Good Books for Gift Giving {2016}


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I love making book lists!  This is an updated version of my previous book lists with new additions at the beginning of each category. 2016 was not a big reading year for me, but I did discover plenty of great new (to us) children’s books!

Adult Fiction:

The Winthrop Woman was my big fiction read of 2016. I loved it!

So Big was one of my favorite reads in 2015.  Rebecca was another one.

I would like to collect all the Black Dog Opera Library collection.  I started with La Traviata last year, and appreciate having background on the composer, the story of the opera, along with the complete Libretto (text of the opera itself–yes, I had to look that up!), commentary, and the opera on CDs.

Kristin Lavransdatter is one of my all time favorite books. This edition is especially beautiful as well. I read the first two books in Sigrid Undset’s The Master of Hestviken this year and really loved them. I need to finish that series.

I love Rumer Godden, and especially In This House of Brede and Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy. Another favorite is An Episode of Sparrows (New York Review Children’s Collection).

Willa Cather is probably my favorite author and I love these two volumes of her novels: Early Novels and Stories and Later Novels.  I read Shadows on the Rock (Vintage Classics) and it is one of my favorites of hers, after My Antonia, one of the very few books I have read more than once. Just typing the title, I want to go pick it up and read it again right now.

Katherine is sooo good, and the reason I read The Winthrop Woman (same author.)

And Wilkie Collins! The best of his that I’ve read is The Woman in White .

And finally, epic and beautiful if not rather long, The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi (Penguin Classics).  I will re-read it someday.

Jonny’s favorites:

Right now he’s reading The Contrary Farmer and he’s always quoting it.

Favorite’s of his and our older boys are:
One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Seth and Keats read this one as well).

Jon Krakauer is a favorite author, Michael Perry is another.

Larkspur’s favorites this year:

She read The Doll People series and loved them! This was actually the most excited she has been about a series of books.

She’s outgrown these, but The Sophie Mouse books are great early reader chapter books. She still likes for me to buy her the new ones as they come out. I don’t mind because I know Beatrix will read them soon.

I’m thinking of buying Happy Times in Norway by Sigrid Undest to read aloud to the girls over Christmas.


I gave my sister, Abby, A Year with the Church Fathers for her birthday this year.

For the kids, Dear Pope Francis is priceless.

I really loved My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir.

The Reed of God is perfect Advent reading.

I find Mother Theresa’s writings to be very encouraging and recommend No Greater Love and Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.

I also love St. Therese and while I have read her own Story of a Soul, I also really liked this little book: The Love That Keeps Us Sane: Living the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux (Illuminationbooks.).

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry is lovely and so is A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.


I am often asked for camera and photography advice. The book I always recommend, and the one I used to learn how to shoot in manual mode from is Understanding Exposure. That book would make a great gift for someone wanting to learn. A similar book by the same author, that I also recommend (and possibly prefer) is Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Photography Field Guide: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera.  Along those same lines, though not a book, this is the lens that is on my camera 95% of the time.

Nature and field guides:

Nature Anatomy is so fun!  I think it would make a particularly great gift.

For the tree lover, we are on our second copy of Remarkable Trees of Virginia (you don’t have to live here to appreciate this book.) I also really like The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups.

Some of our most used field guides include: North American Wildlife: An Illustrated Guide to 2,000 Plants and Animals (we’re on our 3rd copy), Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont: A Naturalist’s Guide to the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia (Southern Gateways Guides), Caterpillars of Eastern North America, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, and A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides). I don’t have a favorite tree identification field guide, but have Native Trees of the Southeast: An Identification Guide on my wishlist.

Homesteading and Beekeeping:

My top read this year in this category was The Shepherd’s Life. Well worth reading-I loved it.

Sylvia’s Farm: The Journal of an Improbable Shepherd and Goat Song were my top two farming reads last year.

Jonny enjoyed Adventures in Yarn Farming.

The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally, Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, and The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers.

The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally is our favorite beekeeping resource, though my favorite book about beekeeping in general is A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them.  The Backyard Beekeeper is a good beginner’s guide.

Natural Dyeing:

My favorites are Wild Color and Harvesting Color.


People Knitting!
The Knitter’s Book of Socks, The Knitter’s Book of Wool, and The Knitter’s Book of Yarn would all make great gifts.

Anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman is probably a good choice. I have and love Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac, Knitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Sizes, and The Opinionated Knitter.

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book really is a great resource.

And finally my favorite Stephanie Pearl-McPhee book is Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks.

For Children:

I recently purchased these two craft books:  The Christmas Craft Book and  Magic Wool Fairies.

Under the tree this year:

The complete Brambly Hedge!!! How did I not know about this? We have quite a few of the individual titles, but now they are all available in one volume!


On my children’s book wishlist:

We have a dozen or more collections of poetry for children, and I occasionally add a new title.  I want to add A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children to our collection.

