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I had planned to start our holiday gift guide with fiction picks, but after hearing that Tribune, The Baltimore Sun's parent company, had filed for bankruptcy protection, I changed my mind. To paraphrase Auntie Mame: I need a little Christmas -- right this very minute. (Even if I am Jewish.) So here are some books that will provide laughs:

State by State edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey. A lighthearted, satirical look at America, with contributions from authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri (Rhode Island), Ann Patchett (Tennessee), Sarah Vowell (Montana) and Jonathan Franzen (New York). The writing is a bit uneven -- I object to having my home state of Connecticut characterized by a neurotic, New York commuter -- but entertaining throughout.

Deciding the Next Decider by Calvin Trillin. The great humorist provides a play-by-play of the presidential campiagn -- in verse. On Palin: "She styled herself as coming from the masses/A Harry Truman with more costly glasses."

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Theories of Everything by Roz Chast. A collection of Chast cartoons from 1978-2006, highlighting anxieties such as family conflicts ("The Big Book of Parent-Child Fights"), growing old and traveling outside New York City. One classic: A middle-aged man sits, reading obituaries whose headlines say: "Two years younger than you" and "Exactly your age".

Crazy Stuff by Nicolas Marcais and Philippe Marchand. More than 400 pages of the goofy, the inventive and the obscenely expensive, including a paintball Panzer tank ($20,000), a giant knife with 87 different tools, Insta-Snow, the Inflatable Boyfriend and a zero-gravity flight.

The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac by FreeDarko. Spun out of the FreeDarko.com site, this colorful, graphics-rich almanac is perfect for any hoops junkie. With stats and colorful writing, it details the sport's biggest names, including Tim "Mechanical Gothic" Duncan and Stephon "Hategoat" Marbury.

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