Alameda Bookshelf: Holiday shopping edition!

Alameda Bookshelf: Holiday shopping edition!

Kristen Hanlon

Photo by Kristen Hanlon.

It’s a familiar conundrum: the holidays are fast approaching, several readers are on your list, and you walk into the bookstore thinking: “Where do I even begin?” I pitched the following questions to Nick Petrulakis, manager of Books Inc. on Park Street. If you’d like further recommendations, check out his book blog at

What should I get a 16 year old who loved the Twilight series?
Pick up Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. And no, the main character isn’t a boy, but a teenage girl. Yes, Blue’s family is gifted with extrasensory insight, but no – she does not believe she has the gift. Stiefvater’s amazing work is full of long-dead Welsh kings and haunted forests with Latin-speaking trees, and she delves into the dynamics of family that give any good story depth and feeling.

How about someone who only reads historical fiction set in the 19th century?
The Alienist by Caleb Carr is one of the best pieces of historical fiction ever written. In turn-of-the-century New York, murders begin to haunt the darker passages of the city prompting a special team of investigators to be created by Police Chief Theodore Roosevelt. What do the murders have to do with the vicious photographs of Civil War dead? Read The Alienist to find out.

Can you recommend a new series for a 10-year-old who has already read all the Harry Potter books?
If your 10-year-old needs something after Harry Potter, get her going on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series – or his follow-up, The Heroes of Olympus. Both use Greek mythology as their starting points, with plenty of young heroes as their focus.

What do I give someone who only reads celebrity biographies?
This season is the Season of the Music Biography: Willie Nelson (Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die), Neil Young (Waging Heavy Peace), Bruce Springsteen (Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin), Pete Townsend (Who I Am), Barbra Streisand (Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand by William J. Mann). At least one is sure to hit the top of your charts.

What’s your pick for the serious science fiction fan?
George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. Sure, you can watch it on HBO, but this epic fantasy is best enjoyed between the covers of the books they first graced.

What do I get a six year old who just started reading?
Get them chapter books. Some of the best continue to be the books featuring that little scamp, Junie B. Jones (by Barbara Park), or the wonderful Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.

What’s a good choice for the grandfather who loves military history?
Grandpa’s on your list – and grandma – and they both want the latest and greatest military history. Get them two: the third and final book in William Manchester’s exquisite biography of Winston Churchill (Defender of the Realm goes from the war years until Churchill’s death in 1965) and also the beautifully written and well-researched biography The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses S. Grant in War and Peace by the bestselling historian H. W. Brands.

Finally, what is the “it” cookbook this season for the adventurous cook?
Is there a cook on your gift list who wants to bring a little more joy to their cooking? You couldn’t do better than SPQR – Modern Italian Food and Wine, written by Shelley Lindgren, Matthew Accarrino and Kate Leahy. Follow their travels up and down Italy as they discover the best food and drink – but be prepared to meticulously follow their recipes. If you do, you’ll be in for many treats.


Submitted by KeithC on Tue, Dec 18, 2012

During the holiday season, store price wars heat up. You can save big by taking advantage of price matching deals. That's when shops meet the ad prices of rivals. But you have to be careful. Read more from: Price matching can save you big, but be careful.