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Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006 02:32 pm

Best books of '06

Give your favorite reader a page-turner for the holidays

The holiday season is a perfect time to hit the bookstore and select the ideal book for each reader on your list. Here are suggestions in six different categories.

The number 13 may be considered unlucky, but not for two authors’ new books. The Thirteenth Tale (Atria, 416 pages, $26), by new author Diane Setterfield, introduces the reader to recluse Vida Winter as she relates the true story of her life to bookstore owner and biographer Margaret Lea and both find hidden meaning in a lost twin.

Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons (Random House, 432 pages, $26.95), follows 12-year-old Will Cooper’s journey through Cherokee territory, detailing the trials he encounters and the love he finds for a girl named Claire.

Now a movie starring Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness (Amistad, 320 pages, $25.95) tells the amazing rise to prosperity of Chicago broker Chris Gardner, who started out homeless in San Francisco, caring for his small son and struggling to survive. Now wealthy, Gardner has used his money to support those in need, including students here in Springfield.

Intriguing titles say it all: And a Bottle of Rum: The History of the New World in Ten Cocktails (Crown, 304 pages, $24), by Wayne Curtis, and Passionate Minds: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Emilie du Chatelet, the Poet Voltaire, Sword Fights, Book Burnings, Assorted Kings, Seditious Verse, and the Birth of the Modern World (Crown, 384 pages, $24.95), by David Bodanis.

Perhaps someone you know enjoyed the recent film Marie Antoinette. Several books will serve as good gifts, then. Start with Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King (Nan A. Talese, 416, $32.50), by Antonia Fraser, for a look at the king’s life before Marie Antoinette arrived in it, and follow it with Marie Antoinette: The Journey (Anchor, 544 pages, 2002, $16.95), also by Fraser, and Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution (Henry Holt and Co., 432 pages, $27.50), by Caroline Weber.

Jim Collins makes the rounds to business conferences, talking about his bestseller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Other Don’t, his research about what makes a company great, not just good. He has now turned his attention to education associations and social organizations in Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer (Collins, 42 pages, $11.95).

Lemony Snicket strikes again with The Beatrice Letters (Harper Collins, 72 pages, $19.99), a wonderfully designed book with L-E-T-T-E-R-S in a cutout design on the cover, a paperback book of Beatrice’s letters and a poster slipped inside a folder, and pockets in which to store one’s own letters.

One can never go wrong with Robert Sabuda’s pop-up masterpieces. This year, Encyclopedia Prehistorica Sharks and Other Sea Monsters (Candlewick, 12 pages, $27.99) follows from last year’s Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs. Sabuda has also created such pop-up books as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Christmas Alphabet, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The political scene is a big topic this year. Great choices include Bob Woodward’s State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (Simon & Schuster, 576 pages, $30) and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Crown, 384 pages, $25).
Two anti-Iraq-war books have flown off the shelves — Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (Crown, 480 pages, $25.95), by Michael Isikoff and David Corn; and Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (Penguin Press, 496 pages, $27.95), by Thomas E. Ricks

Cinda Klickna, a former English teacher, serves as the secretary-treasurer of the Illinois Education Association. Contact her at Cinda.Klickna@ieanea.org

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