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The gift that keeps on giving

There are seven shopping days left before Christmas.

If reading that sentence caused you any degree of panic, relax. There’s still time to buy the gift that’s not only easy to wrap, but meaningful, too – books. And with that thought in mind I asked some area critics to weigh in on books they’d be happy to give or receive at Christmas.

Billie Nance, of Edgewood Interiors in McComb, didn’t hesitate to name a favorite when questioned about a book for the serious home decorator: “The Welcoming House: The Art of Living Graciously” by Jane Schwab.

J.J. Carney, editor of eat. drink. Mississippi, was also quick to respond with her top three cookbook picks, all written by Mississippi natives: Whitney Miller’s “New Southern Table,” the Jackson Junior League’s classic “Southern Sideboards,” and Robert St. John and Wyatt Waters’ latest, “An Italian Palate,” a cookbook and coffee table book all in one.

Stephanie Freeman, a Spanish instructor who honed her skills in the jungles of Ecuador, chose to name a book she’s hoping to receive: “Gentle Savage” by Menkaye Aenkaedi. “It tells the story of the Waorani people and the spearing of five missionaries in 1956 through the eyes of the converted Waorani people themselves,” she wrote. “I’ve met several of the people in the book, including Menkaye.”

Writer John Paul Smith provided a gift list for history buffs like himself: “Mississippi, An Illustrated History” by Edward Akin, “Looking Around Mississippi” by Walt Grayson, “Written in Bricks” by Mary Carole Miller, and “Early History of Lincoln County, Mississippi” by Jack E. Tindall. Another notable in this category is Smith’s own “Brookhaven and Lincoln County 1916-1919,” available at the Lincoln County Public Library.

Artist Vicki Land shared her favorites for art-lovers: “Living with Art” by McCarter and Gilbert (“good art history and art appreciation”), “Mainstreams of Modern Art” by John E. Canaday (“an overview of art from 1800-2000; especially good for those who are critical of contemporary art”) and “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards (“very helpful in understanding and improving drawing skills”).

Coach David Misner said there are very few books aimed at athletes to which he’d give his stamp of approval. “They tend to be very shallow,” he wrote. One he did mention was John Wooden’s “They Call Me Coach,” describing it as “the best book I’ve read from the sports world.”

“Herb Lady” Kathy Sanders uncovered a treasure in 1994 that remains her most-recommended book to date: “The Complete Book of Herbs” by Lesley Bremness. “When I open it up, everything I need to know about an herb is on one page – from the flowers they produce to cultivation to whether or not it has culinary or medicinal purposes,” she said.

Samantha Naeger, a piano instructor and community volunteer, chose “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott as her favorite coming-of-age story. “Such a sweet (but not sugar-coated) story that covers all of the challenges, beauties, heartaches and hopes of growing up,” she wrote in her response. “I’ve read it over and over, and I never get tired of it.”

Kate Pepper, a mother of six, proposed two classics as good gifts for the elementary set: “Little House in the Big Woods” (“takes kids back in time but not to a place to which they cannot fully relate”) and The Boxcar Children (“because they all dream of being on their own, at least in a fantastical way”). Her picture book picks were “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and “Sammy and His Shepherd” by Susan Hunt (“a sweet, beautifully-illustrated book about Psalm 23”).

Angel Young, a former elementary school teacher, says her 2-year-old son is particularly fond of “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame and “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. Fourth-grader Sophia Cooksey also clued me in on a best-selling children’s book series called Geronimo Stilton.

And completing our line-up of first-rate gift books are some of my respondents’ favorite faith-bolstering ones (besides the Bible, the most recommended book of all times):

• For apologetics, college psychology professor Keith Stovall suggests “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell. “I’ve used Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology a lot, too, when defending essential Christian doctrines,” he added.

• For lighter reading, avid reader Melissa Lester says any of the Randy Alcorn novels would be a good choice. “They are well-written, entertaining, and best of all, help me consider life from an eternal perspective,” she wrote.

• For teens, young adult Mary Henderson suggested “Passion and Purity” by Elisabeth Elliot: “It encourages readers to keep their relationships upright and ask questions about their hearts,” she shared.

• For devotional reading, homeschool mom Stacy Burns named “The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions” and “My Utmost for His Highest.” “I have given these in the past and plan to again,” she wrote. “And as I do, I pray they would bless the recipient like they did me.”

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.