8 Incredible Books to Give as Gifts

Along with such best sellers as Rinker Buck’s travelogue The Oregon Trail; William Finnegan’s surfing memoir, Barbarian Days; and...

Christine Ryan

With any luck, you’ll find any or all of these Western books under your tree. (Jeffery Cross)

Along with such best sellers as Rinker Buck’s travelogue The Oregon Trail; William Finnegan’s surfing memoir, Barbarian Days; and the late Ivan Doig’s Montana-rooted novel Last Bus to Wisdom, these fresh picks from some of our favorite booksellers will definitely be on our shopping lists. And maybe, just maybe, our friends and families will see this post…hint, hint.Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It TriumphBy Kristina Rizga (Nation Books; $27)“The subtitle says it all, but this is an incredibly well-researched book that goes beyond the walls of this one school.”—Pete Mulvihill, Green Apple Books, San Francisco

Crossing the Plains with BrunoBy Annick Smith (Trinity University Press; $18)“On a two-week road trip, Smith reflects on her life, the choices she made or that were made for her, the people she lost, and the memories that remain.”)—Barbara Theroux, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT(Spoiler alert: Bruno is Smith’s chocolate Lab.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!By Jonathan Evison (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; $26)“A quirky, fun writing style pulls you through this wonderful tale, which skips around stages of Harriet Chance’s life in Washington State and then on an Alaska cruise that her husband won before he passed away.”—Madison Butler, Liberty Bay Books, Poulsbo, WA

Half an Inch of WaterBy Percival Everett (Graywolf Press; $16)“Lovely, spare stories about lives on Wyoming ranches and reservations that would be at home on a shelf with books by David Foster Wallace or David Mitchell.”—Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore, L.A.

Gold Fame Citrus By Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead; $28)“An astonishingly well-imagined ‘pre-apocalyptic’ novel about what happens when the state dries up. Sip a bottle of water while you read this one. You’ll be thirsty for more.”—Joe Holland, Warwick’s Bookstore, San Diego

The Three-Year Swim ClubBy Julie Checkoway (Grand Central Publishing; $27)“A band of poor kids in 1930s Hawaii are taught to swim in the sugar ditches by a coach who himself doesn’t know how to swim—this true story is entertaining and absorbing and good for the soul.”—Vicki Dearmon, Copperfield’s Books, Sebastopol, CA

The Dying GrassBy William T. Vollmann (Viking; $55)“A novel about the Nez Percé Indian War, Chief Joseph, and the ex–Civil War general tasked with chasing the Nez Percé across the Northwest. Seems like the perfect winter book to read in front of the fireplace.”—Tom Beans, Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe, Bend, OR

California’s Wild EdgeBy Tom Killion with Gary Snyder (Heyday; $50)“In addition to being a great artist, Killion is also a serious historian and a terrific prose stylist. This career-spanning retrospective is a vibrant, soulful tribute to the Golden State.”—Richard M. Lange, Bookshop Santa Cruz, CA