There are always three people on there who defy easy gift-giving. There's the Person Who Has Everything. There's the Person Who Never "Wants" Anything. And there's the Person You Don't Know Well.
Here's a suggestion: how about a book? Here are some ideas that should fit those hard-to-buy-for people in your life....
People from the Lower 48 wonder how Alaskans survive the winter, the long nights, the moose and the snow. Tell 'em how by giving "The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin'" by Brookelyn Bellinger (Sasquatch Books). This fun and funny guide to being an Alaskan is easy to browse and humorous, but it will also teach those southerners a thing or two about living in the Frontier.
In the minds of many, "Alaska" and "fishing" are two words that go together, and if there's someone on your list with similar thoughts, "Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-Fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska" by Lou Ureneck (St. Martin's Press) is a book you'll want to wrap up to give. This true story is about fathers and sons and coming together. Hint: makes a great gift for the father going through those tumultuous teenage years with his boy.
Have someone who's politically active - or an activist - on your list this year? You can't go wrong with "Voices of Protest", edited by Frank Lowenstein, Sheryl Lechner, and Erik Bruun with a foreword by Bill McKibben (Black Dog & Levanthol). This anthology is filled with words and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Socrates, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan and other influential people in history. It's an easy book to read, very browse-able, and offers lots of food for thought.
You've heard the legends. Maybe you've even studied them. So how about a travel book on samurai swords? "Mishima's Sword" by Christopher Ross (DaCapo Press) is the story of a man who travels to Japan in search of the truth behind the legend. This is an excellent book for anyone who loves ancient culture, ancient stories, or travel about either of them.
Is there an art lover on your gift list? Then wrap up a book on the world's first artists! "The Cave Painters" by Gregory Curtis (Anchor Books) is about the cave paintings of Spain and France, theories, hypotheses, and discoveries. Bonus: there are color pictures in this book, sure to please anyone who loves to paint or loves to look at art.
Almost everybody knows a cat lover. If you've got one you need a gift for, look no further than "Planet Cat: A Cat-Alog" by Sandra Choron, Harry Choron, and Arden Moore (Houghton Mifflin). This heavy paperback includes topics like cats in the movies, why cats are better than dogs, and feline mating rituals. It will make any cat lover purr this holiday.
If you need a gift for someone who loves all animals, look for "Angel Animals" by Allen & Linda Anderson (New World Library). This inexpensive paperback (under $15) is about animals and the bonds they share with their people. Animal lovers will howl with glee to see this book wrapped up this year.
If you know someone who loves to feel the wind in his (or her) hair on the back of a bike, then here's an easy gift to give: "Biker's Handbook" by Jay Barbieri (MotorBooks, Intnl). This is one of those books you don't have to read cover-to-cover, front-to-back, which makes it fun to read and browse. Bikers and biker wanna-be's will love to see this book as a gift this holiday or any time.
If "going green" is a big topic in your house, the whole family will be glad to see "The Virtuous Consumer" by Leslie Garrett (New World Library) as a gift. This book includes hints and ideas for kitchen, family room, and garage, and giving it will make you feel better for making a better world.
If your kids are starting to get into fantasy books but are a little over their heads, there are two books they'll welcome this holiday. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to The World of Narnia" by James S. Bell, Jr. and Cheryl Dunlop and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to The World of Harry Potter" by Tere Stouffer (both from Alpha Publishing). Both of these books make clear the plots, the characters, and the reasons for what goes on in those incredibly popular series. Think of them as Cliff's Notes for kids. Think of them as great gift ideas.
They say there are just six people between you and anyone you can think of. Even in history, it's a small world. Find out more in "American Connections" by James Burke (Simon & Schuster). Using his Sherlock-Holmes-like sleuthing, Burke shows how the founders of the Declaration of Independence are connected to one another and to modern-day events and pop culture. This book is great for history buff, mystery fan, or anyone who loves a good story.
Good mysteries are hard to find, and mystery fans can race through one in a day, if they put their minds to it. Here's one they'll savor, though: "The Tenderness of Wolves" by Stef Penney (Simon & Schuster). This is the story of a brutal crime and the people who trek across snow, ice, and desolation in search of a solution. The winner of the 2006
When the white, fluffy stuff starts to come down, you'll want to pull out your copy of "The Art of the Snowflake: A Photographic Album" by Kenneth Libbrecht (Voyageur Press). This gorgeous book is the latest in the "Snowflake" series of books that shows the beauty of those microscopic little flakes of ice and the inadvertent art that nature gives each of them. This is a great book for anyone of any age because there are lots of pictures but very little text.
Celebrating a First Christmas with a new baby? Then give Mom the novel "b-mother" by Maureen O'Brien (Harcourt). This novel is about loving, giving up, and hoping for the best for the future. Be careful, though: you might want to wrap a box of tissues up with this book. You'll also want to look for "Wiped! Life with a Pint-Size Dictator" by Rebecca Eckler (Villard Books). Written by a mom with a definite sense of humor, this book will make any harried mom laugh out loud. And don't leave Dad out. For him, look for "The Guy's Guide to Surviving Toddlers, Tantrums, and Separation Anxiety - Yours, Not Your Kid's!" by Michael Crider (DaCapo LifeLong) or "Crawling: A Father's First Year" by Elisha Cooper (Anchor Books). Both books will make New Dad laugh out loud when he most wants to cry right along with the new baby.