Written by Darian Bianco, University Press of Kentucky Marketing Intern
No matter what reason you’re using – whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or a general love for your friends and family – in the month of December, gift-giving season kicks into high-gear! Personally, I love browsing around for just the right gift, the one that is perfect for each and every person on my list. As a bookworm, I prefer doling out novels that I think my loved ones would enjoy. Sometimes, it’s easy. Mom and Nana read romances, Dad only reads nonfiction (usually about war or crime) and Papa likes westerns.
But what if you don’t have the time to go hunting down that one exemplary book? I dare you to Google “Westerns” – you’ll be browsing for days, trying to determine exactly which western is the one you’re looking for. Never fear! Your University Press of Kentucky gift guide is here! Sit back with some hot cocoa, grab a blanket, and peruse these titles offered in our Holiday Sale. Every title included here ranges from 50-75% off, plus free shipping via USPS Media Mail! You’re sure to find the perfect book to snuggle with among this list of treasures, and these are great options for someone on a book-buying budget who doesn’t want to break the bank!
- What to Get your Basketball-Obsessed Dad?
Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Paint, edited by Jerry L. Walls and Gregory Bassham, foreword by Dick Vitale
We take our sports seriously in these parts, and it could be argued that some of Kentucky’s most serious fans are basketball fans. Picture this: your father, sitting in his recliner, remote clutched in hand, hollering at the TV because that was clearly a foul, is the ref blind? Quite the clear picture, isn’t it? Maybe, you could quiet him down and make him happy with this book. Basketball and Philosophy sounds heavy, but at the end of the day, this book is not just about the sport, but about the values and ethics that you learn not only by playing on a basketball team, but also loving and committing to the sport. In Basketball and Philosophy, a Dream Team of twenty-six basketball fans, most of whom also happen to be philosophers, prove that basketball is the thinking person’s sport. They look at what happens when the Tao meets the hardwood as they explore the teamwork, patience, selflessness, and balanced and harmonious action that make up the art of playing basketball.
Praise: “The simple American game played with ball and net has prompted some deep thinking among its players, coaches, and fans… and this remarkably profound and wide-ranging collection of essays exposes readers to some of the best of that thinking.” — Booklist
2. What to Get your Music-Loving Mom?
A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music, by Jason Howard, foreword by Rodney Crowell
There aren’t too many states that are known for a particular brand of music, but as the Bluegrass state, we can proudly stake our claim to Bluegrass music. We’re also well-known for music that comes out of the Appalachian region, some of the most soulful and heartfelt music in the country. If your Mom is anything like my Mom, she loves music, to the point where she will try and sing along to something even if she doesn’t know the words. If you catch your Mom cleaning or cooking, I’d bet that she has some tunes on in the background, not only to keep her energized, but to give her something to dance around to. In that case, A Few Honest Words is the perfect book for her to read when she finally kicks back with her feet up to relax. A Few Honest Words explores how Kentucky’s landscape, culture, and traditions have influenced notable contemporary musicians. Featuring intimate interviews with household names (Naomi Judd, Joan Osborne, and Dwight Yoakam), emerging artists, and local musicians, author Jason Howard’s rich and detailed profiles reveal the importance of the state and the Appalachian region to the creation and performance of music in America.
Praise: “A thoughtful and important book. It’s tremendously satisfying that specific areas of the South are receiving their due attention. Kentucky has given so much to the landscape of American music.” — Rosanne Cash
3. What to Get your Foodie Best Friend?
Eating as I Go: Scenes from America and Abroad, by Doris Friedensohn
What’s the #1 thing that friends like to do when they go out together? You’ve got it – eat! How better to enjoy someone’s company than with a tasty meal and pleasant conversation? However, you’ve got to keep the menu fresh, right? Sure, you and your bestie can have some tried and true restaurants you always come back to, but maybe you need ideas of new places to go, new foods to try, fresh memories to make! In that case, Eating as I Go will not only give you and your best friend ideas about strange and enticing meals the world over, it will warm hearts and make you laugh. If you get your bestie Eating as I Go, maybe you can finally spring for that trip abroad to the Mediterranean or the Middle East – once it’s safe to travel, of course! Doris Friedensohn’s wry dramas of the dining room, restaurant, market, and kitchen ripple with tensions – political, religious, psychological, and spiritual. Eating as I Go is one woman’s distinctive mélange of memoir, traveler’s tale, and cultural commentary.
