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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: The books that make great holiday gifts

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Dec 3, 2013 1:15 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, December 4, 2013:


It’s become a holiday tradition on Smart Talk and one of the favorite shows of the year – books as gifts.

Books have always been a thoughtful and treasured gift.  Almost everyone enjoys and can appreciate a book -- whether it is paper with a hardback cover, paperback, or an ebook -- as a gift.

On Wednesday's Smart Talk, we'll discuss the books that would make great gifts.  They may or may not be new or on the bestseller lists, but our panel will recommend and describe several titles to think about.

Joining us will be Catherine Lawrence, co-owner of the Mid Town Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg and a writer herself, Todd Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron's Books in Lititz, and Jon Walker, who blogs book reviews at

We'd like to hear your suggestions as well.  What books do you think your friends or loved-ones would enjoy or what books are on your wish list this year?


From left to right: Todd, Catherine and Jon

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-04 09:10

    Sarah from Lancaster has a great question about “books for bosses:”

    Are gifts appropriate? What books would you suggest - "coffee table," business related or leisure?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-04 09:25

    Leigh-Ann from Landisville has a book suggestion:

    I read - and plan to re-read - a book by Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, entitled Pastrix. While the author is a bit salty at times, she is fascinating, and really gives you a lot of food for thought.

    The author will be speaking in York at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in March for a synod event.

    • Lisa img 2013-12-04 09:33


      Your pronunciation of Pastrix is wrong I believe. The term is derogatory towards female pastors. Think pastor + dominatrix = pastrix.

  • Frank McManus img 2013-12-04 09:31

    I think Pastrix is meant as a humorous female form of Pastor. Probably the "a" is short.

    Nadia Bolz-Weber was interviewed by Krista Tippett a few months ago on On Being, a show I think is broadcast on WITF. That interview is wonderful, and really should be heard (or seen, via video on the On Being website).

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-04 09:31

    Ben emails this holiday book recommendation:

    For your Jewish friends ... “The Latke Who Could Not Stop Screaming,” by Lemony Snicket. It explains Chanuka in the context of an overwhelming Christmas.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-04 09:42

    Florence in Bonaire has a book recommendation:

    I enjoyed this account by a Harrisburg author: "Girl on the Stairs.' It is about his research and search for a witness to the JFK assassination.

    The author will meet with readers on Dec. 19th at St. Marks Church, Colonial Park.

    Thanks to my favorite book store Midtown Scholar.

  • Lisa img 2013-12-04 09:43

    Recommendation for history buffs and genealogists: Scott Weidensaul's "The First Frontier: the Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America". Fascinating read of history of eastern US up to the ending of the French & Indian War with a special focus on Pennsylvania. Will give the reader a better understanding of our earliest history.

    Also "Flight Behavior" by Barabara Kingsolver. Beautiful and thoughtful writing. Themes of marriage, community, environment, and Monarch butterflies. I love how she addresses the things that make us different and make us the same.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-04 09:48

    Ron is looking for a few recommendations:

    I will be driving an elderly couple 20 hours each way on a road trip. Any suggestions for a couple audio books to help pass the time and they should be “G-rated” so that I don’t get embarrassed?

    • phil the auctioneer img 2013-12-04 10:08

      Take a look at the Patrick Taylor books in the "Irish Country" series. They are well written, lively, funny, have a bit of irreverence but not crude. I would have given these books to my plain grandparents.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-04 09:55

    An email from Ann:

    I recommend Vince Flynn's series of political intrigue books... Pursuit of Honor, American Assasin and about a dozen more. He has done his homework and has consistently been on the NY Times best sellers list.

    Great reads!

    Happy Holidays!

  • Frank McManus img 2013-12-04 09:56

    The Count of Monte Cristo ftw!! What a great book!

    The ONLY edition to read in English is the Penguin edition translated by Robin Buss -- modern language, very readable, good introduction, and useful notes.

    Reading this book was one of the great reading experiences of my life.

  • phil the auctioneer img 2013-12-04 10:03

    Recommend for this time of year, An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor. A delightful look at the holiday in a different time and culture. This is also an introduction to a great series.

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