Blogs at Amazon

« Omni Daily News | Main | Old Media Monday: Reviewing the Rev »

Ask the Editors: The Return of the Omni Personal Shoppers

Loyal Omni readers might remember that this time last year we put out our shingle to offer book-gift advice for the trickiest readers on your holiday lists. We certainly remember, since it was, hands down, The Most Fun We've Ever Had at Our Jobs (well, with the possible exception of that two-hour lunch with Christopher Hitchens a few years back...). Some of the profiles you sent in were such fascinating character studies that if we could gather a few more they'd make a fine gift book themselves: we remember with particular fondness the Raging Canadian Granny ("My eighty-four year-old grandmother is blind and deaf and in denial of those important facts."), the Mother-in-Law Who Loves Ondaatje and Good Food ("She is my mother-in-law, and despite all stereotypes, I like her."), and, greatest--and most challenging--of all, the Boy Who Taped Cats ("If there is a book of instruction on how to be an irritating little brother, he must have read it three times. Other than that, I don't think he reads.").

So it's with particular relish that we put out our call again: please, stump us, amuse us, and, hopefully, make your holiday shopping a little easier. Post your reader profiles in the comments below, or mail them to us at omnivoracious at amazon.com. We'll post a response a day starting on Wednesday, December 1 (just in time for the first night of Hannukah), and continuing over the next couple of weeks. And if we get more requests than we can handle on Omni, we'll post additional replies on our Facebook page.

By the way, don't be daunted by those admittedly brilliant samples above. We'll be more than happy to reply to requests even if they don't read like they came out of the latest Lydia Davis collection. But be as detailed as you can and have fun capturing the characters in your life, and I can promise you we'll have just as much fun coming up with the best gift ideas we can for them. Thanks! --Tom

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Among other strengths, Self's a great satirist and the part of his reading describing a hypothetical leap from the Golden Gate Bridge during an airport walk was not just laugh-inducing but gripping, each word carefully chosen and fitting into an approach to style both modern and baroque simultaneously. All in all, it was a masterful performance--and one I had a front-row seat for, since the participants in each session sat at a table in the center of the audience.

For my daughter: she is almost 20, but has been going on 35 for about a decade. Suffice to say, she is very mature for her age. A voracious reader and college student (studying psychology and political science), she tends to read mostly fiction. Growing up, she devoured everything from Harry Potter (still a favorite) to Roald Dahl to Twain and Dickens. Her favorite novels include Wuthering Heights and The World According to Garp. Recently she read and enjoyed "Ficciones" by Borges, The Hunger Games series, and Life of Pi. Her taste in books is so varied, it's impossible to tell what she might like, though I can pretty much rule out comedy as a genre. I basically need something knock-you-off-your-feet fantastic. Ideas?

For my husband: loves a thrilling plot, especially war-related. He loves all Tom Clancy, some Clive Cussler. He also enjoys non-fiction action such as Blackhawk Down and Roberts Ridge (Afghanistan stories have a particular draw since he worked there as a humanitarian aid worker for a couple years). He hasn't read much in the last four years or so, being busy as a student so anything in that timeframe I'm sure he won't have read. Also, it would be great to get something in a Kindle edition since we're getting a Kindle. Thanks so much!

I have a trifecta of readers I am wanting to wow.
1. My renaissance man who was an oceanographer and is now a general surgeon. He has some "reading" time driving in his car so I am looking for audio books. I have given him everything from Freakanomics to Panic on Level 4 to The Disapearing Spoon to books about a hurricane in Galveston. Fiction-wise Grisham, H. Coban, Rowling, Connally, and even the Irish Country Doc books have gotten good reviews from him. He has enjoyed some biographies like B. Franklin's and Malcolm Forbes. Any hot ideas?
2. My 18 yr old who is a manga magnet. She liked Harry Potter, has no interest what so ever in the Twilight series. She does not like to be creeped out but doesn't like gentle fiction.
3. My 85 yr old mom. In the past she has enjoyed Maeve Binchy, Sue Grafton and even laughed herself through Stephanie Plums first dozen but feels they are getting monotonous. She seems to like multigenerational epics.
Thanks!

