He's made his list and checked it twice: Critic Alan Cheuse recommends the best books to give as gifts in 2011. This year, it's mostly fiction — books that will light up dark winter nights with warm stories, large characters and beautiful language.
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston
This intensely visual coming-of-age novel is made up of scraps of another age — 1920s diary entries, mementos, notes and memories. This hybrid between a conventional novel and a graphic novel tells the story of a young New England woman who takes a daring solo trip to New York City, Paris and back again — and discovers her talent for writing.
Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea
Queen of America is the sequel to the fiery story Urrea began in his 2005 novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter. It's about an ancestor of his — Teresita Urrea, a miracle-working Yaqui Indian woman from northern Mexico who changes the political course of her home country and then emigrates to the U.S.
The Complete Record Cover Collection by R. Crumb
Artist R. Crumb's collection of album covers — his jazzy and bluesy interpretations of the music of an era — is a neat gift for anyone who remembers the '60s.