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Gifts for Lovers of Non-FictionThe Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism
by Doris Kearns Goodwin ($40, Simon & Schuster) showcases the author's distinctive ability to combine scholarly rigor with accessibility. Her latest entry explores the friendship and enmity between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft at a time when so much of what we think of as modern life began.
Another look at a specific time in US History by a much-loved author, albeit one who writes with a bit more humor, is One Summer: America, 1927
by Bill Bryson ($28.95, Doubleday). This book takes the theory that much of what happened in the 20th century could be traced to one summer during prohibition times.
Historians have been having fun recently using everyday items to illuminate the past. Two new contenders in this field are both worthy yet differing in their approach: The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects
by Richard Kurin ($50, Penguin Press) is a wonderful book for browsing - turn to any page and find something of interest. Kurin has chosen his objects well and provides a wonderful tour through our collective memory. The Civil War in 50 Objects
by Harold Holzer and the New York Historical Society ($36, Viking) addresses itself more to the history buff - a great companion to Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals
. Holzer offers us shackles, popular art, and even Northern pro-slavery propaganda. And then, of course, is the one that started the whole fad, just out in paperback: A History of the World in 100 Objects
, by Neil MacGregor ($30, Penguin), based on the BBC Radio program -- a book to savor.
In the air, on the ground, or a little of both, the Pacific Northwest has much to offer in the great outdoors. These three locally oriented books are sure to please:
- Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest: 85 Unforgettable Species, Their Fascinating Lives, and How to Find Them by Sarah Swanson and Max Smith ($19.95, Timber Press) is a worthy addition to any birder's collection. What makes this book stand out from the flock of fine regional guides are features such as parenting details (puffins are on their own at fledging, but oystercatchers care for their young for months afterwards.) and specific times and places to see them (catch the American Dipper show at Multnomah Falls). Includes eight weekend birding trips -- January in Cannon Beach and June in Klamath Falls both sound great.
- Back in the Garden with Dulcy: The Best of The Oregonian Garden Writer Dulcy Mahar, edited by Ted Mahar ($22.95, Carpe Diem Books), is just what you think it is, and every bit as wonderful as you would hope. There is a preface by Doug the Wonder Guy (formerly Boy), photos of cats, dogs and flamingos, wonderful practical advice, and even better digressions.
- Trees of Greater Portland, by Phyllis C. Reynolds ($22, Macrophyllum Press). Just published in a second edition - twenty years after the original - this book is a love letter to the trees of Portland. The author traveled with camera and tape measure to every tree in the book, noting "it is amazing how trees have gained girth over essentially twenty-four years." We can identify. Photographs, bits & bots (as the Brits like to say), and walking tours make this charming book the perfect gift.
A Reader's Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year by Tom Nissley ($24.95, Norton). So many uses suggest
themselves for this charming chronicle. It's a daily tour of literature high and low -- irrestistible to lovers of reading or history. Keep a copy at your breakfast table and start every morning amused. A copy in your car for unexpected downtime. Find out why R.L. Stevenson called Herman Melville a "howling cheese" and whether it was an insult. Ann Patchett (see below) says "Finally, a book to live by."
Ann Patchett is a rock star in the bookselling world, and she was a big hit in her recent visit to Portland. This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett($27.99, Harper) is a loving collection of essays on families, bookstores, writing and other forms of work, and love of every kind. Patchett, one of our best modern novelists,
discusses both the art and the business of creating books. Who would have guessed she once paid the rent writing "How to Decorate Your Locker" for Seventeen Magazine! Don't miss her visit to Clemson.
Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman ($13.95, Algonquin Books) contains the novelist's suggestions for finding beauty in the world even in the toughest times. It's a dear and necessary little book that reminds us that life is beautiful as well as painful, and that forgiveness and chocolate and Johnny Depp can do wonders for us. If you hurry, you can get a signed copy!
Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Annie Lamott ($17.95, Riverhead Books) is an explanation of how to make sense out of life's chaos, following up on last year's Help, Thanks, Wow and in the same charming format. Lamott is never too far away from self-deprecating humor, even when she writes about personal and public devastation. Hallelujah anyway.
To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield ($27.50, Gotham/Penguin) is a thoroughly entertaining celebration of the intrinsic integrity of letters. We surmise he would not approve of an e-newsletter. Each chapter reads like a delightful short story as Garfield revels in the epistolary habits of Jane Austen, Jack Kerouac, and other non-email correspondents .
A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York by Anjelica Huston ($25, Scribner) is a must for fans of fashion as well as cineastes. She's worked with every name in both fields, and slept with some. (And Jack Nicholson
wasn't the strangest of them.)
The Most of Nora Ephron by -- surprise, surprise -- Nora Ephron ($35, Knopf) is a compendium for Ephron fans. It includes Heartburn and some scripts but, best of all, plenty of her articles and essays. Politics, food, sex, fashion -- she covers it all with verve and wit. We miss her.
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit ($28, Spiegel & Grau). Both storyteller and historian, Shavit tells his own family's story and illuminates pivotal moments of the Zionist century, both flattering and faulting. Thomas Friedman calls the book "a real contribution to changing the conversation about Israel."
If you're stuck on what to get that ardent reader of nonfiction, you can't go wrong with the true story presented in The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, re-creating the story of the University of Washington's eight-oar crew team rising out of the depths of the Depression to transfix and inspire their fellow Americans.