2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Books

Books have been very popular with our writers and readers this year. Here is a list of 22 of the books we have bought or recommend to our friends and family.


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Totally enjoyable DIY book

Stitch and String Lab for Kids: 40+ Creative Projects to Sew, Embroider, Weave, Wrap, and Tie
Suggested By: Mariana Ruiz
Mfg: Quarto Books
Price: 16.69
Purchase: Stitch and String Lab for Kids: 40+ Creative Projects to Sew, Embroider, Weave, Wrap, and Tie

Hands down, the best book for kids that are willing to explore Fiber Arts. This book was perused by my nieces, nephews, friends, son, and everyone wanted to do something from it. I was never willing to do Fiber Arts with the kids because I didn’t feel confident about doing them.

Cassie has demonstrated that the only thing that you need to do is follow along the first few basic stitches and just go to town, everything from needle felting, to appliqué, to string bags, to pompoms, feels possible.


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Image: Disney Editions

From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card by Jeff Kurtii
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Disney Editions
Price: $50
Purchase: From All of Us to All of You: The Disney Christmas Card by Jeff Kurtii

For a fan of Christmas, or a fan of anything Disney, this is a wonderful gift. The Disney Christmas Card is a detailed and interactive look at the history of the Disney company Christmas card. Beginning in 1932 and spanning eight decades, the creative minds at the Walt Disney Studios would create seasonal art, not just for public consumption, but for the greetings cards that went out internally. Many of these cards, especially from the early days, were sent out and never seen again. Pieces of general Disney history intertwine with the stories behind the Christmas cards, with specific artists and motion pictures being featured throughout. The book is large, certainly intended for coffee table consumption, and is truly a labor of love for its creator. It has a center open cover that adds to the magic, and it includes 12 pull-out, full-color renditions of a selection of the Christmas cards. As a former student of all things Disney, I found this highly fascinating. For my seven year old who loves books with inserts, this was a lot of fun to go through. And I love the fact that it concludes neatly with one of the greatest Christmas offerings of recent years, Prep and Landing.


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Image: Penguin Random House

The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Philomel Books
Price: 24.99
Purchase: The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers

It wouldn’t be gift giving season without another beautiful book from Oliver Jeffers. The Fate of Fausto is a cautionary tale on the nature of ownership, arrogance, and the banality of all of that in the face of the natural world. It is beautifully illustrated using traditional lithographic printmaking techniques, a first for Jeffers, and as usual he does not waste words, choosing instead to employ them sparingly and well. The characters created are inviting and familiar, both grandiose and simple. My children have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and it gives them something new to think about with each reading. It is a gorgeous book with a compelling tale to tell that adults and children alike will enjoy.


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Image: Penguin Books

Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Penguin Books
Price: 12
Purchase: Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson

This is a delightful YA read for the holidays. Do not be deceived by the Netflix special; the two only really have the title in common. The book itself is a set of three intertwined stories, very Mrs. Dalloway in its rendition. Three charming teenage love stories, set during an unforgiving snowstorm. There’s jail time, train crashes, broken ice, Starbucks, and enough mention of waffle fries to give you the munchies. This is the perfect book to hunker down with on Christmas evening, for young adults and beyond. You can currently buy a copy of the Netflix edition in most places that sell books, but I highly recommend picking up the Penguin minis edition. This new range from Penguin is absolutely delightful, and really satisfying to read. No bigger than a cell phone, they can be held in one hand but the text remain unabridged. There’s a wide variety available, and they are the perfect size for a stocking stuffer. Be warned, if you exceed the recommended age of this particular story, some of the references will make you feel exceptionally old. When James Bond by default refers to Daniel Craig, you know you’ve moved on an age bracket. Nevertheless, it is thoroughly enjoyable, and will join my holiday traditions along with John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas.


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Give the gift of the manga master of the macabre!

Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: VIZ Media
Price: $15.69
Purchase: Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection

The holidays mean spending time with family, and spending time with family means confronting the sinister, otherworldly horrors of everyday life. Or maybe that’s just my family. Either way, if you’d like to inject some supernatural angst into your Christmas gift list, look no further than Smashed. The latest Junji Ito collection from VIZ Media—and the follow-up to the spectacular 2017 release, Shiver—this hardbound edition brings together 13 spine-tingling tales from the master of horror manga, many featuring his (literally) nail-biting trickster Souichi Tsujii. Not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, Smashed has everything a Junji Ito fan could want, including tortured spirits, paralyzing guilt, and a particularly vindictive plant.


