29 November 2011

My Holiday Book Picks for the Men In Your Life...

I have never put a list together on this blog, but got to thinking about what book I might give as a gift to my husband. He does read, but occasionally. He's not the voracious reader nut-job that I can be.

So for the upcoming holiday season, I racked my brain thinking of books that might capture his attention. He's not into the old classics, and likes non-fiction, but will read a solid fiction novel that isn't pretentious. If you know someone who's like that, then take a look at the below. I came up with nineteen that I would recommend, in no particular order.

11/22/63, by Stephen King. Duh, of course this would be on here. I'd recommend this to my dog, I want everyone to read it. I loved this book. Time travel, the assassination of JFK, stalking Lee Harvey Oswald...this grabs you from the first page and doesn't let you go. Oh, the range of emotions I went through as I read this! Click the link above to read my review and you can probably feel how much I loved this story.

A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. Because it is awesome. The first book in The Song of Ice and Fire series, this fantasy fiction story sets the stage for the Land of the Seven Kingdoms in Westeros. Alternating chapters from eight characters introduce you to the major Houses and their battle for the Iron Throne.

And the HBO series is fantastic.

The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Long, but a great read. A dystopian novel that dives into the creation of the contemporary vampire, a beast generated from a twist in the military science labs, it escapes and devastates the world as we know it. Part of the book is in our current world and then once the world "dies," it switches to the post-apocalyptic world with new characters. Some didn't like this switch because you can get pretty invested in that first half since it. was. just. so. good. While the shift was a little jarring, once I got used to the new characters, I liked it. The second book is coming out in 2012.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. If he likes Bram Stoker's Dracula, he might like this one. Told in an epistolary format (journal entries and letters) and set in the '70s and then also flashing back to the '30s, I loved the Victorian Gothic-style (which, yes, could be slow at times) and the haunting and dark feeling as I read it. It's got those slow points, but the journey through Europe is picturesque. Keep Google around so you can bring up pictures of every place that is visited. I also would advise reading this by yourself on a cold and rainy day. By yourself.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. My husband and I read it and loved it. I think everyone knows the overall gist of the story. Essentially, it's a futuristic world in which the remaining population that was once North America is divided into twelve districts. Each year, two children per district are picked to go up against each other in the brutal Hunger Games. In order to be the last man standing, they have to kill every last contender. Sounds horrifying, but man, this is a great story. The first two books were fabulous, the third was a little disappointing for me. But, The Hunger Games movie comes out next year, so why not read at least the first book?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larssen. Originally planned to be a ten-book series before the author passed away, only three were published. Set in Sweden, a young woman who is a gifted computer hacker and overall genius partners with a journalist who, while just being convicted of the crime of slander, has also been hired to uncover a family secret. Twisted and graphic, but a doggone good story. And, yes, the Hollywood film version comes out soon. The original Swedish version is fantastic, so it'll be interesting to see if the remake is just as good. I like this one, but didn't care as much for books two and three.

Band of Brothers, by Stephen E. Ambrose. My husband read this one and it's also one of my favorite books of all time. It's the true story of Easy Company, 506th Airborne Division of the U.S. Army during World War II and I loved the HBO series, too.

Major Winters is my hero, as are all the gentlemen featured in this book.

The Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. True crime set in the beauty of Florence, an American author and an Italian journalist team up to uncover the story behind who really was Il Mostro di Firenze, a serial killer who murdered lovers in their cars. Viciously murdered. And as they investigate even further, they realize that there is even more to learn about the Italian system of justice as well, to the point that both Preston and Spezi were incarcerated by the Italian police. I've heard that George Clooney is bringing this to the big screen. He's a good choice for Douglas Preston, I think.

Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penney. The only one in the Inspector Gamache series that I've read, this sixth installment is a quiet thriller set in the cold tundra of Quebec City. On vacation from his job and recovering at friend's home after a bad investigation, Gamache can't seem to get away from murder. When a body is uncovered in the basement of the Literary and Historical Society and may have ties to a four hundred year-old secret and the city's founder, Samuel de Champlain, Gamache becomes involved in the investigation. This easily stands well all alone, but I've heard the entire series is one to read. I loved this one and I have it on my to do list to read it in order.

The Last Ember, by Daniel Levin. A young archaeologist, now lawyer, becomes swept up in a suspenseful thriller that takes him from the ruins of Rome to the Temple Mount in Israel.

A quick read that gives more than one history lesson, and I loved every page.

Psycho, by Robert Bloch. Well, this is just a twisted classic, and you all know what it's about. The movie did an excellent job of staying close to the book.


Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Set in Sweden in 1981, this vampire story is completely without the glittery vampire sparkle and instead has a whole lot of creepy gore and disturbing moments that were horrific and brilliant, with so many enthralling layers to the story.

I didn't care for the original Swedish movie, though, so just stick with the book for a gift.

'Salem's Lot, by Stephen King. This is Stephen King's second novel published, set in a quiet and creepy town that seems closed off from the rest of the world. King does this a lot in which the town becomes its own character and this is a great example of it. It's a vampire story, yes, but it is extremely scary. And the vampires in this story are nasty and vile.

Stephen King is THE MAN.

