Books are some of the best gifts you can give over the holidays, and not just because they make you, the giver, look smart (though that’s clearly a plus). They also carry meaning: You don’t give someone any old book — you choose it for them specifically, because of their interests or because you and the recipient share some interest. Or, you know, location. With that (and Alan Prendergast's earlier list
) in mind, here are ten great literary choices for Colorado gift-giving this year. From the poetic to the prosaic, from fiction to non-, from the comic to works of sincere depth…they’re all books on the Mile High scale of sublime.
1. The Rise and Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic, Christopher Merkner
In these stories, one of which (“Cabins”) was recently awarded an O. Henry Prize, the American Midwest is painted as the darkly comic, intellectually complex, acerbically uneasy place that those of us from there know it to be. Merkner, who teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, fills his landscapes with voices that constantly surprise and never fail to fascinate.
2. East of Denver, Gregory Hill
This Colorado Book Award-winning novel follows the Eastern Plains adventures of one Shakespeare Williams as he returns home after being away for too long — long enough that his father is failing, and so is the family farm. It’s a coming-home story with heart and humor — both occasionally dark and ultimately satisfying. Author Gregory Hill is a Denver resident; given this book’s title and setting, it makes for a pure Colorado reading experience.
3. The Alvarez Journal, Rex Burns
Rex Burns, a longtime Colorado mystery writer, has several series running, including the one featuring Gabe Wager, which began with this notable 1975 book, a winner of the coveted Edgar Award. Set in Denver, the books explore the seedier side of the Mile High City, and locals will enjoy not only recognizing the setting details, but also following Gabe, a Denver police detective, through a pre-legalized marijuana smuggling scheme.
4. A Whaler’s Dictionary, Dan Beachy-Quick
You don’t have to be a Moby-Dick
fan to appreciate this collection from Colorado State University professor Dan Beachy-Quick — but it helps. Still, there’s something deliciously engrossing about this paean to the Melville classic, with side trips into myth and archetype and poetics. If you have a literature lover on your gift list, especially one with a penchant for the vast blue territories of the sea, Beachy-Quick’s book will find a special place on their bookshelf.
5. Who Are You People?, Shari Caudron
Denver writer Shari Caudron examines the funny and deeply weird worlds of American subcultures, from Barbie doll fans to storm chasers to Andy Griffith Show
aficionados and more. This nonfiction book is tender and insightful, with surprising revelations. Caudron admits that she started writing as a cynic but emerged from the experience a believer — if not in the passions she encountered, at least in the value of those passions. Readers will take the same trip, and enjoy every step.
Keep reading for more great gift books by Colorado authors.