I love to give books as gifts. I strive to match the book to the recipient the way some givers try to find the right scarf or tie—I want to make eyes sparkle. If you are shopping for a book this holiday season, I have a list that will please a reader in midlife and beyond.
For the outdoorsy, adventure-seeking type: Cheryl Strayed has nothing on Emma Gatewood, who walked the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail at age 67, without sophisticated camping supplies or even special footwear. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk (2014) is an inspiration to couch potatoes and hikers alike.
For the historical fiction buff: the 20th anniversary edition of Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival (2013) is a story from a nomadic Arctic tribe that abandons their elders as excess baggage when food becomes too scarce to sustain its members. In this case, the 80-year-old women were determined to use their wisdom and a tiny hatchet, refusing to go gently into the night. It’s a little book that packs a big punch.
For the music lover or for old dogs learning new tricks: The Late Starters Orchestra (2014) is a good bet. Ari Goldman sets a goal to relearn the cello before his 60th birthday despite a 25-year lull. In a reclaimed factory building in New York City, Goldman finds a group of people of nontraditional age—yes, the Late Starters Orchestra—who wish to return to, or to learn anew, a musical instrument. Even the tone deaf (like me) will enjoy the self-talk that kept him on task when he felt like giving up.
For the mystery lover: in Elizabeth is Missing (2014), Maud’s memory is failing. She leaves herself sticky notes, but they can’t stop the nagging suspicion that her friend has vanished and no one seems to care. Making matters worse are the unbidden memories of her sister who vanished some 70 years ago. Maud’s narration is brilliantly and achingly real.
For your favorite feminist of any age: don’t miss Florence Gordon (2014), the thoroughly believable tale of a 75-year-old academic icon of the women’s movement. Suddenly thrust into the limelight while simultaneously embroiled in the drama that is her family, Florence is snarky and intelligent, a highly quotable character you can’t help but hate to love.
My favorite of 2014: I read a lot of books, some for my job but most for pure pleasure. This year when asked for my favorite, I have no hesitation: A Man Called Ove (2014). It’s a truly feel-good read, full of charm and wit without being sappy or slapstick. This international bestseller features a widower whose attempts to join his wife are thwarted at every turn. From the orphan cat to the eccentric neighbors, dear Ove is still very much needed here on Earth. Read this one yourself before you give it away.