Booked Up

The 12 Books of Christmas

Give the gift of books: 12 selections for every kind of reader.

By - Dec 13th, 2013 02:02 pm
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“Give a book and save a life.” I just made that up, but there is truth in the healing and inspirational qualities of a good volume perfectly suited to one’s moment in time. I know it’s very convenient to give a gift card and let people pick out their favorites.  But, I urge you to pick out a book or two that you think your giftee will enjoy and enclose the gift receipt.

I learned this from my Grandma Stotts, back in the day. Several times a year, she would give me wildly inappropriate books with instructions to go and exchange them at the shop, if I didn’t like her choices. Thus, my love affair with book emporiums began.

This week, I’ve been haunting local book sellers (Boswell Book Company, The Little Read Book Store, Outwords Books, Rainbow Booksellers, and Woodland Pattern Book Center) and Barnes & Noble looking for books that will make the perfect gifts for those you love. I have carefully considered each choice so that you can feel confident in your gifting. But just in case, don’t forget the gift receipt!

Layton's Legacy

Layton’s Legacy: A Historic American Art Collection, 1888-2013 by John C. Eastberg and Eric Vogel. (University of Wisconsin Press)

For the Art Lover and/or Local History Buff: “Layton’s Legacy: A Historic American Art Collection, 1888-2013” by John C. Eastberg and Eric Vogel. (University of Wisconsin Press) This gorgeous book is a delight for the eyes and another reason to be proud of Milwaukee. Layton’s collection became the Milwaukee Art Museum and this lovely book skillfully tells the history of his museum revolution.

For the Grade School Reader: “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. (HarperCollins Children’s Books) This appealing and mind-altering story will get the elementary reader thinking about animals and our relationships with them in new ways. Ivan, the gorilla, and his friends are unforgettable characters experiencing the difficult things humans put animals through. This is the 2013 Newbery Award-winner.

 For the Middle School Reader: “Bone Quill” by Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman. (Aladdin Books from Simon & Schuster) Carole is a local writer and professor at Alverno College. She writes with her “little” brother, actor John Barrowman (Dr. Who, Torchwood, et al). This is the second in the Barrowman’s series, Hollow Earth. The exciting (and educational) adventure takes the twins, Matt and Em in and out of drawings and paintings, many of which the reader will come to know intimately.

For the Fan of Oprah and/or Good Storytelling: “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” by Ayana Mathis. (Knopf) This gut-wrenching family saga about an African American family across the years jolted Oprah’s Book Club back to life. Filled with tears and redemption, it is sure to stir the discerning reader. Astonishingly, it is Mathis’ first novel!

For the Organic Cook: “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation” by Mollie Katzen. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Foodies will know Katzen for her numerous solo cookbooks and her classic Moosewood co-op work. She has taken the best recipes of the generation and updated them for a new era. Yum!

For the Picture Book Crowd: “This Is Not My Hat,” written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Candlewick Press) This delightful confection is as much fun to read aloud as it is to look at. This 2013 Caldecott Award-winner is about a felonious fish who tries to get away with hat theft. If you’re asking why a fish needs a hat, you are starting to get the fun of this page-turner.

For Poetry and/or Dog Lovers: “Dog Songs” by Mary Oliver. (Penguin Press)  Oliver is a brilliant nature poet, known for her lovely imagery and rhythm. This new book is a departure for her, concentrating on her love of the canine set.  Your heart will be warmed and you will want to pet a dog soon!

For the Romantic in All of Us: “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” by Fannie Flagg. (Random House) Fannie Flagg knows how to tell a story and this one covers 60 years of female resilience. Unlike “Hattie” above, this view is essentially comic and romantic. WWII figures prominently, but the real story is in the women’s relationships and the secrets they share.

For the Sports Fanatic: “The Sports Book” by Dorling Kindersley. (DK) You really have to love sports, all kinds of sports, to create a book like this. It has the classic DK graphic pizazz and succeeds in making you want to learn more about sports you may not have known existed. For the non-sports fan, some of the madness may make you giggle a bit.

For the Spiritually-Minded: ”Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair” by Anne Lamott. (Riverhead) Lamott is a unique Christian, neither doctrinaire nor predictable. Her latest is a manual of sorts for salvaging your life after you find it in tatters. Her insights are for all readers, not just the God-inclined.

For the Traveler: “36 Hours: Latin America & The Caribbean” by The New York Times. (Taschen) This beautiful guide imagines the best things to do in cities over a day and a half. Here it’s South America and the Islands, but they also have USA, Asia, and Europe 36 Hours. Start packing.

For the Traditional Home Cook: “Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking” by Lidia Bastianich. (Knopf)  You probably know Lidia from her many PBS cooking shows. I hope you have the opportunity to eat at one of her excellent restaurants.  This guide to food and techniques from the Italian cook will enrich any aspiring chef’s creations. Brava!

Upcoming Book Events:

Thursday, December 12 (4:00 PM) “Winter Tales” Writing Workshops for Students at The Villard Square Branch Library, 5190 N. 35th St., Milwaukee.

Thursday, December 12 (4:00 PM): The December Book Discussion Groups for Tweens and Teens at the Oak Creek Library, Oak Creek.

Friday, December 13 (7:00 PM): Burdock 13 Release Reading at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 East Locust St., Milwaukee. (414) 263-5001

Saturday, December 14 (1:00 PM): Author Tom Pilarzyk will be signing his new book, Milwaukee at the Water’s Edge at Bayshore Town Center, Glendale.

Saturday, December 14 (1:00 PM): Tosa’s All-City Read and Kickoff Bookfair at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Mayfair Mall, 2500 N. Mayfair Rd., Suite 196, Wauwatosa. (414) 475-6070.

Tuesday, December 17, (7:00 PM): Kim Blaeser Creative Writing Class Reading, Woodland Pattern.

Tuesday December 17 (7:00 PM): Chef Sandy D’Amato talks about his memoir, Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee. (414) 332-1181.

  • The James Beard Award-winner is a hometown boy sure to entertain with his tales of growing up over his parents’ East-Side grocery store.  His rise to national fame as a chef is only part of the story in this warm and engrossing autobiography. A must-see book event of December.

Thursday, December 19 (6:00 PM): Chef Sandy D’Amato appears at a Very Merry Spice House Event at The Spice House, 1031 North Old World Third Street,  Milwaukee.  The chef will be talking about his memoirs and serving appetizers from the book.  (414) 272-0977.

Thursday, December 19 (7:00 PM): Derrick Harriell Book Release Reading, Woodland Pattern.

Send your book club picks and author event information to me at  And good reading!

0 thoughts on “Booked Up: The 12 Books of Christmas”

  1. Anonymous says:

    “’Give a book and save a life.’ I just made that up” – Will Stotts, Jr., I’m wondering if you will begin every one of your book articles with the phrase “I just made that up”, and think that, if so, it would be interesting to see your list of “quotes” after a year, although of course that’s what writing is – putting words together to make something up! Thanks for all the great tips and info about community book events!

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