December 9, 1999

Looking for a great gift for someone on your holiday list? Check out this stack of books, compiled and recommended by us Fools. You can even order these books through Amazon.com by clicking on the title.

A House for Mr. Biswas
by V. S. Naipaul
"Poor Mr. Biswas. Read his life and appreciate your own. He struggles to make ends meet in a postcolonial Trinidad and deals with economic problems, obnoxious in-laws, and a wife who doesn't love him. One minute you'll wince at his misfortune, the next you'll be smiling at his spirit. This is a great novel, written eloquently. It's alternately a comedy, tragedy, history, biography. But don't take my word for it -- read more about it!" -- Selena Maranjian (Editorial)

Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage
by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew
"Some of the men who went down to the sea in ships went down in the sea in submarines. These stories of heroism, intrigue, and gross stupidity make Blind Man's Bluff an interesting read, as many of the men of the Silent Service are silent no more about those cold war missions to see what the Russian Bear was up to. From wiretapping a communications cable in the USSR's backyard, to a secret pact with the CIA and Howard Hughes, it's chilling to know how close we came to war, in the interest of preventing war." -- Richard Dressner (Community)

The Alienist
by Caleb Carr
"Anybody who loves edge-of-your seat thrillers, historical novels, or just a plain old great mystery, will love The Alienist. Caleb Carr weaves a masterful tale of a serial killer on the loose in New York City in 1896. The team out to catch him, put together by then Chief of Police Theodore Roosevelt, consists of a psychologist (an "alienist" in yesteryear's terms -- hence the name of the novel), a crime reporter, and some other flavorful characters. This unlikely bunch chases a madman through the still-fledgling streets of Manhattan, all while accurately recounting the period and the state of NYC in the late 19th century. I strongly advise that vivid dreamers and those with weak stomachs reconsider!" -- Rob Schmidt (Human Resources)

Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur S. Golden
"This richly detailed (marginally fictionalized, from what I've heard) book details the life of a poor Japanese farm girl sold into slavery and transformed into a renowned geisha. For a cultural dolt like me, it really gave me a vivid sense of the world of the geisha and the class system in pre- and post-war Japan. Although a little Harlequin-ish toward the end, it is a compelling read. I was hooked in the first 20 pages." -- Dayana Yochim (Editorial)

Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card
"All your kid wants for Christmas is the latest version of Mortal Kombat? Here's a book that will tear the most doomed gamer away from his glowing, bloody screen. You may have to threaten to blow up his monitor to get him to read it, but I guarantee he'll like it and may even get the idea that books can be pretty cool. Adults like it, too." -- Ann Coleman (Editorial)

Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter
by Jerry E. Strahan
"You know a book is going to be interesting when you look at the table of contents and notice that one chapter bears the title 'The Board of Health and the Mafia.' Managing Ignatius is the real-life counterpart to John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces, the tale of misfit genius hot dog hawker Ignatius O'Reilly, for whom Strahan's book is named. New Orleans native Jerry Strahan has managed Lucky Dogs for more than 20 years and witnessed a never-ending stream of transient employees, including carnival workers in the off-season, Vietnam vets, transvestites, and drifters. Indeed, Strahan admits that he thought of calling his book A Hundred and One People I Wish I Had Never Met. 'Deep down inside they were basically kind, loyal, and caring people,' he writes, 'but these qualities rarely surfaced.' Managing Ignatius is, in short, a wonderfully written, riotous tale that proves that truth really is stranger than fiction." -- Kaiti Trimble (FoolMart)

'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!': Adventures of a Curious Character
by Richard Feynman
"Richard Feynman is best known as a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a key member of the Manhattan project. But fear not! This isn't a science book at all. It's about life, as observed through the eyes of this everyday Joe who just so happened to be one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. No other person could as effortlessly segue from explaining atomic physics to analyzing the opposite sex (trust me, it works in this book), and keep you laughing the whole time. The only autobiography I'd recommend to everyone." -- Scott Shrum (Business Development)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling
"The Potter series begins with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It's about a boy, born a wizard and orphaned at birth. Little does he know he's the child of two very famous wizards, and famous himself. He is forced to live with a not-so-nice human family until the witches locate him and enroll him in Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards. My 12-year-old son and I have formed our own book club, and we are each reading a different book in the series. This is a very nice way to connect with a preteen. Fools of all ages will enjoy this whimsical series." -- Karen Kosoy (Customer Service)
Others: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Millionaire Next Door
by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
This book dispels many of the myths about millionaires. This book also backs up its claims with cold hard facts and research that is very cool. The authors focus on the attributes of wealthy people, many of which may surprise you. This also provides some good insight into the habits of people who have difficulty accumulating wealth. The authors also provide some good recommendations on the role that parents play in the success of their children. Overall, this was a very good read." -- Buck Hartzell (Tech Dome)

Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story
by Amanda Vaill
"Don't let the title throw you. This isn't exactly a romance novel. It's a true story about a privileged American couple who made their home in France in the 1920s. They surrounded themselves with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, and Pablo Picasso. Almost all of these artists received financial support from the Murphys, even when they could not afford to do so. Picasso painted them and Hemingway based a number of characters on them. This book is a wonderful look into their exciting and sometimes tragic lives." -- Heather Wilhelm (Editorial)

Timeline
by Michael Crichton
"The author of Jurassic Park has done it again. No, there's no ravenous Rex here, but Michael Crichton takes you away (almost literally) in his new novel, Timeline. I don't want to give anything away here, but imagine a premise that seems so ridiculous on the surface (like being transported back to another century), and finding yourself saying, 'Whoa, this actually sounds believable!' There's a multibillionaire Gates-type character behind a new technology that's sure to make every reader wonder just what kinds of research might be going on in the hidden hills of Silicon Valley. This is one of those books that gives you a great story along with the bonus of feeling you've learned a few things along the way. I highly recommend it!" -- Tony Miller (Community)

Ciardi Himself
by John Ciardi
"The best writer on poetry I've come across, and he's not highbrow. How could it be from someone who likes this one:
  Big Chief Watapotami
  Sat in the sun and said, 'Me hot am I.'
  Sat in the shade and said, 'Me cooler.'
  Such is the life of an Indian ruler.
Delight in language is the first goal of poetry." -- Tim Thurman (Community)

The Arabian Nights' Entertainments
by Richard Francis Burton
"Sir Richard Burton translated this Arab classic. The stories are told by Shahrazad to entertain her husband, King Shahryar, and avoid her execution for 1001 nights. The tales give a glimpse into life in the Islamic world of the Middle Ages, and are very entertaining. They range from fantastic to unbelievable. By the way, did you know Aladdin was Chinese? You need to read the tale firsthand to find out more. If you want to step away from the usual John Grisham legal thriller, check out these classics." -- George Runkle (Community)

Security Analysis
by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd
"Graham and Dodd's Security Analysis is definitely the best out there. If you have a high enough caffeine intake, you should be able to get through about 10 pages at a time. If you can deal with that much, you will learn a ton!" -- Brooke Dixon (Tech Dome)

Visit the Fool Bookstore for Motley Fool books and other great reads.

Got another great book idea or want to discuss these? Visit our Books We're Talking About message board.