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.
Christmas Around the World: A Pop-Up Book, Chuck Fischer, $30.
Unlike most pop-up books, Christmas Around the World is better suited for the young at heart than for actual children. It's constructed with intricate details like 3-D swirls and pullouts, and like Fischer's last pop-ups, Christmas in New York and The White House, it's visually stunning.

My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals, Melanie Dunea, $39.95

Dunea asked world famous chefs-Alain Ducasse, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter, to name a few, what they would eat if they knew it would be their last meal. The entertaining responses range from truffles and caviar to hot dogs. Portraits of each chef plus a recipe, accompany each entry.

Dough: A Memoir, Mort Zachter, $24.95

The author's frugal family ran a bakery on the Lower East Side, only to learn as an adult that their penny-pinching ways paid off -- for him. When Zachter learned that he inherited a small fortune stashed away by relatives over the years, he wrote a memoir about his family's cache and how he has come to terms with his newfound wealth after decades of hardship.

The War, An Intimate History, 1941-1945, Geoffrey C. Ward, $50.
The War is a 480-page companion to filmmaker Ken Burns' 2007 PBS series. The narrative offers personal accounts of some 40 people and it's loaded with hundreds of pictures and maps. It's not my thing, but it would make a great gift for history buffs.

A Family Christmas, Caroline Kennedy, $26.95

Kennedy's latest collection includes poems, essays, lyrics and scripture on the holidays from famous authors. I plan to buy a copy, wrap it and keep it under the tree until the inevitable person I've forgotten to buy a gift for shows up at my door.

The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals, Missy Chase Lapine, $17.95.
As soon as I read the article in the New York Times about Jerry Seinfeld's wife's cookbook, I immediately bought The Sneaky Chef, whose publisher claims Jessica Seinfeld plagiarized her work. Since my kids will eat veggies only when they're in Chinese food, I need to resort to deception-and it actually seems to be working. Tip: Do not substitute broccoli for cauliflower in the pasta sauce -- the green was a dead giveaway.

Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State, Irina Reyn, $14.
Speaking of mafia culture, this anthology will resonate with those of us inspired in our youth -- and beyond -- by the lyrics of Springsteen, and whose holiday tables are filled with family members straight off the set of the Sopranos. It's not often that you get to give the gift of NJ lit.

City Lights: Stories About New York, Dan Barry, $25.95
Ever since I read Robert Caro's The Powerbroker when I moved to New York 20 years ago, I have collected NY City books. (I admit that I don't even read all of them, but I like to keep them close by now that I no longer live in NY). City Lights, by Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times writer Dan Barry is a collection of essays from his About New York column.

There's a starter list for you. Let's hear your favorite holiday book picks.
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