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Experience Grady Hendrix’s unique rock and roll nightmare.

We Sold Our Souls: A Novel
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Quirk Books
Price: $9.99-$18.30
Purchase: We Sold Our Souls: A Novel

If you prefer your creepy literature a little closer to home, South Carolinian Grady Hendrix puts his own spin on the classic Faustian deal in the rock and roll fairy tale We Sold Our Souls. A heavy metal road trip through the heart of the great American conspiracy theory—where a few powerful forces pull the strings to maintain control while placating the masses—it strikes the balance of horror, humor, and heart in a way that only Hendrix can.


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Image: Chronicle Books

Death Wins a Goldfish
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Chronicle Books
Price: $8.79
Purchase: Death Wins a Goldfish

An absolutely delightful book, Death Wins a Goldfish will have you rethinking your life choices and actually help you make the most of your life. Of the many books I have reviewed this year, this one has to be my absolute favorite. In it, Death takes a yearlong sabbatical to explore the human existence. They try online dating, enjoy nature, travel to touristy spots, watch Netflix, ride roller coasters, and win a goldfish at a carnival. A great book for people of all ages, each thought provoking page will speak to everyone, but in different ways. Read my GeekDad review here.


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Image: Insight Editions

Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Christmas Pop-Up
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Insight Editions
Price: $23.99
Purchase: Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Christmas Pop-Up

If you’re into advent calendars and Harry Potter, this half-book/half-calendar should be on your list to get ASAP, before the first of December. Open the book and you see a large Christmas tree in the middle of the Great Hall at Hogwarts. In numbered “windows” are ornaments, one for each day leading up to Christmas, that you can open and put on the tree. In a larger window is a tiny book that explains the ornaments, one by one, and reminisces about all the Christmas happenings in the Wizarding World. Read my GeekDad review here.


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Image: Quirk Books

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Quirk Books
Price: $8.92
Purchase: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

For those of us who grew up on Mr. Rogers’ memorable songs, and for our kids and grandkids who are enjoying them now, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a poignant gift. Filled with the song lyrics to Fred Rogers’ songs, you’ll recognize and sing along with many of them. For the others, you may just need to appreciate them as good poetry. Either way, you’ll enjoy reading through this book either to lift yourself up, or to instill confidence and compassion in the little ones in your life. Read my GeekDad review here.


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Image: Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons and Dragons: Tyranny of Dragons Adventure
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Wizards of the Coast
Price: $41.94
Purchase: Dungeons and Dragons: Tyranny of Dragons Adventure

For veteran players, the Dungeons and Dragons supplement Tyranny of Dragons is a way to revisit the not-too-distant past. Tyranny of Dragons is a compilation of the first two seasons of the Adventurers’ League story, complete with updated resources, revised scenarios, and all-new art for your players and dungeon masters both to enjoy. This makes it a great gift for players who missed the Adventurers’ League content and a solid gift for those who already played it, because it’s brought to life in a whole new way. If nothing else, it’s the only way to add this content to a personal collection, since the Adventurers’ League seasons 1 and 2 content hasn’t been published in a book before! Oh, and don’t forget about the alternate art binding style. This is a flashy book with metallic depictions of the 5 metallic dragons on the cover.


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Image: Wizards of the Coast

Adventures Outlined
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Wizards of the Coast
Price: $10.29
Purchase: Adventures Outlined

This punk-rock coloring book features Dungeons and Dragons monsters, dungeons, and heroes, all for your gaming geek to color in their own way. Watch out! This coloring book is a bit on the dark side, so don’t give it to your little geeks, only those who can handle a bit of gore and horror. Your older geeks will love exploring the depths of this coloring book, as each scene brings a different beloved concept from D&D to life. Each coloring page is accompanied by a block of text telling you about the scene you’re coloring, including funny quips about displacer beasts and sweet tales of plump little flumphs. Buy one for yourself, too, since they are super affordable and will give you hours of coloring fun, too!


