Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lauren Abramo tells you what to buy!

If, like me, you’re a chronic procrastinator, you may not have bought all your holiday gifts yet! You’re in luck, because if you’re a writer, there couldn’t be a better time to support your own industry—particularly since books are a pretty affordable alternative to a lot of the pricier items we might not be getting this year (make-your-own Muppet, I’m looking at you.).

But that leaves the question of what to buy? After all, it’s not spending money in bookstores that’s the hard part for most writers, it’s buying not the book that you want, but the book that the recipient wants. Just a bit trickier! (In the interests of full disclosure, yeah, some of the below are represented by us, but I recommend them because they’re great and not because they’re ours! Promise.)

If you’re just looking for a really good read to share, see Jim’s previous entry—he read so many books this year, there’s bound to be something perfect in there. But what do you buy for…

Your critique partner or favorite beta reader? Of course, you probably know this person’s taste in narrative pretty well, so Jim’s entry would be a big help. But if you can never keep up with what your favorite reader already has on the shelf at home, try this new illustrated edition of my favorite grammar book or a relatively new fun and accessible addition to the category. If your friend doesn’t get excited about punctuation and subject-verb agreement, try preparing him or her for a successful career with one of the newer tools of the author’s trade, a guide to blogging from the folks at the Huffington Post.

Mentoring boss or devoted employee? Books make an excellent gift for a person who you maybe don’t know so well or for someone who you want to feel appreciated. Especially in these difficult times, it can’t hurt to let each other know we’re glad to still be working in one another’s company! Those with a head for business may appreciate some extra insight into how our minds work, how others’ planning works, how we decide what we buy, or how our financial industry got where it is. And those with no business sense but an excellent sense of humor might like some inspiration for telling a colleague how they really feel about them personally or the mess they left in the breakroom.

Cat lover or dog’s best friend? If you love cats and you love books, how could you not love the combination to be found in Vicki Myron’s Dewey—and with the runaway success and the news that Meryl Streep will be playing the lead in the movie, they may not have time to wait on the list at the local library! Of course the reigning king of dog books this Christmas is probably going to be Marley & Me, between the unbelievable success of the book to begin with and the movie coming out on Christmas day. If they’ve already got the original, there’s always the seasonally appropriate follow up. But if those choices are too obvious or their shelves are nowhere near so far behind, why not think outside the cat/dog paradigm and go for a coyote: Shreve Stockton’s The Daily Coyote (represented by our own Stacey Glick) just hit stores, and it should definitely appeal to the animal lovers on your list!

Twilight obsessed teen or sensitive realist? Has the teen in your life already devoured all that Stephanie Meyer has to offer? In that case (and hey, even if it’s not the case!), our own Richelle Mead for the YA crowd and Heather Brewer for the middle graders are excellent choices. Sick of vampires? Not to worry, Lisa McMann’s got you covered. And if the paranormal thing’s not doing it, look no further than Sara Zarr!

Politics junkie or history buff? Any politics junkie probably OD’d on coverage not long ago, but soon they’ll be in need of a new fix. If your friends and loved ones are full of hope and optimism these days (or were on November 5th, at any rate!) but they haven’t yet read Dreams from My Father, it doesn’t disappoint. But if you’re sure they’re already ahead of the game, why not help them follow the lead of our leader-to-be and check out Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals? That not their style (or side of the aisle)? The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages: 1851-2008 (except, it seems, November and December of this year) is sure to offer plenty of information to peruse and pour over, not to mention a fascinating time capsule. And for a funnier take on political and historical life, try anything by Sarah Vowell.

Babies or the (very) young at heart? While How the Grinch Stole Christmas will always be my favorite Christmas classic, no baby could ever go wrong with the work of Mo Willems at any time of year. Whether you’re preventing pigeons from driving a bus or tracking down a dearly missed Knuffle Bunny, no contemporary childhood is complete without these fun new friends. Whether for your own kid or someone else’s, the work of Mo Willems is a treat worth reading and re-reading—if the baby’s not old enough to thank you, his or her parents’ certainly will!

Nerds, dorks, or the irrepressibly curious? There’s a breed of books that is varied in subject that I like to think of as everything you’ve never known you needed to know. This is the sort of book that I put on my holiday wish list, and if you know someone who gets as lost in Wikipedia as I do (seriously, never send me a link to there—I’ll never get out), they’ll be happy to check these out. What would happen to the world if we disappeared? What happens to our bodies after we die? What were my high school science teachers trying to explain to me? Is there really enough to write about walking for there to be a whole book on it? And what the hell is going on in John Hodgman’s brain?

Do you have a favorite book that makes a great gift? Let us (and your fellow shoppers know) in the comments!