My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read. Abraham Lincoln

OLLI Illinois members respond to the question
"What book do you think would make a good gift?"

Mary Bailey

Both of these have been around for awhile but I loved them: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson and A Dog's Life by Peter Mayle with illustrations by Edward Koren.


Sandy Bales

A book I highly recommend for someone interested in history and natural history is Alexander Wilson: The Scot Who Founded American Ornithology by Edward H. Burtt, Jr. Alexander "Sandy" Wilson was a friend of Merriweather Lewis, had discussions about natural history in the White House with Thomas Jefferson, and inspired Audubon to publish his drawings in book form. Also, a comparison of Wilson and Audubon drawings shows how Audubon sometimes copied Wilson.


Brenda Berg

I took my 10-year old granddaughter to Africa last summer. Last Christmas I sent her a beautiful picture book of animals in the wild. Animals were photographed by hidden cameras, producing incredible candids. It' the best of its kind that I've seen. The book is Serengeti Spy: Views from a Hidden Camera on the Plains of East Africa by Anup Shah. Also, my son's book will be out on December 15, in time for Christmas. It is Ruler of Demons by Scott A. Lerner. It is a mystery set in the Champaign-Urbana area. A fun gift for the right person.

CJ Binch
Favorite books right now are The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, The Devil in the White City  by Erik Larson, and Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Anybody looking for a good story would find it in any of these. 

Curt Bolding

Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge. The best book, bar none, I've ever read on how to keep vital into old age.


Samuel Bostaph

If I knew that the giftee(s) didn't have a copy, I would give them a copy of Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker.


Chris Catanzarite

Every Person on the Planet: An Only Somewhat Anxiety-Filled Tale for the Holidays, by Bruce Eric Kaplan. The popular New Yorker cartoonist has written a charming tale about Edmund and Rosemary, who decide to throw a holiday party and find their guest list getting longer and longer ... until they have eventually invited every person on the planet. The story is sweet and droll and keenly observant -- and it reminds me of my own hand-wringing anytime I decide to throw a party, even though my guest lists are usually much, much smaller! I have given this book as a gift more times than I can count.


Fred Christensen

 A few months ago, our study group read and really enjoyed Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects. MacGregor is the Director of the British Museum, and selected items from the Museum's collection to tell the story of humanity in all cultures and on all continents. Each object gets a five-page essay, telling not only what it is but also how it illustrates an important historical theme. The book has wonderful full-color illustrations and a thought-provoking text!


Isabel Cole

For the cook, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.


Marilynne Davis

A couple of thoughts: Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela; Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan; and River-Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America by William Least Heat-Moon.


Paul Davis

Paul Tillich's The Courage to Be. He synthesizes most philosophical thought then writes of the courage to be as an individual, then of the courage to be as a part of the group. Marvelous.


Donna Davis-Pearson

As I gain in the knowledge that time's a-wastin', I appreciate books that are narrow in girth and long in message. Two come to the top of the list, Emily's Verse by Matthew W. Pope (only 80 pages long) and The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews. I love them both, and if anyone needs more detail, I'll be glad to explain.


Susan Dighton

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It's possibly the best fiction I've ever read. Her writing style is unique. It would make a great book club read and a great gift for anyone who wants to be totally blown away by a real life character, Olive Kitteridge.


Dick Ensrud

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin.


Mic Greenberg

I like Jay Worrall's (Quaker) three novels of the Napoleonic wars: Sails on the Horizon, Any Approaching Enemy, and A Sea Unto Itself.


Susan Hill

A good book gift for many would be Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. It discusses the discovery and gradual spread of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura throughout intellectual Europe and its influence on scientific and philosophical thought. It's also an interesting look at 15th century Italy, a time and place I knew little about.


Albert Himoe

American Betrayal by Diana West.


Kathleen Holden

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson.


Charles Jordan

Possible gift ideas: The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester, which is about the first map to show America; Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer, with insights on Whitman, Eliot, Escoffier, Proust, Cezanne, Stravinsky, Stein and Virginia Woolf; and Andrei Sakharov's Memoirs for a detailed picture of 20th century Russia and the emergence of human rights activities, especially as experienced by Sakharov.



The Top 10 Times NOT to Give a Book  


As wonderful as books can be, sometimes they may not be the best gift. Here's a look at reasons not to give a book -- and it also includes a big list of excellent books for gifting!



Patricia Knowles

For dog lovers, Mary Oliver's recently published Dog Songs is a delight.


Rosemary Laughlin

Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings. Very readable narrative for non-scientists as well as scientists about the organizational problems, funding difficulties, and human competition in the search for exoplanets, especially the "Goldilocks" ones like Earth. I also recommend Thieves of Book Row: New York's Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It by Travis McDade. The subtitle says it all. The author is curator of rare books at the University of Illinois College of Law.


Mike Martin

Any of: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown; Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson; The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy.


Barb McDonnell

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien would be a good holiday gift.


Barbara Meyer

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Micheal Shermer. This book is listed on Kevin Pitts' Pseudoscience class reading list and I found it eye opening, particularly the chapter on how we make errors in logic that lead us astray - "25 Fallacies That Lead Us to Believe Weird Things."  


