Books make ideal last minute gifts. Matching the right book with the right person, though, is a riddle that can stump almost anyone. We here at the Alibi want to make sure your holiday book shopping goes as smoothly as possible. With that in mind, here are a wide variety of excellent options to put you on the right track.
The Inner Circle
Alfred Kinsey was the first scientist to quantify and analyze human sexual behavior in a controlled scientific manner. He was also a world class pervert. T.C. Boyle's latest novel is narrated by a fairly unsympathetic character, one of Kinsey's obsequious assistants, but it provides a rich psychological portrait of one of the most renowned—not to mention infamous—American scientists of the last century. A cinematic biography of the man starring Liam Neeson is currently in theaters. For the more literary perverts in your family, consider this novel.
America the Book: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
For that irritating sibling who just can't, or won't, shut up about the 2004 presidential election despite the fact that you've told him/her repeatedly that you need a break from politics for at least the next year or so ... consider this book. Written by Jon Stewart and his team from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," America the Book will tell you more about our system of government than a thousand soggy old copies of Newsweek. And you know what? This mega bestseller is snarky and funny, too. Clever from the first to the last page, and brilliantly illustrated, this is liberal media bias at its best.
Chronicles, Volume One
Simon and Schuster
Everyone has at least one Dylan fan on their Christmas list. If that fan doesn't have the first volume of the master's memoirs yet, then it's really your duty to get it for them. In my biased opinion, Dylan's peculiar, non-chronological remembrance of things past is destined to be considered a rock 'n' roll classic. Throughout the book, he's often extremely funny. He's also more honest and open than he's ever been. Buy this for someone this holiday season, even if that someone happens to be yourself.
The Complete Peanuts, 1950-1954
Charles M. Schultz
This is a good I-don't-know-what-the-hell-to-get-for-my-dad-so-I-got-him-this present. The beauty of this boxed set is that your dad might not even know he wants it, but once he gets his paws on it you'll have to yank it out of his cold, dead hands before you ever get to take a peek.
As you may or may not know, over the next decade or so, the entire Peanuts universe will be released in a series of high quality hardbound editions. This boxed set includes the first two volumes.
If your dad is already a Peanuts nut, he'll appreciate reading Schultz' earliest strips when he was still developing the characters that eventually became international comic icons. During these early years, Snoopy is just a puppy, Linus is too young to speak, and Charlie is less of a loser and more of a jerk. Many of these strips will be new, even to dedicated Peanuts fans, because they've never been reprinted in a collection until now.
It's hard to find words to describe how cool this set is, so I'll just use the immortal words of Woodstock: "' ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ ’ !"
Damn straight, little bird. Damn straight.
The David Sedaris Boxed Set
David Sedaris is one of the few writers who are more fun to listen to than to read, which makes perfect sense since Sedaris got his start as a radio storyteller. Sedaris' high, squeaky, hysterical voice is just so damned irresistibly gay that when he tells his stories they take on a life of their own that they just don't have on the printed page.
Thankfully, several of Sedaris' best books are narrated in this fine audio box set. The set doesn't include his most recent collection of neurotic tales, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, but it's got everything else a fan could want. At five hours, the longest entry is the best-selling Me Talk Pretty One Day, related during two live performances in San Francisco. Also included, just in time for the holidays, is Holidays on Ice with the infamous essay "Santaland Diaries," a chronicle of Sedaris' true-life stint as an elf at Macy's one Christmas season. (You may recall that this essay was recently adapted and staged at the Vortex Theatre.) Other collections in this set include Barrel Fever and Naked.
So, what we have here, in a nutshell, is hours upon hours of hilarious stories told by the Grand Imperial Wizard of Funny. Give this set to someone you actually like.
Newbery Boxed Set
This is probably one of the best gifts you could give to any literate, book-loving preteen. Named after the 18th century British bookseller John Newbery, the Newbery Award is bestowed on the book deemed to have been the best contribution to children's literature in any given year. The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, has been giving out the prize since 1922, and many past winners have become classics of children's literature. This boxed set contains some golden oldies that a new generation of young readers will love just as much as we did.
Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Lloyd Alexander's Black Cauldron are certainly two of the finest fantasy classics for young adults to be produced in the last 50 years. Likewise, Esther Forbes' Johnny Tremain is one of the best historical novels ever written for children. This story about a crippled silversmith who gets caught up in the American Revolution has remained a classic since it won the Newbery Award back in 1943. Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 is another great historical novel for kids. This one is about a delinquent who gets sent to his grandma's house in Alabama during the height of the civil rights movement. In a similar vein, Patricia Reilly Giff's Lily's Crossing explores the events of World War II through the eyes of an American girl whose mother is dead and whose father has been drafted into the U.S. Army.
In 1976, the Children's Literature Association voted Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins—a simple but gripping novel about a young girl's attempts to survive alone on a small island off the coast of California—one of the 10 best American children's books of the past 200 years. Along with Island of the Blue Dolphins, this set also includes O'Dell's lesser known Black Pearl, a story about a young boy who dives for a giant pearl only to discover that it's marred by a horrible curse. Finally, Ruth White's Belle Prater's Boy is a well-crafted novel set in rural Virginia revolving around the relationship between a local beauty and a cross-eyed geek.
If you've got a youngster on your list, consider this boxed set. Who knows? It might even keep her or him away from that infernal Playstation for an hour or two.