Holiday Gift Recommendations

Looking for some off the beaten track gift ideas for the voracious reader in your life? Here are some recommendations that might do the trick.

Also LGBT/Womens Studies/Religion/Nigeria/International Fiction
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta 
A beautifully written novel in the bildungsroman tradition about a girl who is abandoned by her parents due to war and who almost abandons herself due to social norms. Weaves in both Nigerian folktales and biblical themes. 

From the publisher: “Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly. Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.”

Source: I read this one courtesy of NetGalley and highly recommend it. Okparanta is a writer to watch.

Also Writers/Philosophers/Class & Gender Issues
Martin Eden by Jack London

Bibliophiles and writers will probably find this lesser known London novel unputdownable. It takes readers through the wringer, but Martin Eden’s love affair with books, ideas, writing, and a girl is definitely unforgettable.

From the publisher: “The semiautobiographical Martin Eden is the most vital and original character Jack London ever created. Set in San Francisco, this is the story of Martin Eden, an impoverished seaman who pursues, obsessively and aggressively, dreams of education and literary fame. London, dissatisfied with the rewards of his own success, intended Martin Eden as an attack on individualism and a criticism of ambition; however, much of its status as a classic has been conferred by admirers of its ambitious protagonist.”

Source: I bought a copy after fellow blogger Thomas Otto (Hogglestock) recommended it to me this summer. Just finished it last night and my mind is swirling from the fallout.

Also Writers/Memoir
Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me by Andy Martin
It’s like a ride-along in a police cruiser, except you’re with a best-selling thriller writer. 

From the publisher: “On September 1, 1994, Lee Child went out to buy the paper to start writing his first novel, in pencil. The result was Killing Floor, which introduced his hero Jack Reacher. Twenty years later, on September 1, 2014, he began writing Make Me, the twentieth novel in his number-one- bestselling Reacher series. Same day, same writer, same hero.
     The difference, this time, was that he had someone looking over his shoulder. Andy Martin, uber Reacher fan, Cambridge academic, expert on existentialism, and dedicated surfer, sat behind Lee Child in his office and watched him as he wrote. While Lee was writing his Reacher book, Andy was writing about the making of Make Me.
Reacher Said Nothing is a book about a guy writing a book. An instant meta-book. It crosses genres, by bringing a high-level critical approach to a popular text, and gives a fascinating insight into the art of writing a thriller, showing the process in real time. It may well be the first of its kind.”

Source: Bought a copy when I was out book shopping with my friend John Valeri, aka The Hartford Book Examiner. John saw if first and I had to buy a copy, too. Just started reading it and think fans/thriller readers/and writers will find it fascinating.

Also History/Military/Political Science
Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm American and The World by David Vine
Did you know the U.S. military has close to 800 bases world-wide, many in other countries? Next to the U.S. is France and England who, between them, have only 14 bases on foreign soil. Vine argues that our current policy and presence overseas actually makes the U.S. less safe in the long run. 

From the publisher: “Overseas bases raise geopolitical tensions and provoke widespread antipathy towards the United States. They also undermine American democratic ideals, pushing the U.S. into partnerships with dictators and perpetuating a system of second-class citizenship in territories like Guam. They breed sexual violence, destroy the environment, and damage local economies. And their financial cost is staggering: though the Pentagon underplays the numbers, Vine’s accounting proves that the bill approaches $100 billion per year.     For many decades, the need for overseas bases has been a quasi-religious dictum of U.S. foreign policy. But in recent years, a bipartisan coalition has finally started to question this conventional wisdom. With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan and ending thirteen years of war, there is no better time to re-examine the tenets of our military strategy.

Source: Originally checked out from library, purchased a copy. Currently reading it. A headline I saw last week highlighted that there are now talks of creating even more U.S. bases in Africa and the Middle East to combat ISIS.


Literary magazine subscriptions are an option and are a gift that keeps giving throughout the year. Here are four I’ve enjoyed over the years:
Bookmarks Magazine
World Literature Today
Mystery Scene Magazine
Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers (academic)

Memberships or Donations
If you’re hesitant to buy a book for the voracious reader in your life (because you’re afraid they’ve already read everything), consider a membership to a museum that maintains the legacy of a writer they may love like The Willa Cather Foundation or The Mark Twain House & Museum (or shop online at their websites for fun literary swag). Such memberships often come with a monthly or quarterly journal featuring news and current research. Also potentially a gift that keeps giving throughout the year.
Or, if you want to get something for someone who has everything and doesn’t want anything else entering their home (de-cluttering fiends), perhaps make a donation in their name to The American Writers Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2017, or to a local literacy organization or library.

Ho, Ho, HoHappy Holidays!

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