Editor’s Note: Each holiday season, Syndicated Book Reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer prepares a list of book suggestions for gift-giving. The titles, listed in several categories and age groups, will be published over the next few weeks.


You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn't it? And even if you're close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts...



The whodunit fan on your list will be happy to see "A Slow Fire Burning" by Paula Hawkins beneath the tree. It's the tale of a nasty murder on a London houseboat, and the three women who had big, big reasons to want to see the victim dead.

For the reader who genuinely loves time-period mysteries, look for "Dead Dead Girls: A Harlem Renaissance Mystery" by Nekesa Afia. It's Harlem, 1926 and young Black women are showing up dead all over the area. This is too close for comfort for Louise Lloyd, and so when she's given an ultimatum – go to jail for a past transgression or help solve these murders – well, the choice is clear, isn't it? This is the first book in a planned series, and your giftee will be looking for the rest after New Years' Eve. Or make it an even better gift by adding "Public Enemy #1" by Kiki Swinson, a novel about a new detective and a police department filled with corruption.

If you've got someone on your list who likes westerns and mysteries, why not marry the two by wrapping up "Dark Sky" by C.J. Box. It's another in the Joe Pickett series (but it can be read alone), and it's the story of a wealthy man, poaching, and murder, and it could send your giftee scrambling for the rest of the Pickett books.

And why does your giftee love mysteries? The answer lies inside "Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution" by Jonah Lehrer. This book ties advertising with assassination, major league football to murder, Shakespeare with slayings, to show how our curiosity and the urge to solve is tickled by a mystery.

For readers who require a lot of grit in their novels, look for "The Song His Mother Sings" by Teresa Collins, the story of a mother whose son is caught up in the drug trade. Trouble is, he thinks it's fine and he blames her for filling his head with lies. Great for urban fiction fans, this is a quick read.

General Nonfiction


No doubt, there's someone on your gift list who's concerned about climate change. And so the book to wrap up is "Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid" by Thor Hanson, a natural historian. Here, Hanson reveals how climate change is driving evolution. And what will happen to us? Pair it with "A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth" by Henry Gee, a small book that looks at the Big Picture, where we came from and where we might go...

For the reader who's new to America, or for someone welcoming a new immigrant to these shores, look for "A Beginner's Guide to America" by Roya Hakakian. Nearly forty years ago, Hakakian came to live in America from Iran, and she noticed a few (ha!) differences that she writes about. This book is a bit humorous, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and a lot helpful for new Americans and for Americans who were born here, so that we might see ourselves as others do. Wrap it up with "How Iceland Changed the World" by Egill Bjarnason, a small island with a big world footprint.

The singer or orator on your list will devour "This is the Voice" by John Colapinto. It's a scientific look at the human voice, how it differs, and how our ability to speak and verbally communicate as complex as we can has made us the dominant creatures we are. Wrap it up with "The Invention of Miracles" by Katie Booth, the true story of Alexander Graham Bell's work with deaf individuals (including his wife).

If there's a new cook on your list (or someone's about to strike out on their own), "Burnt Toast and Other Disasters" by Cal Peternell will be the perfect thing to wrap up this holiday. It's filled with recipes that are relatively easy with lots of chance to impress, and hacks to take care of those inevitable kitchen uh-ohs. And speaking of disasters, if your giftee is also concerned about health matters and the environment, wrap up "Toxin Nation" by Marie D. Jones, a book about manmade disasters and how it affects our food, air, water, and health.

Got an adventurer on your gift list? Then you can't go wrong with "True Raiders" by Brad Ricca. It's the story of the 1909 expedition to find the Arc of the Covenant, a story that few know and that's largely undiscussed. Your giftee will be overjoyed to see "Latitude" by Nicholas Crane in the same gift box. It's the true story of a 10-year expedition that started in 1735, in which a dozen men journey to determine the shape of the planet.

If you've got someone on your gift list who's very interested in current and world events, then "The Raging 2020s" by Alec Ross might be the perfect gift. It's a book that peers into our (possible) future in business, geographical issues, politics, and more. Pair it up with "Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty" by Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox. It's a book that looks into the future and offers ideas for hope.

The person who's concerned with racial justice will be glad you gave "State of Emergency: How We Win in the Country We Built" by Tamika D. Mallory. It's an overall look at continuing racism in America, including what's happened in the past year or so; it's a demand to think and a call to action for everyone. Pair it with "Better, Not Bitter" by Yusef Salaam, a memoir as well as an urge for racial justice.

For the giftee who worries about gun violence in America today, "The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America" by Carol Anderson might be a good gift. It's about what she says is the real reason gun violence exists and beware: it's very controversial.

If it seems like the last two years have fractured families, you're right. That's why "Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation" by Fern Schumer Chapman might be a great gift. Wrap it up for someone or for yourself.

TV fans of that iconic Sunday night show will love getting "Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes" by Ira Rosen, producer of the show. Fans and followers will love the behind-the-scenes peeks.

The person who hopes to conquer fear in the new year will appreciate a gift of "Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual" by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. Jones is a blogger and public speaker and she knows how to take fear out of the equation. Your giftee will see how three words can make all the difference, and how to make good trouble.

The reader who loves a good scare will enjoy "The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History" by J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D. Pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about the undead is in here. Dare to wrap it up with "A Very Nervous Person's Guide to Horror Movies" by Mathias Clasen, a book that picks apart those scary flicks and why we should (or shouldn't) watch them.

For the reader who dreams of life in the past or wishes to know the future, "Time Travel: The Science and Science Fiction" by Nick Redfern is a book to give this year. Filled with short entries and packed with information, ideas, and possibilities from literature, philosophical thought, eyewitness accounts, and science, this book may make your giftee wish they had a ticket now...

Much has been said about Black women and their hair, but your giftee will love "My Beautiful Black Hair" by St. Clair Detrick-Jules. This book is full of pictures of Black women and the styles they're rocking, accompanied by those womens' stories. It's a great gift for stylists, Black women who love their hair, and for their daughters who must learn to.

If you've got someone on your list who wants to make the world a better place, then look for "An Abolitionist's Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World" by Patrisse Cullors. Part memoir, part instruction, this book will help show how good can be done, not just in big ways but in everyday life. Wrap it up with "Say Their Names: How Black Live Came to Matter in America" by Curtis Bunn, Michael H. Cottman, Patrice Gaines, Nick Charles, and Keith Harriston.

True Crime and Police Stories


The true-crime lover on your gift list will absolutely want to unwrap "Rogue's Gallery: The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York" by John Oller. The title says it all; wrap it up with a couple of mysteries for the best gift ever.

For the social activist on your list, or for anyone who wants to know more about the death penalty, look at "Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty" by Maurice Chammah. Specifically looking at Death Row in Texas prisons, this book takes a look at penal punishment and how it affects the condemned and those who know them.

A true-crime lover knows that nothing is better than a great book as a gift, so wrap up "Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case" by Caitlin Rother. Rebecca Azhau's death was ruled a suicide. Rother shows that that might not be the case...

Your giftee will also be very happy with "American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000" by Peter Vronsky. It's an anthology of crime that'll chill your favorite true crime aficianado and leave them begging for more – and so wrap up "Serial Killers: The Minds, Methods, and Mayhem of History's Most Notorious Murders" by Richard Estep, for the best gift for a true crime fan ever.

• Terri Schlichenmeyer of The Bookworm Sez is a self-syndicated book review columnist. Schlichenmeyer’s reviews include adult and children’s books of every genre. You may contact her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com

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