Gift Recommendations: Books*

*remember to shop at local independent bookstores (support the local economy, put your cash back in TO)

I was going to arrange these by recipient, but that makes no sense - maybe your uncle is a huge Judi Dench fan. So, here's a list of books that are worthy presents, if you're still idea-hunting. Old titles, new titles, just good books for good people.

And here's a hint, those impulse buy 'gift' books aren't fun for more than two minutes, so drop a little more coin and get something people don't have to pretend to love.

The new goodies

Judi Dench: Scenes from My Life - Judi in all her theatrical glory; pictures and write ups of her long years in performance.

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Yiddish with Dick and Jane - More than your everyday 'gift' book - it's clever, laugh out loud funny in some places, and you'll find Yiddish words you didn't know over the course of a real narrative. Parody, yes, waste of paper, no.

Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud - I want this so badly. I think I secretly want to be an encyclopedia; this book is a tome, and every page has something fascinating on it.

Race Against Time - Stephen Lewis vs. AIDS in Africa. Act up.
(also check out the other Massey Lecture titles, Short History of Progress, Truth About Stories, and Beyond Fate).

Never Let Me Go - Buy one for yourself while you're at it - this could be the best fiction book of '05. Ishiguro captures a dreamy childhood with ominous foreshadowing of the future he reveals. Simply beautifully written and wonderfully conceived.

The golden oldies

A Man Walks into a Pub - My Dad loves this so much he reads passages aloud to whatever family member happens to be nearby. It's a social history of beer, in a humourous tone, and full of the kind of information that helps you win pub quizzes.

Westing Game - One of my favourite books as a kid, and it stands the test of time. I reread it earlier this year and picked up so much more background drama over the course of this mysterious caper that I couldn't believe I missed it the first time.

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Persepolis - a fantastic comic-book style memoir of the author's childhood in Iran during the revolution. (Also check out her Persepolis 2 and Embroideries).

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 1/2 - Remember puberty? Me too. Adrian deals with it all; his unrequited loves, his family drama, school, with that stiff upper lips and wry humour the Brits are good at.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - an amazing feat of fiction writing, where the 'footnotes' constitute brilliant short stories in themselves. The English-ness seeps off the pages, the story is imbued with all the UK's rich folklore and a wonderful sense of realism and restraint.


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