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Great Books for Holiday Gifts

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

Whether you’re looking for holiday gift ideas for the people on your list or planning your own post-holiday winter hibernation, here are a couple of suggestions for no-fail great reading from Manhattan Public Library.

First, for those who enjoy reading as an intellectual adventure, consider “micro-histories,” books that combine history, science, and sociology to make an absorbing reading experience.  Microhistories investigate how individual discoveries, natural phenomena, new ideas, and technological developments have impacted human life and knowledge and how these events have “changed the world.”  These books appeal to folks with a wide range of interests, and the stories unfold like mysteries or adventures tales, entertaining and enlightening readers on a variety of subjects.  Some well-reviewed recent microhistories:

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance by Jane Gleeson-White
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
The Big Roads:  The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways by Earl Swift
The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
No Idle Hands: A Social History of American Knitting by Anne L. Macdonald
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage
Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg
Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter
City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age by P. D. Smith
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Code Book: The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh

For people who read for pleasure and enjoy a lavishly illustrated and browsable book, take a look at these fabulous choices from publisher Dorling Kindersley.  DK Publishing is renowned for the readability of the layout and the beauty of the photos, graphics, diagrams, and illustrations in its books.  In addition to their highly-recommended Eyewitness travel guides, outstanding non-fiction series for children, and reference and how-to books for adults, DK regularly publishes big beautiful blockbuster books on subjects of timeless popularity.  They are a substantial and satisfying feast to enjoy over and over.  Great choices for adults:

Ship: The Epic Story of Maritime Adventure by Brian Lavery
Great Buildings by Philip Wilkinson
Car: the definitive visual history of the Automobile
Mountaineers: Great Tales of Bravery and Conquest
Fashion: the definitive history of costume and style
The World’s Must-See Places
Prehistoric Life
Timelines of History
The Illustrated Bible: Story by Story
Explorers: Great Tales of Adventure and Endurance by Alasdair Macleod
Flight: the Complete History by R. G. Grant
Battle: A Visual Journey Through 5000 Years of Combat by R. G. Grant
The Civil War: A Visual History
The Road Less Travelled: 1000 Amazing Places off the Tourist Trail
The Complete Golf Manual by Steve Newell
Bird:  The Definitive Visual Guide
Violent Earth by Robert Dinwiddie
World War II: The Definitive Visual History

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

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