We have read several of the books in Tomie DePaola’s 26 Fairmount Avenue Series and I highly recommend them. Endearing stories of family life with a nice bit of humor, they make great read-alouds that will span a wide range of ages as far as interest goes. I also think they would make great first chapter books for young readers.  I just ordered a few more of them to put under the tree this year.

We have really enjoyed this Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales for years. You can’t go wrong with Beatrix Potter!

We also like the Calla edition of Stories from Hans Christian Andersen. The illustrations by Edmund Dulac are some of my favorites. Many of the Calla Editions look beautiful.

James Herriot is another favorite. This volume for children looks lovely: James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small (we have an older version of it.)

Picture Books:
(the images themselves are links to the books, more fun that way for pretty children’s books!)

(I better stop now!)

Board Books:

And finally, there are some good lists in my Amazon bookshop including my favorite books written and/or illustrated by Tasha Tudor, and some of my boys’ favorite chapter books, along with more favorite picture books and more board books.

My previous gift list is here.


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  2. Thank you so much for the list of recommends! I read So Big at the beginning of the week and inhaled it! I’ve got a bunch more on hold at the library to pick up but started Shadows on the Rock yesterday. Thank God for you and good recommends. So many of my secular minded friends unfortunately read items not so thought provoking. Many blessings and prayers for you & your family for this New Year. Pax Christi ♡

  3. You must get your hands on a copy of the “Tree” book by Teckentrup. It is such a delightfully fun look at a seasonal cycle revolving around the life of the tree and the critters that inhabit it. It is one read on repeat around here that we purchased almost a year ago!

  4. Thanks for the lists!! We have many if the books, but are always looking for new ones, so I really appreciate it. Have you (or your kids) read Charlie Needs a Coat by Tommie de Paola? We love it too – like all his books – and it reminded me of you with your dying of the yarn and making his coat. It’s a really sweet story!

  5. Can you tell me if the beekeeping books you recommend would be appropriate for a teenage boy in his first year of beekeeping?

    • I just added a link to The Backyard Beekeeper. I think that one would be good for a teenager. The Michael Bush books (The Practical Beekeeper) might not be great for a teenager/beginner. And I don’t think I would recommend A Book of Bees and how to Keep them for a teenage boy either.

  6. I love Willa Cather! Growing up in Nebraska we read several of her books in school. But, I also just love reading writers of the American West. John Neihardt is another favorite of mine. 🙂

  7. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this list together! I don’t know how you found the time. This is just fabulous!!!

  8. Ah ha! You are a kindred spirit! I thought that I (and more recently my 17-year old daughter) was among what surely is steadily decreasing number of Anya Seton’s fans! My first favourite was Green Darkness, which the nuns at a convent I attended in Grade 10 in northern Saskatchewan had in their library. This was back in the late 1970s! I read it over and over again … and then Katherine and even ultimately the Winthrop Woman. My daughter prefers Katherine but my heart is still with Celia and Richard/Stephen ;p (I was delighted to find Ightham Mote in Kent a few years ago too!)
    Thanks for the recommends and for your wonderful blog, Ginny!

  9. Nicole Andrews says:

    We (or our children) have similar taste in books–I think I could recite Miss Suzy, Barefoot Critters, Gaston, You Belong Here, and The Uncorker by heart. Such gentle books, with lovely illustrations! Looking at your list, I may have to get Henry’s Bright Idea and a few others as well.

  10. I was so pleased to see you recommend ‘The Winthrop Woman’ and ‘Katherine’ – Anya Seton is one of my all-time favourite authors and inspired me to study History at university.
    ‘In This House of Brede’ by Rumer Godden is the book I return to, time and time again, when I need peace. Highly recommended.

  11. My Amazon cart now has over $200 in books loaded thanks to your lovely book lists!! Think I’ll need to spread these purchases out a bit! LOL. Thanks for so many great recommendations, Ginny!!

  12. Thank you so much, Ginny!

  13. I am reading The Willows in Winter by William Harwood and find it utterly delightful. I read The Wind in the Willows so long ago and don’t remember liking it half this much. It was in the children’s collection at the library, but makes great reading for anyone, in the vein of Winnie the Pooh, as far as insight into human nature. I don’t have anyone to read aloud to, except my husband occasionally, but I think it would be great for that.
    Thanks for your suggestions. Your toy suggestion of the pop up people is still getting rave reviews from last year’s gifting. I got a new one for my newest grandson, as there isn’t one at his house….the fire truck version which I saw before your post!
    Have a Merry Christmas!

  14. Anne Weber-Falk says:

    Thank you very much. What a wonderful array of books for everybody. Your work on this is truly appreciated and now I am excited to shop again. Many blessings to you and yours…

  15. Anne Weber-Falk says:

    Thank you very much. What a wonderful array of books for everybody. Your work on this is truly appreciated and now I am excited to shop again.

I love to hear from you!