My grandson, Caleb, has a holiday present wrapped and ready for him. “Sail Away” is a collection of Langston Hughes poems about the beauty and symbolism of nature in the sea. Ashley Bryan interprets Hughes’ joyous poems with colorful and lively collage compositions that bridge nature and the divine.
Mary C. Zanmiller, St. Paul
“Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made,” by Gaia Vince. This book teaches about global environmental issues in a way that is entertaining to read. I learned things I didn’t know before and will reread it because it was so fascinating and important. Highly recommended!
Kathy McKinstry, Minneapolis
The book I give most often is “The Dog Says How” by Kevin Kling, because it’s laugh-out-loud funny and quintessentially Minnesotan. A book I am hoping to receive is “Dead Wake” by Erik Larson, because I am interested in history and he is a reliably good writer. A book I might give is “The Latehomecomer” by Kao Kalia Yang. In this book she tells of the amazing journey she and her family experienced from the mountains of Laos, to the refugee camps of Thailand, to St. Paul.
Lois Doll, Rosemount
“Canoeing With the Cree,” by Eric Sevareid. It is an easily read book, was written by a Minnesota native and is an invitation to everyone who reads it to take the chance to do something they think may be beyond them.
Sevareid and a friend, both just out of high school, canoed from Minneapolis up the Minnesota River to the Red River, to Lake Winnipeg and from there to Hudson Bay. Since its publication in the 1930s, this book has inspired hundreds of people to challenge themselves with similar adventures.
James R. Deye, Minneapolis
The best book I ever received as a gift was “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri, given to me by my friend Judy Johnson in 1943. When I hear wind through the pines, I am back with Heidi on the mountain.
The book I often give is Peg Meier’s “Through No Fault of My Own.” This tells of an urban girl of wealth who also was trying to find her way. Peg Meier at her best.
Patsy Ramberg, White Bear Lake
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. I got this book for Christmas in the second grade. It sparked my imagination and let me see that good things can come to children living in less-than-ideal circumstances. And, oh, that river of chocolate. Kid excitement at its finest!
Nancy Kessler-Moore, Bloomington
The book I routinely bestow on young budding readers is always “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. It is a truly inspiring story of Paul Farmer’s remarkable life as a doctor whose outlook extends far beyond the world of medicine.
But “The End of Your Life Book Club,” aside from its daunting title, inspires and enlarges life for all true readers everywhere. Will Schwalbe’s homage to his mother reveals itself bit by bit as they discuss countless “good books” during Mary Anne’s chemo treatments for pancreatic cancer. Their discussions digress to include many details of her extraordinary life, but also include marvelous incisive treatments of books and characters and motifs and motives that I marveled at. Schwalbe’s story is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Kathy Mattsson, Minnetonka
“This House of Sky,” by Ivan Doig. The best memoir I have ever read; I reread it myself every few years. I have given it to men and women. It’s Doig’s memories of growing up in western Montana with his ranch foreman father and ranch cook grandmother. Luminous language; a tribute and an eulogy to a dying way of life that is a significant part of our history.
Adair New, Minneapolis
“Gavia Immer, Splendid Swimmer” is a read-and-color book about the common loon, beautifully written and illustrated by Linda Mazanec and Joan Cox. Fascinating text and unique drawings on every page make “Gavia Immer” an extraordinary book to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Deedee Vandenorth, St. Paul.
The best books I have ever received as gifts are John B. Goodman’s “The Road to Self: Reflections From a Soulful CEO” and “Moments Matter: Everyday Inspiration From a Soulful CEO.” As I read John’s memoir, I was reminded of life’s most important lessons: that we all need to spend time on our inner connection to spirit, and we must always be present for work and life. There are several quotes in John’s accompanying gift book, “Moments Matter,” that really resonated with me, as well. I am planning to give both books as gifts to friends and loved ones this holiday season. I especially feel good about the fact that a portion of the proceeds is going to charity.
Jamie Anderson, Minnetonka
I recommend Peggy Keener’s “Potato in a Rice Bowl” as this book is a “hoot” and you will be laughing all the way through it. It gives the reader an intimate sense as to what it feels like to live in a foreign country. It has a heap of five-star reviews and has won six international awards. Do I have to say any more?
Connie Olson, Austin, Minn.
The book I would love to receive as a gift is one that I have not read yet but is written by an author, speaker and Benedictine sister I greatly admire. The book is “In God’s Holy Light: Wisdom From the Desert Monastics,” by Joan Chittister. Everything she has to say is profound, inspiring and many times challenging. The world we live in needs some answers to the trouble it is experiencing. She may have some solutions.