Twilight Man Rod SerlingTwilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi
Suggested By: Corrina Lawson
Mfg: Publisher: Life Drawn
Price: $22.95 print, $6.99 ebook
Purchase: Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi

A graphic novel biography of the late Rod Serling that takes us through the twists and sometimes dramatic turns of his life, how he developed “Twilight Zone,” and what happened after that classic work was finished. An involving, fascinating book which takes a very “Twilight Zone” style twist at the end.


Ghosts of Christmas Past Corrina Lawson
Ghosts of Christmas Past, cover copyright Corrina Lawson

Ghosts of Christmas Past
Suggested By: Corrina Lawson
Mfg: Corrina Lawson
Price: 1.99
Purchase: Ghosts of Christmas Past

The holidays can be tough, especially when you’re juggling a new relationship, your parents are coming to town, there’s a murder, and one of your friends is a suspect. It’s going to take Noir’s superpower of invisibility plus her partner Detective Aloysius James’ investigative skills to ensure that everyone has a Merry Christmas. Written by GeekMom Corrina Lawson.


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See the creation of a classic Rush album through the eyes of a team of comic artists in this amazing graphic novel (Image from Fantoons)

The Making of a Farewell to Kings Graphic Novel
Suggested By: Skip Owens
Mfg: Fantoons
Price: 44.99
Purchase: The Making of a Farewell to Kings Graphic Novel

A Farewell to Kings was the 5th album from the rock trio Rush and was released on September 1, 1977. The album was recorded at the Rockfield Studios in Wales. In 1977 the album as a whole made it to number 77 on the Billboard 200 chart and the single “Closer to the Heart” from the album made it to number 76 in the US charts. Those are just some of the numbers, but for most people numbers don’t mean anything. Most people relate to what was going on in their lives at the time when they listened to an album over and over again. This graphic, A Making of a Farewell To Kings, gets that, because it does a great job of capturing where the band members were in their careers at the time and what they were going through at this point in their lives when this album was made. As a fan I really appreciated that attention to detail. Any Rush fan will absolutely love reading through this graphic novel for that very reason.


Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh
Suggested By: Corrina Lawson
Mfg: DC Ink
Price: $16.99 print and ebook
Purchase: Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh

One of the best Harley Quinn stories ever, this retells Harley’s origin as a teenage girl facing hardship with her slightly skewed but optimistic worldview. This Harley cares about people but doesn’t know how to go about helping without making the mess worse. The story has a lot on its mind, from gentrification, to how found families can be as supportive as blood families, and to the roots of our society’s current activism. It’s all told from the off-kilter and fun Harley point-of-view.


Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee
Suggested By: Corrina Lawson
Mfg: DC Ink
Price: $9.99
Purchase: Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee

The fun, fast-paced story for younger readers of superheroes retails the story of Dinah Lance, Black Canary. Dinah’s in middle school, she has a band, and a family she loves. But as her power of the Canary Cry grows uncontrollably, she has to adjust, and then all these things are put in jeopardy by a villain from her mother’s past. It’s a sweet, cute story that should appeal to kids, especially with the manga-influenced art by McGee.


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Photo (on left) by © The Lynn Johnson Collection, Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections, Ohio University Libraries. Photo (on the right) Reprinted with permission from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History, by Fred Rogers Productions, Tim Lybarger, Melissa Wagner, and Jenna McGuiggan; copyright © 2019. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History
Suggested By: Skip Owens
Mfg: Clarkson Potter
Price: $24.49
Purchase: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History is just packed full of behind the scenes information, both about the show and all of the incredible people that helped to create it over the years. It has everything from original interviews with memorable guests, to never before seen photographs spanning the entire 50-year history of the show and even includes a sneak peek at the making of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (which is now out in theaters). This is a great book for anyone who grew up watching this amazing television show as it will bring back all kinds of childhood memories. It also gives the reader a chance to view Fred Rogers and his legacy as an adult while remembering what it was like to watch the show as a kid.


Astoria: Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Tale of Ambition and Survival on the Early American Frontier
Suggested By: Corrina Lawson
Mfg: Ecco
Price: $16.99
Purchase: Astoria: Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Tale of Ambition and Survival on the Early American Frontier

Peter Stark’s riveting tale of how John Jacob Astor audaciously decided he wanted a financial empire on the West Coast of America, long before Oregon was ever a state, long before he had any real right to the land. The book details the journeys by land and sea of the explorers and fur traders tasked with creating the outpost of Astoria and how, well, things never went as planned, even though the town of Astoria remains to this day.


