Looking for holiday gifts? The shelves -- bookshelves, that is -- are full

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As the Christmas season approaches, finding the very best gift at a reasonable price is a dilemma for many of us. Books can be the answer. The gift of a book sends many messages:

• You care about the enjoyment and the intellectual development of the person who is to receive the book.

• You have picked a book that you have read and you really like.

• You, yourself, are a reader who feels that readers tend to be more interesting people.

Happily, in the past few months a number of first-rate books, both fiction and nonfiction, have been published, both in book and electronic form.

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant. This is the best recent book on why the “givers” of this world lead the happiest and most productive lives. It also has some helpful insights on how to raise funds for good causes.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. For someone who has an interest in important turning points in American history, this lengthy book is highly recommended.

The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics and a Half Century of False Prophecies, by Josef Joffe. Sometimes, the very best researchers and authors who examine the complexities of the American scene come from abroad. Examples include Alexis de Tocqueville from France and Paul Johnson from Britain.

JOFFE, WHO WAS born in Poland but has spent much of his life in Germany, has just published a book that puts to rest most of the arguments of the “gloom and doom” commentators. He calls them the “decliners.” This book is packed full of fresh insights not only about America and its future but also about worldwide trends. His insights on the future of China are especially interesting. His charts, which demonstrate his points, are especially helpful. Overall, a thoughtful and uplifting analysis by a very wise man.

Looking for a new novel to give away (or read yourself) at Christmastime? Sycamore Row, by master storyteller John Grisham, is a real page-turner. Published only a month ago, this book has accumulated more than 1,100 reviews on amazon.com as of this writing. To quote a sentence from one of these book reviews: “Sycamore Row is a GRAND SLAM in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, last game of the Series, off a pitcher that, up to that point, has thrown a perfect game.”

One caution: In the era of electronic book-readers, you may find yourself in a dilemma. Should you give a real book that you can hold in your hands, or one that can be downloaded onto the person’s Kindle, Nook, iPad or other electronic device? One way to deal with this issue is to give a gift card. If the person is not attracted to the book of your choice, he or she can use the gift card to purchase another book that better fits his or her interest.

FINALLY, I WOULD be remiss if I did not recommend a book that was published in 2011. Peter Collier’s coffee table book Medal of Honor highlights, in prose and photography, the life stories of our living Medal of Honor recipients. It may be the ideal Christmas present for veterans, history buffs and teenagers. The expanded third edition contains vignettes of three of the most recent recipients of the Medal of Honor. Dakota Meyer, Sal Giunta and Leroy Petry all received their medals as a result of extraordinary combat action in Afghanistan. For the purpose of full disclosure, I assisted in the editing of the first edition of this book.

Medal of Honor will be available at a discount price of $25 (retail price is $45) at a book-signing at the Augusta Museum of History from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Jeff Foley and I will be signing and personalizing copies of Rules and Tools for Leaders: From Developing Your Own Skills to Running Organizations of Any Size, Practical Advice for Leaders at All Levels. This book, published in August, also is offered at a deep discount – $10 (retail price is $16). All royalties and profits from this book sale will be donated to the Augusta Museum of History in support of the Jimmie Dyess Symposium coming Jan. 9.

(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – serves on the boards of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Augusta Warrior Project and the Augusta Museum of History. His email address is genpsmith@aol.com. His web site is genpsmith.com.)

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deestafford 11/24/13 - 12:57 am
Excellent ideas and recommendations.

I would have liked to see more recommendations on readings about the Founding of America and the Founding Fathers. There is such a dessert of knowledge in that area and is causing many people to drift....or in some cases run...toward socialism and big government because they are not grounded in the Founding, The Declaration of Independence, and The Constitution. Of they were, we would be having fewer of the problems we are having.

Riverman1 11/24/13 - 08:36 am
Gen. Perry

I once met Gen. Perry in an elevator at Eisenhower Army Medical Center and struck up a brief conversation with him. He was carrying a thick book with him that I tried to see the title of, but couldn't. It's interesting to know what such a person reads.

deestafford 11/24/13 - 10:51 am
Let's not forget the children when giving books.

I strongly recommend Rush Limbaugh's new book for children: "Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims---Time Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans".

Like Gen Perry, I carry a book with me nearly everywhere I go to read while waiting. I also carry some note cards to jot down some of the good ideas and quotes I read. E-books such as the Nook make this so easily and inexpensive.

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