You've shopped and shopped for the perfect birthday present for Aunt Agnes, but to no avail. You need help, my friend, and you've come to the right place. What birthday gift is always in season, never spoils, and is just the right size? Books, of course! If you are in need of a birthday gift for Aunt Agnes, or anyone else, read on. Living in an age where information is readily available at your fingertips, old habits like letter-writing have been elevated to art form status. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has taken letters written to America's most political pets and compiled them in Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets (all ages). In addition to the wonderful letters (many reproduced in the original handwriting), Mrs. Clinton provides background information on her two pets and parenting advice. Funny photographs, mostly of Socks and Buddy making themselves at home in the White House, make this book enjoyable to read and just look at the pictures. Is Aunt Agnes (or someone else) turning 50? Then Fifty on Fifty: Wisdom, Inspiration, and Reflections on Women's Lives Well Lived (Warner, $30, 0446523690) is just the ticket. Journalist Bonnie Miller Rubin interviews 50 women who are either approaching or have passed their half-century birthday. The interviewees are varied (Gloria Allred, Nell Carter, Erica Jong, and Diane Von Furstenberg, to name a few), and Rubin provides a biographical sketch for each. Some found success at an early age, others much later, and others aren't convinced they are there yet. A good choice for anyone who is taking a life inventory.
Your birthday-er is a golfer, and you don't know a nine iron from a fire iron? Don't despair any golf lover would enjoy The Greatest Biggest Golf Book (Andrews McMeel, $9.95, 0836269373). Measuring in at only 1.82 x 5.97 x 4.02 inches, it's packed with facts, statistics, tips, and even famous lies about this time-honored game. How far did Alan Shepard's golf balls travel when he played on the moon? Who wore a suit of armor when he played? A must-have for any golf addict.
What if you don't know Aunt Agnes very well, but well enough to send her a birthday gift? The solution: a book about birthdays. The Power of Birthdays, Stars, and Numbers: The Complete Personology Reference Guide (Ballantine, $24.95, 0345418190) isn't a big book of horoscopes; it offers all sorts of information about astrology, fixed stars, numerology, and specific profiles for every birthday of the year. Be sure to peek at Aunt Agnes's birthdate for insight into next year's gift; it's never too early, you know.
Our Oregon-based reviewer and outdoors expert Wes Breazeale suggests To the Summit (Black Dog &and Leventhal, $39.98, 1579120415) for the outdoorsperson in your life. He writes the following: To the Summit is both a magnificent look at 50 of the world's most intriguing mountains and a fascinating exploration of the history of each mountain and the sport of climbing. With six sections representing each continent (Australia and Antarctica are combined), each chapter looks at an individual mountain and often includes profiles of famous climbers. Scattered throughout the book are anecdotal tales from people who have climbed the mountains, brief examinations of climbing gear and techniques, and bits of history from the world of mountain climbing. To the Summit would be an obvious favorite for anyone interested in climbing, but would also make a beautiful gift for any outdoor enthusiast, photography lover, or travel buff.