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Tops for literate gift-givers: Cookbooks, non-fiction



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Not sure what to give the book lovers on your holiday gift list?

Dish up two titles that booksellers say are turning up the heat: Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats, A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners, the 11th cookbook by Food Network star Ray, and The Silver Spoon, the first English translation of Il cucchiaio d'argento, a mainstay of Italian cooks for the past 55 years.

"This year, Rachael Ray has really taken off," says Beth Bingham of Borders and Waldenbooks. "Her magazine launched this fall and her appearance on Oprah didn't hurt either."

The Silver Spoon, a popular wedding gift in Italy, was first published in the USA in early November. "That is the one that everyone is coming in for," says Cathy Langer, a buyer at Tattered Cover stores in Denver.

For the non-cook on gift lists, non-fiction titles -- particularly memoirs -- are outselling fiction.

"There seems to be a lot of eating, wine drinking and self-introspection going on," says Tom Burke, executive vice president for Barnes & Noble.com. "Those books are doing very well."

Says Brad Parsons of Amazon.com, "The only really literary book I've seen on the list is The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion."

But Didion's book, which deals with the year after the death of her husband, is not the only memoir doing well, according to booksellers. Among others: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey and Teacher Man by Frank McCourt.

Choosing a non-fiction title for gift-giving "is always a safer bet" than fiction, Parsons says.

"The World is Flat (by Thomas L. Friedman), Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (by Doris Kearns Goodwin) or quirkier stuff like Freakonomics (by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner) is dominating," he says.

Although fiction is not the year's hottest category, "there are some strong titles," says John Mutter, editor of Shelf-Awareness.com, a website that monitors the publishing industry. Some independent booksellers have told him that E.L. Doctorow's The March and Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan are particularly popular with gift-buyers.

Standouts in the children's category include all things Chronicles of Narnia, thanks to the release of the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe this month.

Also selling well for children: Robert Sabuda's Winter's Tale, a pop-up book; Christopher Paolini's Eragon and Eldest, and Harry Potter books.

If you're really stumped, there's always the mainstay of holiday gift giving: the coffee table book. The winner in that category, booksellers say, is the $150, 23-pound Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson -- what Amazon's Parsons calls "the coffee table book that would collapse a table."

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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