Staff Picks

What books are you giving this holiday season?

December 21, 2015


Here’s what our staff is giving this holiday season.

For many of you, the gift-giving season has been wrapped up for quite some time. For others, oh, it’s just about to get started. (No judgment.) If you’re still struggling with what to give, may we suggest a book or two? Here’s what our staff is giving this holiday season. If you see something that sparks for you list, head on down to your local independent bookseller and pick up a copy. Chances are, they’ll even wrap it for you!


I’m still shopping aroundI buy spontaneously and I never know what winds up under the tree for the people I love. I do know that I'm getting myself Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane by Patrick McGilligan. Jack Covert recommended this to me,  so  I'm just following his orders! Actually, I'm a HUGE fan of Orson WellesI can't wait to read this! I’m also buying Only What's Necessary: Charles M Schulz and the Art of Peanuts by Chip Kidd.

Purposeful Path: How Far Can You Go with $30, a Bus Ticket, and a Dream? by Casey Beaumier
This is the book I’m most excited to give my family (and to read myself) because it was written by my good friend from high school, Casey Beaumier. After college, Casey started on the decade-long road to becoming a Jesuit priest. Part of that process involved going on a cross-country pilgrimage with only $30 in his pocket, and getting back home by the kindness of strangers. It’s not every day one of my friends ends up at Maya Angelou’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, shooting the breeze with Oprah and Betty Shabazz, so I can’t wait to read this book!

The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson
I come from hardy Scandinavian stock of North Dakota (both Icelandic and Norwegian), who spend the holidays making lefse, sandbakkels, kleinur, and kransekake (for the first time this Christmas! I’m so excited). Also, I worship at the culinary altar of Phaidon cookbooks. This booklike their national cuisine seriesis basically The Joy of Cooking for the Nordic countries. I have no idea who I’m giving this to, but someone in my family must have it.


I'm giving my wife Complete Novels of Carson McCullers (published by Library of America). She is a big fan of Flannery O'Connor's stories, but she has never read any McCullers, so I hope this will be a pleasant surprise. For my daughter, we have pretty good stack of books already wrapped, but the ones I am most excited about are Volumes 1 & 2 of Tove Jansson's Moomin comics (published by Drawn & Quarterly) and Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (published by Feiwel & Friends).


My daughter, Elodie, is getting a few of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney this year. She just turned nine. She had never really enjoyed reading, until a few months ago when a very helpful librarian recommended this series. Now she's reading all the time!


Years ago, I tracked down and gifted to my husband the paperback copies of a long-favorite sci-fi/fantasy series from the 80's by Simon Hawke called the Time Wars. This year, due to an illness which has affected his ability to read, I bought him digital copies of the books so he can enlarge the texts on his eReader and reread his favorites.


To our nephew entering college next year to study engineering, my wife and I are giving To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski and Applied Minds: How Engineers Think by Guru Madhavan. For our niece entering her senior year in high school, we chose The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (which I think she'll love) and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (which I'm hoping won't be too much of a stretch, and will lead her to Tyler's other books). We are giving Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies and Kent Haruf's Our Souls at Night to our sister-in-law. And, for my wife's brother, we chose The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman. For my wife's cousin, who was supposed to enter college this year but got delayed battling cancer (she is now home and in recovery), we got Rae Carson's Walk on Earth a Stranger. Our two children already got Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and Zen Socks by Jon J. Muth; we couldn't wait until Christmas to give them to them.


M Train by Patti Smith for my artist niece, Therese, who just moved to Bed-Stuy!

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll by Peter Guralnick (enough said!) for my brother-in-law in Austin, who’s a guitar playing electrician (seems everyone is a guitar player in Austin!).

Stoner by John Williams and House of Mirth by Edith Wharton for my sister because she loves a good story.


Just gave John Gurda's beautiful book on Milwaukee neighborhoods as a holiday / thank you gift to my sister- and brothers-in-law.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon for my daughter.

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author of Duck! Rabbit! for my 2-year-old granddaughter.


I stopped in at Boswell Books last week and picked out three books with local ties for gifts this year. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods by John Gurda goes to our family historian. This month Rubber Soul turned 50 so I picked up This Bird Has Flown: The Enduring Beauty of Rubber Soul, Fifty Years On by former Milwaukeean John Kruth, who critiques each song from this incredible album. This goes to the fellow Beatle fan in the family. I also decided to get local writer Jerry Apps’ latest book, Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir, for the woman in our family who grew up on a Wisconsin farm in the 1940’s & 50’s and remains a fan of the outdoors  to this day.


My 4 year old daughter has fallen in love with, as she refers to him, Shelverstein. She has A Light in the Attic and The Giving Tree, so Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Missing Piece are on her list this year.


We are giving Ready Player One to a bunch of people.


A Good Day to Die by Jim Harrison. Because it's badass.

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