Books to Buy for the Holidays: Non-Fiction

Whether you shop online or at the bookstore, there’s no better present for the holidays than the gift of a good book.

Here are a few I’m recommending. To purchase the book from Amazon, click on the red book title.

I always find the men on my list the toughest to shop for. To flatter his ego, The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. This is probably the best book that won’t be read, but will be prominently displayed on a lot of bookshelves. There are intriguing theories on Quantum Physics, the Multi-Universe Concept, and the Nature of Reality. But what impresses me most is the fact that Mlodinow wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation. I knew it!

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book) is, needless to say, a more irreverent look at our world. Arguably the hottest host on TV, Stewart and his writers cast a typically iconoclastic eye on politics, religion, health, and just about everything else. (After his march in Washington, Stewart’s visibility is at an all time high). Funny and smart, just like the men we love the best.

For the rough and tumble guy, there’s Countdown to Lockdown by wrestler/author Mick Foley. Why would anyone go back into wrestling after retirement? Let Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love (all aka Mick Foley) tell us all about it.

Not to be outdone, I think women will get a kick out of True Prep by Lisa Birnbach. Thirty years have passed since Birnbach firstexposed the seamy underbelly of prep culture, but she hasn’t lost any of her insight into the right clothes, job, and pets.

Amy Sedaris is almost preternaturally cool, as she proves once again with Simple Times. Although it’s a self-proclaimed serious book about crafts, do not be taken in…unless you really are interested in the best crafting options for the criminally insane.

Third World America is Arianna Huffington without the charming accent, but with her steadfast view on politics. The American middle class is vanishing due to apathy and neglect; we are becoming a third world backwater; unless we wise up, the American Dream is kaput. In other words, do not let any family member read this before a big holiday reunion.

Travel is usually a safe topic, and I’ve discovered two terrific books on Britain. Villages of Britain by Clive Aslet is a detailed look at such desirable destinations as Little Snoring, Sunk Island, and the ever popular Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. God bless the Welsh!

If you’ve never had the desire to visit The English Lakes, author Ian Thompson will change all that. This illustrated history is a must for all who love literature. The sections on Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter alone are worth book price.

If you love history in its most accessible form, you must read everything you can find by Alex Kershaw. His latest, The Envoy, tells the story of a true hero, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. During the last desperate days of World War II, Wallenberg repeatedly risked his own life to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from extermination.

Another great mix of history and biography is found in S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon. The littleknown story of the great Comanche Nation and their last chief, Quanah Parker, is brought vividly to life in this tale of a neglected chapter of the American West. For film buffs, John Wayne’s The Searchers was based on the legendary capture and “rescue” of Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, a white child who grew to love her Indian captors.

Condoleezza Rice tells another story about people of color in our country. She calls her family Extraordinary, Ordinary People. But there was nothing ordinary about being a middle class black family in mid-century Birmingham, Alabama. Because Rice had parents who understood that education was the way for her to rise above the bigotry of others, she became the extremely successful woman she is today. Hers is a quintessentially American story.

Marlo Thomas also grew up in an extraordinary family, where she learned the value of  Growing Up Laughing. Not only does she recount knowing the comedians who were friends of her famous father, Danny Thomas, but she also conducts interviews with some of the funniest people working today.

Hard to believe that there’s actually anything new to write about Washington: A Life, but renowned biographer Ron Chernow is the man to write it. He goes beyond the wooden teeth and cherry tree myths to bring us a noble but thoroughly human Founding Father.

In this age of all too often vicious personal attacks on our leaders, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are those who fight The Good Fight. Walter Mondale has been universally recognized as an honest and decent public service, and this former Vice President has valuable insights to share.

Is there someone on your list who just doesn’t fall within what most of us consider normal parameters? Have I got a girl for you! Kat Von D offers up The Tattoo Chronicles, and boy, does she know what she’s talking about. And she’s a surprisingly good artist, too.

The fun of buying books for loved ones is that we truly get to think about them for the holidays. What are their interests? What will transport them on a cold winter night? How best can we show them that we value them? Books are the answer.

About Michall Jeffers (1 Articles)
Michall Jeffers began her career as an actress in New York and Los Angeles, and now uses her considerable knowledge and experience to review theater. Her professional affiliations include Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics, International Association of Theatre Critics, Dramatists Guild of America, Dance Critics Association, Actors’ Equity, SAG-AFTRA, and National Book Critics Circle. Michall received a BFA from Boston University. She’s been the founder, artistic director, and dramaturge of an equity theater; a guest lecturer for the Cunard Line; and has written, directed, and produced commercials for cable TV. Her eponymous cable TV show, which she writes, produces, and tapes at the legendary Sardi’s restaurant, features reviews, commentary, and interviews with a who’s who in entertainment and publishing, including Alan Arkin, Kathy Bates, Eli Wallach, Daniel Sullivan, Wendy Wasserstein, Alan Dershowitz, Stanley Donen, Simon Schama, Mary Higgens Clark, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and Ken Follett. When she’s not taking notes in the audience or reading, Michall enjoys doing lifestyle articles with her husband, photographer John Warner. They live in a log cabin in Northern Westchester.