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Make Your "Someone Special" Happy with a Lit Gift

If you participate in the holiday gift-giving craze that infuses the nation at this time of year, here are some sweet ideas for the folks in your life. If no explicit details are given, books are available at local bookstores and through online booksellers. But c'mon, support the locals, okay?

Is your loved one:

Interested in all things related to hot sex, gender identity and/or Greek mythology?
Pick up a copy of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides. This hefty epic novel offers hours of reading pleasure, though it might require some time off work to devote the time needed.

A lover of California nature and all things beautiful?
Seek out The High Sierra of California, which juxtaposes the gorgeous four-color woodcuts of Tom Killion with the writings of Pulitzer-Prize winning poet and California writer Gary Snyder; $50 and worth every penny.

Obsessed with having the latest and the coolest?
Put an order in for Nick Hornby's new McSweeney's book, Songbook, described as "brand-new collection of essays by Nick Hornby on 31 of his favorite songs and songwriters." Songs range from "Pissing in a River" by Patti Smith to "I'm Like a Bird" by Nelly Furtado. Cool. For more info: store.yahoo.com/mcsweeneysbooks/songbook.html

One of the many who loved Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles?
Find the absolutely adorably packaged After the Quake by Murakami. My boyfriend, Josh, who read it in a day, says, "Murakami is a tops in my book. This renowned Japanese author is smooth, deep, contemporary and very enjoyable. His latest book, the jacket of which is carp-covered, is a series of scintillating short stories."

In love with everything cute, cute and more cute?
Chronicle Book's little gift book, Oopsy Daisy's Bad Bad Day, is the cutest, perfect to keep at your desk and turn to for comfort when work sucks. I believe Oopsy Daisy can also be found in journal and notecard formats.

Always hungry?
It's not new, but Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is incredible. Bought some scallops on sale but no idea what to do with them? Check the book. Looking for more than 12 different ways to stir-fry chicken? Check the book. Perfect for beginning cooks and a great reference guide for everyone else.

Happy to be given a really solid, satisfying read?
All Is Vanity by Christina Schwartz (her first book was one of those Oprah books) is the highly entertaining story of two female friends, one an aspiring writer in NYC, the other a debt-ridden Beverly Hills housewife. I laughed, I empathized.

Far away and/or unreachable by snail mail?
Knopf is kind enough to offer poems and broadsides via email, some of which are winter and/or holiday-themed. Find one you like and feel proud that it's not a Yahoo! greeting. www.randomhouse.com/knopf/poetry/

If you are tired to listening to a friend or relative moan about how they can't remember the title of a book they once loved, give them this holiday gift: visit used-book site www.abebooks.com and send an email to [email protected] with all the relevant details. The site posts many of the emails and people try to solve the mysteries. (If you're a book junkie, this is also a great way to pass the time at work while helping others if the work season is slow!)

Happy holidays everyone!