Gift Guide: A Book for Every Reader in Your Life

Since I've done more reading than ever this year, I've been in a bookish state of mind and decided a month or two ago that I wanted to get books for most, if not all, the people on my Christmas list. So after putting a lot of thought into each person I'm buying for, I made some really great picks (if I do say so myself) and I thought I'd share a few here in case you're looking for a gift idea that ISN'T another set of pajamas or hot chocolate kit. (For the record, I'd be thrilled to receive either of those!) I know the internet doesn't need another gift guide but here's my contribution to the masses. Also, if you get one of these from me this year, act surprised. Thanks. =)

For the history buffUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. What else? You know this is definitely at the top of my favorites this year, and anyone who enjoys history or war trivia or just an unbelievably inspiring story will enjoy it. And now that there's a young adult version available, it's a great pick for a history-loving teenager in your life. (Maybe I was the only one of those!) Anyway, the life of Louis Zamperini is just amazing (and I can't wait for the movie... I still can't watch the trailer without crying!) Read my full review here.

For the hopeless romanticThese Is My Words by Nancy Turner. Oh my... I read this book three months ago and I'm still thinking about it. It is one of the sweetest, most romantic love stories I've ever read, not too mention there's plenty of historical information and adventure and all that good stuff. It's the (fictional) diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, starting when she's around 16 and ending in her early 30s, and covers her life on the rough, dangerous prairie of the 1800s. Seriously, I want my own copy because I reread portions of it many times before reluctantly returning it to the library. Just a good, good book.

For the clever kidThe Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner and Jeremy Homes. I read this book to my sixth graders last year and they LOVED it... and so did I. It's seriously hilarious and the narrator is so sarcastic and funny that my kids could not stop laughing. It's about a brother and sister (twins, of course) who have to outwit a couple of bumbling criminals to save their professor dad and his invention. It's a really cute, clever plot that reminds me just a little of the Lemony Snickets series. And now there's a sequel, The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, which is sure to be just as delightful. 

For the word nerdThe Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan. This book could actually fit into a few categories, but I chose it for this one on purpose. This book is the true story of a midwestern mom who kept her family of ten children financially afloat in the 50s and 60s by entering (and winning) hundreds of jingle-writing contests. Commercials, print ads, slogans- she did them all and with great success- good thing, too, since the family had to overcome all kinds of problems. Other than being a really great story, I mostly enjoyed this book because it included dozens of examples of Mrs. Ryan's entries,which she scribbled on notebooks kept all over the house. This woman was seriously smart, and her use of words and rhyming was so fun to read. If you like words or word games or puzzles, you'll enjoy this book. (It's also a great read for moms!)

For the nerdy (I mean that in the nicest way- that was totally me!) kidBOMB: The Race to Build- and Steal- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. This is a nonfiction book about the three different journeys that were going on simultaneously by Americans, Soviets, and Germans as the atomic bomb went from an accidental discovery to the a weapon more powerful than anything in human history. This is far more than a textbook; it reads more like a mystery story, full of spies and intrigue and, well, bombs. What kid wouldn't love that? 

For the middle-schooler with an attitude problem =)Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I read this on our road trip in September and loved it. Junior high (and even elementary school) can be a cruel place, and this story of a boy with a severe facial deformity attacks the subject of bullying and meanness in a way that is different, thoughtful, and even funny. It's told from several different perspectives, which I thought would be confusing, but it's really clever because it gives a new insight into how each person perceives what's going on. Also, you must read the companion book (it's really short) called The Julian Chapter. It wraps it all up in the most beautiful, poignant way possible. This book will make any kid think differently about the way they treat others. 

For someone in a season of change: Off Script: What to Do When God Rewrites Your Life by Cary Schmidt. I read this book three years ago when my employment was very up in the air, my Papaw had just died, and I was feeling really uncertain about life in general. It was a blessing to me then and has been every time I've revisited (which has been often!). The author was dealing with cancer at the time of writing, but applies biblical principles to responding correctly to every type of life situation. (Oh, and the author happens to be my sister's pastor- too cool!) 

For the dreamerStart by Jon Acuff. If you know someone who is interested in starting a business, or being a writer, or really just accomplishing some life-long dream, get them this book. I read it after following Jon on Twitter and not only is it entertaining and often hilarious but also really helpful and motivational. It's full of great advice and isn't really specific to any one field, so it could work for a variety of people. I love the subtitle: "Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work that Matters." Good stuff! (Also, check out Quitter by Jon too. Another winner!)

