Book gift guide: 20 picks for the season


NEW YORK — Louise Erdrich is more than this year's winner of the National Book Award for fiction. She's a bookstore owner and has some ideas for what customers might pick up as holiday gifts.

The four other finalists: "This Is How You Lose Her," by Junot Diaz; "A Hologram for the King," by Dave Eggers; "The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers; and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," by Ben Fountain.

"This was a tough crowd!" Erdrich, who runs Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, wrote in a recent email about her competition.

Erdrich didn't mention her own novel, "The Round House," but another author-bookseller took care of that. Ann Patchett, who founded Parnassus Books in Nashville, says she has been recommending Erdrich's story of a boy seeking his mother's rapist well before the award was announced in mid-November.

"I read the book really early on, and I've thought about it every single day since," Patchett said. "It's dark, funny, complex and very, very moving."


Patchett had several other suggestions, from Jon Meacham's biography "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power," a pick she thinks ideal for men; to Maile Maloy's "The Apothecary" for middle schoolers. She also loved J.K. Rowling's first grownup novel, "The Casual Vacancy," a feeling she made clear in October when she interviewed the "Harry Potter" author on stage at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

Erdrich also cited the illustrated edition of Edmund de Waal's "The Hare With Amber Eyes," writing that "it feels lustrous in hand, orderly, pleasing. This is what a book should be."

Gayle Shanks, owner of the Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., likes the novel "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter; Deb Perlman's "Smitten Kitchen" cookbook; and Marcus Samuelsson's memoir "Yes, Chef."

Barnes & Noble is suggesting works of humor ("The Onion Book of Known Knowledge"), music (An illustrated Rolling Stones biography to mark the band's 50th anniversary) and history ("Reporting the Revolutionary War").

Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Books in Manhattan likes Alice Munro's story collection "Dear Life"; Alan Ryan's two-volume history "On Politics" and Louise Glueck's "Poems 1962-2012." Kate Milford, a children's author and McNally Jackson employee, suggests the picture book "Cecil, the Pet Glacier," by Matthea Harvey; the middle school novel "Twelve Kinds of Ice," by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrator Barbara McClintock.

"This is going to be one of those things adults buy for a kid and end up keeping themselves or giving to other adults, too," Milford says of the Obed book. "It's beautifully illustrated, beautifully written, and just feels like a classic gift book."

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