A bookish holiday season
A list of the Telegraph’s top literary stocking stuffers


by Joe Foster

1. The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 320 pages

One of the most compelling and promising debuts in years, The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart is a Cormac McCarthy-esque tale of a family of hard-living Czech men torn apart by loss and greed in the arid Texan desert in the early half of the 1900s. Lyrical and emotionally spare, this book is a can’t-fail gift idea for the more literary minded folks on your list. Machart’s debut was chosen as a Reading the West Selection by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, chosen for embodying the spirit of the West and that unquantifiable personality that embodies Western writing.

The story begins with the death of the boys’ mother while giving birth to the youngest of the brothers. It can be argued, her loss destroyed any possible tenderness that may have existed in this ravaged family. The father, a hard and seemingly heartless man, is simply unable to cope with this loss and so the boys suffer. A horse race lost and marriages of convenience serve to tear the brothers apart … and that’s all you’re getting from me. The book is brilliant and harsh and beautiful and as worthy a read as I’ve ever come across.

For: Anyone who loves Literature, the kind with that pompous capital “L,” anyone who loves the writing of McCarthy, McMurtry, Faulkner and Willa Cather.

2. Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1 by Mark Twain. University of California Press, 2010. 760 pages.

Without a doubt, this is one of the more important

The first in three volumes, this huge tome is full of that humor and scathing wit for which Twain is so loved.

For: The curious, lovers of satire, people who watch reality shows and get an adrenaline rush when they witness someone being unnecessarily mean, fans of Huck and Tom.


3. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Tor Books, 2009. 416 pages

Boneshaker came out last year, but the follow-up, Dreadnought, just came out. Both are badass, fun and action-packed Steampunk adventure with enough zombie battles to satisfy the most blood-thirsty readers. In the early days of the Klondike gold rush, the Russians held a contest, looking for a machine that could dig through Alaskan ice to get to the inevitable piles of gold beneath. An inventor in Seattle takes the challenge and

The son of the inventor who released this monstrosity must, as the protagonist, find out what happened. This means going either under or over the wall into the nightmare that is zombie- and outlaw-infested Seattle. Basically, he gets in over his head and his mom has to come to his rescue. A whole lotta bloody fun, this one.

For: That late teen to thirtysomething who used to poke roadkill with a stick, fans of the new “Walking Dead” TV series, people who are easily bored and hard to buy for.

4. The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud. Hyperion Books, 2010. 398 pages

A prequel to the hilarious Bartimaeus Trilogy, Jonathan Stroud takes us back to the time of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Bartimaeus may very well be my favorite narrator of all time. A sarcastic, wise-cracking Djinni, enslaved to the demands of the cruel magicians who summon him, Bartimaeus is the cleverest mid-level demon on the block, which tends to land him in way more trouble than he’s comfortable with. A land where magicians have no power but summon powerful magical demon slaves to do their bidding, Stroud shows us the ways in which power always corrupts. This writer and this series deserve to be much more popular, in my opinion.

For: Smartass kids (ages 12 and up or so), Fans of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief series, you.

5. Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010. 40 pages.

Young Lucy the Bear finds a boy in the woods and brings him home and begs her mom to let her keep him. Mom warns Lucy that “Children make terrible pets,” but relents. Lucy is so excited about her new pet, Squeaker. Clever, imaginativ, and absolutely freakin’ adorable, this one is a blast to read to giggly little kids with big imaginations. Sure to crack parents up just as much as the rugrats, this one is fantastic.

For: Seriously, anyone who has a sense of humor and a person under 3 feet tall in their lives. •



In this week's issue...

July 21, 2022
Wildlife success or deal with the devil?

Land swap approved in Southwest Colorado, but not without detractors

July 21, 2022
Tapping out

The latest strategy to save the San Luis Valley's shrinking aquifer: paying farmers not to farm

July 14, 2022
Hey, good environmental news

Despite SCOTUS ruling, San Juan Generating Station plans to shut down