Sharon Michalove

There are so many possibilities, depending on the tastes of the giftee. But here are a few that I would suggest. For the enthusiastic cook: The Kitchen Diaries (vols. 1 and 2) by Nigel Slater plus Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. For the history buff: The House of Niccolo series (8 vols.) by Dorothy Dunnett plus Philip the Good and Charles the Bold by Richard Vaughan. For the mystery reader: some of Donna Leon's 20 or so books, starting with Death at La Fenice plus Brunetti's Cookbook by Roberta Pianaro and Donna Leon, and Brunetti's Venice: Walks with the City's Best-Loved Detective by Toni Sepeda.


Georgia Morgan

No one will have heard of this book, but believe me, it is an awesome gift, explaining how to use your money to make yourself happy, because just having money and buying stuff won't do the trick: Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.


Traci Nally

Often I look for a gift that is uniquely Illinoisian for those who are from here, but are now elsewhere. You can't very well buy a fresh ear of Illini Supersweet corn and expect it to hold up when shipped across the country. But, there are a number of books available in the lobby of the News-Gazette (or through their online store) that contain the flavor of east central Illinois. Here are just three: Hot Type: 150 Years of the Best Local Stories from the News-Gazette by Tom Kacich and John Foreman; Joseph William Royer: Urbana's Architect by Brian Adams; and The Lord Was Not on Trial: The Inside Story of the Supreme Court's Precedent-Setting McCollum Ruling by Daniel McCollum. But there are other books that feature Illini sports, local poetry, the Amish, WWII memoirs, and Allerton Park. All are excellent reminders of who we are, and are uniquely local.


Pat Phillips

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel. It's an engaging and persuasive treatment of pluralism and ways to be proactive with regard to religious totalitarianism. W.E.B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th century is the color line; Patel says the 21st century will be shaped by the question of the faith line. He's founded an interfaith youth movement in the U.S., based on listening, sharing and understanding.


Patricia Porter

The Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry would make a great gift. The characters are interesting and each book is well written. These aren't just cowboy books for men!


Judy Reynolds

Here are my gift suggestions:  Allerton's Paradises by Maureen Holtz, photographs by Michael Holtz; and Robert Allerton: The Private Man & the Public Gifts by Martha Burgin, Maureen Holtz, John Freeman (ed.), and Michael Holtz (photos). The Holtzes live in and own an art gallery in Monticello, Illinois.


Barak Rosenshine

Books that might make a good gift: What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copland and Remembering Champaign County by Dannel McCollum.

Mary Severinghaus

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea and Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman.


Cheri Sullivan

I like to give a book that relates to someone's personal history or interests. It's amazing what a little googling will turn up (just add the word 'book' to your search). For a relative who loves to cook and is interested in her Hungarian-Jewish family history, a quick search turned up A Taste of the Past: The Daily Life and Cooking of a Nineteenth Century Hungarian-Jewish Homemaker by Andras Koerner. For a mystery lover taking a trip to Iceland, I found some thrillers by Icelandic authors Arnaldur Indridason and Thóra Gudmundsdóttir. On another search I discovered two short books that told the history (one was primarily photos) of the small town where my mother-in-law grew up. There's a book for everyone!


Marganit Weinberger

For someone you know with Asperger's Syndrome (and their friends and relatives): The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.


Chris Whippo

Three wonderful holiday stories by Truman Capote are contained in a slim volume published under the title of A Christmas Memory (so sweet!) but also includes "One Christmas" (my least favorite, rather sad) and "The Thanksgiving Visitor" (my fave). My hope is that the receiver will enjoy these stories year after year. They are a quick read. 


Julie Wilcox

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver


Sharon Williams

For the person who would enjoy inspiration and motivation to contend with piles of photos and keepsakes, I would suggest A Visual Life: Scrapbooks, Collages and Inspirations by Charlotte Moss. Charlotte shares her passion for artfully arranging scrapbooks and collages around the themes of gardens, travel, entertaining and interiors. She also invited other women such as Deborah Needleman of The Wall Street Journal Magazine and Candy Pratt of Vogue to inspire the viewer by sharing their Visual Life. For the person who loves great literature, beauty and inspiration, I would suggest Well Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines by Samantha Hahn. Samantha presents delicate portraits and hand lettered quotes of 50 females of fiction, including Shakespeare's Ophelia and Tennessee Williams' Blanch Du Bois.


OLLI logo

Important Dates

December 2 - Spring courses announced at office, online, and in The News-Gazette

December 12 - Spring registration begins.

January 27 - Spring semester begins

The OLLI Bookshelf is a spin-off from the OLLI e-News that began in December of 2012. Each issue features OLLI Illinois member responses to a different question about books.


e-News Committee: Cheri Sullivan (Chair), Frank Chadwick, Connie Hosier, Bonnie Hudson,  Barbara Meyer (Technical Coordinator).


Book lovers everywhere have posted lists of their favorite books on various topics. Browse some of these to find a good read for someone on your gift list who has particular interests.

For everyone on your List from the Huffington Post


Illustrated Coffee Table Books 

From Publisher's Weekly 

Local History

Books with local significance for CU

Books for Book Nerds 

Books that have books at their heart, for people who get a little thrill just walking into a bookstore.



Recommended for you by OLLI Illinois members.



Books for retirees
Books to make the Golden Years golden.







Recommended for you by OLLI Illinois members.

The New York Times bridge section had a series of five articles on books for people who love to play bridge.

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Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Illinois
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