December Gift Guides: Mothers and the Macabre

by Sandra Antonelli

My mother instilled me with her love of books, from a very, very young age. While she doesn’t read fiction (except for my books because I am her daughter), when we talk reading, it’s all about non-fiction. We have traded books over the years and over vast distances. We’ve read Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World, Krakatoa, The Professor and the Madman (aka The Surgeon of Crowthorne), Giles Milton’s Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, Dava Sobel’s Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, as well as an array of non-fiction ranging from the plague to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Books are a Christmas gift-giving tradition.

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Two years ago, Mom gave me the book Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. I returned the favour last year, giving her The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum.

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She gave me Stiff: Curious lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.

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This year I’m giving her Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart, and A is For Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup.

 Gee, it looks like we’ve got some sort of theme here, but I assure you, Mom and I do not have a toxic relationship. We simply have an interest in the unusual. And, it seems, books about somewhat macabre stuff written by women. Merry, merry, Happy, Happy, Ho-Ho-Ho kids!


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If you have someone on your list who loves pop culture, music, movies, and appreciates a quick quip, then we suggest gifting a Sandra Antonelli novel or two. Next to You is her latest.

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