The Gift of Reading

December Staff Reading List

As readers and book lovers, nothing makes us happier than to give—or receive—books for any occasion. Here’s a list of the best books we’ve ever given, or been given.



Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard

Fan Shen

“I have gifted this UNP American Lives book to more people than I can remember… A page-turner of the first order. Even though the spoiler alert is clear from the description on the back cover—Fan Shen is alive and well, living and teaching in Minnesota—every moment you wonder, Will he make it? How is he gonna get out of this one? The roadblocks the party put in his way would have gotten and did get the better of untold numbers of people. But not Fan Shen. Two thumbs up!” —Ann Baker




Leo Lionni

“I received this book in 1974. The book is unforgettable because Frederick the field mouse is an artist, and the book expresses how art and artists enrich our societies beyond work. The book was sponsored during Andre Shiffrin’s era at Pantheon, its legendary publisher.” —Matt Bokovoy


parenting is easy

Parenting Is Easy: You’re Probably Just Doing It Wrong

Sara Given

“The best (only) book to give a pregnant woman. Based on her Tumblr that captions the ridiculous stock images used in advertising/media about pregnancy and parenthood, the book provides some much-needed levity to what can be a stressful (and sleepless) situation.” —Alicia Christensen



Where the Sidewalk Ends

Shel Silverstein

“At some point, my parents gave me a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I don’t remember why or when but I do remember I used to memorize the poems and perform the lines to whoever would listen. I still have my hardcopy at home! (Along with A Light in the Attic and Falling Up).” —Rosemary Sekora


brothers k

The Brothers K

David James Duncan

“This is a book that I fell in love with and have given as a gift to a number of people. I started reading it while I was on vacation, and didn’t finish it until a few months later. It’s an epic coming-of-age story of a family with baseball at its center. The more I read, the slower I read. To me, it was a book to be savored—and shared. Every time I see a copy in a used bookstore, I buy it so I can give it away. I want everyone to fall in love with it as much as I have!” —Joeth Zucco


transitive vampire

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of English for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed

Karen Elizabeth Gordon

“My mother, a writer with a dark sense of humor, had this quirky grammar guide on her shelf for as long as I can remember. When I announced I would study English in college, she had the guests at my high school graduation party sign their names and bestow advice in the margins. I keep it close to my desk at home.” —Anna Weir


“The best book gift I ever received came for Christmas when I was eight years old and my aunt sent a big box of books by classic children’s authors like Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. It was the Christmas that I became a giant book worm.” —Erica Corwin

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