The Sot-Weed Factor. This a good gift for a couple of reasons. First off, you don't have to worry about anybody having read it already. Secondly, it's a very well written book that is able to combine slapstick comedy and literary wit. I also don't see this one being offensive to anybody like Lolita or Tropic of Cancer might. The downsides are that it is 756 pages (which intimidates a lot of people), it is obscure (people tend to prefer books they've heard of), and it's hard to find in a book store. This one is for your book loving friend (the one who reads real books, not James Patterson).
Lucky Jim. Kingsley Amis' first novel is funny, entertaining and accessible. Plus at only 265 pages, it fits into the inside pocket of most jackets. This is a book I find appeals to both men and women, and is easy for almost any reader to get into. It's perfect for your office gift exchange.
Gone with the Wind. It's well known I love this book, so I'm always quick to recommend it. However, as a gift, it isn't for everybody. Because of it's size and age, many are turned off, plus they've already seen the movie and feel they don't need to read it. But, it's great for middle aged women, who remember reading it as a girl (and loving it). Don't know what to get your Mom? Try this one. You can also pick up a replica first edition, which I think looks quite handsome on any bookshelf.
The Corrections. Like Lucky Jim, this one appeals to a very broad audience; men and women, young and old. Plus, unlike the previous three, it is much newer. The book itself is well written, features great characters, and it's funny and depressing without going too far in either direction. People also like that Jonathan Franzen badmouthed Oprah's book club when it was a candidate. Good for any friend or relative (except children or illiterate co-workers).
I, Claudius. This is a good gift for men, especially men who tend to read only James Patterson, Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy. Unlike those three, Robert Graves writes literature. It's also quite historically accurate and I find most men appreciate "historical fiction" more than just fiction. Plus it is really entertaining, with back stabbing, gossip, murder, sex and politics. Who wouldn't love this book!? You could also pick up the beloved 12-disc 1976 BBC mini-series as a companion gift.
For the real literary nerd of course, any title from the list would do, so how about picking up a first edition? Check out the Manhattan Rare Book Company, but check you bank account before you click "Buy." These also make great gifts for you favorite book blogger...
Later this week, I'll take a look at non-fiction as well as books not on the list!