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Scarlet and Ivy, Images Harper Collins Children’s Books, Sophie Cleverly

The Scarlet & Ivy Series by Sophie Cleverly
Suggested By: Sophie Brown
Mfg: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Price: $8 each
Purchase: The Scarlet & Ivy Series by Sophie Cleverly

I became obsessed with this brilliant middle-grade series at the beginning of 2019, and my ten-year-old son loved the books too. Scarlet and Ivy is a six-book series following ballet-loving twin sisters Scarlet and Ivy Gray during their time at the sinister Rookwood boarding school in the 1930s. Throughout the books the girls solve mysteries, make new friends, share midnight feasts, and discover the truth about their family history. Perfect for fans of Malory Towers and Murder Most Unladylike, I have already bought a copy of the full series for a friend’s daughter and plan on gifting another set this Christmas.


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Image: Penguin Books

The Crayons’ Christmas
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Penguin
Price: 19.99
Purchase: The Crayons’ Christmas

Another seasonal offering from the illustrious pen of Oliver Jeffers, this time another piece with Drew Daywalt: The Crayons’ Christmas. This is the third adventure of these marvelous crayons, and their most interactive. It’s a first cousin to The Jolly Christmas Postman, and my kids loved popping up the tree and playing the game. In general my seven year old likes a book with a good structural gimmick, and this has several different varieties. The story continues the lament of Peach crayon, who in a previous story was left wrapperless. In fact the story contains many themes and inside jokes from the previous books, which all my kids found hilarious. There are new things too, a crayon snowman, a top secret gluten-free cookie recipe from one of the parental crayons. While it is a good stand alone Christmas book, it works best if you are already a fan of the previous books.


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Marley and Marley. Woooo!

Muppet Christmas Carol: Illustrated Holiday Classic
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Insight Editions
Price: $18.95
Purchase: Muppet Christmas Carol: Illustrated Holiday Classic

Best Christmas movie ever? If we put Die Hard in the non-Christmas movie column for now (controversial, I know) then most members of the Geek Family would put The Muppets Christmas Carol right at the top, and those that wouldn’t have been sent for reprogramming.

Now, thanks to Insight Editions, Brooke Vitale (author), and Luke Flowers (Illustrator), you can combine the joy of the movie with the wonder bedtime stories. The book of the movie of the book might seem a rather convoluted idea for a gift, but when it puts the magic of the Muppets direct into your children’s hands, what’s not to love?

Beaker, Bunsen, Statler, and Waldorf all appear on the front cover, but if that isn’t reason enough to pick up a copy, inside the book, you’ll find beautifully drawn renditions of all your favorite Muppets as they pay irreverent homage to Dickens’ classic. The drawings are delightful and the text easy for younger readers to follow, and the story one that invokes the true spirit of the season. This is really great book that would make an awesome present for Muppet fans everywhere. It’s impossible to pick up without singing “Marley and Marley, wooooo!”


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Dragons Green: Book 1 in the excellent Worldquake series

Worldquake Series by Scarlett Thomas
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Simon and Schuster (Canontgate in the UK)
Price: $8.99 for Paperback
Purchase: Worldquake Series by Scarlett Thomas

I’ve been super-slammed the back end of 2019, so I haven’t got around to fully reviewing them for my regular “5 Reasons to Read” column but the Worldquake series, starting with Dragon’s Green, is by far the best children’s series I’ve read in a very long time. In many ways I consider it greater than Potter.

If you’re looking for a brilliant school-based magical caper to scratch the itch left by the Harry and his friends, you could do far, far worse than reading the Worldquake books. The level of world-building is phenomenal. The characters are quirky, and atypical, yet utterly heroic. Author Scarlett Thomas’ language is rich but not overwhelming, giving the books the feel of classics such as A Box of Delights.

Steeped in folklore, with a magic system that is entirely its own, with inter-world travel, the Worldquake books are original, thrilling, and utterly compelling. I read them aloud to my children, and they were hooked. Bedtimes will never quite be the same again!

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