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From living on the moon to being a misfit here on Earth, Ideas for the readers on your list

Artemis

by Andy Weir

You may have heard the story of the freelance computer programmer who tried his hand at sci-fi with the result being The Martian — first a Kindle book, then one of the great sci-fi movies of all time that earned $630 million at the box office. No word on whether he's doing much programming anymore, but he's back with another novel just in the time for the holidays. Artemis moves the action to the Moon, where Weir has conjured up a scientifically plausible lunar city, named Artemis, where his heroine, Jazz, lives a kinda boring life — until she feels the adrenaline rush of space smuggling. (TED S. McGREGOR JR.)

The Last Castle

by Denise Kiernan

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If you've ever been to Asheville, North Carolina, no doubt you've seen the Biltmore Estate — about 1.4 million visit every year. The creation of George Washington Vanderbilt, grandson of the Commodore himself who'd made a fortune in railroads and shipping, it's an audacious piece of architecture — its interior square footage is measured in acres (four), and there are 250 rooms. Denise Kiernan expands the story to profile its designer, renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt, and its landscaper, Frederick Law Olmsted; to round out the cast of Gilded Age luminaries, Vanderbilt hired John Singer Sargent to paint everyone's portrait. The sketches extend to New York's upper crust, as Vanderbilt married a Stuyvesant (Edith), who outlived him and had to figure out what to do with the Biltmore. (TSM)

Radio Free Vermont

by Bill McKibben

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If you're an environmentalist, Bill McKibben's kind of the high priest of your movement. He was a staff writer for the New Yorker, where he reported the bulk of what would become the first book to document climate change for a mass audience, The End of Nature. He's organized activist organizations like Step It Up and 350.org and fought the Keystone XL pipeline. He's got the bona fides, but the one thing he has not done — until now — is write a novel. And instead of taking a break from all the depressing reality, he's just presenting it all in a new — dare I say, fun — way via the character of Vern Barclay. Vern's a seventy-something public radio host who's had enough and is not gonna take it any more — kind of what Bernie Sanders might look like had he not gone into politics. Vern fights Wal-Mart, Starbucks and even mounts a secessionist movement. If you want to tune out the crazy world we live in, but not completely, Radio Free Vermont might be just the perfect read. (TSM)

Becoming Kareem

by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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Before there was Colin Kaepernick, there was Lew Alcindor — the basketball superstar who refused to play in the 1968 Olympics as a silent protest against racism. As families grapple with how to talk to their kids about racism, here's a new book by Alcindor (known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar since 1971): Becoming Kareem. Abdul-Jabbar sees the line between the likes of Muhammad Ali and Kaepernick, who he said "is forcing the country to continue to have a meaningful conversation about racial inequality when many want to pretend there is no problem," in a recent Sports Illustrated column.

But for this book, aimed at kids 10 and up, Abdul-Jabbar wanted to simply tell the story of being a gangly and shy kid, and what led to his social awakening. After growing up in Harlem and playing basketball for a mostly white high school, he took his talents to UCLA, where his team went 88-2. Then it was on to the NBA where he remains the league's all-time leading scorer. He was also flat-out hilarious as that cramped pilot in Airplane. And it's not even his only book of 2017, as he published Coach Wooden and Me in May to great reviews —a solid choice for the grown-up sports fan on your list. (TSM)

The Revenge of Analog

by David Sax

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Not just for the iPhone phobic or your Luddite uncle who refuses to get "on the email," The Revenge of Analog is for anyone who's lost hours happily flipping through record store bins or feels a little frisson of joy when cracking open a new blank Moleskine notebook. David Sax explores technologies and institutions supposedly made obsolete by their digital forms — record pressing factories, film cameras, brick-and-mortar bookstores — and discovers that their surprising new popularity is rooted in not only nostalgia but a stubborn appreciation for tangible things. Although this title came out late last year it's just been released in paperback, making it a worthy contender for this season. (SHERI BOGGS)

A Glorious Freedom

by Lisa Congdon

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As any woman of a certain age will tell you, it's no fun to age in a society that only celebrates the young. A Glorious Freedom is the refreshing antidote — Lisa Congdon's vibrantly illustrated collection of interviews, profiles and essays on women who all pursued their dreams or did their greatest work after the age of 40. While some names are well known — Julia Child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Vera Wang, Dara Torres — it's the stories of ordinary women learning to surf, embracing being single, taking up lovers, and discovering painting, that resonate most, making the possibility of late blooming accessible for all. (SB)

Sourdough

by Robin Sloan

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I'm seeing this book everywhere — end of the year "best of" lists, recommendations from work friends, other people's gift guides — and it's easy to see why. Robin Sloan (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore) introduces Lois Clary, a software designer at a robotics firm who suddenly finds herself in possession of a crock of sourdough starter. With little more than the mysterious music CD accompanying the sourdough to guide her, Lois starts baking. As her cracked loaves begin bringing in the orders, Lois attracts the attention of a high-concept farmers market but discovers it's not easy to leave the world of robotics behind. Much more than a digital vs. biological debate, this buoyant mix of technology, food, music and magical realism explores startup culture, fringe communities and, above all, what it means to nurture and create. (SB)

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense For Mischievous Children and Immature Adults

by Chris Harris and Lane Smith

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Chris Harris, writer and producer of How I Met Your Mother, teams up with the prolifically entertaining illustrator Lane Smith for this collection of poetry, pictures, puns, riddles, sight gags and running jokes. Sometimes the text begs to be read aloud: " If I ever find myself holding a gecko.../ I'll lecko." Sometimes it's all gleefully unhinged art, as when Harris declares "I Don't Like My Illustrator" and Smith responds with a sketch of Harris as a snaggletoothed, runny-nosed dweeb. And sometimes the art and text are hilariously interdependent, as in "An Alphabet Book by the Laziest Artist in the World," which offers an upside down semi-circle for every letter, explaining, "O is for Orchestra Pit," "P is for Parabola," "Q is for Quail Under a Serving Lid," etc. (SB)

This Book is a Planetarium

by Kelli Anderson

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This coffee-table book, with its birthday-cake-hued stripes, Futura type and night sky inset, is attractive just sitting there. But open it up and it's a marvel of paper engineering as the pop-up contents become six working tools: a planetarium that projects the constellations, a spiralgraph, a decoder, a stringed musical instrument, an infinite calendar and a speaker. Next to the constructions themselves, Anderson explains the scientific principles that make each of them work. This Book is a Planetarium is designed for adults but will appeal to STEM-minded kids with a little adult supervision. (SB)

The Misfit's Manifesto

by Lidia Yuknavitch

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Following the wild success of her TED talk, "The Beauty of Being a Misfit," Yuknavitch defines misfits as not those who occasionally feel awkward or left out, but those who "never found a way to fit in at all, from the get-go." The Misfit's Manifesto delves into the very real pain that underlies many an outsider's quirks and makes the case for what misfits offer culturally, historically and sociologically. Even if you're not a misfit yourself, chances are you know or love one, and the clarity and beauty of Yuknavitch's prose make this a deeply human and rewarding read. (SB) ♦

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