From Before the Blog Days

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. It's the 1100s and one monk wants to succeed in getting the world's largest Gothic cathedral built. A myriad of characters drives this historical fiction novel and oh, my goodness, it is terrifying, incredible, and heart-wrenching. This is close to a thousand pages or some crazy number like that, but I read it in three or four days. Yeah, it's that good. The sequel is World Without End and is apparently just as good.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson. This is going to sound disgusting, but who knew that a non-fiction book about how the human body's waste can kill would be so interesting? But, there's so much more to this book. Set in 1854, the incredible city of London still has absolutely no way to stay clean with garbage and their sewer system. And yes, human feces gets in their public drinking water, and cholera begins to kill. This fascinating book dives into the science of how two men in 1854 found the source of disease and set the stage for how epidemic outbreaks can be avoided and handled in the future. 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. Ah, the movie is decent, but it's not quite like the book. This non-fiction book shares the quirky characters of Savannah, Georgia and coincides with a murder that brought one of Savannah's long-time residents to the courtroom.

The City of Falling Angels, by John Berendt. Back with another non-fiction book about quirky characters, John Berendt selects Venice, Italy with the backdrop of La Fenice Opera House and when it burned to the ground. I didn't love it as much as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but it's still good.

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larsen
. The stories of both the development and struggles of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the first documented serial killer, H.H. Holmes, are told in alternating chapters and it is incredible. Excellent non-fiction. Apparently, Leonardo DiCaprio will be starring in the film version as the disturbing H.H. Holmes.

Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson. This made me fall in love with scuba-diving even though I probably will never scuba dive since I'm a wimp around dark water. But, for two deep wreck divers, diving in the dangerous and frigid cold waters is a sport they are passionate about. When a a World War II German U-Boat submarine with no identifying markers is found sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey in early 1991, more than 200 feet deep and is not one documented by historians, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler lead a secret expedition to solve the mystery to uncover which submarine it was and who was on it. Such an incredible story and I couldn't put it down.

What do you think? Is my list a hit or a miss? Let me know what you would also add.


  1. Great list! I've read only ONE book on that list, wow. But I appreciate your recommendations for a *certain* reader, yes. :) (Mine doesn't read at all. He learned to love Lee Child audiobooks, but now can't listen to anything else because the hero is never as tough as Reacher.) Thanks for the recommendations.
    It's different but my best-of-2011 post comes out tomorrow :)

  2. This is a great list! A few of these have already made it into his pile, but I can see that there are more here to help with my holiday buying for him. Some of them appeal to me too, and that's great because then we can both get books! Thanks so much for putting this list together for us today! It was much appreciated!

  3. I've read a lot of the books on your list and they're fantastic choices! I think Band of Brothers is one of the only books my husband has read and loved.

  4. Great list! I think I would add The Cut by George Pelecanos.

  5. Great list, and great books! I'd add any of the Spencer books by Robert Parker, especially the early ones. My husband loves them. I'm buying him The Art of Racing in the Rain for the holidays. (Shhh. Don't tell.)

  6. Some good picks here! My husband has asked for the new Stephen King and for the rest of the Game of Thrones series.

  7. Can't go wrong with the books on your list. My hubby read Shadow Divers a few years ago and recommended it to many friends. He loved it.

  8. Great selections! MY husband read The Hunger Games Trilogy in two weeks, which is saying something considering he doesn't read fiction. I think he would like the Stephen King novel as well.

    I would also add Ender's Games, especially for any gamers out there. I believe it's also required reading for the military.

  9. Love your list! I did NOT know that The Monster of Florence was going to be a movie. I am seriously excited about that. It won't do Italy any favors though...

    I would add any of the Jack Reacher series (written by Lee Child) that Uncle Stevie likes to call "man-fiction".

  10. Marvelous list -- I love your suggestions! They're really spot on -- or at least, spot on for the guys I know and book shop for. Brills!

  11. I love this list, Natalie. There are definitely some good picks for my son and for my husband on here.

    I'm going to have to read the new King book, especially since I'm in Dallas and could go visit the memorial site downtown.

  12. This list isn't just for men - I love half the titles you mention! Thanks for letting me know about Shadow Divers - I hadn't heard of it, but I used to be a SCUBA instructor and it sounds fantastic. Thanks for drawing it to my attention. :-)

  13. GREAT list! I've read quite a few of these myself and enjoyed them. I'm also SO STINKING EXCITED that the next Passage book comes out in 2012, I can hardly contain myself. (!!!)

  14. It's a great list...I've read 7 of them! I hear Larson's latest is quite good (my uncle has lent it me, but I haven't read it yet). And I'd add the new Steve Jobs biography.

  15. My husband has read five or six of those books and loved them. In fact, he just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was pissed when I couldn't find my copy of the next book in the series! I never considered recommending 11/22/63 to him but I bet he would like it and I want to read it too!

  16. These look like ecellent selections! My husband loves The Game of Thrones (and all the others in the series).

  17. Thanks for the suggestions! Great list.

  18. Cool list!!! I wish my bf would read lol.

  19. Great recommendations! I finally talked my husband into reading Hunger Games and he devoured it! We even had our own little book club meetings on all three in the series. Definitely a great book to share.

  20. Awesome list! Lots of must reads for anyone!

  21. Convincing people to read The Hunger Games is so hard sometimes!!! I was just trying to do it last night - and failed. :(

    You have me so pumped to read 11/22/63. SO PUMPED!

  22. I'd add in the Steve Jobs book. My husband purchased it and he never buys books. (Sob.)

  23. This is an awesome list! I've read a bunch of these and now I have a few more to add to my TBR pile. I also bought the bf Band of Brothers and he loved it!

    -- Justice

    cheapblackpens.tumblr.com // @cheapblackpens

  24. Fantastic list, with quite a few we have in common. I recently heard about Shadow Divers and wrote it down.