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QSaltLake’s 2020 Holiday Book Gift Ideas – Nonfiction

Give your historian something a bit different this year with Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, by Derf Backderf. Written entirely in graphic-novel style, it’s a look at the event that changed America more than 50 years ago. Pair it with The Hardhat Riot, by David Paul Kuhn, a book about a little-remembered event that happened four days after the Kent State shootings.

What do you get for the person who loves reading about boats and submarines? A recommendation is Under Pressure: Living Life and Avoiding Death on a Nuclear Submarine, by Richard Humphreys. When the author was eighteen, he joined the Royal Navy and served underwater. What more can an adventure-lover want to read about? Can’t go wrong when you pair it with Whatever It Took, by Henry Langrehr and Jim DeFelice. It’s a story of an American paratrooper at the end of World War II.

For the person who would love something a little unique this holiday, look for The New Witch, by Marie D. Jones. It’s a book about Wicca, spells and potions, magic, and all things that today’s spiritual practitioner needs to know. Wrap it up with Earth Magic, by Marie D. Jones, a guide for the sorceress in you.

Is there someone on your list who craves a good scare? Then look for Demonic Foes, by Richard Gallagher. He’s a psychiatrist who specializes in the paranormal, particularly in demonic possession. You will feel the shivers.

For the parent of older kids, ribbon-tie What Girls Need, by Marisa Porges, Ph.D. The book is about raising strong, resilient future women; pair it with And Then They Stopped Talking to Me, by Judith Warner; a book about surviving middle school amongst mean kids.

It’s been an unusual year. So show your book lover that it’s possible to buck up and survive with Why Fish Don’t Exist, by Lulu Miller. It’s the story of an early 20th-century scientist and the day he watched his life’s work shatters. What he did was astounding, and a great lesson for 2020. And possibly include Monsters of the Deep, by Nick Redfern. This book is more cryptozoology than a biography, but for fishing fans, that’s fine.

Here’s a fun read: Sealand, by Dylan Taylor-Lehman, the story of a micronation named Sealand, off the British coast, and on which the Royal Family rules it. With a little of everything in this book – history, pirates, battles, kings, and an attempted coup – your historian and the travel fan will love it. Pair it up with We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State, by Kai Strittmatter. A book that’s a little more serious, and adds a nice balance.

The reader who loves quick essays will enjoy This Is Major, by Shayla Lawson. It’s a funny and serious look at racism from a Black woman who shares her thoughts on work, celebrity, names, “Black Girl Magic” and more. Pair it with Why Didn’t We Riot?, by Issac J. Bailey, about being Black in America today.

Here’s an idea from dad to son or vice versa: A Better Man, by Michael Ian Black. It takes a look at masculinity and what it means to “be a man” in the 21st century. Give it to your son or son-to-be, who’ll get there someday. Or proudly gift it to Dad, to thank him for the guidance, and pair it with The Toughest Kid We Knew, by Frank Bergon, a story of the “New West,” California, and life in small towns and ranches.

Armchair scientists will be happy to flip through the pages of The Handy Physics Answer Book, Third Edition by Charles Liu, Ph.D. This Q-and-A format is easy to read and browse, and fun to use. Don’t be shy and include the science book: The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars, by Jo Marchant, a book about how looking at the night sky makes us human.

For those who are a conservationist or activist, Mill Town, by Kerri Arsenault is perfect under the tree. It’s a story of a town in Maine, where the local industry may or may not be hurting the locals and life near the mill. Consider adding these titles to your gift-giving: Barnstorming Ohio: to Understand America, by David Giffels, and Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It, by Tom Philpott for an understanding of our country now. Since this subject runs deep, you also might look for Death in Mud Lick, by Eric Eyre: shedding light on the opioid epidemic in coal country.

Do you have a person on your list who has a serious case of wanderlust?  Then wrap up Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City, by Gary Kamiya, drawings by Paul Madonna. It’s an easy-to-browse book of ideas for when you’re looking for somewhere different to visit. Pair it with The Change: My Great American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour, by Lori Soderlind, the story of one woman, one elderly dog, and a road trip to remember.

The DIY woman on your gift list (and the one who craves self-sufficiency) will love having Girls Garage, by Emily Pilloton. It’s a super-helpful book about using tools, fixing things, understanding do-it-herself language,  tackling projects, and getting it done. Bonus: it’s great for women ages 16 to 96. Add it with A Lab of One’s Own, by Rita Colwell, Ph.D., and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne. This book is about women in science and how inequality and sexism have hurt the industry, and what women can do about it today.

If there’s a traveler – physically or of the armchair sort – The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes, by Mia Kankimaki is what you’ll want to give this year. It’s a story of 10 historical female pioneers, and the author’s journey from continent to continent to get to know them. Pair it with Olive the Lionheart, by Brad Ricca. It’s the story of Olive MacLeod, who went to Africa by herself more than a century ago, in search of her fiance, who’d gone missing.

Is there a scientist in your family who also loves to be in the kitchen? You’re in luck with Science and Cooking, by Michael Brenner, Pia Sorensen, and David Weitz. It includes recipes. How can you go wrong? Consider adding The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn, Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook, photos by Angie Mosier. It’s a look at Black cooks, heritage, and soul food. Be sure to volunteer as the taste-tester.

For the giftee who is addicted to TV, Sunny Days, by David Kamp is perfect. It’s a look back at children’s TV in the 1970s, but not of the cartoon genre; think Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Nostalgia + TV = a great gift.

If there’s someone on your list who loves gardening will love to see The Language of Butterflies, by Wendy Williams under the tree. It’s the story of butterflies, why we love them, what scientists are learning about them, and how the world would be the lesser without them. Pair it with Naturalist, by Edward O. Wilson, adapted by Jim Ottaviani and C.M. Butzer. It’s a graphic-novel-type biography about Wilson, who is a science-expert on ants and bugs.

The giftee who looks toward the future, always, will love to unwrap A Woman’s Influence, by Sheri Gaskins and Tony A. Gaskins, Jr. It’s a book for women who want to take better control at work, at home, and in their relationships. Pair it with Ready for Anything, by Kathi Lipp, a book about resilience amid crises of any size.

Is your political animal a little sorry to see the election over? Watch the animal glow with Fight House, by Tevi Troy, a book about the back-stabbing, fang-baring tumultuousness and rivalries inside the White House in the last century or so. Pair it with another great history book: Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, by Colin Woodard.

For the writer on your gift list, you want to choose right… so choose Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel, by Elizabeth George. You may know George as a novelist – and if you do, you know the advice in this book is solid.

Wanna see your scientist smile? Give the gift of The Next Great Migration, by Sonia Shah. It’s a sweeping, vast look at us: where we’ve been, where we went, when we left, and how we got to where we are. For your armchair biologist, this is a no-brainer. Pair it with The Sum of the People, by Andrew Whitby, a book about why countries take a census and how it’s shaped the world.

And if you’ve got a science-minded someone you’re looking to gift, look for Exploring the Elements: A Complete Guide to the Periodic Table, by Isabel Thomas, and pictures by Sara Gillingham. It’s seriously lighthearted and makes this branch of science easy and fun to understand. Add to it Can People Just Burst into Flames?, by Larry Scheckel, a great book of science trivia, questions, and answers for any scientist (or anyone curious), age 12 and up.

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terri Schlichenmeyer, Book Review Columnist, has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She has worked with more than 200 newspapers and nearly 50 magazines scattered in 46 states, the Virgin Islands and six provinces of Canada. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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