The joys of Christmas do not include coping with crowds at shopping malls or wracking your brains trying to figure out what to get as a gift for someone who already seems to have everything.
Books are a way out of both situations. You don't even have to go to a bookstore, with books so readily available on-line. As for the person who seems to have everything, newly published books are among the things they probably don't always have.
One of the most enjoyable new books I read this year was a biography titled "Stan Musial: An American Life" by George Vecsey. Musial was one of the great hitters in the history of baseball, with a lifetime batting average of .331.
This biography, however, is more about Musial the man, and the era in American life in which he lived, which makes it more three-dimensional. It is a good read, and may be especially appreciated by people old enough to remember that era and the values that prevailed in that era, which Musial exemplified.
Another new and very different book about a by-gone era that I enjoyed was "The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America" by Marc Levinson. It is about the rise and fall of the A&P grocery chain, once the largest retailer in the world, with 15,000 stores, and renowned for its high quality and low prices.
But this is more than an economic story. It is a human story about a family that dedicated itself to making its business the best it could be -- and how the death of the last member of that family was followed by A&P's decline into oblivion.
Two far less uplifting books were published this year but both contain important charges of profound and dangerous corruption. The first is titled "Injustice" by J. Christian Adams. He charges the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder with turning a blind eye to widespread election fraud and intimidation, when those who are committing these acts are black.
The other book is "FDR Goes to War" by Burton W. Folsom and Anita Folsom. The romantic legends of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that whole generations have been taught in schools, on television and in the movies have been debunked by a whole series of history books, of which this is the latest and perhaps the most devastating -- and painfully relevant to our current president.