Q&A – Books that Make Great Gifts
By C.V. Lee
November 17, 2023

It’s that time of year again! The winter holidays are rapidly approaching and the hunt for the “perfect” gift for those on our list can’t be put off much longer. Every year, I love receiving books as gifts and often give them as well. For the graduate or adults in my life, I often select something more practical, like Brian Tracy’s Goals! How to Get Everything you Want – Faster Than You Ever Thought or Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. For the young people in my life, my favorite stories are Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or a beautiful book of The Night Before Christmas.

But I know I could use some extra help in my search for some new options.

My first stop will be the Paper Lantern Writers’ Gift Guide. Each book is paired with a thoughtful corresponding gift. And who doesn’t like a pairing? Additionally, I asked some of our Lanterns to share some of their personal favorites.

Anne Beggs, author of Archer’s Grace, offers some great selections that fit with the season.

Christmas books! Growing up, we had the cutest “interactive” book, Poochy the Christmas Pup, an absolute holiday tradition. My kids loved it too – we still have our original, and what did I find on amazon? Two available for $390.00. That gift has appreciated since the 50s.

I have added more holiday reading treasures over the years, as gifts and for gifts.

Christmas on Jane Street: A True Story, by Billy Romp and Wanda Urbanska, illustrated by Robbin Gourley. I was gifted this delightful book years ago, probably 2008 when it was published, by my BFF, June Nichols. Every year it is brought out either in memory or to be reread. A Vermont family spends every December selling Christmas Trees in Greenwich village, and that year they must deal with his daughter’s coming-of-age. There is a twenty-year edition with an afterward about the family.

Stories of the Season: A Collection of Short Stories Inspired by the Spirit of Christmas, by Darragh Metzger, is a collection of her short stories written over the years from prompts for her writers’ group annual Christmas Party. The required elements are funny and difficult enough, but to write such enchanting tales shows true talent and creativity. I have gifted this book over and over. Treat yourself, treat your friends.

The Grand Mistletoe Atssembly, a Holiday Anthology, by Sara Adrien, Nina Jarrett, Pamela Gibson, Jemma Frost, Tanya Wilde and our own Edie Cay is a new and now cherished read for me – heck yes, it is on the gift list for my daughter and friends – Keeping Regency romance fresh and spicy for the holidays or any time of year.

The Winter Cowboy, by Stephanie White, illustrated by Catherine Davenport. This children’s book tells a lovely story with beautiful illustrations of Logan, a rancher’s daughter, and her nighttime journey to find and save a lost calf in a blizzard. Real ranch life with some Christmas magic too. Hard to find, but worth it. I look forward to reading it with my grandson when he is older.

Ana Brazil, author of the newly released mystery,  The Red-Hot Blues Chanteuse, offers up some non-fiction goodies.

“Although I love and read mostly fiction, the books I give to family and friends are usually non-fiction. And this year’s picks are two books that anyone can dive into and find something inspiring, thoughtful, or entertaining.”

ART IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF HOPE (Phaidon) offers hundreds of artist quotations (such as Gerhard Richter’s “I believe that you always have to believe”) that can nourish everyone’s soul.

Michelle Rial’s MAYBE THIS WILL HELP; HOW TO FEEL BETTER WHEN THINGS STAY THE SAME (Chronicle Books) goes in the opposite direction (that is, no quotations) and provides humorous charts that help you consider, for example…if “Having Hope Can Help Get You Through It” or “Is it Luck or Hard Work Or Both?”

Rebecca D’Harlingue, author of the The Map Colorist, shares some great options for the young ones.

At our house we love our collection of winter holiday pop-up books. Most of them are by Robert Sabuda, who’s a magician as a paper engineer. If I had to choose a favorite, I’d say it’s Winter’s Tale, with its simple story of animals in winter and its stunning cut-outs. I put these books out in various places all over the house during the holidays, so that anyone who visits, young or old, can pick them up and be delighted.

I can’t tell you how many mysteries set at Christmas I’ve read over the years, but it’s definitely over a hundred. While I’m usually a more hard-core mystery reader, the cozy ones are fun at Christmas. There’s a clever series by Vicki Delaney, with titles that tweak the names of carols, like her latest one, Dying in a Winter Wonderland. The set of all six would make a great gift!

Finally, it wouldn’t be the holidays without reading books to the grandkids. This year we are doing a chapter book for the first time, Gobbledy, by Lis Anna-Langston. It’s “a fun-filled holiday story that adds up to two brothers, three friends, unlimited jars of peanut butter, a ketchup factory, and one little alien far, far from home.” I think it’s going to be a big hit!

Kathryn Pritchett, author of the lovely short story, Stitchwork, in the latest Paper Lantern Writers anthology Beneath a Midwinter Moon, and The Happy Heart in the anthology Unlocked, has a different take on the kind of book gifts she prefers.

Books have always been my favorite gift to receive. That is, unless there’s an expectation that I WILL READ the books gifted to me. After all, one person’s treasure book just might be another’s trash (and not in the good beach-read kind of way). Not wanting to put that kind of pressure on friends at the holidays, I tend to gift books that don’t require too much time commitment or art books that are easy on the eyes. Last year I gifted Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. Set in a small Irish town in the weeks leading up to the Christmas of 1985 (which almost qualifies it as historical fiction!), this tale of quiet heroism was shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. Beautiful writing and a seasonal cover—not to mention a mere 128 pages–make for the ideal no-strings-attached book gift. As far as art books go, I love both the writing and the images in Elysium: A Visual History of Angelology by Ed Simon. This would be a nice one to gift at the beginning of December with a note to “Open Early” so that the beautiful images of angels could be enjoyed throughout the holidays. As for my family book gifts, I ask my husband, children, and their spouses to recommend books they’re interested in. They always introduce me to great new books—and that’s a gift to me.

Vanitha Sankaran, author of Watermark, suggests her most treasured books.

Once upon a time, a dear friend (also my former third-grade teacher gifted me her copy of the Diary of Anne Frank. It was a book I had read already, one I had dog-eared and marked up, one I had cried over. Her copy was a hardback book with yellowed pages, notated in the margins and wrapped in preserving plastic. I had my own copy and plenty of other materials besides, but this was something that I cherished. I was sixteen at the time, but even in my middle age, the book retains its intangible value.

That got me thinking about books I would gift of my own. I have plenty of my own marked-up copies, from the various Sharon Kay Penman treasures to the more romantic works of Joan Wolf. I have a particularly treasured copy of the Indian epic, The Mahabharatha, that still needs a new owner.

This year, though, I plan to give copies of the newest PLW anthology, Beneath the Midwinter Moon, as gifts. Because all dog-eared copies start as pristine ones first.

I was delighted to receive so many wonderful and varied options! Please feel free to share in the comments your favorite books to gift or favorite book you’ve received as a gift.

C.V. Lee

Written by C.V. Lee

C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.

View CV’s PLW Profile

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