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Published December 16 2012

Best reads of the year

When it comes to Christmas gifts, books are a pretty safe bet.

Whether it’s for a grandmother, a dad, a cousin or a toddler, books are a gift that you can get for most anyone.

But trying to decide what to buy can be a little intimidating, especially when there are so many books you’ve likely never heard of.

So to help you out, we sought out recommendations from staff at the Fargo and Moorhead public libraries, Zandbroz Variety and Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Fargo. With their help, we came up with a collection of the best books of the year.

From fiction to picture books to cookbooks, this list should give you plenty of ideas for this last week of Christmas shopping.

“Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn: “A suspenseful, fast-paced thriller with two main characters involved in a disintegrating marriage.”

– Edie Discher, Fargo Public Library

“Telegraph Avenue,” by Michael Chabon: “Like his Pulitzer Prize-winner, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,’ Chabon has a cast of characters whose lives are interwoven. The interaction between his characters is what makes the story great.”

– Brianne Schmidt, Fargo Public Library

“Some Kind of Fairy Tale,” by Graham Joyce: “Tara Martin disappeared 20 years ago. On Christmas Day, she shows up on her parents’ doorstep and hasn’t changed a bit. Tara has a story to tell that no one she knows could possibly believe.”

– Nicole Thistlewood, Moorhead Public Library

“The Rook,” by Daniel O’Malley: “I liked this humorous thriller so much, I listened to it on audiobook as well. I’m waiting anxiously for news of a sequel!”

– Jenilee Kanenwisher, Fargo Public Library

“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: “While reading this, you find yourself wanting to make a list of all the meanings of all the flowers presented in this beautiful book. Not to worry, the back of the book is equipped with ‘Victoria’s Dictionary of Flower.’ ”

– Josie Danz and Renee Danz, Zandbroz Variety

“The Round House,” by Louise Erdrich: “If you’ve never read Louise Erdrich, you need to, and this would be the perfect one to start with because you will be hooked. If you’re already an Erdrich fan, ‘The Round House’ won’t disappoint, and may become your new favorite.”

– Josie Danz, Zandbroz

“Age of Miracles,” by Karen Thompson Walker: “As a fan of apocalyptic fiction, I loved this melancholy tale of the slow end of the world (the Earth is literally rotating slower and slower), told from the point of view of a 10-year-old girl. It stuck with me for days after I finished it.”

– Jenliee Kanenwisher, Fargo Public Library

Barnes & Noble staff picks for fiction:

• “Fall of Giants,” by Ken Follett

• “The Round House,” by Louise Erdrich

• “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn

• “The Time Keeper,” by Mitch Albom

• “In the Shadow of the Banyan,” by Vaddey Ratner

“The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe,” by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann: “A fascinating and easy doorway into science – and beautifully designed!”

– Deb Kvittum, Moorhead Public Library

“Abbey Road: The Best Studio in the World,” by Alistair Lawrence: “It’s a coffee table book that tells the story of Abbey Road studios and their 80-year history of cutting edge recordings … it’s an incredible document of cultural history, for anyone who values music and how it’s made.”

– Pam Strait, Fargo Public Library

“Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan,” by William Hjortsberg: “This is a huge, sprawling, magnificently written biography of hippie/beat writer Richard Brautigan. Much more than a biography, this is a cultural history.”

– Greg Danz, Zandbroz Variety

“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” by Cheryl Strayed: “I’m not very outdoorsy and not usually one for memoirs, but this is a great one. ‘Wild’ serves as well-written inspiration to overcome any rough patch in your life.”

– Heidi Shaffer, Forum features editor

“The Back in the Day Bakery,” by Cheryl and Griffith Day, and “The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making,” by Alana Chernila: “I have to pick two cookbooks. Both books bring you back to a time before convenience foods (fresh, homemade pop tarts, anyone?) and are perfect for the foodie on your gift list.”

– Megan Krueger, Moorhead Public Library

Barnes & Noble staff picks for best nonfiction:

• “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife,” by Eben Alexander

• “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden,” by Mark Owen

• “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” by Clint Hill

• “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust,” by Ina Garten

“The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green: “It seems that John Green can do no wrong right now… ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ is beautifully written, moving gracefully from tragic and heartbreaking to laugh-out-loud funny.”

– Kaia Sievert, Moorhead Public Library

“Safe Haven,” by Nicholas Sparks: “The teen girl in your life can prepare herself for the February release of the film version starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough.”

– Heidi Shaffer, Forum Features editor

“Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio: “If your kids have not read ‘Wonder,’ you definitely want to get them this book. August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a severe facial deformity and medical needs that have kept him from going to a normal school. Now he will be starting middle school, and his family has decided that since there is no longer a medical reason to keep him home, he will be attending regular school like a ‘normal’ kid.”

– Jenna Kahly, Moorhead Public Library

“Dragons Love Tacos,” by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri: “Every page of this book made me laugh!”

– Nicole Thistlewood, Moorhead Public Library

Barnes & Noble staff picks for children:

• “The Mark of Athena,” by Rick Riordan

• “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio

• “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons,” by Eric Litwin

• “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs,” by Mo Willems

• “Penguin and Pinecone,” by Salina Yoon

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535