A Gift of Dragons: Illustrated Stories
by Anne McCaffrey
Published by Del Rey
291 pages, 2002

Fans of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series tend to be rabid about it. McCaffrey has been building this series since even before the release of Dragonflight in 1968. (Elements appeared in short story form in Analog years before it was published as a book.) In the years since, McCaffrey has written 28 books based on Pern, the planet she created to host her dragons. A Gift of Dragons contains four Pern-based short stories: three previously published and one -- "Ever the Twain" -- written for this collection. It's a beautiful little book, one obviously intended to put Pern fans over the moon. The Tom Kidd illustrations are delicate and charming, as is the overall presentation. From the title, through the subject matter and production, this book was born to be a gift.

Alias: Recruited
by Lynn Mason
Published by Bantam Doubleday Dell
210 pages, 2002

Alias Declassified: The Official Companion
by Mark Cotta Vaz
Published by Bantam Doubleday Dell
210 pages, 2002

If someone on your list is a fan of Alias, the spy-fi television show, the gifts are out there. Alias: Recruited is a novel and a prequel to the television series, taking readers back to Sydney Bristow's (played in the series by Jennifer Garner) college days and her recruitment by SD-6. Alias Declassified is a must-have for die-hard fans. An authorized behind-the-scenes look at the making of the television show, as well as an episode guide, the book also includes an exclusive Alias DVD.

Baudolino
by Umberto Eco
Published by Harcourt
522 pages, 2002

There is something searing about Umberto Eco's fiction. His latest work, Baudolino, is breathtaking. Unforgettable. And perhaps the most accessible of his novels to date. Set during the fourth crusade, the book opens in Constantinople at the beginning of the 11th century when the title character saves a Byzantine historian then shares his own practically unbelievable story. Baudilino was published in Italian in 2000 and has since become an international bestseller. The English translation was published in October of this year, perfect timing for gift giving.

From a Buick 8
by Stephen King
Published by Scribner
356 pages, 2002

If the author is to be believed, there won't be many more holidays when a new Stephen King hardcover is a possibility for a gift list. And that's a shame, because what could be more fun over the holidays than a real, good scare? This time a state trooper finds a pristine Buick locked up in a shed... and havoc ensues as, of course, you knew it must.

The Little Friend
by Donna Tartt
Published by Knopf
480 pages, 2002

Stinky reviews seem only to have fueled sales of Donna Tartt's long-awaited sophomore novel. In truth, the opinions of reviewers weren't universally bad -- though ours was quite emphatic -- enough people loved Tartt's first book, The Secret History, so much that the 10 year wait between books fueled the myth that grew up around this author. Love it or loathe it, The Little Friend will find its way under a lot of trees this season.

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
Published by Little Brown & Company
288 pages, 2002

Almost half a year after its publication, The Lovely Bones continues to be one of the most talked about -- and purchased -- books of 2002. Alice Sebold's debut novel introduces us to Susie (like the fish) Salmon, speaking to us from the great beyond. That's right: the narrator of The Lovely Bones is dead, the 14-year-old victim of rape and murder. But it's not just Sebold's completely innovative treatment that has so captured reader's imagination, but her skillful handling of relationships and the evolution of her characters, despite the unfortunate circumstances some of them find themselves in. The attention already paid to The Lovely Bones assures this one will be talked about for quite a while. A good reason to add to the top of the gift list for the serious and avid reader.

The Polished Hoe
by Austin Clarke
Published by Thomas Allen & Son Limited
462 pages, 2002

Though not a second of The Polished Hoe takes place in Canada, the book brought home the coveted Giller Prize -- one of Canada's most prestigious literary awards -- for 2002. The main thread of the story takes place in the 1940s over one long Barbados night when the mistress of one of the island's most respected men calls the local law to confess a murder. About The Polished Hoe, Clarke says: "I wanted to be able to do for Barbados what Chamoiseau did for Martinique and, one could say, what James Joyce did for Ireland." That's worth watching.

 

Robin Hood: A Classic Illustrated Edition
by E. Charles Vivian
Published by Chronicle Books
174 pages, 2002

There are few people who have not been charmed by this classic tale of adventure and romance. And though some consider it a children's story, adults have been fascinated by the myth of Robin of Locksley and his band of merry men for centuries. In Robin Hood the story has not changed but the real added fascination behind this edition is the spectacular works of art included, some dating as far back as the 13th century. It's interesting to see the many forms the Prince of Thieves has taken over the past 800 or so years, from foppish to swashbuckling, from simple woodcut to the beautiful and graphically powerful images of Howard Pyle and Andrew and N.C. Wyeth. It's the diversity of art that helps this Robin come alive. A timeless classic of literature and art and a beautifully designed and produced book for you and your family to enjoy for years.

Unless
by Carol Shields
Published by Random House Canada
231 pages, 2002

Passed over for all three major awards for which it was nominated -- The Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award for Fiction in Canada and the Man Booker Award in the United Kingdom -- the quiet dignity of this poetic novel has continued to capture the imagination of its readers since the books publication early in 2002. Unless brings us the classic mother-daughter tale with the expected Shields-esque twists. "The novel brims with all that is human," January's reviewer said back in May, "the hell-bent good intentions, the brokenness, the stumbling imperfection, and the gallant struggle towards anything even resembling the light."