@Cassie- Stacy Ballis' " Good Enough To Eat" is great smart chick lit. As far as Janet Evanovich- the Stephanie Plum (first five) are good bit watch out for her older rehashed romance novels..
@Karen- I have a daughter like that. Try Richard Peck's trilogy about Grandma Dowdel- A Long Way From Chicago, A Year Down Yonder and the latest one whose name escapes me. They are wonderful. The audio versions are also a family favorite!

Ahhh....sorry for the multiple wonky posts! turns out omnivoracious really did accept my data even though it said it didn't want to! :)

@Cassie: The Wilde Women by Paula Wall is a great funny "light" book. Or It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong for a quick (very funny) memoir. Or even lighter and quicker, try the 6-word memoir books.

@Jen: I think Riding Rockets by Mike Mullane should come with a money-back guarantee-I dare anyone not to like it. And talk about not being able to put it down..I read it to my husband for an entire twelve hour road trip (and couldn't talk the next day). It's also an older book that seems to be unknown (but hopefully the shout-out in Mary Roach's new book might help).

@Stephanie: Buy your mom all the Nick Hornby Believer essay collections (The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping v the dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for the Money) and pretty soon you'll be asking her for recommendations!

@Elizabeth: Sharp Teeth by Todd Barlow (bargain priced right now!) is, if I may quote Nick Hornby (see @Stephanie above), the best blank verse werewolf novel I've read. Aren't werewolves the new vampires?

@Sue: Would the Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson be too "on-the-nose" for your mother-in-law? This was my favorite book of the year (so far). A three-hankie book, but also warm and funny.

@Jill: have you tried any of the Malcolm Gladwell books (Outliers or What the Dog Saw)? Or take a sharpie and block out "biography" on the cover of Riding Rockets (see @Jen above).

@Sandra: sorry I don't have any suggestions. Oh, wait, have I mentioned Riding Rockets?

I could do this all night...and judging by the time, it looks like I have! Can't wait to see the omnivoracious's recommendations to start adding to *my* wishlist!

@Stephanie: Buy your mom all the Nick Hornby Believer essay collections (The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping v the dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for the Money) and pretty soon you'll be asking her for recommendations!

@Elizabeth: Sharp Teeth by Todd Barlow (bargain priced right now!) is, if I may quote Nick Hornby (see @Stephanie above), the best blank verse werewolf novel I've read. Aren't werewolves the new vampires?

@Sue: Would the Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson be too "on-the-nose" for your mother-in-law? This was my favorite book of the year (so far). A three-hankie book, but also warm and funny.

@Jill: have you tried any of the Malcolm Gladwell books (Outliers or What the Dog Saw)? Or take a sharpie and block out "biography" on the cover of Riding Rockets (see @Jen above).

@Sandra: sorry I don't have any suggestions. Oh, wait, have I mentioned Riding Rockets?

I could do this all night...and judging by the time, it looks like I have! Can't wait to see the omnivoracious's recommendations to start adding to *my* wishlist!

@Cassie: The Wilde Women by Paula Wall is a great funny "light" book. Or It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong for a quick (very funny) memoir. Or even lighter and quicker, try the 6-word memoir books.

@Jen: I think Riding Rockets by Mike Mullane should come with a money-back guarantee-I dare anyone not to like it. And talk about not being able to put it down..I read it to my husband for an entire twelve hour road trip (and couldn't talk the next day). It's also an older book that seems to be unknown (but hopefully the shout-out in Mary Roach's new book might help).

My husband only reads hardcover books..doesn't do paperbacks. He has read some of David Baldacci's novels and likes the way he writes. Can you suggest other authors that he might be interested in reading? Oh, and he doesn't like books that are a series where the story continues. So a stand alone novel would be better. Thanks for your help.

