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5 Delightful New Books For All Ages To Fill Out Your Christmas Gift List

woman in bookstore
Image CreditAnastasia Pavlenki / Flickr / CC by 2.0, cropped

These five have come out this year and are a perfect fit for just about any person on your list. If you order now, you should get them just in time for Christmas.


Following my husband’s family tradition, ours celebrates the 12 Days of Christmas by opening one present on Christmas day and each day after until the stack is empty. This reduces the wild Christmas Day unwrapping that can feel gluttonous.

This year, I’ve arranged the presents by category, similar to Leila Lawler’s recommendations in her very good (and very present-worthy) Summa Domestica trilogy. Lawler suggests simple themes for each of the 12 days, such as “ice skating,” “holiday lights,” and such, to make them festive. (Listen to my Federalist podcast with Lawler here.)

This year I’m also theming each day of gifts, and one of the days is — of course — books. It’s basically an excuse to give my kids books I’ve been buying all year long as they crop up, including secondhand. As a books family, we also love to give books to others, and several folks on my list will be getting some of the selections below. (So, Dad, no printing this article for Mom until after Christmas!)

At this point in life, I have a lot of writer friends, and some of those friends write very good books. These five have come out this year and are a perfect fit for just about any person on your list. As a books person, I couldn’t resist adding a few extras, too. If you order now, you should get any of these just in time for Christmas.

Cedric, the Rescue Dog (Ages 10-Adult)

This novella dramatizes the true story of a British coastal rescue dog, Cedric, one of the famous dog heroes of history. The New Foundland rescued 23 people amid treacherous storms, becoming a Victorian legend.

The author is an American painter who has spent his life painting America and teaching 60,000 children art. One of those children was me. Barry Stebbing was the first person to very strongly encourage me to write, which set off the chain of events resulting in me becoming a professional writer and editor.

He is a profound artist, so this book also contains skillful artwork and illustrations, something I always treasure in books. So many children’s books have terrible art, which seems yet another unfairness to inflict on the young.

I recommend Cedric for ages 10 and up, if the 10-year-old is a good reader and likes animals. My 8-year-old will certainly try it, but he’ll need to reread it later in life. For less practiced readers, I’d say 12 and up. The product page contains a sample chapter.

At only $20, this book is a good gift for anyone who loves animals, historical novels based on true stories, or both.

The Saints of Whistle Grove (High School-Adult)

If you have never read Katie Schuermann before, now is your time. She’s an American author who can make you want to dance with one page and sob at the next. Because of that power, The Saints of Whistle Grove, her just-released novel, is intense.

Whistle Grove depicts the birth and death of a small American farming community, through the life of its tiny church. Amplifying the intensity of Schuermann’s ability to paint full scenes with few words, this novel interlaces its chapters in time. Each new, relatively short chapter jumps you forward or backward several decades in the same place.

As a busy mother who gets leisure reading mostly while brushing my teeth, I found the chapter brevity helpful both because it fits my available time and helps me digest the breath-catching topics Katie can fit into so few pages. Because the book grasps the biggest beads on time’s string, each chapter thrusts you into a scene of young love, miscarriage, deaths, plagues, immigration, poverty, racial hatred, and religious bigotry. Several times I’ve had to put the book down to prevent bursting into tears.

Katie can also make you laugh out loud and cry tears of joy. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town, farm, or intimately in the life of a church or school will, as they say, “feel seen” by her work. Those who want to live inside quintessentially American surroundings for a while will also enjoy this read.

There’s nothing in Whistle Grove a child couldn’t read, and the language is not overly complex, but watching characters apostatize, struggle with polio, and lose children in a house fire may be too much or go over the heads of readers younger than high school. This Gilead-evoking book is for serious readers of fiction and serious ponderers of the human condition.

Schuermann went with the excellent boutique Kloria Press for this offering, which included some beautiful and fitting cover and interior artwork. At only $15, you can easily get this for multiple people on your Christmas list. While shopping their site, grab one of their beautifully illustrated Christmas picture books for children.

Simplified Organization: Learn to Love What Must Be Done (Adult Women)

What makes Simplified Organization different from all the other life organization books? Its focus on ordering our interior life. That difference has drawn me for years to Mystie Winckler’s work. While showing busy women how to “get it all done,” Winckler also gives crucial context that most other self-organization and home management methods leave out. Winckler focuses on the heart.

That doesn’t mean her practical guidance for organizing and tidying our lives leaves no mark on our kitchens, purses, and closets. All of that gets addressed in Simplified Organization, an overview and encapsulation of Winckler’s online mentoring and instruction portal, Convivial Circle (where I’m a paying member). But, unusually and highly effectively, Winckler focuses on adjusting our attitudes as a root cause of our home’s disorder. That’s what makes this a great gift even for organized people.

Simplified Organization would make an excellent Christmas present for just about any woman in your life, whether it’s your mother, aunt, sister, wife, or grown daughter. At $16, you can buy it for all of them, and even complement it with a gift membership to Convivial Circle.

Another bonus for the women in your life: the latest Theology of Home book, Arranging the Seasons. This is another beautiful, magazine-style read arranged along one of my favorite themes, the seasons and the church year. Or you can get all four in the series as a bundle here.

War on the American Republic (Adult)

Hillsdale Professor Kevin Slack’s War on the American Republic would be a particularly good gift for one of the men on your list who thinks about ancient Rome almost every day and likes political philosophy. Slack’s book offers readers the intellectual grounding to “reassess what conservatives failed to conserve, Americanism, to define what the American people must conserve if they wish to survive.” I briefly overviewed the book for The Federalist’s annual books list, so check those comments out.

Unusually for a writer with legitimate pointed critiques of today’s politics, Slack expresses faith in the next generation, whom he says are far more aware than the preceding generation of how hostile our culture has become to truth and beauty. Young Americans “must awaken to the truth that they are the West, not a mere idea in musty books but their own flesh and blood, which they can restore when they themselves flourish … if they refuse to decline, then they will begin a renaissance.”

You can get it at the Federalist affiliate Amazon link or at Hillsdale’s online bookstore for $35.

Artist Biographies or Lion in the Box (Ages 6-Adult)

If you crave good children’s literature, you should be following Purple House Press. They specialize in resurfacing out-of-print children’s classics. Earlier this year, they ran a Kickstarter campaign that included the above beautifully illustrated artists’ biographies, and I picked up the whole set. My kids read and reread them. The set is $108, and each book is $18 individually.

Another newly resurfaced release from them this year: Lion in the Box, by Marguerite de Angeli, a beautiful children’s author you really shouldn’t miss. This is a beautiful whole-family Christmas read-aloud about a poor family that bands together to take care of each other. This novella is just $12.

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