The book I am recommending has been a New York Times bestseller and has also won two awards. The title is “Kitchen Table Wisdom,” and it is written by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen. It’s a collection of stories about health, meaning, love and miracles. A friend lent me this book, but it would make a great gift because of the feeling of hope it gives.
Andrea Jeries, Woodbury
At the holiday season, we have replaced giving useless gadgets as presents and give each person a book. Everyone enjoys the mystery of discovering a new story for the season. Giving books has the added benefit of the books getting passed around throughout the year. The books given to family members come back to us for our own enjoyment!
We rely almost exclusively on reviews found in the Star Tribune. These reviews are cut out of the paper and included with the book. All books are purchased at local independent bookstores and are gift-wrapped by the store workers. The review is tucked inside. The recipient of the book is identified on the gift tag, but the giver of the book is listed as a person who provides a clue to the topic of the book. For example, a mystery novel may be “From” Sherlock Holmes.
For this holiday season, we have purchased “Dead Lands” by Benjamin Percy. We both liked reading “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd this year, and finding that it was based on two real sisters made it all the more inspiring. So we decided to give it this coming Christmas to our 15-year-old granddaughter — only to find out that she had already read it! (She loved it, too.) For our daughter who doesn’t want to read anything traumatic, we decided to give “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. But yesterday she said to us, “Have you read ‘Big Magic’? It is a great book!”
We have several more books to buy for this holiday season, including “In the Unlikely Event,” by Judy Blume.
Last year’s books included “Backyard” by Norman Draper (competitive gardening) and “The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride (John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry).
We will not give Draper’s new book, “Front Yard,” because there are many creative authors and we avoid giving multiple books by a single author.
Steve Johnson, Eagan
The best book I ever received as a gift was “Class Backwards: Growing up in Nordeast Minneapolis in the ’40s and ’50s,” written by more than 50 authors who lived in this area. It was the book I gave to my friends and family. The book I will be giving this Christmas is the next collection of memories, “Class Forwards: Coming of Age in Nordeast Minneapolis in the ’50s.” Proceeds of both books go to the Edison Scholarship Fund. Loaded with a great deal of glee. A love affair with the past. Larry Kohout said he would bet that as you read these books, you’ll find some of your own memories, no matter where you grew up.
Carol Larson, Minneapolis
“We Have All Gone Away,” by Curtis Harnack. Very good book, published in 1973. His book “The Attic” is also very good, and has photos of the family members whose lives are remembered in the book. Both are easy reads, available from the University of Iowa Press. Highly recommended!
Sharon Fortunak, Cottage Grove
I am giving to a selected few and recommending to everyone Naomi Klein’s transformational “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” the most comprehensive book I have read yet on how climate change is destroying our precious Mother Earth. What could be more important than learning what must be done yesterday to try to save us from ourselves? My 13-year-old grandson wants to become a marine biologist so he can join the fight against pollution, global warming and climate change. I don’t spend every waking moment on this matter — although maybe I should — so I hope to be given a copy of the Major League Baseball rule book.
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville
The best book I ever got as a gift was the World Almanac or the Information Please Almanac. I always give as a gift (to the grandkids) the latest on their particular interest: Legos, architecture, soccer, dance. I am hoping for John Irving’s latest, “Avenue of Mysteries,” or Sue Grafton’s latest, “X.” (I’ve read all the rest in order.)
Leroy H. (Bud) Prescott, Minneapolis.
My favorite book as a gift is Mark Bittman’s cookbook “How to Cook Everything, the Basics.” It is beautiful, simple, well-designed and contains 1,000 photographs. I’ve given it as a wedding gift to new cooks and I’ve given it to experienced ones. It always works. I learn something new every time I open it.
Morgan Clifford, Stillwater
When my neighbor, ex-North Memorial ER doc Tom Combs, gave me a copy of his first novel, “Nerve Damage,” I started to read it out of courtesy and curiosity. It grabbed me! It’s a medical thriller with spot-on scientific details and amazing characters. Bonus are some Minnesota geographical references: I could picture the main character flying in the helicopter over Lake Minnetonka estates, and I smiled as two met for lunch at Blue Stone Restaurant. I have since bought and given away more than 30 copies and plan to do more this holiday season.
Rachel Hub, Plymouth
I’d like to recommend “Saga of the Brothers Mountain” and the sequel, “William,” by Michael Mountain. The are about an Irish family, how harshly they were treated in their homeland, how they were forced to defend themselves. They came to America with poor odds of surviving. Probably the two most exciting books I’ve read.
