Petrucelli Picks: 2018 Gift Guide: Last-Minute Presents With Presence, Part Two. Santa, Take Note.

The ultimate and timeless Christmas story, with cuddly guinea pigs in the starring roles. Miserable to the core and wholly unwilling to extend a paw to help those in desperate need, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge says “Bah, Humbug!” to the festive season. But one night he is visited by three Christmas Spirits who take him on a journey through time, so he can see the error of his ways and learn the true meaning of Christmas.

A Guinea Pig Christmas Carol is Charles Dickens’s joyful Christmas tale, retold in an entirely new way.


In 1964, Kathy McKeon was just 19 and newly arrived from Ireland when she was hired as the personal assistant to former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. The next 13 years of her life were spent in Jackie’s service, during which Kathy not only played a crucial role in raising young Caroline and John Jr., but also had a front-row seat to some of the twentieth century’s most significant events.

Kathy called Jackie “Madam,” she considered her employer more like a big sister who, in many ways, mentored her on how to be a lady. Kathy was there during Jackie and Aristotle Onassis’s courtship and marriage and Robert Kennedy’s assassination, dutifully supporting Jackie and the children during these tumultuous times in history.|

McKeon’s Jackie’s Girl (Gallery Books, $16) is a moving personal story of a young woman finding her identity and footing in a new country, along with the help of the most elegant woman in America.


When Tony Kushner’s Angels in America hit Broadway in 1993, it won the Pulitzer Prize, swept the Tonys, launched a score of major careers and changed the way gay lives were represented in popular culture.

Now, on the 25th anniversary of that Broadway premiere, Isaac Butler and Dan Kois offer The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America (Bloomsbury, $30), the definitive account of Angels in America in the most fitting way possible: through oral history, the vibrant conversation and debate of actors, directors, producers, crew and Kushner himself. Their intimate storytelling reveals the on- and offstage turmoil of the play’s birth–a hard-won miracle beset by artistic roadblocks, technical disasters, and disputes both legal and creative.


Everyone [well, almost everyone] is just wild about Harry. Prince Henry of Wales has made headlines all over the world with his unruly antics [think Nazi], but instead of being sidelined as the House of Windsor’s biggest liability,  Harry has emerged as the jewel in the crown of the modern British Monarchy.

Prince Harry: The Inside Story by [Larcombe, Duncan]

Prince Harry: The Inside Story (Harper360, $16.99), Duncan Larcombe’s insightful and entertaining biography of the rebellious royal, recalls Harry’s Eton exploits, his military career and his tempestuous love life, as well as revisiting some events that the prince would probably prefer to forget, such as his notorious Nazi fancy dress which landed him in a global storm of criticism. But despite a string of incidents that would normally destroy the career of any aspiring public figure, Harry has a mysterious gift. The more scrapes Harry gets in, the more the public seem to love him.


Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama team up in Hope never Dies (Quirk Books, $14.99),  high-stakes thriller that combines a mystery worthy of Watson and Holmes.

Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted: the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.Part noir thriller and part bromance, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fiction—and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs.


Covering fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history and more, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die (Workman, $35) ranges across cultures and through time to offer an eclectic collection of works that each deserve to come with the recommendation, ‘You have to read this’. But it’s not a proscriptive list of the “great works”—rather, it’s a celebration of the glorious mosaic that is our literary heritage.


In Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood (Metropolitan Books, $30), Rose George takes us from ancient practices of bloodletting to the breakthough of the “liquid biopsy,” which promises to diagnose cancer and other diseases with a simple blood test. She introduces Janet Vaughan, who set up the world’s first system of mass blood donation during the Blitz, and Arunachalam Muruganantham, known as “Menstrual Man” for his work on sanitary pads for developing countries. She probes the lucrative business of plasma transfusions, in which the US is known as the “OPEC of plasma.” And she looks to the future, as researchers Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents (Little, Brown & Company, $30) seek to bring synthetic blood to a hospital near you.

Spanning science and politics, stories and global epidemics, Nine Pints reveals our life’s blood in an entirely new light.


As Chief Official White House Photographer, Pete Souza spent more time alongside President Barack Obama than almost anyone else. His years photographing the President gave him an intimate behind-the-scenes view of the unique gravity of the Office of the Presidency–and the tremendous responsibility that comes with it.

Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by [Souza, Pete]Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents (Little, Brown & Company, $30) is a portrait in Presidential contrasts, telling the tale of the Obama and Trump administrations through a series of visual juxtapositions. Here, more than one hundred of Souza’s unforgettable images of Obama deliver new power and meaning when framed by the tweets, news headlines, and quotes that defined the first 500 days of the Trump White House. In Shade, Souza’s photographs are more than a rejoinder to the chaos, abuses of power, and destructive policies that now define our nation’s highest office. They are a reminder of a President we could believe in, and a courageous defense of American values.


Drawing on extensive research and reporting, Heidi Waleson, one of the foremost American opera critics, recounts the history of this scrappy company and reveals how, from the beginning, it precariously balanced an ambitious artistic program on fragile financial supports. Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America by [Waleson, Heidi]

Above all, Mad Scenes and Exit Arias (Metropolitan Books, $30) is a story of money, ego, changes in institutional identity, competing forces of populism and elitism, and the ongoing debate about the role of the arts in society. It serves as a detailed case study not only for an American arts organization, but also for the sustainability and management of nonprofit organizations across the country.


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