The other day, you were cleaning out your wallet, looking for something you needed and you got quite a surprise.
Oh, sure, you found what you were looking for. As well as three outdated coupons, a 7th grade photo of your niece (she’s 25 now), a grocery list from who-knows-when, and two phone numbers scribbled on scraps of paper - with no names.
And you found the bookstore gift certificate you got last Christmas.
Okay. So you know what to do with all that other stuff (sorry to the niece) but what do you do with a bookstore gift certificate?
Send it to me, care of…. no, just kidding. Instead, why not GO TO THE BOOKSTORE and look for these books….
And you love westerns, try “The Brave” by Nicholas Evans (who wrote “The Horse Whisperer”). This is the story of a cowboy whose past comes back to haunt him when his son is charged with murder. Also look for "Blind Your Ponies" by Stanley Gordon West which, like “The Brave” is set in Montana and tells the story of a man who is hiding from his past and the basketball team that changes his life.
Historical novel lovers will want to look for “The Book of Negroes” by Lawrence Hill. That’s the story of a former slave woman who decides to pen her memoirs, starting with her life in an African village and what happens to her on her journey back. This is one of those books you won’t be able to put down. You’ve been warned…
Connie Briscoe’s last novel, “Sisters & Husbands” is now in paperback. It’s a story about a woman who can’t seem to settle down, particularly since she’s seen her sister’s marriages flounder. Another paperback novel to look for is “These Things Hidden” by Heather Gudenkauf, a book about a woman who wants to put her past behind her and re-connect with her sister after a prison term for a crime that happened long ago. But the past can’t always be hidden. And don’t miss “Color Me Butterfly” by L.Y. Marlow, a novel based on a true story of four generations of mothers and daughters – also in paperback.
Best thing about a paperback is that you can buy more with that gift certificate…
Try “Blood Contract” by Biola Olatunde, which is set in the Niger Delta. It’s the story of a man who tried to escape his past by leaving his village, until that very past pulls him back.
Set in Ireland, “They Never Gave Up” by Linda Penhall is the story of two women and their lifelong friendships and the support they give one another.
“The Savion Sequence” by D. Amari Jackson is a little new age, a little fantasy, and a little mystery, set partially in the Sahara and partially in North Carolina.
And “The Abominable Gayman” by Johnny Townsend is a novel about a gay Mormon who’s doing his two-year missionary work in Italy, his “torment” and the things he faces while so far away from home.
All these books may be a little difficult to find, but if you’re in the mood for something completely unusual, give them a try.
Don’t shop before you read “Before You Buy!” by Michael Corbett. This book takes you from dreaming of home ownership to painting your new bedroom and everything in between, and it even addresses your “freaking out” moments. If this is your year to own a home, what better way to use that gift certificate?
(or sir)…. and you’re getting married, look for “Offbeat Bride” by Ariel Meadow Stallings, which will give you lots of ideas and make your Special Day as perfectly unique and non-traditional as you are. If you’ve got a daughter (or if you are one), look for “You’re Grounded Forever… but First, Let’s Go Shopping” by Susan Shapiro Barash, a book that discusses the age-old mother / daughter battles and what can be done to stop them. For the artist in you, grab “You Can Draw in 30 Days” by Mark Kistler, which is a cool book that will unleash your creativity, even if you think you can barely hold a pencil.
If there’s a 20-something in your family, look for “Not Quite Adults” by Richard Settersten, PhD & Barbara E. Ray. That’s a book to help you understand why your post-teen is still a kid (to you) and why it’s a good thing. And if you’ve got other challenges in your family, you’ll want to read “Siblings and Autism”, edited by Debra L. Cumberland and Bruce E. Mills, an anthology of true stories from people who have brothers or sisters with the autism spectrum.
I also liked “Yellow Dirt” by Judy Pasternak, which is a chilling historical account of nuclear development and what happened when the government knowingly contaminated an entire tribe of Native Americans. If you’re looking for outrage, this is your book. Another outraging book is “American Plastic” by Laurie Essig. How does our love of plastic money affect our plastic lives? Read on…
Try “BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family” by Mara Shalhoup. Set in Detroit, that’s the true story of organized crime, power, drugs, and greed, and how the empire was brought down by a team of dedicated investigators. Then look for “Stay in Your Lane: Judge Karen’s Guide to Living Your Best Life” by Judge Karen Mills-Francis, who is the star of the syndicated TV show Judge Karen’s Court.
