Laurel Snyder’s Backlist Holiday Gift Guide…

For Hanukkah/Xmas/Kwanzaa/NewYears/Sostice I like to give books, of course! BOOKS!  I love to give books.

And there are already a ton of gift-guides out there, but I don’t see any reason one has to give HOT NEW BOOKS when there are so many amazing books that are not HOT or NEW.  It is the easiest thing in the world to call up your local bookstore and ask them to place an order for you, of backlist titles they don’t always have on the shelves (and usually cheaper too).  They might even giftwrap and/or ship them for you!

I’ll add more books as I think of them, and if you have someone you need a present for, feel free to leave a vague description of them in the comments, and I’ll think of the perfect book!

And now… here we go!


For anyone who really really needs  a laugh, anyone out of a job, or going through a breakup, or broke, or just kind of low-because-of-this-gray-December-weather. No lie, this is funnier than Tina Fey. It will make your ribs hurt from laughing:



For any little tiny person who might not have it yet, my very favorite picture book of all time. Super cheap (Thank goodness for Little Golden books). I buy these in lots of 10 and give them out like candy.  Every home should have this book and surprisingly, most do not. Mister Dog is the least co-dependent and cheesey, MOST adorable children’s character ever. I love him.  Breeds independent sane children.  ”He was a funny old dog. He liked strawberries.”  Who doesn’t?

Mister Dog


For precocious little girls who wear a lot of pink, when you want to steer them away from all those godawful princesses.  Eloise’s sass, intelligence, imagination, and fawnciness will appeal to them, and she’s nothing like anything else they’ve got.  Any Eloise book will do, but I really like Paris the best.  There’s kissing in it!  Prepare yourself for SQUEALING!

Eloise in Paris


For little boys who like blammo blammo rough stuff, when you want to steer them away from yet another Star Wars/ Bat Man/ Pokemon book.  Ramayana changed out household, turned it upside down. No kidding.  My boys can stare at this thing for HOURS.  We’ve gone on road trips and only taken this one book. It is full of swords and crazy stories and beheadings and magic and violence of the best sort. It’s also totally insane, and once they go to bed, you may find yourself reading it, with a glass of wine in your hand.

Ramayana: Divine Loophole


For serious readerly kids who  are drawn to fantasy and magic in the best way.  Once they tip over into vampire-land, you’ve lost them, but Thurber’s genius will appeal to any kid, boy or girl, who is still into magic.  I WEEP to think that there are kids growing up without this book in their lives.  Every word in this book is perfect.  If there’sone single book I think every kid should have before they turn 12, this is it. Buy someone this book, for goodness sake!

The Thirteen Clocks


For aspiring (or successful) writers, and anyone interested in history.   The letters of Ursula Nordstrom, the single most important editor of books for kids (though adult authors will enjoy it too), is a DELIGHT.  It makes a writer feel both hopeful, and in good company when they fail.  It’s a huge help in reminding any writer what WRITING IS ALL ABOUT.  It’s also a fabulous reminder of what letter-writing used to be.  One of those books that make you feel/look smart when you read it, but as fun and rompy as any beach read.

Dear Genius


For little boys and girls who have gotten a little TOO obsessed with violence, when you want to pull them back into sanity, this is a title that actually introduces the idea of what war actually is. The art is abstract enough NOT to give your kids nightmares, and the book is truly a work of art.

The Enemy: a book about peace


For ANY family or human at all, for Hanukkah, this is the best book on the market.  You don’t need to have kids to love this book. Adults love it too! I just ordered three copies to give away this winter myself.  It is the ONLY Hanukkah book I know of that actually tells the story of the miracle/battle accurately, in a way I’m comfortable about, and BONUS: it touches on the difficulty of the “holiday season” for Jews, and does so with humor and generosity of spirit.   Seriously, I can’t say it enough. If you haven’t read it, buy YOURSELF a copy.  A readaloud of this book will become a tradition at your house too.

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming


For the smart going-gothy-girl who is better than all those vampires her friends are reading, The Bell Jar can be a life changing book. I read it at 16 and it was a HUGE transition for me, turned me into a poet. Seriously.  Plath’s prose is lovely, her melodrama suits the age, and the book really does hold up. Pair it with a copy of Ariel and then sit her down to watch Sylvia, streaming free on Netflix. Bet you she starts wearing some awesome vintage dresses and writing her own poems!

The Bell Jar and Ariel


Kelly asks for “a title for a 9-year-old girl, reads a lot, something with a great girl power message” and  the first thing that comes to mind is the Olivia Kidney series, by the awesome Ellen Potter. All three books are, I think, out in paperback, and a little set of the three might be just what the doctor ordered.  These books are gently weird, and young in “content” but smart as can be, and full of good words.  Just right for a serious young reader.  Olivia has definite spunk!







3 Responses to “Laurel Snyder’s Backlist Holiday Gift Guide…”

  1. Kaethe Says:

    Great choices! The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming is on our list of holiday season read-alouds, along with The Lump of Coal, A Christmas Carol, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

  2. Frume Sarah Says:

    What perfect timing…as I make my book selections today for the kids. These looks amazing!! The Latkes….Screaming was such a hit at my former shul that it was requested — BY THE ADULTS — every year to be read at services!

  3. Kelly Enzor Says:

    Thanks Laurel, this is an amazing list. Ordering some of these today. Request for a title for a 9-year-old girl, reads a lot, something with a great girl power message.

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