Expert Alert

Best books to give for the holidays in 2022

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MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (11/22/2022) — If you plan to follow the “four-gift rule” this holiday season — something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read — experts from the University of Minnesota Libraries can help you find a perfect present for that last category. They recommend choosing books from a wide range of new releases. 

Lisa Von Drasek, curator of the Kerlan Collection of Children's Literature shares book suggestions for the young people in your life, while Malaika Grant, Arts, Humanities, and Area Studies librarian, shares ideas that will make great gifts for your adult friends and family. 

Lisa Von Drasek

“The books I’m recommending this year are all new 2022 releases with staying power that will keep young readers engaged in diverse stories of history, community and discovery. 

My first recommendation is for ages 4 and up and it’s called ‘Where We Come From,’ by Diane Wilson, Shannon Gibney, Sun Yung Shin and John Coy. Four Minnesotans — a woman of Indigenous descent, a woman born in Seoul, Korea, a Black woman, and a white man of European heritage interleave their own stories in a lyrical format answering the question ‘Where do you come from?’ tied together with figurative illustrations of lands and peoples.

My next recommendation is for ages 8 and up and it’s called ‘Maizy Chen’s Last Chance,’ by Lisa Yee. How did Maizy Chen’s family end up in Last Chance, Minnesota?  Now that’s a story! Yee intertwines the great-grandfather’s story as an immigrant to San Francisco in the 1870s as told by the grandfather with the family members’ own stories creating an entrancing tale of migration, history, survival and community.

Finally, I would recommend ‘The Woman Who Split The Atom: The Life of Lise Meitner,’ by Marissa Moss for people ages 10 and up. What? You didn’t know that it was a woman who discovered that atoms could be split? Why did the Nobel Prize go to Otto Hahn whose work she facilitated? Sexism, antisemitism and professional envy all played a role in Meitner’s struggles and erasure from scientific history. Moss makes great use of archival research weaving the biography of this brilliant scientist within the backdrop of the rise of the Nazis and world history. At times heart-stopping and heart-rending, this is a life story everyone needs to know.”

Malaika Grant

“My first gift recommendation is for those with great interest in both the history and future of America. ‘South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation,’ by Imani Perry, leads us to reconsider the ways we conceptualize the South and broaden our view of its importance in shaping our nation. Her prose beautifully describes her journey home and the people and places she encounters in ways that are expansive, never reductive.

My next recommendation is ‘Gichigami Hearts: Stories and Histories from Misaabekong,’ by Linda LeGarde Grover. The book is an Ojibwe family and cultural history of Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior told through family memories, cultural mythologies, stories and poems. This book informs one’s thinking on not only the history of a region and its people, but also ways of knowing. 

My last recommendation would be a wonderful gift for lovers of books and bookstores called ’The Bookseller at the End of the World,’ by Ruth Shaw. Her charming and joyful, but also heartbreaking, memoir describes how she came to run two small bookshops in the remote village of Manapouri in Fiordland, in the deep south of New Zealand. She shares stories of her customers’ lives as well as her own, revealing the service to a community, public space and camaraderie a bookstore can provide. This book is currently available as an e-book in the U.S. and is a great choice for those who enjoy reading on their electronic devices. The book was originally published in Australia and the U.S. edition will be released in print in 2023.”

Malaika Grant is the librarian for African American and African Studies, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature and English at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Grant is the selector for the Robert and Virginia McCollister Collection for Contemporary Literature. The collection includes current literary fiction, non-fiction, best sellers, biographies and graphic novels.

Lisa Von Drasek is the curator of the Kerlan Collection of Children's Literature. The Kerlan, an internationally recognized resource in the field of children’s literature, contains six core collections and several smaller collections. Von Drasek has lectured on the topics of Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection in Libraries, Emergent Literacy, Diversity in Children's Literature, Comics and Literacy, the New Adult, What Makes an Award Winning Book, and Children's Choice Awards. She also conducts community workshops on creative writing, reading aloud and selecting books for children and young adults.


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