Praise: “In quiet tones, Friedensohn describes meals eaten and friendships formed over the years, both in the United States and abroad… An enjoyable volume.” — Publisher Weekly
4. What to Get your Gardening Grandmother?
Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, by Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White and Marc Evans
With age comes wisdom, and I feel that often, the greatest wisdom in anyone’s life comes from their grandparents, often the grandmother specifically. They know all the recipes, they’ve experienced every life lesson, and they know how to spread kindness and joy wherever they go. I also feel that most grandmothers at some point gain a green thumb, whether they simply keep potted plants in the window, or have a full-blown garden growing in the backyard. If you’re wanting to introduce your grandmother to flowers that she perhaps hasn’t seen before, Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky is the perfect choice! Even if your grandmother isn’t the type to go out and search for flowers, the beautiful pictures will enrich her spirit and reinvigorate her own care for the plants she has in her home. Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky is both a celebration and a call to action to save the plants that are a vital part of Kentucky’s natural heritage.
Praise: “Beyond reading about the state’s flora, Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky offers its reader a unique opportunity to view many of these disappearing wildflowers seen infrequently by the average person.” — UK News
5. What to Get your Military-Loving Grandfather?
Generals of the Army: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, Bradley, edited by James H. Willbanks, foreword by Gordon R. Sullivan
I feel like speaking with grandfathers about the past can go one of two ways. If you’re speaking about the recent past – maybe asking what your grandfather had for dinner last night – there’s a good chance he won’t remember, because it isn’t important. If you decide to ask, however, about what happened on a certain day in history during World War II, watch his eye’s light up as he recounts what he learned, what he read about and studied in school. Grandfathers’ remember what matters, and the military history of our country seems to stick our more than anything else. If your grandfather enjoys learning about our country’s past success and honor, Generals of the Army, covering the five men who have been given the five-star general ranking, will be the perfect book for him to learn from and teach you about later. Coinciding with the U.S. Mint’s release of a series of special commemorative coins honoring these soldiers and the fort where they were based, this concise volume offers an intriguing look at the lives of these remarkable men and the contributions they made to the defense of the nation.
Praise: “Though Leavenworth graduates have served with distinction in every conflict since its founding, this book is a tribute to Generals of the Army George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Henry H. ‘Hap’ Arnold, and Omar N. Bradley; to the venerable military posts that molded and shaped them; and to every officer who ever has or ever will serve at Fort Leavenworth.” – General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.)
6. What to Get your Crime-Show Obsessed Cousin?
Murder and Madness: The Myth of the Kentucky Tragedy, by Matthew G. Schoenbachler
Documentaries about crime and murder are all the rage these days – just look at the Ted Bundy tapes on Netflix, or the show Snapped that is constantly running late night on cable. I think everyone has at least one family member who loves to watch murder documentaries. Haven’t you ever had a cousin describe a gruesome homicide they learned about while passing along the mashed potatoes? Warm, fuzzy memories indeed. However, due to quarantine, your cousin may be running out of fresh, gory material to consume. Never fear! Murder and Madness is the perfect book to give your cousin chills when they hear something go bump in the night. Not only will they learn about a case they’ve probably never heard of before, they’ll learn about a case native to Kentucky – and how cool is that? The murder, trial, conviction, and execution of the killer, as well as the suicide of his wife, Anna Cooke Beauchamp – fascinated Americans… In Murder and Madness, Matthew G. Schoenbachler peels away two centuries of myth to provide a more accurate account of the murder.
Praise: “Schoenbachler presents the story in an entirely new light, revealing how the murderer and his wife played on the public’s emotions and beliefs by consciously manipulating their story to conform to images of the righteous hero and the compromised virtuous woman who were at the time the subjects of popular Romantic fiction.” – Book News
7. What to Get your Exploratory Brother?
Mammoth Cave National Park: Reflections, by Raymond Klass
Just like there’s always one true crime obsessed member of a family, there’s also always one daredevil in the family. For now, let’s say that’s your brother, who’s a mostly well-adjusted human being until he casually mentions wanting to bungee-jump off of something, or climb something really tall with few to no ropes. Sure, you shake your head at him, but you do admire his adventurous spirit, and he always talks about the views and sights he gets to see. It’s a little hard to go exploring in certain places right now, but until some locations go public again, you can get your brother Mammoth Cave National Park to get him excited for when he can set out into the world again. The pictures in this book are sure to give him something to look forward to! While living at the park, he (Raymond Klass) took thousands of photographs of famous cave formations, such as Frozen Niagara and the Drapery Room, as well as scenery and wildlife not often seen by the general public.
