An invitation flutters out of the usual coupons, bills, and sweepstakes notices. Cousin Curtis's daughter, Sally the Scholar, is graduating this month; you can't remember if she's finishing grammar school, officer training, or clown college, but the invitation definitely reads commencement. What gift doesn't require bake sales, passing grades, or student loans? Why, books, of course!

A physics book? As a gift? If Sally or anyone else you know has a penchant for subatomic particles and chaos (theory, that is), then Physics in the 20th Century is the gift of choice. Author Curt Suplee, science writer for the Washington Post, explores the past, present, and future of physics, and readers will realize that matter . . . well, matters! Suplee's text includes practical, everyday applications, making physics accessible to all types of thinkers. Gorgeous photographs and digital illustrations, many presented as center spreads, make this a lovely display book as well. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, college physics textbook.

Noel Coward was living proof that one needn't have only one profession. The sometimes-playwright, sometimes-painter, sometimes-composer was the definitive artiste of his time, and perhaps of this century. To celebrate what would have been Coward's 100th birthday, The Overlook Press has published Noel Coward: The Complete Lyrics. Editor Barry Day, who has authored several books on Coward, has compiled and annotated 500 songs, including many that remain unpublished and unknown. Plenty of photographs and illustrations, as well as background information from both Coward and Day, make this book an elegant gift for the well-rounded, sophisticated person in your life.

If your favorite graduate has chosen a less-than-traditional career path, The Virtuoso: Face to Face with 40 Extraordinary Talents will provide inspiration. Author Ken Carbone interviews folks like Henri Vaillancourt, canoe maker; Sylvia Earle, explorer; and Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci, to name a few. Peppered with essays on the elements of virtuosity, The Virtuoso includes stunning photographs by Howard Schatz, who captures each virtuoso in perspectives that illustrate the marriage of occupation and soul. A gorgeous gift for those who dare to take the road less traveled.

Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day are both recognized this month, and Scholastic's Encyclopedia of the United States at War follows our country from the Revolution to the Gulf War. Tragedy and triumph are brought to life with photographs, illustrations, maps, eyewitness accounts, and other historical details of each war. Why did Anna Marie Lane receive a soldier's pension following the Revolution? And just how old was Johnny Shiloh when he fought in the Civil War? Famous battles are chronicled, and authors June English and Thomas Jones follow each war from start to finish. A wonderful gift for history buffs, military buffs, and students both young and old.

As the turn of another century draws nigh, William Morrow Books asked 25 women to recall their memories of the last turn of the century. The result is We Remember: Women Born at the Turn of the Century Tell the Stories of Their Lives. Brooke Astor, active as ever, recounts her heartaches and triumphs (between phone calls with her veterinarian); Martha Jane Faulkner, age 104 and the daughter of a slave, talks about moving north to the Promised Land of New York City, only to find it not-so-promising; Dr. Leila Denmark discusses her 70+ years of practicing medicine; and many other remarkable women reflect on what a difference a century makes. Includes a foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton and timeline endpapers.

Is Sally someone who is destined to ask, What's behind Curtain #3? while wearing a tuxedo and/or evening gown midday? The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows is the perfect solution. With a foreword by Merv Griffin, this reference book contains over 250 pages of entries, and dozens of appendices and photographs. It's fairly inclusive; you'll find information ranging from gameshow dynasties like The Price Is Right to gameshows that were merely blips on the screen (does anyone remember The Better Sex from the 1970s?). And did you know that Walter Cronkite, Hugh Downs, and Mike Wallace all served as gameshow hosts? A fun conversation piece, The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows makes an ideal prize for departing graduates, departing contestants, and otherwise.

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