Books that make great holiday gifts for friends and family (and one or two for me)

Every year, I jot down the titles of books I'd like to give and get as holiday gifts based on publishing emails I receive and lists I scan like Fortune's recent holiday book list. I was surprised that The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay, made the cut. But I'll keep it on the back burner for my younger brother, who's obsessed with mafia culture.

Anyway, here are a few of my top picks:

Away,Amy Bloom, Random House $23.95.
I recently attended a literary event where Amy Bloom referred to Away as a "modern, old-fashioned novel," which follows a young girl on a journey from Russia to New York to Alaska. To paraphrase a review of an earlier work, Bloom packs more into one sentence than most writers can get on a page. She's a writer known for her elegant prose whose understanding of people -- she spent two decades as a psychoanalyst -- is evident in her books.