Mike Keeler, Bloomington
The Alice and Jerry book “Singing Wheels,” a grade-school reader set in colonial times, was the first gift book I received from someone outside of my family. My fourth-grade teacher gave it to me in the fall of 1958, which forever set me on a course of historical curiosity. I still remember how stunned I was by the gesture, and how thrilling and exciting it was to find a book so in tune with my own heart.
“Das Boot” (“The Boat”), by Lothar-Günther Buchheim, is a book I frequently give. The U-boat war in the North Atlantic during World War II from the German point of view is arguably the best novelization of war ever to come out of Germany, surpassing “All Quiet on the Western Front.” A quality reprinting of the book would be very welcome.
For family and friends from out of state, “The Spirit of St. Louis” by Charles A. Lindbergh or his “Boyhood on the Mississippi: A Reminiscent Letter” are two classics I am always proud to give.
Charlie Maguire, Minneapolis
A little gem of a novella that seems perfect for giving is “Memory” by Philippe Grimbert. This book is incredibly and beautifully touching with World War II as a backdrop and with characters that you’ll not forget. Even though it is a small book (almost tiny), it will press on your heart forever. “Memory” was the inspiration for the 2007 French movie “A Secret.”
Mary Sue Skelton, Park Rapids, Minn.
I would like to suggest a great book by local author Dan Woll that deserved more recognition. In “Death on Cache Lake,” Woll uses a campus bombing from the Vietnam War protests to weave a tale that keeps your attention as the manhunt takes the story through the North Woods and the lives of locals. Fun read that keeps you turning every page.
Jeff Redmon, Roberts, Wis.
“Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within,” by Karen Hering, and “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up,” by Iyanla Vanzant, are books I give and have received. They have helped me on my spiritual journey. I read affirmations from “Forgiving & Moving On” by Tian Dayton and “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo every morning and have given both to family. Of all the books I’ve read (and that’s many over my 78 years), my favorite is John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” which I read in high school. It’s a one-book humanities course, and I hope it’s being read in high schools today.
I’m big on book giving and select a wide variety for my wide variety of friends and family. “The Seven Prayers God Always Answers,” by Jason Frenn, “The Wisdom of the Vedas,” by J.C. Chatterji, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” by Brene Brown, and “What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self,” by Richard Rohr. These are terrific books and I hope others like them as much as I do.
Carol Cochran, Minneapolis
“Roller Girl,” by Victoria Jamieson, is my go-to gift for upper elementary kids. It’s a great book about not giving up — on friendships as well as skills you need to practice to get good.
I always give “Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake” by Michael B. Kaplan. This book makes me happier than any other book, and what can be better than the gift of joy for the holidays?
I’m hoping to get the new Mary Poppins boxed set.
The best book I ever received as a gift was the first volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s Eleanor Roosevelt biography, given to me by college roommate Angie and her mother after they visited me when I lived in Washington, D.C. It has inspired me and changed my path in life.
Stacy Lienemann, Mankato
I read “North of Highway 8” by Dan Woll. It is a collection of short stories that every weekend warrior of an athlete can relate to. The cover photo of the mud-coated author and bike got my attention, but the most powerful story is his account of the June 1984 tornado in Barneveld, Wis.
Rick Eloranta, Owen, Wis.
“Death on Cache Lake” is my No. 1 nomination. This suspense-filled mystery kept me up late at night. I could hardly put the book down, and when I did, I couldn’t shut my mind off as I kept mulling over the developing plot line. The book captured the country’s unrest in the early 1970s with antiwar protests, suspicious politics and unsavory characters. Added to the mix are the settings on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the backwoods of Wisconsin and the deserted areas of Lake of the Woods, Ontario. The strongest literary element of this realistic fictional is the intricate plot, which weaves historical facts with human nature to create a believable conspiracy theory. I can still feel the chilling fall days when Caleb and John lurked in the gloomy, sinister North Woods. Perfect book to ponder.
I sincerely hope you enjoy the read as much as I did.
Jeannie Wespetal, River Falls, Wis.
I am going to give this book to my friends who love cooking as much as I do. The jelly shots are elegant and delicious! “Jelly Shot Test Kitchen: Jell-ing Classic Cocktails — One Drink at a Time.”
Sandy Caster, Minneapolis
I have a recommendation for holiday gift-giving: the children’s picture book “A Wheel Rainbow” by Addie Zannes, published by Tate Publishing. Although this book was published this year, it was written more than 30 years ago when my daughter Addie was 4 years old. It was put in a desk drawer. The years went by … she grew up, married, moved to Australia, had two children and “found” it last year. Now she shares her rainbow adventures with other little children.
Bonnie Mercer, Prior Lake