Books as great last-minute gift ideas

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Save all your holiday shopping till today? Not a problem. Books make excellent last-minute gift ideas and we have so many good ones to recommend.

For starters, check out the Monitor's "best of 2008" reading lists, both best novels of 2008 and best nonfiction books of 2008.

Our recommended novels run the gamut from some top-notch thrillers ("The Likeness" by Tana French, "When Will There Be Good News" by Kate Atkinson, "A Most Wanted Man" by John Le Carre) to some surprising debut novels ("A Golden Age" by Tahmima Anam, "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski, "All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well" by Tod Wodicka) to new contributions by established literary stars ("Mercy" by Toni Morrison, "The Given Day" by Dennis Lehane, "A Plague of Doves" by Louise Erdrich.)

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The nonfiction picks also exhibit a terrific mix of talents and subject matter. There are books for history buffs ("This Republic of Suffering" by Drew Gilpin Faust, "Nixonland" by Rick Perlstein), books for current event mavens ("The Post-American World" by Fareed Zakaria, "The Nuclear Jihadist"  by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins), and books for music lovers ("Can't Buy Me Love" by Jonathan Gould, "John Lennon: The Life" by Philip Norman.)

For readers wanting to stay on top of the nation's most read books, you might also check out Amazon's Top 10 list. These include J.K. Rowling's "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" and all four books in Stephenie Meyer's teen vampire "Twilight" series.

2008 also brought a bonanza crop of strong short story collections, so for readers who prefer short-form fiction you might try the Monitor's list of best short story collections of 2008. These will take you everywhere from tales of Africa ("Say You're One of Them" by Uwem Akpan) to stories about life in a small town on the Maine coast ("Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout.)

Then, of course, for young readers, there's our list of the best children's books of 2008. These include biography ("A River of Words" by Jen Bryant), mystery ("Something Wicked" by Alan Gratz), and poetry ("Birmingham, 1963" by Carole Boston Weatherford.)

And for readers who prefer images to words, you might also look at the photo books reviewed this year by the Monitor's photo staff. These include "Looking for Lincoln," "Seen Behind the Scene," "Magnum Magnum," "What Matters," and "Kurdistan."

Truly, when it comes to books, there's something for everyone on your list.

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