LJ Editors' Last-Minute Gift Guide

Recommendation: Baby Brother’s Blues by best-selling author Pearl Cleage for her third in a series of intriguing tales of family, friendship, and love set in the city of Atlanta. This is the story of a former R&B singer turned vigilante, who becomes a hero in his community for protecting women abused by the men in their lives. Ideal recipient: Women who love pop fiction with an African American slant, romantics, and those who prefer light reading. Nonbook Tie-in: An unabridged CD narrated by the author.—Ann Burns Recommendation: Are you a fan of today’s memoir genre? Go back, avant le deluge of contemporary self-reflection, to the first modern memoir, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, first published in 1782, four years after Rousseau died. These days we question how to establish a memoir as "truth," something that Rousseau felt he had solved back then: truth comes from within oneself. "I know the feelings of my heart," he writes as he takes readers on the journeys, literal and figurative, of his life. There are so many epochal moments, so many encounters Rousseau describes; they both unfold his own complex inner life and summon recognition from us as to the man’s profound impact upon history and literature. When you’re done reading (the anonymous Everyman translation is great), you’ll be primed for Robert Zaretsky’s and John T. Scott’s The Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding, coming in March 2009 from Yale University Press and expert at exploring both men accessibly and sensitively. Ideal Recipients: Those who love memoir, biography, character-driven plots; those who love books that open the past up to them and welcome them in. Nonbook Tie-in: Did I mention that Rousseau often made a living as a music copyist and even succeeded when he tried his hand at composing? When supporters of Rousseau got his opera Le Devin du Village ("the Village Soothsayer") played before Louis XV in 1752, Rousseau crept away after the performance rather than meet the King. Louis XV hummed the tunes after he heard the opera. Will you? It’s available in several current recordings. Are you a fan of today’s memoir genre? Go back, avant le deluge of contemporary self-reflection, to the first modern memoir, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, first published in 1782, four years after Rousseau died. These days we question how to establish a memoir as "truth," something that Rousseau felt he had solved back then: truth comes from within oneself. "I know the feelings of my heart," he writes as he takes readers on the journeys, literal and figurative, of his life. There are so many epochal moments, so many encounters Rousseau describes; they both unfold his own complex inner life and summon recognition from us as to the man’s profound impact upon history and literature. When you’re done reading (the anonymous Everyman translation is great), you’ll be primed for Robert Zaretsky’s and John T. Scott’s The Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding, coming in March 2009 from Yale University Press and expert at exploring both men accessibly and sensitively.—Margaret Heilbrun Recommendation: Red Rover by Susan Stewart because at a time when we are overwhelmed by bad news Red Roverand more information than we can possibly handle, we need truly pointed and elegant poetry to clear our senses. No, this is not a bunch of nursery rhymes, though some of the poems remake children’s games to show the disquiet that underlines casual play: “red rover, red rover/ let them come over// spirit moving / formless through the startled leaves.” Stewart cocks her head and looks at the world a little differently, capturing an owl’s flight, a boy’s voice, a terrible massacre in beautiful but unfussy language that wants to communicate. Startling, yes. Ideal recipient: Anyone who loves poetry. Or anyone who is afraid of contemporary poetry because it seems either too self-referentially prosy (“I trudged through the snow/ hating myself”) or too opaque (whiteishness/ the blind grows/ blurt”). Nonbook Tie-in: A good bottle of wine to sip as you read. There is, in fact, a Red Rover wine.—Barbara Hoffert Recommendation: Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea. Not only does Reading teh OEDit give you a bunch of quirky and obscure words (with hilariously misanthropic definitions to boot) that I’ll probably never get to use, but it also provides fascinating insight into how the editors of the dictionaries we take for granted find joy and creativity in their jobs. Ideal recipient: People who love reading. Shea’s most remarkable accomplishment is getting readers to care about the Oxford English Dictionary and his time spent reading it. Reference librarians familiar with the OED are especially encouraged to read this book to gain a new appreciation of their dictionaries. Nonbook Tie-in: Reading glasses. If you try to replicate Shea’s achievement, you’ll need them.—Josh Becker Recommendation: J.W. Rinzler’s The Complete Making of Indiana Jones for giving Indy heads the soliRinzler Complete Making of Indiana Jonesd behind-the-scenes book we’ve waited 25 years for. Of course, it was created to cash in—as Uncle George does better than anyone living or dead—on the release of IJ and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but who cares, we finally got it!Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Ideal recipient: Star Wars and Indy heads (they’re mostly interchangeable) are the obvious audience, but beyond those geeks, any Spielberg aficionado or budding filmmaker would be interested. Nonbook Tie-in: The two-disc special edition of Crystal Skull on DVD, or if you seriously want to rock some Indy, go for broke with IJ: The Complete Adventure Gunga DinCollection boxed set of all four flix. And while we’re talking adventure films, the grand daddy of them all is George Stevens’s 1939 Gunga Din starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, and Doug Fairbanks Jr. It’s two hours of pure fun. Grab it on DVD.