Elisabeth:

Has she read THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brook? It's a steampunk romance, more explicit than Roberts but just as romantic. The world building is incredible; it's a really impressive story apart from the romance itself.

My 6 yo nephew just started Kindergarten this year, with full immersion Japanese for half the day. I'd love to get him some children's books in both Japanese & English, as he's really enthusiastic about it. Any suggestions?

I am trying to get back into reading and do not know very many authors. Admittedly I am more of a movie buff. My favorite style of movies are technological thrillers/drama such as The Matrix, The Net, Hackers, etc. I did read Dan Brown's Digital Fortress and loved it. Can you recommend some more along those styles that I can give as suggestions to my family to get me :) Thank you for any help.

Help me find something to appeal to my hubby. He's retired, loves sports(don't bother, he's read them all), recently read all the Harlan Coben books, likes some popular fiction(Stephen King,Dan Brown,John Grisham), loves the newspaper, particularly sports columnists(although not Lupica so much). He's not a fan of mysteries, historical fiction, biographies, war stories, or mystical books. Let me know if you have any ideas!

My mom in law is in an assisted living facility with the fairly new diagnosis of alzheimers disease that she is unaware of and would vehemently deny if you asked her! :-) She is 89 years old, a retired school teacher, and was very active in college organizations, church organizations and volunteered at the hospital gift shop right up to about two years ago. She taught home ec and English. She loves angels and has probably read a lot of angel books over the years but nothing recent. Of course, I don't want to limit the search to just angels! Any thoughts?

I have a 10 year old daughter who is advanced in her reading. However, she keeps reverting back to books from past years because she enjoyed them so much... Geronimo Stilton, Wimpy Kid, Katie Kazoo. She gets a bit freaked out by stories that are "scary" (to her) like the Twilight series.

Any suggestions for a new series or two to get her started on?

Thank you!

Stephanie - For the 8th grade cousin, try Tamora Pierce's books. I loved her Tortal series, which was three quartets, a two book series, and a newer series that so far has two books in it. She also has a series called Circle of Magic, but I haven't read it. Cate Tiernan's Sweep series is also good, and there isn't too much more than kissing in it.

For my reader profile -
I have a best friend who is even more of a reader than I am, if that is possible. (For some background, she is a marine archaeology major in Florida who is going to be studying abroad in Scotland this time next year.) Every book that I try to recommend to her, she already has read. I finally found out that she hasn't read Anne Bishop, so I am planning on getting her those books, but other than that, I am stuck. She likes Nora Roberts, and lots of romance books. But she also reads vampire books, and other forms of fantasy, and we are both currently hooked on the Blue Bloods series, P.C. Cast, Patrick Rothfuss, and the Outlander series to name a few.
I just want to be able to tell her to read an amazing book that she hasn't already read, and usually when I ask people for recommendations they say the latest popular series instead of some obscure gem. Any help?

Stephanie - For the 8th grade cousin, try Tamora Pierce's books. I loved her Tortal series, which was three quartets, a two book series, and a newer series that so far has two books in it. She also has a series called Circle of Magic, but I haven't read it. Cate Tiernan's Sweep series is also good, and there isn't too much more than kissing in it.

For my reader profile -
I have a best friend who is even more of a reader than I am, if that is possible. (For some background, she is a marine archaeology major in Florida who is going to be studying abroad in Scotland this time next year.) Every book that I try to recommend to her, she already has read. I finally found out that she hasn't read Anne Bishop, so I am planning on getting her those books, but other than that, I am stuck. She likes Nora Roberts, and lots of romance books. But she also reads vampire books, and other forms of fantasy, and we are both currently hooked on the Blue Bloods series, P.C. Cast, Patrick Rothfuss, and the Outlander series to name a few.
I just want to be able to tell her to read an amazing book that she hasn't already read, and usually when I ask people for recommendations they say the latest popular series instead of some obscure gem. Any help?

