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The Bookworm Sez
Terri Slichenmeyer

Shopping is easy. You do it at least once a week, just because. It’s fun, relaxing, enlightening, and social. You love to shop… except when you have to shop for a gift for someone and you don’t know what to buy. Gah.

In that case, how about a book? How about one of these books…..


Who doesn’t want a thriller for mid-winter reading? For sure, your giftee will, and “The Jaguar’s Children” by John Vaillant is the one to wrap. It’s the story of Hector, who’s being smuggled into America from Mexico when the truck he’s in breaks down. He’s sealed inside and the smugglers have left but he has a cell phone and your giftee will have a page-turner. Wrap it up with “A Free State” by Tom Piazza, a thrilling novel of a former slave who, in conjunction with the leader of a minstrel troupe, concocts a dangerous ruse so that he can make music on-stage with white performers. Oh, did I say that a slave hunter is on his trail?

For the historian who needs a little fiction now and then, “Viet Man” by D.S. Lliteras may be the thing to wrap up. It’s the story of a warrior, after he comes home, and the memories of battle that he struggles to forget. Wrap it up with “The Guyana Contract” by Rosalind Kilkenny McLymont, a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about a high-powered female executive whose new work assignment seems suspiciously underhanded – a feeling she especially gets when she learns that a man from her past is involved, too…

Mystery lovers who like a touch of the frontier will thank you profusely when you’ve wrapped up “The Last Midwife” by Sandra Dallas. It’s 1880 and the midwife of a small mining town is accused of the murder of a baby – but though she’s been privy to too many things, murder isn’t one of them… Wrap it up with “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters,” a delightful book of stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

If there’s a historical novel lover on your list, then “The Reluctant Midwife” by Patricia Harman is a winner. It’s the story of a midwife working in West Virginia during the Great Depression, her challenges, and the women she cares for. Pair it with another historical novel, “The Courtesan” by Alexandra Curry, the story of a little girl who is sold to a brothel in China, 1881. She grows up to be the wife of a well-travelled man who takes her places she’s never been…

The crime buff on your list will absolutely love unwrapping “Charlie Martz and Other Stories” by Elmore Leonard. It’s a collection of previously-unpublished short stories, written in the early years of Leonard’s career. It’s a little bit of mystery, a little bit of western, and a whole lot of goodness. Pair it with “Bull Mountain” by Brian Panowich, a story of crime, family, honor, and moonshining…

General Non-Fiction

Music lovers know what they like, and I’ll bet yours will like “Playboy Swings” by Patty Farmer. It’s the story of how an iconic men’s magazine (and the empire that sprang from it) changed the way we find, enjoy, and listen to music. Wrap it up with “The Song Machine” by John Seabrook, a book that examines why we listen to and love the music we can’t get out of our heads.

Is there a lover of All Things Southern on your list? Then wrap up “Southern Living: 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture.” This heavy, huge compilation of half a century of the iconic magazine is jam-packed with photos, short articles, photos, pictures and… did I say “photos”?

If Beatlemania has hit someone on your gift list, then the gift to give this year is “The Complete Beatles Songs” by Steve Turner. This large-sized book is full of lyrics from the Fab Four, as well as stories of how the songs came to be, and plenty of photos of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. It could be the Ticket to Ride this holiday… Wrap it up with “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Zoe Cormier. It’s a scientific book about our impulses and what makes us par-tay!

Got new parents (or parents-to-be) on your gift list this year? Then wrap up “The Science of Mom” by Alice Callahan, PhD. Based on scientific research, this book will help parents to know what advice is right and what could be wrong for their baby. Wrap it up with a box of diapers for a very needed gift.

Does your giftee (heart) New York? Then “City On a Grid” by Gerard Koeppel is a must-give this year. It’s the story of how the City That Never Sleeps became what it is; specifically, how swampy fields – a farming area, basically – became the Big Apple in only a few centuries. Toss “Life in New York” by Laura Pedersen – a personal love story to the Big Apple – in the box and make it merrier.

Cooking and Food

The mixologist on your list will truly enjoy “Cocktail Noir” by Scott M. Deitche, an all-things-gangster look at speakeasies, gin joints, hooch, authors who write about them, and recipes. Mystery fans will like it, too. Also look for “Best Food Writing 2015,” edited by Holly Hughes. Your foodie will love you for it.

Also for the mystery fan who loves to cook: “Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook” by mystery writer Diane Mott Davidson. It’s a sort-of-semi anthology of the recipes that have been featured in Davidson’s whodunits, as well as a few other dishes you can make. The only mystery is what to make first…

The foodie on your gift list will love this pair of memoirs about food: first, there’s “Life from Scratch” by Sasha Martin, a book about a food writer who undertook an unusual project, and how it helped her face her memories. Pair it with “Eating Viet Nam” by Graham Holliday, foreword by Anthony Bourdain. That’s the story of a man who also undertakes an unusual (and actually quite risky) project overseas.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 13,000 books.

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