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article imageBooks make perfect presents says Senior VP at HarperCollins Special

By Kay Mathews     Dec 19, 2013 in Entertainment
Looking for the perfect gift to put under the tree or in a stocking? HarperCollins Publishers’ Lisa Sharkey offers her list of the best books to buy for your loved ones this year. "A book is a gift that keeps on giving," she says.
Lisa Sharkey serves as Senior Vice President, Director of Creative Development at HarperCollins Publishers. She was recently interviewed about “Hot holiday books” by FOX5NY (video above). Sharkey told the Good Day New York hosts that she was “…very excited to be here and talk about books because there’s really no better present to get for somebody than the ability to let them sit by a fire and pour through an amazing book, and this year books are a big trend in terms of nostalgia.” A number of books were discussed including “The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion” by J. Scarfone and William Stillman, “The Beatles: The BBC Archives” by Kevin Howlett, “A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition” by Charles Schultz, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays” by Ree Drummond, and “Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King.
In an interview with Digital Journal, Sharkey was asked why books are the perfect holiday gifts? “A book is a gift that keeps on giving,” Sharkey replied. “Books take you from a place you’re at to another place…fantasy, adventure, romance. A book is like a tonic to your soul.”
In preparation for the interview, Sharkey suggested that I look at the “extensive” list of books she put on the Good Day New York website. Before proceeding to the main topic of the interview, discussing some of the books on her list that weren’t covered in the Good Day New York interview, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to learn more about “Doctor Sleep.” I mean, who doesn’t want to know what happened to little Danny Torrence?
Sharkey said, “In the sequel to ‘The Shining,’ ‘Doctor Sleep,’ Dan Torrance, is a middle-aged guy trying to deal with his powers and guilt who gets a job in a hospice. His special gift, the shining, gets dulled through age and alcohol.” For more information about "Doctor Sleep," Sharkey recommends reading the Editorial Reviews at One of which states, in part, “What ever happened to Danny Torrance? For the 36 years since The Shining was first published, the answer has been left to our imaginations. Finally we catch up with Dan as his creator envisions him… He's "Doctor Sleep" now… This is not simply The Shining II. Not only does this story stand on its own, it manages to magnify the supernatural quality that first drew us to young Danny.”
Among Sharkey’s suggestions for books to get “Young People” this season is “Pete the Cat Saves Christmas” by Eric Litwin and James Dean. When asked why youngsters would like this particular Christmas-themed book, Sharkey said, “Pete the Cat is this adorable, adorable cat that has become a sensation. Pete is a little black cat that is groovy and a lot of fun.” Sharkey said the story takes place the day before Christmas. Santa is ill and calls on Pete for help. The enduring lesson, according to Sharkey, is “give it your all even if you’re small…No matter how big or small you are you can do great things!”
Cover of  Pete the Cat Saves Christmas
Cover of "Pete the Cat Saves Christmas"
HarperCollins Publishers
Sharkey went on to say the “illustrations are incredible” and that this is “a great way to introduce children to the Pete the Cat series.”
Another children’s book recommended by Sharkey is “Nelson Mandela” by Kadir Nelson. When asked what would make this book about Nelson Mandela stand apart, Sharkey replied, “It’s an absolutely beautiful book. It’s a picture book and, really, from an illustration perspective, it is unbelievable.” Sharkey continued, “Young children hear of Mandela; know about his being in prison, being president of South Africa, and about his death, but probably don’t know much about his childhood.” Mandela’s childhood is the focus of this book and Sharkey asserts that it is the “richness and quality of the art in this Mandela book that will make it a keepsake for children.”
I commented to Sharkey that the “Sports Books” recommended by her cover a wide range of sports from tennis (“The Outsider” by Jimmy Connors) to basketball ("Dr. J" by Julius Erving). She agreed, and then drew attention to “Slow Getting Up” by Nate Jackson, which, she said, is an “honest account of what it’s like, warts and all, to play in the NFL.” Sharkey noted that “Slow Getting Up” has a “very powerful narrative” and is “getting great reviews.” In addition, Sharkey gave a shout-out to “One Last Strike” by Tony La Russa, which she said is an “amazing book by an incredible guy.” The sports books on her list are all written by men, so I asked Sharkey to recommend a book written by a female athlete. Immediately she replied, “‘Raising the Bar’ by gymnast Gabrielle Douglas is a great, inspirational book for female athletes.”
As a photojournalist who has covered the Savannah Book Festival in the past and is looking forward to doing so in 2014, I was excited to see Mitch Albom's book "The First Phone Call from Heaven" on Sharkey's "Fiction" list. Albom will deliver the Keynote Address at the Savannah Book Festival on February 14, 2014. Sharkey said "The First Phone Call from Heaven" is a "wonderful book and number one bestseller." "It is a book that keeps hope alive and spirit alive," Sharkey said. "It is a bit of a mystery, and a bit of a book that pulls at your heartstrings. It's outselling books Albom has written before." Albom is the author of "Tuesdays With Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet in Heaven."
Cover of  The First Phone Call from Heaven
Cover of "The First Phone Call from Heaven"
HarperCollins Publishers
Sharkey called Albom a "great writer" and said "The First Phone Call from Heaven" is the kind of book you can "pick up on a rainy afternoon and finish that night. It is not a long book, but a very powerful book."
As the interview concluded, a book on Sharkey's "Spiritual Reads" list was discussed. "A Big Heart Open to God: A Conversation with Pope Francis" by Pope Francis was published on Dec. 10. Sharkey noted, "One of our top authors is James Martin and he is a Jesuit priest who has written a number of bestsellers with HarperOne." Part Three of the book features "Spiritual Reflections on the Papal Interview" by James Martin. Sharkey said for those "deeply religious or deeply interested in the thought process of the Pope, this is a great book."
Lastly, Sharkey said that "Paperback Stocking Stuffers" would be great gifts for others as well as for yourself. She suggested buying "a big, beautiful hardcover and a couple of paperbacks." She encouraged shoppers to visit local bookstores and to shop online, saying that books are very discounted this time of year and that it is a good idea to comparison shop. "Look for daily deals, and buy sets of books on Kindle for Christmas." Books are, after all, perfect presents and a tonic for the soul.
The complete list of books recommended by Lisa Sharkey can be found here.
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