Praise: “This coffee-table book filled with pictures of Kentucky’s most famous attraction is beautiful and is as much a personal reflection on time spent in the forest as it is a reflection of what Klass captured in his camera.” – Bowling Green Daily News
8. What to Get your Beer-Cheese Connoisseur Uncle?
The Beer Cheese Book, by Garin Pirnia
Have you ever heard of beer cheese? Well, if you haven’t, know that it is exactly what it sounds like – a combination of beer, cheese, and some spices thrown in for a kick. Maybe you heard about it from your uncle, who makes it once a year and brings it to the family reunion. He’ll eat most of it himself, talking about how hard it is to find good beer cheese in restaurants these days, how he feels like the art of making and enjoying beer cheese is slowly dying off. Never fear, Uncle Beer Cheese! If you get him The Beer Cheese Book, he will be excited to find out that not only is beer cheese alive and well, he can find restaurants in the state that serve his favorite dip and drizzle. Packed full of interviews with restauranteurs who serve it, artisans who process it, and even home cooks who enter their special (and secret) recipes in contests, The Beer Cheese Book will entertain and educate, all while making your mouth water. Fortunately, it will also teach you how to whip up your own batch.
Praise: “The author harnesses her cult fondness for the fromage – even the tepid imitators – taking readers on a journey along the Beer Cheese Trail (with some detours) and serving up 20 specialty recipes.” – Cincinnati Magazine
9. What to Get your Very Emotional Aunt?
Chinaberry, by James Still, edited by Silas House
Without fail, at every family get together, there will be the aunt who will find a reason to reminisce and cry. Maybe she won’t even be reminiscing about something sad – she might suddenly get very nostalgic for when you were little, and without warning, she’s crying into the appetizer. It’s sweet, endearing, but maybe you could find something for her to cry about, enjoy, and perhaps discuss something at the table that has nothing to do with the time you were in diapers. In that case, Chinaberry could very well be the perfect book to pass along. This book is a story of home, the importance of home regardless of whether it is a place or people, something that any family can relate to. A combination of memoir and imagination, truth and fiction, Chinaberry is a work of art that leaves the read in awe of Still’s mastery of language and grateful for the lifetime of wisdom that manifests itself in his work.
Praise: “Superbly edited by Silas House, Chinaberry is further confirmation that James Still is not only a great Appalachian writer but a great American writer.” – Ron Rash, author of One Foot in Eden
10. What to get your Scandal-Enthralled Sister?
Madam Belle: Sex, Money, and Influence in a Southern Brothel, by Maryjean Wall
Just as there is always a family crier, a family nut, and a family troublemaker, there will also be a family gossip. You’re certainly familiar with your sister snagging the chair next to you, only to lean over and whisper about the drama happening wherever she’s come from, normally about people you don’t even know. It can be fun, to whisper about low stakes gossip you have no hand in, but do you ever wish you and your sister could gossip about the same thing? In that case, how about you read Madam Belle, and get a copy for your sister too? Instead of gossiping about strangers when your sister calls, you can instead gossip about what Belle Brezing gets up to, becoming one of the most powerful and influential madams in the South. Following Brezing from her birth amid the ruins of the Civil War to the height of her scarlet fame and beyond, Wall uses her story to explore a wider world of sex, business, politics, and power. The result is a scintillating tale that is as enthralling as any fiction.
Praise: “Wall has achieved the almost impossible. This engaging biography comes as close to revealing the life of Belle as is possible.” – Decatur Tribune
Even if these exact family members don’t fit with every book or genre, hopefully each of these books can call someone to mind. A book is an extremely personal present to get – you’re not only thinking of what the other person likes, but you’re gifting them an experience, a journey that the two of you can go on together. Isn’t that the point of the holidays, to share time and love with your favorite people? I hope that this gift guide made your shopping a little easier to accomplish, and hey, maybe you’ll want to snag one of these books for yourself too!
Happy Holidays from the University Press of Kentucky!