Bibliophile Gift Guide

The end of 2015 is rapidly approaching and that means the season of (gift) giving is about us! I am a firm believer that books make a wonderful gift for a variety of reasons (that could should be its own post!)  but most importantly because books are a gateway to expanding the mind.

So, here are my top ten books that you should give as a gift this holiday season:

10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Admittedly, it has been awhile since I have read this book (read summer 2009) but it is one of the few books to have stuck with me. This disturbing tale takes a bit to get used to, due to the slang that Burgess creates (tip: read the first chapter twice) and the graphic violence that the characters of Clockwork perpetuate are all unsettling. This dystopian novel is a haunting tale of the power of choice and leaves the reader thinking about good and evil embedded within humanity.

9. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The story that started Sherlock Holmes, this tale is one of the lesser talked about tales in the Holmes cannon. Yet, this one is a pleasant adventure which shows how Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes first met. While there are certainly better Holmes tales, this one is a must read for any mystery enthusiast.

8. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I am biased, as this tale is my favorite non-Dark Tower King novel. However, this book is King at his best. The haunting narrative of a small Maine town overcome by the ultimate evil is enticing and a joy to read. The imagery that King crafted while writing this book is particularly terrifying and leaves the reader worried about the bumps in the night in their own life.

7. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I have never been to Cannery Row in Monterey California, but the way Steinbeck wrote about Cannery Row, I feel as if I am intimately familiar with the street. This novella is a masterpiece and the characters are vibrant and engaging. The final chapter in the novella leaves the reader at a loss and with a great sense of loneliness. It is a shame that this is only seven on this list!

6. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Dr. Hannibal Lecter is one of the most chillingly evil characters in all of literature. Yet, Thomas Harris has a great ability at making Dr. Lecter both evil and someone the reader wants to get to know more of. This first novel in the Hannibal Lecter series (made popular by the Academy Award Winning movie Silence of the Lambs) is exceptionally good. It is a quick read, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat with every new chapter. While very graphic and violent, the book is surprisingly complex and engaging. The only thing missing is more scenes with Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

5. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. A Western in the true sense, McCarthy’s (arguably) greatest work is incredibly complex and has a great deal of commentary on human nature. This book caused me to need to write my thoughts down on what the characters mean and what McCarthy is saying about humanity. It is a dark tale and the characters are exceptionally raw. McCarthy’s command of the English language is powerful as he weaves together this story.

4. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Much has been written on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin Germany. They were the coming out party for Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler. Yet, the story of the Olympic Rowing Team from the University of Washington is a captivating story about the boys from the West and their desire to earn respect for themselves, their team, the University, and the United States. Brown has a special ability to tell the story of many of the boys in the boat coupled with the build up to the 1936 Olympics in a way that leaves the reader engaged and wanting more.

3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov is one of the more celebrated authors and Lolita certainly makes clear why he is celebrated. The disturbing tale of a grown man falling in love with a young girl, Lolita leaves the reader questioning why they are reading a book about a pedophile. Yet, that is the power of Nabokov’s writing.

2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This American classic is a excellent true crime novel. While there are questions as to the total accuracy of Capote’s reporting, In Cold Blood (and Capote more specifically) provides a strong lens to look at a violent crime. Capote has a way of writing that is able to seem neutral, even in the presentation of the killers. A wonderful read that is gripping as it is disturbing.

1. A Prayer for Own Meany by John Irving. It has been some time since I read this book (late 2008-early 2009) yet this is a book that I recommend to everyone. The semi-autobiographical tale of John Irving is incredibly gripping and the characters leave a long lasting impression. At its core, A Prayer for Owen Meany is a coming of age tale. Yet, more importantly the story grapples with the themes of friendship, family, religion, truth, and faith. This book is an excellent gift that will captivate the reader.

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