For The Phoenix

It's that time of year again. It's time for steely shoppers and stoic seasonal salespeople. The hardened vets, the full time retailers, have long ago put on their eye black. The cashiers loosen the rolls of quarters snugly held in well-worn bandoleers. A pause too long at the register can mean the difference between a day free of violence and one full of humiliation. The hellish epicenter called the mall is packed to the brim with glazed-eye zombies ravenous for a good deal. The internet shoppers, the retail equivalent of lapsed faith, are at home smugly enjoying coffee and Thanksgiving leftovers.

Not you though. You are sensible enough, nostalgic enough really, to stroll up your local shopping district's main drag, warm coffee in hand. You want carefully chosen. Not prolifically advertized.

It is with this in mind that you are reading this. When you walk into your local bookstore (Phoenixville peoples, you have a very good one in Wolfgang Books) you will already know what you're buying for whom.

Essentially over the next four weeks I will strive to give you a short list of books by genre that will delight the reader on your holiday gift buying list.

The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. Science History. Hardcover. Riverhead Books. ISBN: 1594488525. $25.95.

A fascinating look at one of the late enlightenment's most pioneering scientists. The life of Joseph Priestly, friend of Benjamin Franklin, was one of revolutionary achievement. Political and theological dissident, inventor of soda water and pioneering electrician, the story of Priestly is one of great inspiration and serves to remind us of how capable a lone man can be.

The Book Of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Philosophy/History. Trade Paperback. Vintage Books. ISBN: 0307390438. $15.95.

The concept behind philosopher Simon Critchley's macabre compendium is that through learning how to die well we will also learn to live well. In brief character portraits Critchley discusses the lives and deaths of history's greatest thinkers. This is the perfect book for those curious readers who prefer to nibble rather than chew.

The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and The Crusade For America by Douglas Brinkley. History. Hardcover. ISBN: 0060565284 $34.99.

This massive tome is by far the nonfiction event of the year. In no way groundbreaking, Brinkley's expansive look at Teddy Roosevelt's role in the creation of the National Parks Services and his lifelong love of nature is yet eye opening.

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