For the lovestruck teenager: Jean and JohnnyFifteen, and The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary. When I was thirteen, I got these three books in a hardback set from Costco and I promptly read them about a million times each. I feel like it's cheating a little to include all three, and certainly you don't have to buy them all since they're not related in any way, but I just couldn't pick a favorite. Not only are all three books adorable and sweet (and just as applicable to modern-day teens as the ones in the stories that are set in the early 60s), but they're CLEAN and contain none of the smut of most teen "love" stories. Seriously, I love these books so, so much. Get them for a teenage girl in your life. They'll love them too.

For the Ramona fanThe Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary. Okay, this is a really specific category =), and I know I'm including Beverly Cleary again. But it's my gift guide and she's my favorite author, so there you have it. We all know and love the Ramona series (Ramona and Her Mother, Ramona and Her Father, Ramona and Beezus, etc.) These two books are the memoirs of Ramona's creator, Mrs. Cleary herself. The first book covers her childhood up to high school graduation and the second book is about her young adult years, married life, and her eventual success as one of the most beloved children's authors of all time. Even if you're not familiar with her books (and you really should be- they're delightful!), these are both easy, interesting reads. The second book is my favorite but read them both for the full experience. (Also, if you've read her books you'll enjoy seeing the many real-life parallels in her own story.) 

For the sports nut (or athlete)The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This book about the University of Washington rowing team that eventually became Olympians was one of my favorites this year. Not only is it an uplifting story of achievement and perseverance, but the information about rowing as a sport completely fascinated me. Those guys were tough. Since the boys participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, there is a subplot involving the Nazis preparing for a country full of visitors and it is woven seamlessly into the story. My other favorite part was all the references to the Seattle area (hello, hometown!). Oh, and the mark of a truly great book? I cried at the end. You may think, "My sports nut is a football fan and not so much a rowing kind of guy," but I promise this is a great book. 

For the movie buffIt's Only a Movie by Charlotte Chandler. This biography of Alfred Hitchcock was really interesting but also makes me want to rewatch his movies (in the daytime, of course.) It's really funny to know that, despite terrifying movie-goers for a living, Alfred Hitchcock (or "Hitch") really didn't take the business of scaring all that seriously. When his actors would make too much of a scene or character, he would famously say, "Remember, my dear... it's only a movie." I'll try to remember that when they're keeping me up at night! =) If you know someone who likes old movies- especially the Hitchcock films- this is a great pick. There are all kinds of personal stories from Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Doris Day, and other stars of that era. For a bonus-features junkie like me, it was a great read!

For the lover of classicsJack's Life by Douglas Gresham. This biography of one of the 20th centuries most famous and prolific authors is my favorite about C.S. Lewis because it's written by his stepson and because it reads more like a story than an impersonal account. It really debunks a lot of misconceptions about Lewis, especially his reputation as a lofty, unapproachable intellectual. I loved this book (and actually just ordered it for myself. Merry Christmas to me!) Oh, and if you have a real C.S. Lewis fan on your hands, maybe throw in his Letters to sweet!

For anyone who enjoys a good book: The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. Don't worry- I saved the best for last! I first heard of these books when Janssen raved about them, and I quickly learned than she was not exaggerating. I have recommended these books to anyone and everyone I can think of in the past year. Seriously, they're amazing. Both books are set in Vietman-era small towns and feature average, "all-American" middle school boys, but Okay for Now is more of a companion than a sequel to The Wednesday Wars. I thought nothing could top TWW but Okay for Now may actually be my favorite. It's so hard to choose! The first book involves a seventh grader, his English teacher, and Shakespeare- what's not to love? And the second book makes me cry every.single.time. I own both these books and have reread them many times- a sign of how much I love a book, for sure. Janssen says that if she could write a book, The Wednesday Wars is the book she would want to have written, and I couldn't agree more. These books are sweet, funny, sad, thoughtful- but overall they are just SO well-written. AH! Enough gushing... buy them- for anyone on your list. Disgruntled teenager, picky aunt, grumpy uncle, snooty cousin- they'll love these. Promise. 

So, that covers just about everyone, doesn't it? I think there's something so special and personal about giving a book. It takes thought and effort to choose a book you know someone who really enjoy. Or, you know, you can just grab random titles off the shelves at Barnes and Noble. Either way works =) but I hope this list gave you an idea or two. Also, check out for really great prices! (This isn't sponsored by them or anything... I'm just cheap.) 

Merry Christmas and happy reading!



  1. Can you specfiy which ones are non fiction?

    1. Regina, Unbroken, The Prize Winner, Bomb, Off Script, Start, the Beverly Cleary memoirs, The Boys in the Boat, Jack's Life, and It's Only a Movie are all nonfiction.

  2. This is such a great list! I loveddddd Wonder and I was iffy about reading the companion book, but I think I'll go pick it up now.
    Thanks for linking up!


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