I also liked “Double Play” by Mike Weiss; a true crime story of the double murders of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, and includes a DVD and new information you might not know.
who’s tired of putting the same old thing in the ground, look for “Bizarre Botanicals” by Larry Mellichamp and Paula Gross, which will give you dozens of cool ideas for the garden and for that landscaping project you’ve been thinking about. I also liked “The Blueberry Years” by Jim Minick, which is a very sweet book about a different kind of family farm. Bonus: RECIPES!
who can’t seem to get started on that new novel, look for “Mastering Creative Anxiety” by Eric Maisel. This book – which is useful for anyone who needs creativity – can boost your brain and get you to the next level on your book, your artwork, your screenplay, song, or skit. I also really loved “The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing”, edited by Marita Golden. This book, filled with interviews of authors such as Pearl Cleage and Edwidge Danticat will also get you motivated to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
then try “My Week at the Blue Angel and Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas” by Matthew O’Brien. This is a collection of stories – all true – about the people who live on the edges of Las Vegas, and it’s a definite don’t-miss. Then look for “Good Behavior: A Memoir” by Nathan L. Henry. That’s a book about the author’s year in jail, what got him there, and how he turned his life around. And if you still want more life-stories, grab “Learning to Die in Miami” by Carlos Eire, which is the tale of a man who came from Cuba in 1962 with his older brother, and how he adjusted to his new life and his new country.
Look for “Daily Scoldings” by Beryl Barclay. That’s a book filled with advice and quick wit, and it’s quick to read, too.
Look for “Now… Build a Great Business!” by Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy. This book will teach you how to take your business to the next level to maximize profits and grow. Bonus: it includes website information. Also look for “Black Business Secrets” by Dante Lee. That’s another entrepreneurial book, but this one is specifically for African Americans who want to make a better business.
And you’re planning a vacation on wheels this summer, grab “Across America by Bicycle” by Alice Honeywell and Bobbi Montgomery. That’s the story of two women who biked from Oregon to Maine one summer, the people they met, the sites they saw, the troubles they encountered, and the fun they had.
look for “Not All Princesses Dress in Pink” by Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Anne Sophie Lanquetin. That’s a great book for the little princess who must wear blue or green now and then. Your young reader will also enjoy “Memoirs of a Goldfish” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers. That’s a funny story about a very crowded fish bowl – and here’s the bonus: it’s a Mom’s Choice Award-winner. I really liked “Even Monsters Need Haircuts” by Matthew McElligott, which tells the story of Ultimate Bad Hair and a monstrous beauty parlor. And I loved “The Prince & The Gift” by Janet H. Surette, illustrated by Tasha Nalini Maraj. That’s a book with a lesson for kids who need it, but it’s such a pretty book that they’ll never notice.
Look for “How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hands-On Activities for Monster Hunters” by A.R. Rotruck. Published by the Dungeons & Dragons folks, this book is funny and very fun for young wizards. I also liked “Beast Friends Forever: Book 1, Meet the Beast” by Nate Evans and Vince Evans. Part comic book, part chapter book, this is a great bridge between the two, and your young monster-lover will love it.
And if you’re heading on vacation this year, check the bookstore for “Cool Stuff Every Kid Should Know” by Kate Boehm Jerome. This is a series of books, each focusing on a specific city, its history, sites, and trivia, includes pictures and plenty of information for the young vacationer. Cincinnati, Orlando, Dallas, Tampa, Atlanta, Houston, Buffalo, and Charleston are available now… more books are slated to be released in the coming months.
then look for “The Twin’s Daughter” by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, a gothic novel about two girls separated at birth and the creepy things that happen when they unite as grown-ups, one with a daughter who sees too much. I also liked “The Beef Princess of Practical County” by Michelle Houts, a novel about one girl’s week at the county fair after months of preparation and weeks of avoiding the nastiest girls in her small Indiana town. And if you’ve got a “Twilight” fan who’s chomping for something to read, look for “iDrakula” by Bekka Black. Get this book, and they’ll say fang you very much (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
And there you are: a few dozen ways to spend that found gift certificate by spending a few hours in a bookstore and then, curled up with a book you’ll love.