Book Corner: Giftable Books of 2023

"Every book its reader,” says the third law of the Five Laws of Library Science,, opens a new window by S.R. Ranganathan. Yes, that’s a thing, and while Ranganathan’s laws were created back in the day to form the philosophical base for librarianship, the third law especially can be applied to the simplest of scenarios: one person choosing a book to give as a gift.

As you know, the number of books that exist far exceeds what one person could read in a lifetime. You also know that everyone’s taste varies widely as far as genre, format, length, etc. Not every person will be interested in reading every book, and that’s completely fine. I, for example, have never been jazzed over epic fantasy (no, I have not read Lord of the Rings, opens a new window; the movies were enough), but give me the apocalypse any day. All this to say is that when you choose to give a book as a gift, you know just not any old book will do. You make an effort to select something they’ll like from the thousands available at your fingertips. And if it turns out they are not that book’s reader, they’ll still appreciate the thought you put into choosing that one book just for them.

Here are a few books whose readers await:

Family Lore, opens a new window by Elizabeth Acevedo. Four sisters, Matilde, Pastora, Camila and Flor, believed they had a deep understanding of one another until Flor decided to throw a living wake, a celebration of her life while she was still alive to enjoy it. As far as anyone knows, Flor isn’t sick, but she does have the unique ability to predict when someone will die. She won’t say if a death has been foretold, and her sisters and their families have secrets of their own. As the three days leading up to the wake unfold, the story interweaves the past and present, the Dominican Republic and New York City, creating an intimate portrait of sisters, cousins, aunts and nieces as they navigate their relationships and the mysteries that surround them. Recommended for those who enjoy family stories and a touch of magical realism.

50 Pies, 50 States: An Immigrant's Love Letter to the United States Through Pie, opens a new window by Stacey Mei Yan Fong. Fong, an Asian immigrant and baker who came to the U.S. to study fashion, began baking pies to represent each state in her new country. Documenting her project online, Fong acquired a following and has collected her recipes into a delicious cookbook worth reading, even if you don’t bake. Recipes range from sweet (snickerdoodle pie for Connecticut) to savory (scallion bagel pie for Brooklyn), and are accompanied by information on the state and how the recipe complements it. This mouthwatering collection will delight anyone who enjoys food and Americana.

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder, opens a new window by David Grann. New York Times-best selling Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon,, opens a new window is back with an exciting narrative of survival and treachery. In 1742, 30 skeletal members of the crew of His Majesty’s Ship, the Wager, washed ashore in Brazil. Having crashed off of the coast of Patagonia while in secret pursuit of Spanish gold, the crew pieced together a makeshift vessel and managed to travel 2,500 miles of thrashing seas. They were hailed as heroes until a second group of three survivors appeared six months later, accusing the first band of mutiny and relaying a tale of mayhem and murder. To get to the truth, the Admiralty called a court martial, which could end in death for the guilty. Fans of thrillers, survival stories or courtroom dramas will all find this appealing.

The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight, opens a new window by Andrew Leland. With warmth and humor, Leland delves into the culture of blindness while he slowly loses his sight from retinitis pigmentosa. He was fully sighted until his teenage years, when his vision began to narrow from the outside in, as if he were seeing the world through an ever-tightening tube. Anxious but also curious, Leland seeks to learn all he can about the physical state of blindness as well as its culture and customs. His relationships with his family and sense of self shift as his deteriorating vision shifts his life from “typical” to one with a disability. Part memoir, part history and culture of blindness, Leland’s optimism and resilience in the face of an encroaching disability is a wonder to behold.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, opens a new window by James McBride. In 1925 Chicken Hill, Pennsylvania, working-class Jewish, Black and Italian families live alongside one another and do their best to get by. The town centers on Moshe Ludlow, who owns the town’s first integrated dance hall and theater, and his wife Chona, who doesn’t let her polio-related disability prevent her from running the Heaven and Earth Grocery Store and helping anyone in need. When Chona and Moshe are asked to hide a deaf, Black 12-year-old orphan from the authorities, they don’t hesitate. But as the racist “good Christians” from down the hill try to interfere, tragedy ensues. The truths of that year are revealed in 1972, when digging construction workers discovered a skeleton at the bottom of a well. I recommend this one on audio, narrated by AudioFile Earphones Award-winning actor Dominic Hoffman.

The Good Life: Lessons From the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, opens a new window by Robert Waldinger, MD and Marc Shultz, PhD. Good relationships: that’s what researchers Waldinger and Schulz identify as the crucial ingredient for happiness from a remarkable 84-year survey of human happiness. In 1938, 724 men began submitting to interviews every two years. Expanding to three generations and including 1,300 descendants (females too), the researchers present some of their key findings. Waldinger and Shultz tell personal stories from the study’s participants, offer tips on building strong relationships and working through challenges, and provide actionable steps to boost happiness using this valuable research. A great gift for both armchair psychologists and personal development fans.

Find more gifting recommendations and explore holiday events and resources at, opens a new window.

Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.