The Christmas shopping clock is ticking off the minutes. So if you have names that haven't been checked off your list yet and you don't have a clue what to get, it may be time to put your faith in a sure-fire winner: books.
There are hundreds of new books on the market this year, so to make your loved one feel extra special you might want to pick up something that's related to home. Here are some books that are connected to Lawrence and Kansas that might fit well in your shopping bag:
Portrait of the state
Two coffeetable-style books showing off the landscape of Kansas are on bookstore shelves this holiday season.
"Kansas: Simply Beautiful" (Farcountry Press, 120 pages, $29.95) features 127 photographs of the state by John C. Avery, Charles Gurche and Steve Mulligan. The images range from intimate closeups to grand panoramas, including a magnificent photo of cottonwood snags in Clinton Lake State Park at sunset and the Ireland sandstone of Tauy Creek in Douglas County.
Daniel Dancer, an environmental activist, artist and photographer, is offering "The Four Seasons of Kansas" (University Press of Kansas, 128 pages, $24.95), which documents the state's beauty through the seasons. Images include ice on the Kansas River near Lecompton and catamarans docked at Hobie Beach at Lake Perry.
This revision has a new preface, four new seasonal essays and 11 new photographs that replace ones in the original 1988 edition. The introduction by author William Least Heat-Moon remains.
Sex, dieting and relationships
Cathy Hamilton, known best as the creator of the Boyfriend In-A-Box novelty gift and the host of the "Home and Away" on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6, has two new miniature books.
"Dieting and Other Weighty Issues: A Girl Code Book" shares observations and advice regarding dieting and relationships: "Never ask a man 'Does my butt look big?' and expect an answer you can live with" and "Always work out next to people who are in worse shape than you are."
"Sex and Dating: A Girl Code Book" sets out such sound advice as "Don't marry for money. Make your own money" and "Don't date someone from the office unless one of you plans a career move in the immediate future."
Each book is 91 pages and costs $5.95 (Andrews McMeel Publishing).
For the adolescent
Richard Jennings, a former editor of Kansas City Magazine who lives in Leawood, has written a delightful chapter book for children in grades 5-7.
"The Great Whale of Kansas" (Houghton Mifflin Company, 150 pages, $15) opens in Melville, a small Kansas town where an 11-year-old boy has unearthed a rare find while digging a hole in his back yard. The boy discovers a Cretaceous-era monasaur in the belly of an enormous skeletal whale. The ancient whale makes modern-day whales seem small.
The boy realizes that the discovery will change his life as a battle over the ownership of the fossil unfolds.
Some encouraging words
Lawrence resident Pam Grout has written a self-help book that is light-hearted and oozing with motivation.
"Living Big: Embrace Your Passion and Leap Into an Extraordinary Life" (Conari Press, 181 pages, $15.95) is a call to action and asks the reader to embrace seven attitudes that Grout believes can change one's life: happiness, boldness, service, kindness, commitment, creativity and spirituality.
Each chapter ends with questions that help readers explore their own feelings and actions and an assignment that pushes readers to practice what they've just learned.
In the classroom
If you have a teacher on your holiday shopping list, you might want to check out "Teachers" (Andrews McMeel , $27.95, 160 pages), an inspirational book with text by John Yow and photographs by Gary Firstenberg.
Yow and Firstenberg traveled more than 50,000 miles in 4 1/2 months through 40 states to capture the guiding spirit of the nation's best teachers. They found good teachers in an art class in Martha's Vineyard, a kindergarten class in Augusta, Ga., a school for circus performers in San Francisco, a rodeo school and a space camp.
Of interest to Kansans is the chapter on Norman Conard, a social studies teacher at Uniontown High School in the southeast corner of the state. His mission is to bring a multicultural world to a school with no African-American or Jewish students. He reaches his goal by having the students produce historical video documentaries, exhibits and performances.
Kansas University English professor emerita Elizabeth Schultz has penned a nonfiction memoir "Shoreline: Seasons at the Lake" about Michigan's Higgins Lake, where she grew up and still spends her summers.
"Shoreline" (Michigan State University Press, 256 pages, $39.95) moves through a series of meditative essays and explores the details of nature, relationships, structures and events that have shaped Schultz's memory of her family's summer lake home and community. The book contains photographs of the lake and woods, as well as the interior of her family's home.
You don't have to know anything about Michigan to appreciate this beautifully written, insightful memoir.
All about Lawrence
And, of course, no Christmas book wish list in this town should be missing "Embattled Lawrence: Conflict & Community" (Kansas University Continuing Education, 441 pages, $35).
The book evolved from "The Biography of a City: Lawrence," a televised course that was taught in the spring of 1998 at KU. At that time, there was no volume of collected articles about Lawrence history.
"Embattled Lawrence," edited by Dennis Domer and Barbara Watkins, does not claim to be an all-inclusive history of the city. However, two-thirds of the 35 articles are new and have never been published elsewhere.
Other contributors include Cathy Ambler, Katie Armitage, Beth Bailey, Brian Black, Barkley Clark, Ray Davis, James Grauerholz, Karl Gridley, Clifford Griffith, Richard Holland, Larry Kipp, Burdett Loomis, Steve Lopes, Jim McCrary, Kristine McCusker, Rusty Monhollon, Dale Nimz, I.E. Quastler, Noel Rasor, Dan Rockhill, David Sain, Elizabeth Schultz, Paul Schumaker, Keith Sculle, Richard Sheridan, Barbara Shortridge, James Shortridge, William Tuttle Jr. and Dan Wildcat.