@Cassie Try Janet Evanovich she is my favorite quick fun read :)

@Chris my son is also 9 and has read those books he suggest the book he just finished "Curse of the Spider King" by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.

Trying to find a book for my Mom, She is a brand new just retired English teacher and Art. She reads just about any genre. fiction/non-fiction sci-fi -romance right wing to left wing, Christian to Hindu and even How-to and plays. If there is a book worm out there she defines it. I want to find her something fascinating that she can't put down AND that she hasn't read yet.

Chris, I second the Ranger's Apprentice series, and also add in the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy.

Chris: It's not a series book but Kate Milford's THE BONESHAKER is an excellent MG fantasy in the Ray Bradbury vein that includes some steampunkish bits and a very bad guy and a great rural America setting. And honestly, a collection of Bradbury's short stories might be welcome also - or at least SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES which is a great story about two boys facing down some scary bad guys (and the reason why all roadside carnivals should be avoided... :)

Stephanie: Has she tried any Maureen Johnson or Rachel Cohn? They aren't sex, sex, sex but might be a nice way to get her over to more of a realistic relationship book that still has wonderful romance. Cohn should be familiar due to NICK & NORA'S INFINITE PLAYLIST but her series of books on Cyd Charisse and her boyfriend are really funny & smart.

Man - there needs to be a TWILIGHT detox group of books or something, doesn't there?

My mom comes to me for all book recommendations, and I'm running out of ideas! Recent books she has loved have been: Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Cramer, any non-fiction about the Kennedys, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and Mao's Last Dancer.

My other sister is getting her the new Mark Twain book. I am hoping to get something more along the lines of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

In addition, I have an 8th grade cousin that read the Twilight series 2 years ago. I am an avid YA reader, but I thought Twilight was crud, and not appropriate for an 11 year old. That year I got her the first book in Melissa de la Cruz's "Blue Bloods" series, which she read in a day. Basically, I am a little stuck - when I was that age, we didn't have facebook, twitter and favorite books involved survival/living on their own/etc. She wants ROMANCE and i don't want to give her sex, and my favorite current YA are things like Courtney Summers, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Melina Marchetta, etc. So . . . what do yet a spoiled new-boyfriend-every-week "You're so old, you can't understand me!" (I'm 26.) thirteen year old that just wants to read about sex??

Chris - if he hasn't read them already I would recommend the Ranger's Apprentice series for your son. They're a bit easier than Harry Potter but the story is good and my son loved them at 10. My son also just read the new Riordan book, The Lost Hero, for the 2nd time (back to back - finished it and immediately started re-reading it). Last - if he hasn't read the Alex Rider series (Anthony Horowitz) I would recommend it as well.

My 9-year old son is a voracious reader, pretty much exclusively fantasy novels, with a vivid imagination and love of all things Ninja. He's read all the Rick Riordan books, the Bone series, Harry Potter, Narnia, The Hobbit, the Bartimaeus trilogy ... He's also a wide-eyed innocent, so I'm looking for books that will be challenging enough for him to enjoy without being too dark (e.g. The Hunger Games). Any suggestions, especially of series books, would be greatly appreciated.

I usually buy books for my brothers for Christmas--they're sci-fi/fantasy fans, as I am, so they're easy. They want what I've read that's good.

But this year, my sister asked for books too, and she's not a sci-fi reader. In fact, she doesn't read much of anything at all, aside from law school textbooks. She's incredibly intelligent (has two masters degrees and working toward her law degree), loves her dog, horses, and photography, among other things. She wants something "light," but I don't think she'd really like romances (another genre I love and could pick stuff in easily).

I'm leaning toward funny chic-lit types of stuff--think Sloane Crosley--but I could really use some suggestions! I haven't read chic-lit in years, and I'm not even sure it still really exists as a genre anymore.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

December 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31