What can you give the fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles in your life at the holidays, if they do not golf, do not wear ties, and like to say they “just don’t read fiction?” The question has rarely been more easily resolvable than it is this year, in which a plethora of new non-fiction titles (and, OK, one novel) make it easy to shop for the affable men on your list who unhelpfully protest that they don’t need anything. Match the following books to the male relative who fits them.
For the Patrick O’Brian fan: an Adventure Biography
Did you know that early in the 19th Century—as Napoleon was on the march—Russia’s Tsar Alexander I sent a vainglorious, hotheaded seafaring courtier named Rezanov to conquer California for the Russian empire? Obviously, Rezanov’s mission didn’t succeed (though he made a killing in “soft gold” in Sitka and Alaska en route—harvesting thousands of seal skins, which the Chinese bought at premium prices). In Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America, Owen Matthews thrillingly relates this swashbuckling, Vernean, and entirely true chapter of forgotten history.
For the man who says he doesn’t have time to read: a Photograph Book
In 2010, the young photographer Brandon Stanton took his camera to the streets to capture the idiosyncratic daily gestalt of thousands of New Yorkers in all five boroughs. He posted the photos, along with snippets of interviews of the subjects on his blog, Humans of New York, which today has more than a million followers. The blog is now a lustrous, evocative book of the same name, and each of Stanton’s candid, evocative photographs tells a novel in pixels—but all your giftee has to read (or not read) is a tiny caption, embedded explanatorily in each captivating photo portrait.
For the man who secretly (or not-so-secretly) loves Downton Abbey : A Jeeves and Wooster sequel
Even a man who shuns novels may be tempted by the first new authorized Jeeves and Wooster novel to emerge in forty years, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, written by the British novelist Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong, Human Traces)—who also recently added to Ian Fleming’s James Bond oeuvre, with the bestselling Devil May Care. Your giftee will likely be shaken and stirred, not to mention tickled by Bertie’s newest escapades and Jeeves’s inimitable finesse.
For the Boomer news junkie: A Political History
Nostalgists and armchair politicians will harrumph with satisfaction and perhaps even shed a tear over MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews’s book Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked, in which Matthews revisits a civil, sociable era on Capitol Hill when divisiveness was something political opponents tried to subdue, not to fan into flame.
For the unrepentant geek: An homage to a famous sci-fi show
Since 1963, on television at least, the universe has been “kept safe by a loon with comedy hair” (in the words of the show’s executive producer, Simon Moffat). That loon is known as “Dr. Who,” and his nerdy fans are legion. Eleven different actors have played the badly coiffed time traveling scientist over the decades, and in Doctor Who: The Vault (Treasures from the First 50 Years), Marcus Hearn pays tribute to all of them (and their various foes, friends and gadgets) with a lavishly illustrated, richly annotated puffy-covered coffee-table book—an irresistibleTARDIS on paper for the susceptible.
For the men who lunch: delicious dish from Lenny Bernstein
The great composer and conductor’s letters have been published (edited by Nigel Simeone), and are warm, fiery, incautious and highly entertaining, lending nuance to the different tempos of his life, from presto agitato to “relaxo profundo” (on the beach at Tel Aviv). What did he write to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, to Boris Pasternak, to Stephen Sondheim, to Aaron Copland? And what did they respond? Your theater-buff uncle burns to know. The Leonard Bernstein Letters will tell him.