Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Books: The Best Holiday Gift Value for 2008

In listing his favorite books of 2008, Stephen King pointed out that books “are still the best bang for your entertainment buck, and 2008 was a great year for reading”. King estimated the average cost of a movie for two (babysitter not included) averaged $24. I can attest to this. I saw Juno in the theater, and a single ticket, bag of popcorn, plus a Coke was $15. For a matinee.

King is onto something. In these tough economic times, we want every dollar to go further and that includes those carefully spent entertainment dollars. Taking King’s lead, here are my top choices for books to give this holiday season. However, unlike Uncle Stevie, my picks aren’t the best of 2008, only books read (and in one case written) this year.

Shadow Divers, Robert Kurson
The true story of two American weekend scuba divers who discovered a World War II German U-boat 60 miles off the New Jersey coast. All the records agreed there simply could not be a sunken U-boat at that location. Heart-pounding suspense and an amazing journey of self-discovery.

Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand
One of the best sports biographies ever written. The book spins its marvelous narrative of nonfiction and history that reads like a beautifully written novel.

Moo, Jane Smiley
The brilliant satire of university life on a Midwestern campus. Rich, memorable characters populate the campus of Moo University.

No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
There’s a reason No Country took best picture honors for 2007. A spare crime novel that encompasses themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloody as any news headlines. It will haunt long after the last page is turned.

A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
Smiley’s modern re-telling of King Lear. A classic story of contemporary life among the American plains, of the human cost and heartbreak accrued over lifetimes spent trying to subdue the vast land.

Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace, Catherine Johnson
Inspired by a true story, and encompassing the universal themes of love, family, loyalty, betrayal, and moral responsibility. The Pierson’s could be could be anyone’s family, ordinary lives upended by the darkest of malice.

Another great thing about books is that you can pass them onto friends and family or read them again at your leisure. Or you can donate books to organizations such as the National Institute for Literacy. Books are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

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