Best books of this holiday season

McDaniel College librarian offers her top picks for potential gifts


Good books make great gifts this holiday season. McDaniel College Associate Librarian Jane Sharpe sifted through dozens of new titles to find the best books to give and get this year.

Her top picks include nonfiction for children and adults, Maryland-themed books, a cookbook, a biography, a picture book and a coffee-table book.

"I try to have something for everybody," Sharpe said. "I approach it as though I'm taking the list of people I would buy for, and I select books I would pick for them."

Here, in her words, are Sharpe's book reviews for 2005.

Nonfiction and fiction

1776, by David McCullough. It gives a good perspective on military history, a sense of battle, and the everyday conditions people lived through.

The City of Falling Angels, by John Berendt. The author investigates a fire at an opera house in Venice in 1996.

Talk to the Hand, by Lynn Truss. This is a rant about the six areas of rudeness in modern society.

The Virgin's Lover, by Philippa Gregory. This tale about an unsolved crime in 1558 Elizabethan England would be a good read for book clubs or reading groups.

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate: The Sunday Philosophy Club, by Alexander McCall Smith. This tells the story of Isabel, the editor of a philosophy journal, who tries to solve mysteries surrounding the soul. It's something you can polish off quickly.

Light from Heaven, by Jan Karon. This is the final book of the Mitford series, and Karon saved the best for last. The book answers many questions set forth earlier in the series.

Mark Twain: A Life, by Ron Powers. This biography/history includes writings from Twain's letters and notebooks. This book is not just for the literary critic. Everyone can enjoy it.

Peanuts Guide to Life, by Charles Schultz. These are Charles Schultz's greatest hits. They are based on lessons for life, told with a simplicity that makes you stop and think.

Christmas with Southern Living 2005 (25th Anniversary Edition). This is my cookbook choice, but it's more than a cookbook, with decorating ideas, menus and delicious-looking recipes.

Maryland interest

The Forgotten Corner: A History of Oakland Mill, by Diana Mills Scott. In 1953, a town where Liberty Reservoir is now located, was submerged. The historical book tells the story of places that are no longer there.

Bodine's Chesapeake Bay Country, by Aubrey and Jennifer Bodine. This is the coffee-table book of the year. Before I knew his name, I was in love with Aubrey Bodine's photographs. Bodine worked for The Sun from 1924-1970.

Maryland's Amusement Parks, by Jason Rhodes. This book contains 200 images of amusement parks in Maryland, including the Enchanted Forest.

For the children

A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children, by Caroline Kennedy. This book features writers like Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Sylvia Plath, and Langston Hughes.

Eldest, by Christopher Paolini. This is the second in a trilogy about a farm boy who becomes a dragon rider.

I, Coriander, by Sally Gardner. This blend of historical fiction and fairy tale tells the story of a girl in London whose father is a mortal and mother is a fairy princess.

A Time for Freedom: What Happened When in America, by Lynne Cheney. This is a political history from the beginning of America through 9/11. It tells about events, and what people thought of them. This is a history book that kids will enjoy.

How Ms. Claus Saved Christmas, by Jeff Guinn. This is a good book to share with a child. Mrs. Santa tells how she saved Christmas.

Encyclopedia Prehistoria Dinosaurs, by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. This pop-up book about dinosaurs is simply a work of art.

Honey ... Honey ... Lion: A Tale from Africa, by Jan Brett. This is an African tale about a honey badger that tries to find honey without the help of his honey bird, so he won't have to share.

Diary of a Spider, by Doreen Cronin. This children's book tells the story of a spider a lot like us. It has a friend who is a fly.

If You Give a Pig a Party, by Laura Numeroff. This is good for teaching sequence, and it has beautiful illustrations by Felicia Bond.

Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May), by Barbara Park. This book tells the story of the world's funniest first-grader and her Secret Santa.

Snowmen at Christmas, by Barbara Park. Someone's going to get this book and I hope that someone is me. This beautifully illustrated book shows what snowmen do at night, when everyone is sleeping.

Christmas Mice! by Bethany Roberts. This is a cute read-aloud rhyming book about mice celebrating Christmas.

The Little Engine that Could and the Snowy, Blowy Christmas, by Watty Piper. All the reindeers have colds, will the little engine that could deliver the gifts? I think I can ...

Hush Little Baby, by Sylvia Long. The author decided the original version of Hush Little Baby had too much buying in it, so she rewrote the verses.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Moore. This little board book is easy for kids to handle.

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