Illustration by Bee Johnson

Holiday Books

“ ‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” The famous opening line of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is tattooed on our brains (right along with “Call me Ishmael”). But something is just a bit off. Try changing those classic words slightly: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any books.” Ah, that feels better.

The latest bestseller, a glossy cookbook, a fat biography, an old classic — it doesn’t matter. A book is a most welcome present for any holiday.

A book requires no assembly, it needs no batteries. It is portable. You can use it immediately (even at your holiday dinner, surreptitiously, concealed under a napkin on your lap). It will entertain for hours. And it never wears out.

Alcott’s opening goes on: “ ‘I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of great books, and other girls nothing at all,’ added little Amy, with an injured sniff.”

OK, little Amy really said “pretty things,” not “great books,” but we know what she meant.

Our four-page holiday book guide highlights dozens of great books to give (or put on your own list). Take it with you to the bookstore. You’ll have your holiday shopping wrapped up in no time flat.

(And “Little Women” would make a good choice, too.) — LAURIE HERTZEL