A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson may be an exception to what I just wrote. While his books may be about a certain topic, everybody seems to enjoy his writing and with good reason. Bryson can take what has the potential to be such a boring topic (in this case science), and makes it very interesting and entertaining. This is probably his most well known book, but others such as The Mother Tongue, A Walk in the Woods, or At Home would also make good gifts. Perfect for office gift exchanges or mild acquaintances.
A Course Called Ireland. This is the most perfect golf book gift I know of. This has everything to appeal to the golfer on your Christmas list. It's interesting, entertaining, and written by a real golfer for real golfers, instead of dumbing things down for those who don't golf. This also mean it will likely appeal only to those who golf a lot, but some might find the story of a man walking around Ireland and golfing interesting from a cultural perspective as well.
Freakonomics. This popular title looks at common beliefs, such as larger police forces led to a drop in crime in the 1990's, and explains why the authors totally disagree with that common belief. It's sort of a broad topic, as the authors touch on a lot of different things, and makes for an interesting conversation topic. This is a book that might appeal to those who say "they don't have time to read," which only means they haven't found anything they've enjoyed reading (the same could be said for A Short History of Nearly Everything).
The Professor and the Madman. Simon Winchester tells the story of the making of the first Oxford English Dictionary. Like Bryson, Winchester as the ability to take potentially boring topics (like writing a dictionary) and making them quite interesting. This book has murder, insanity, and history; a nice choice for people who love language, crime, history or simply a great story. This could book be bundled with Bryson's The Mother Tongue, which is probably my favorite of his books, but a little less broad appeal then the above mentioned A Short History.
The Measure of a Man. This is a biography by JJ Lee, a fashion columnist out of Vancouver. In the book, JJ looks back at his often rocky relationship with his recently deceased father, in a very honest and touching memoir. The story is told concurrent with JJ's account of altering one of his father's suits for himself, in an effort to maybe build the relationship he never could while his father was alive. This is a unique and admittedly obscure title, but could be a great gift for those who love biographies or more emotional reads.
Those who know me may be surprised I have not included any World War II books, but there are simply too many to chose from. Plus they tend not to appeal to those not interested in the most fascinating topic of all time. Perhaps I'll have to another post of only World War II books next week. If I can trim it down to only five titles that is.