Books that fit right

Couple more people on your list? You could just get the gift card already. But it's more fun to pick the right book. Here are books for different readers, from your goofiest uncle to your most charming niece.

The art freak

These readers love everything visual: "30,000 years of art," by the editors at Phaidon (Phaidon Press; $49.95). This is the most expensive book of our dozen -- don't drop it on your foot.

All the world's regions and cultures merge to form a single chronology. Each page features a full-color artwork, beautifully reproduced, tempting you to linger.

The hopeless romantic

Alyssa Brooks shows off real talent with "Hide and Seek" (Heat; $15 paperback original). For one thing, she cares about characterization. But don't buy this book for anyone prudish.

The list lover

What are the ranks, top to bottom, in the various U.S. military branches? In what order did the States become United? What are the world's most dangerous pathogens?

These and many other answers are to be found in "Schott's Miscellany 2008" (Bloomsbury; $26.95), another volume from titan of trivia Ben Schott.

The nerd

One major nerd preoccupation involves the question of whether there is life on other planets. Author Chris Impey avoids the "little green men" nonsense and presents a sober overview called "The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe" (Random House; $27.95). An astronomy professor at the University of Arizona, Impey also knows how to cut through the heavy science and write a readable text for laymen.

The fiction fanatic

Jingle his or her bells with "The Book of Other People" (Penguin; $15 paperback original) in which editor Zadie Smith presents edgy short stories by hot, hip writers such as Heidi Julavits, Jonathan Safran Foer, George Saunders, Dave Eggers and Edwidge Danticat.

The mystery maven

Get the crime/suspense lover on your list "Red Mandarin Dress" (St. Martin's/Minotaur; $24.95), the latest in the "Inspector Chen" series by St. Louis writer Qiu Xiaolong. "Dress" is set in Shanghai, and Chen, as always, displays his flair for detection and penchant for all things cultural.

The unrepentent schlockmeister

Some folks really love their horror stories. They'll thank you for "Monster Planet" (Thunder's Mouth Press; $14.99 paperback original), David Wellington's grisly-funny zombie novel. It's the concluding volume of the author's "Monster Trilogy," but if your recipient hasn't read the first two volumes, it matters not.

The self-help buff

For some folks, the answers to all the world's problems can be found between the covers of a book. The trouble is finding the right book. In "The Official Nancy Drew Handbook: Skills, Tips & Life Lessons From Everyone's Favorite Girl Detective" (Quirk Books; $16.95), Penny Warner has written for both the adult and juvenile mystery markets; this title will appeal, as the publisher notes, to "girl detectives young and old." Lots of the advice involves love, romance, fashion and such, but readers also will learn how to cope with snakebites and vicious dogs. Hey, you never know!

The worldly reader

This book lover is not satisfied with staying close to home, even when engaging in armchair adventures. For him or her: "Flaw" (Archipelago Books; $14 paperback original), a short but powerful novel by Magdalena Tulli.

Translated from the original Polish by Bill Johnston and published in a typically lovely little softcover edition by the elegant Archipelago Books, this book screams, "Serious But Not Boring."