The Holidays Are Here — Don't Panic
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Can't think of gift ideas this holiday season? Don't panic — Nation Books has not one but 12 great ideas.

1. You could follow in the footsteps of Bill Moyers and give the gift of Peter Dreier's The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. Moyers calls Dreier a "one man progressive movement" and "a great teacher." Moyers says: "I got a copy [of The 100 Greatest Americans] for each of my three grandchildren…I assigned them the joy of reading a chapter a day." Dreier's The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century is a deeply informed, colorful, and witty history of the 20th century progressive leaders and movements who changed history is a welcome antidote to the misinformation about America's progressive past found in the mainstream media.

2. Those who love art and politics will enjoy Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Two years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges and award-winning cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco set out to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in America that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. The Financial Times calls the book, a "growling indictment of corporate America." Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt has made the top 10 books of the year list for Busboys and Poets, Amazon, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.

3. If you are looking for a book that combines history, American nostalgia, and cinema studies, check out The Noir Forties: The American People From Victory to Cold War  — a must-read for all the film or history buffs in the family. Richard Lingeman presents a vivid reexamination of America's postwar period, that "age of anxiety" characterized by the dissipation of victory dreams, the onset of the Red Scare, and a nascent resistance to the Cold War consensus. Oliver Stone, the Academy Award-winning film director, screenwriter, and producer, described it as a gift to the world, so why don't you make it a gift to someone in your life (or indeed, yourself). Stone says, "When I skimmed through the pages, I began to relax — and felt enchanted. It was another world. Lingeman evokes a mood, place, time, and a feeling that only someone who'd been there can. Incredible writing… Remarkable insight. Thank you for giving the world this gift."

4. For another great book that explores that cultural and political complexity of the American west, let us suggest Deanne Stillman's Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History. According to the Los Angeles Review of Books, "One of the greatest gifts of this book is how Deanne Stillman is able to open our hearts to people we might otherwise judge or dismiss...One can't help but be filled with gratitude and awe toward Deanne Stillman — her clear eye, the depth of her research, her brave and compassionate imagination. She takes us on a journey as full of desolation and grandeur as the desert itself."

5. For those people in your life interested in following the nation's past to make sense of its present, look no further than State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream by journalist and activist Jeff Biggers. A riveting account of Arizona, the famed frontier state whose conflict over immigration and state's rights has become a national bellwether, State Out of the Union vividly unveils the showdown over the American Dream in Arizona — and its impact on the future of the nation. "Jeff Biggers has the unblinking gaze of the honed journalist, a novelist's sense of image and story, and a prophet's cache of outrage. He stands in my very short list of American literary heroes." — Luis Urrea, author of The Devil's Highway and The Hummingbird's Daughter

6. Bestselling author Jimmy Burns' La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World is not only for soccer fans. La Roja is Burns' tremendous opus tracing the history of Spanish soccer from its early beginnings to the present day. Burns shows how the engagement of foreigners with home-grown Spanish talent overcame political adversity and produced football of sublime skill and passion that intoxicates fans around the world. The Wall Street Journal called it a book that "shows in colorful detail how the traditions and loyalties of one country ended up by giving us the finest clubs and national team of the present moment."

7. La Roja isn't the only great soccer title on our list. Soccernomics, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, is one of the bestselling and most influential book on soccer in the United States. Kuper and Szymanski consistently fascinate both readers of history and soccer fans alike. Written with an economist's brain and a sports writer's skill, it applies high-powered analytical tools to everyday soccer topics, looking at data in new ways, revealing counterintuitive truths about the world's most loved game. Soccernomics adds up to a revolutionary way of looking at soccer that could affect the way the game is played internationally.

8. The love of music is something that transcends age, and music is a topic that all relatives can happily discuss. Let Fury Have the Hour: Joe Strummer, Punk, and the Movement that Shook the World — the inspiration for D'Ambrosio's extraordinary documentary of the same name — is a unique collection of original writing, interviews, essays, and visual art, which focuses on Joe Strummer as the archetypal citizen artist. As a member of The Clash, Strummer composed some the most important rebel music of the twentieth century. Fusing raw creativity with a humanist global sensibility, he helped convert punk rock from its early associations with reactionary and nihilistic politics into a movement of creative response and world citizenship.

9. No family gathering is complete without a political argument. Be sure to pick up a copy of Van Jones' Rebuild the Dream so you can be ready for any arguments thrown your way. In Rebuild the Dream, Van Jones reflects on his journey from grassroots outsider to White House insider. Jones puts his hard-won lessons to good use, proposing a powerful game plan to restore hope, fix our democracy and renew the American Dream.

10. As the holidays are in full swing, there is one thing on everyone's mind: I need a drink! Check out a Nation Books classic, Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 by Ian Williams. Williams' book triumphantly restores rum's rightful place in history, taking us across space and time, from its origins in the plantations of Barbados through Puritan and Revolutionary New England, to voodoo rites in modern Haiti, where to mix rum with Coke risks invoking the wrath of the god, and across the Florida straits where Fidel and the Bacardi family are still fighting over the rights for the ingredients of Cuba Libre. Watch Williams bringing some contraband Cuban rum into the studios of Democracy Now!

Tags: chris hedges, christmas, gifts, hanukah, holiday, peter dreier, richard lingeman

    • Anna Robinson
    • Anna S.G. Robinson is originally from Auckland, New Zealand. She studied History, English Literature, and French at the University of Auckland and McGill University, Montréal. She was an intern at The Nation Institute during the fall of 2012. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaSGRob...

    • Anna Robinson's full bio »

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