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Are you dreaming of a book Christmas?

December 13, 1999
Web posted at: 6:47 p.m. EST (2347 GMT)

(CNN) -- It was year of Oprah, the year of Harry Potter, the year of "The Century" and "The Greatest Generation." So some people on your gift list may also think it is the year of getting books as gifts.

Of course, that which is highly popular might not appeal to a special someone; maybe they really want "How Sharp is Your Pencil," a guidebook that lets the reader take practice exams for jobs ranging from Ballroom Dancing Instructor to Maritime Captain.

And maybe the best book gift is audio, for someone who would rather listen than read; or digital, for someone who spends more time with their Palm pilot than their pet.

The story of 1999, then, might be the resurgence in the popularity of the book, whether on paper, a compact disc, or downloaded into a lap-top reader.

So what to buy? What might be the best book gifts? Consider this list of books that should entertain and bring enjoyment to many a book lover.


Critics fell for "Ahab's Wife," some calling author Sena Jeter Naslund a wordsmith on the same level as "Moby-Dick" author and literary god Herman Melville. With the book, she says, "I'm making a statement that there can be an epic story of an American woman that ends in peace and harmony with the universe. This woman can be one who has lived a very full and adventuresome life and has found her own way spiritually."

Detective Alex Cross, James Patterson's larger-than-life hero, came back in 1999 for another adventure in " Pop Goes the Weasel." Why are Patterson's books so popular? Maybe it's because they come out of the gate scaring the reader to the bone. "The books I write are not about realism; they're about nightmares, not literal nightmares, but nightmares I feel about the world," Patterson says, and he relays those nightmares to his readers with short chapters and quick action.

Maybe someone deserves an e-book in their stocking?


"Waiting," the winner of the 1999 National Book Award for fiction, is a passionate love story set in China that tells the story of a passionate doctor who struggles with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move.

The book award capped an incredible journey for writer Ha Jin, who was a Chinese citizen who served six years in the People's Liberation Army, moved to the United States in 1985 and became a U.S. citizen just two years ago. The book was written in English.


A special something for that cook on your Christmas list


Perhaps the most popular gift this year is a Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling. Her three novels -- "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" -- exploded on the literary scene in the last year and now fill the top three spots in the New York Times bestseller list. Harry Potter has been on the cover of Time Magazine, which compared the books with childhood classics like "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "The Hobbit."


"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson first came out in 1998 and was issued in paperback in 1999. In it, Bryson tells the true and hilarious story of his efforts to walk the Appalachian Trail with a friend from the past. This is a great read for any outdoors lover, for anyone who has dreamed of doing a hiking expidition, or for history buffs.

"Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy," by Philip Evans and Thomas S. Wurster, might be just the book to explain the new technologies. The book, published by the Harvard Business School Press, explains how advanced digital technologies are allowing information to separate fro its physical carrier -- blowing up the richness/reach trade-off and rendering many traditional business structores obsolete.


Some books are just meant for fun!


"Sister Wendy: My Favorite Things" showcases the 75 artworks that are the favorites of the popular Sister Wendy Beckett. This British nun -- a rather unusual "pop star," has introduced millions to the pleasures of painting and sculpture.

"Muhammad Ali: The Birth of a Legend, Miami, 1961-1964" magnificently captures the grace, innocence and passion of Ali in a collection of stunning photographs. Captured on film by premier photojournalist Flip Schulke, the book shows Ali's determination to break out into mainstream culture.

"An Invitation to Joy" brings together a selection of Pope John Paul II's messages with the most poignant photographs documenting his life both before and after his election to the papacy. It's an illustrated devotional album that distills the essence of his message and shows the connection between his words and his deeds.

Using materials never before available to historians, biographer Geoffrey Perret has fashioned a revealing portrait of Dwight David Eisenhower, the Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and the 34th president of the United States.

Published by Random House, "Eisenhower" draws from a variety of new material -- including Eisenhower's papers and diaries -- to tell the life story of a young Kansan who who grew to be a complex and tough-minded leader.

The book " African Ceremonies" has become a suprise hit for art publisher Harry N. Abrams. The two-volume, 850-photograph collection examines traditional African rites and rituals by photographers/writers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher.

"Ceremonies are like a peak period of each stage of life," says Beckwith. "They mark a transition where people are going to move from one stage to another and will understand the roles and responsibilities expected of them at the next stage."

Of course, if a book isn't what you want to give as a gift, perhaps you should consult a book -- "The Best of Online Shopping," by Lisa and Jonathan Price. Touted as "the guide to fast and easy shopping on the web," the book offers information to more than 2,500 online stories featuring everything from baby products to chocolate.

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