Give a book that fits well

By Colette Bancroft, Times Book Editor
Published December 16, 2007

Some of the people on your holiday shopping list are easy to buy books for: Just scan the bestseller list. The series mystery fans will dig right into the new Sue Grafton or David Baldacci, the romantics will swoon for the latest Nicholas Sparks, financial whizzes and wanna-bes will like, depending on their depth, recent books by Donald Trump or Alan Greenspan. But what about those difficult folks who don't quite fit the broad categories, the ones you always scratch your head over, then give up on and go with the gift card option? Here are a few books that might suit the stockings of the iconoclasts in the family.

For your Goth niece who hasn't smiled at a gift since she was 11

Anticraft: Knitting, Beading and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister (North Light Books, $22.99), by Renee Rigdon and Zabet Stewart, is based on TheAnticraft.com Web site, home of "the dark side of crafting." The book is packed with gloomy illustrations, sardonic sidebars and clear instructions for making crocheted handcuffs, skull-pattern baby sweaters and duct-tape corsets.

For your uncle who wins so many trivia contests he has his own victory dance

Take Me to Your Leader (DK Books, $25) by Ian Harrison is touted in its press release as "the most useless, inane, quirky and tasteless book of the season." It's chock-full of madly cool design and all sorts of lists (weird laws, weird jobs, weird plastic surgeries), instructions (how to make a giant marshmallow in a bucket), assorted charts, factoids, brief histories and some really strange photos.

For the mystery fan who says they just don't write 'em like they used to

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps: The Best Crime Stories from the Pulps During Their Golden Age - The '20s, '30s and '40s (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $25), edited by mystery maven Otto Penzler, takes readers back to the rough, ready and raunchy roots of modern crime writing. This 1,168-page compendium boasts stories by forgotten pulp writers as well as such masterworks as Raymond Chandler's Red Wind and a never-published story by Dashiell Hammett - not to mention reproductions of lots of those juicy cool-guy-hot-dame-and-a-hotter-gun covers.

For the toddler whose parents gave everyone a DVD of An Inconvenient Truth last year

When Santa Turned Green (Plan G, $15.95) by Victoria Perla, illustrated by Mirna Kantarevic, is a charming picture book about what happens when the roof of Santa's workshop springs a leak - and he discovers the North Pole's ice cap is melting (as it in fact is). Printed on 100 percent recycled paper in soy-based ink.

For your favorite slacker college student

Finally, a study aid your sixth-year sophomore might actually use: Raybook.com has just started offering Cliffs Notes designed to be downloaded to an iPod. This techie version of the venerable academic crutch even links character lists to names in the summaries, in case the student can't remember who's who all the way through a whole summary: Romeo who? Find them, for $5.99 each, at www.raybook.com.

Colette Bancroft can be reached at (727) 893-8435 or bancroft@sptimes.com.