsythFor the sister who only reads nonfiction but really should try a novel once in awhile

This is always a tricky gift to give, but you can’t go wrong with The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth’s splendid historical novel set in early nineteenth century Germany and focused on Dortchen Wild, the girl next door who supplied many of the traditional German tales to the Grimm brothers. While it’s certainly strong on biography, there are also an amazing number of political details, as this is set during the time when Napoleon occupied Kassel. Thoroughly researched history and biography, accompanied by fascinating details of everyday life in troubled times—what more could a nonfiction fan want? —Joyce Saricks, Audio Editor, Booklist

Armada by Ernest ClineFor your gamer friend with an “iddqd” tattoo

What to get the friend with the god-mode cheat code from the seminal first-person-shooter game, Doom, inked on his forearm? Why Ernest Cline’s Armada, of course. With its “crackling humor and fanboy knowledge featuring an unlikely hero, adrenaline-pumping action, gawky romance, and touching family moments,” there’s no doubt your friend will swap his game controller for this book. Unless he gets stuck looking for the power button. —Katharine Uhrich, Marketing Manager, Booklist Publications

dime storiesFor your starving-artist cousin

For the tattooed punk at the holiday dinner table who still talks about his “cause” (whatever that is), who stirs up controversy in the hope that it pushes grandma to say “get a real job,” give the gift of inspiration this season with Dime Stories. Written by extolled Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick, this volume is a collection of artwork and essays that originally appeared in the indie weekly Newcity. Raw, provocative, and brutally honest, Fitzpartick proves that his knack for storytelling is as brilliant and unabashed as his art that now hangs in places like the Art Institute of Chicago and the MOMA. He’s a successful artist who refused to live the “live fast, die young” cliche—any struggling up-and-comer could stand to take a page out of his book. And who knows? Maybe by this time next year your cousin will have caught that big break he’s always talking about and finally moved his studio out of your aunt’s garage. —Allegra Wozniak, Intern, Booklist

Girl in Dior by Annie GoetzingerFor the brother who isn’t afraid to admit he loves The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses

If asked what kind of movies were his favorite, your brother might not immediately come out with “Fashion Rom-Coms,” but he wouldn’t—couldn’t!—deny his affection for the genre, either. The reason Annie Goetzinger’s Girl in Dior is a shoe-in for this sibling is that it’s a graphic novel, which makes it already more like a movie than regular ol’ novels, and it features a bold young female journalist, who’s just trying to make her way in the limelight-lit fashion capital of the world. As a bonus, sharing this book will give you an opportunity to reflect on how little you understood of the world back when your generous parents once took you, as terrible teenagers, to Paris. —Annie Bostrom, Marketing Associate, Booklist Publications

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesFor your older relative who won’t shut up about “the good ol’ days”

If you’re tired of clenching your jaw and inconspicuously rolling your eyes every time that relative waxes poetic on the glory days of the 1950s, when men were men, pants sat firmly on the waist, and the picket-fence suburbs were pure eden, hand that gentleman a copy of Ta-Nahesi Coates’ eloquent and brilliant Between the World and Me and get ready to stand your ground at the dinner table. Be prepared, however, for an onslaught of follow-up forwarded emails. —Sarah Hunter, Senior Editor, Books for Youth

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

2 Comments on "The Booklist Reader’s Oddly Specific Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving"

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  1. moi533@yahoo.com' Jean E. DeLauche says:

    Ack! The subject in the email I received from Booklist was
    [Quote]
    ‘Tis the Season! Book-Gifting Advice plus 91 Free Reviews
    [End quote]

    Ack, ack, ack regarding the use of “gift” as a verb in most instances. I realize that according to the Oxford English Dictionary the verb “to gift” has been in use since the 17th century. However, to me (and others) it comes off as pretentious. What is wrong with “book giving” advice as a phrase for the email subject line? The phrase “gift giving” is used in the headline for the article.

    I understand English is a fluid language which changes over time, but in many cases the increased use of nouns as verbs is getting a bit much. Among other things, I’m beginning to see and hear “movie” (as in a motion picture film) used as a verb.

    Ack, ack, ack!

    • seisele@sjcity.com' Sarah says:

      Personally, I disagree with you. I far prefer — and appreciate — the use of the word “gifting.” Word nerd that I am, I enjoy the clarity of “book-gifting” as opposed to your suggestion of “book giving.” Gifting is a specific kind of giving, and the distinction (between giving and gifting) is an important part of the subject.

      I have to admit that I am one of the “word geeks” of the world, and deeply frustrated by the disintegration of the English language. However, like all languages, English has rules of usage and syntax. I understand being annoyed by the tendency toward using nouns and verbs interchangeably, but it is not new, and “[with object]any English noun can be verbed, but some are more resistant than others.” It is part of the structure of the English language. But, yeah, sometimes it is just annoying!

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