—Mike Rogers Recommendation: The Trial by Franz Kafka for its timeless portrayal of the absurdity of the society we live in Kafka The Trialand all that prevents it from changing for the better. At a time when corporate America is ravaged by greed, panic, and a never-enough mentality, office worker Joseph K.’s anguish over being punished—and executed—“without having done anything wrong” will speak to those with a sense for justice that would put most lawyers on this planet to shame (if they cared). Ideal recipient: Anyone who appreciates bare-bones writing that doesn’t age with time; anyone who has been laid off from a job for reasons other than not being good at it; and anyone who has ever used the word Kafkaesque without really knowing what it meant or visited Kafka’s house in Prague (a major tourist attraction) because it was the cool The Trialthing to do. Book Tie-in: Nicholas Murray’s masterful 2004 biography of the writer (a 2004 LJ best book) Nonbook Tie-in: Orson Welles’s 1962 movie version starring Anthony Perkins.—Mirela Roncevic Recommendation: Laurie Graff’s The Shiksa Syndrome takes a predictable premise and turns it upside down The Shiksa Syndrome(or right to left, as it were): a Jewish woman has relationship issues (what else is new), so she pretends to be a non-Jew in order to snag the perfect Jewish mate. But what might appear perfect could actually be a bit chipped and tarnished upon closer inspection. Ideal recipient: WOMEN, of every religion, race, philosophy, or hair color. If you’ve got a funny bone, Graff will latch on and refuse to let go. The kind of book to recommend to all your girlfriends, girlfriend. Nonbook Tie-in: There’s an audiobook and a download available. Be advised; people will notice when you snort out loud.—Bette-Lee Fox Recommendation: In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History In Heaven Everything is Fineof New Wave Theatre by Josh Frank for its engrossing combo of true crime–esque cold-case intrigue, the 1970s punk scene, and the life story (cut short by murder) of a small, quirky, and alluring man best known as the host of New Wave Theatre, a sketch-comedy TV revue that brought John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Harold Ramis together with Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. Frank’s web site features Ivers’s music, New Wave Theatre clips, and photos of the artist. Ideal recipient: Fans of David Lynch—the author first took an interest in Ivers after Blue Communionhearing his haunting song “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)” in Eraserhead—punk subculture, and National Lampoon as well as open-minded true crime readers and 1970s–80s counterculture/pop-culture enthusiasts. Nonbook Tie-in: Knight of the Blue Communion Ivers’s debut album, rereleased in 2007 by Hux Records.—Anna Katterjohn Recommendation: That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between by Victoria Beckham for its high-spirited celebration of the transformative power of appearance. Beckham comes off like a mindless Robo-Barbie in the 'loids, but she reads like a sensible, compassionate girlfriend who happens to be married to one of the richest footballers in the world. Curious how to wear an A-line skirt? Or how to pack for vacation? Becks No. 2 explains it all, covering even affordable brands like Zara. And the images by veteran fashion photographer Ellen Von Unwerth are a scream—see Victoria vamping in little black dresses and heels, heels, heels. Stare to your heart's content; this is superlative eye candy manufactured for women, by women. Ideal recipient: Fashionistas, celebrity sickos, and any woman looking for a little commonsense clothing and grooming advice from someone who, despite some unfortunate fashion choices, knows a thing or two about image enhancement. Oh, and girl-women. You know the type, 13 going on 30. Nonbook Tie-in: Why, David and Victoria Beckham's Signature perfumes, darlings. Check out the smokin' commercial.—Heather McCormack Recommendation No. 1: The Body Fat Solution: 5 Principles for Burning Fat, Building Lean Muscle, Ending Emotional Eating, and Maintaining Your Perfect Weight by Tom Venuto. Venuto gets at all the The Body Fat Solutionphysical, psychological, and even sociological aspects of overeating, outlining a program of mental, cardio, and strength training stressing accountability and self-control. Nothing fluffy about this book: just well-founded scientific research and clearly illustrated direction. Ideal recipient: Anyone going home for the holidays. Nonbook Tie-ins: Venuto’s earlier Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle ebook and the simultaneous audiobook release of The Body Fat Solution (CD & digital download, Sound Library: BBC Audiobooks America), which includes bonus PDF exercise/diet plans and a Q&A with the author. Recommendation No. 2: Witness to the Mob, the 1998 Robert De Niro–produced TV miniseries chronicling theWitness to the Mob life of John Gotti underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, at long last comes to DVD (KOCH Vision). This true-crime adaptation of Peter Maas’s New York Times best seller, Underboss, stars Nicholas Turturro, Tom Sizemore, Debi Mazar, and three Sopranos regulars: Michael Imperioli, Frank Vincent, and Vincent Pastore. Ideal recipient: The Sopranos fan still in withdrawal. Nonbook Tie-in: Another chronicling of a mafia takedown, this one by FBI agent Joaquin “Jack” Garcia: the audiobook Making Jack Falcone, read by three-time Audie® Award winner Dick Hill (CD & MP3-CD, Tantor Media).—Raya Kuzyk

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