An American Editor

November 20, 2013

The Holidays Gift List of Books II

The holiday season is fast arriving. In another week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Chanukah comes early this year, coinciding with Thanksgiving. And Christmas is a little more than a month away.

The real excitement in my household is spending the holidays with the grandchildren. One grandchild is still too young to really appreciate the season; the other is just getting to the age when she can at least appreciate gifts. But Thanksgiving should be great. Carolyn and I are hosting this year and expect about 20 people, maybe a few more. I’ve decided to be adventurous with the turkey so, I’ll be making it differently than in the past. The one thing I will be sure to do, however, is brine it in Coca-Cola (regular, not diet).

Which brings me to list making. I have to do the one thing I really hate doing at holiday time: make a list of possible gifts for me. I keep saying no gift is needed, just show up and let’s have fun, but that goes over as well as a lead balloon flies. So several years ago I started putting together a list of hardcover books I would like. Last year I published my list on An American Editor in “The Holidays Gift List of Books“; I thought I would do the same this year and see if you have any suggestions for hardcover books that I should add to my list. Here goes:

  • The War that Ended the Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • Making Freedom by R.J.M. Blackett
  • Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation by Estelle B. Freedman
  • Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lauer
  • Fear Itself: The New Deal & the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson
  • The Tie that Bound Us by Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz
  • The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History 70-1492 by Maistella Botticin & Zvi Eckstein
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
  • The Strange Career of Porgy & Bess by Ellen Noonan
  • Thomas Nast by Fiona Deans Halloran
  • FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman
  • A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust by Mary Fulbrook
  • How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate by Wendy Moore
  • The Original Compromise by David Brian Robertson
  • Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes
  • The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
  • The Creation of Inequality by Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus
  • Remembering Survival by Christopher Browning
  • Angel of Vengeance by Ann Siljak

There are some others I am thinking about, but the truth is I already have a large number of books — both fiction and nonfiction — to read. I don’t really need more books to add to my to-be-read pile, especially as I am constantly adding books throughout the year.

If you are looking for a good book to give as a gift, I highly recommend The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople by Susan Wise Bauer. This is the third book in Bauer’s survey of world history. Her first book, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, and her second book, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, are excellent.

Also excellent is the biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the most remarkable woman, I think, of the twentieth century, by Blanche Wiesen Cooke. Only two volumes have been published so far: Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1933: A Life: Mysteries of the Heart and Eleanor Roosevelt, 1933-1938. Both volumes are available in the used book marketplace.

Some other nonfiction books I can recommend are these:

  • The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome by E. M. Berens
  • Wilson by Scott A. Berg
  • Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership by Conrad Black
  • One Summer by Bill Bryson
  •  One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
  • The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis by Julie Kavanagh
  • The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester
  • The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 by Chris Wickham

Now it’s time for your suggestions.



  1. Sounds like your home is the place to be for Thanksgiving this year.

    Sorry, no suggestions for your list, Rich. The only non-fiction books I tend to read are true crime, photography, writing craft, and reference books – not the history and biographical books that you enjoy.

    Is making a list of possible gifts for yourself the norm in the US? I’m certainly glad I don’t have to make up a list. I wouldn’t have a clue what to put on it. Anyway, I love the surprise of receiving a present. 🙂


    Comment by Vicki — November 21, 2013 @ 2:03 am | Reply

    • Vicki, I have broad reading interests, including reference books (especially about etymology), and true crime is history. You should suggest even if you think I might not be interested; there are a lot of readers of this blog and some of them may well share your reading interests.

      I don’t know whether making a list for yourself is the norm in the United States. I only started doing it a few years ago because Carolyn and the kids demanded I do so. They became tired of trying to figure out what I needed or wanted or would like. The frustration arose because instead of seeing something in June and remarking on how much I like it, I would simply go buy it. By the time the holidays came around, they had no clues as to what to get me.

      Plus I tend to be finicky.

      I told them all for many years to not buy me anything. I didn’t need anything and I was perfectly happy just having dinner together and chatting. I suggested that they save their money instead. But that went over as well as a lead balloon flies. They felt I had to open something at the holidays. I finally gave up and put together a list of things that I hadn’t yet bought for myself that I would like and would read or use.

      This is the art of family compromise — I give in to the family :).


      Comment by americaneditor — November 21, 2013 @ 4:44 am | Reply

      • Now I understand the need for a wish list – you are obviously one of those impossible to buy for people. 🙂

        I have one book that I would recommend for children and the young at heart. It’s Animalia by Australian artist Graeme Base:

        “Animalia came from a great love of animals and a desire to create a book with huge amounts of detail and things to discover. That was the sort of book I remember enjoying as a child. I wrote it in alliterative form because I thought it would be a lot of fun for people to read aloud. I put the little boy in every picture to make people look closely at the pictures rather than rush through from page to page. It’s really a picture of me when I was young! The word ‘Animalia’ is Latin for Animal Kingdom.

        My favourite page in Animalia is the Horrible Hairy Hogs but the Lazy Lions runs a close second. The picture which took the longest to paint was the Proud Peacocks–I worked on that one for three months. The Hogs took two months.

        I’m afraid I can’t supply you with a list of every object in the pages of –I found very early on in the life of this book that I could never hope to write a comprehensive list, as people constantly came up with new insights into the pictures. And besides, it defeats the purpose of the book to set up a finite ‘goal’–it would put an end to something which should be never- ending!”

        Alan surprised me with a copy a few birthdays back. It’s such a beautiful book. I’ve gone on to buy more of his picture books, not to mention all the copies I bought to give as gifts.

        I recommend you buy the hardback rather than the paperback: US$10.51

        Free shipping worldwide on all books from The Book Depository.


        Comment by Vicki — November 22, 2013 @ 11:01 pm | Reply

  2. Excellent list. Thanks for publishing it. I’m hearing good things about Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. It’s over 900 pages, so it could make you stack of to-be-read a bit top-heavy. But it should be worth it.
    Happy Thanksgiving!


    Comment by D'Ann Hamilton — November 21, 2013 @ 11:09 am | Reply

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