To my way of thinking, a book with beautiful illustrations and a theme of compassion and/or following your bliss is the ultimate gift. Whether sitting on a shelf looking gorgeous or sitting in a lap offering contemplation, these ones should lift the lives of those in their care. Second most perfect type of gift-book: a warm-and-witty fantasy or a book that we can return to daily for solace. All my picks below reflect these values.
I've linked titles to Amazon below because you can "look inside" the books, but might I suggest that you enjoy a lively seasonal visit to your local bookseller? If it's possible for you, why not give - and live - local?
Olivia by Ian Falconer. I would offer to every young'un in my world. Boy or girl, you can't find a better role model than the irrepressibly creative (and just a touch diva-esque) Olivia.
2. The Arrival by Shaun Tan. I will give to every person who doesn't see the merit in non-linguistic storytelling. This entirely-pictorial tale is mesmerizing and transcendent.
3. Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hahn. How about a non-judging, non-denominational, clear and practical and brief and poetic guide to making your life happier and the world a more compassionate place? Perfect stocking-stuffer for any evolving soul on your list.
4. The Tree of Life by Peter Sis. Got scientists in your sphere? This gorgeously illustrated and complex picture book honoring the life of Charles Darwin is bound to win them over as it calls to their creative, non-linear (dormant?) side.
5. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Great new old-school find: For every middle schooler and Harry Potter fan on my list, I will offer what clearly must have been a JK Rowling influence. Let's just say that the 'cloak of invisibility' and talking hearth fires predate HP by decades... Thanks to my friend M who loaned this to me: I love it!
6. Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter. For all my book blogger friends, I'd give this sleeper of 2011. I still think it's one of the best books I've read this decade, and anyone looking for a spare, luminous, and quintessentially American novel with mythic vision, not to mention gorgeous prose, will love it.
7. The Sibley Guide to Birds. In conjuring magic, one could do no better than birds. Cultivate the art of calling blessings to you by noticing when the feathered grace your days. David Sibley's illustrations are both beautiful and precise, so this guide functions as both a source of aesthetic pleasure and an accurate field guide. For everyone, from the child to the newly-retired with time for birding at last, from the hiker to the shut-in with a bird feeder in the window, this guide offers pleasures aplenty.
I think that's enough for everyone on my list and yours, but if you've got a personal favorite to add to the list, champion it in the comments below and I'll stop by later today for a quick update!
Thanks for visiting, and do let me know what you thought of my list, then go check out the super-abundance of suggestions at Top Ten Tuesday's at The Broke and the Bookish!