Surrounded by stacks of books, McDaniel College's associate librarian emerita Jane Sharpe stood behind a lectern in the college's lounge Thursday afternoon to offer more than three dozen book recommendations to an audience of more than 60 avid readers.
"Trying to pick a favorite book is like picking a favorite child. You can't," said Sharpe. "These books all sort of have a connection — they're all for book lovers."
Sharpe, who said she reads more than 70 books a year, has given a "Books for Holiday Gifts" lecture for over 20 years.
"It began with a program at McDaniel called Books Sandwiched In," she said. "In November, we always did a lecture on books as gifts. When the program downsized, we kept the November gift-giving lecture and it's still pretty popular."
Sharpe, who participates in two book clubs, said she worries every year that she hasn't listed enough books. This year, her list contained 38 recommendations.
"I create a list with the audience in mind," she said. "I try to add different genres and age groups every year."
Several devout attendees, like Kathy Richardson of Westminster, anxiously awaited this year's recommendations.
"I come every year," Richardson said. "My grandson absolutely loved a book she suggested. We've read it over and over again."
Sharpe began Thursday's lecture with a review of "The Little Paris Bookshop" by Nina George, which she described as a love letter to books.
"I think it's meant for everyone who believes in the power of books," Sharpe said.
She also highly recommended the mystery "A Curious Beginning" by Deanna Raybourn, saying it contained a lot of attention to detail, and praised Michael Dirda's "Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living with Books," noting she gained a new appreciation for the author.
"He is definitely a bookophile," she said. "There are 50 reflections, and it's not meant to be read from cover to cover."
While Sharpe said she tends to stray from already overhyped books, she did include the much-anticipated "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee, among her selections. She described it as an interesting look at the Southern female.
"The book is flawed, but I would feel sad if I hadn't read it," Sharpe said.
Sharpe also recommended "Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter" by Kate Clifford Larson, which she described as a story of wealth, self-importance and Catholicism.
"It shows you that even if you have all the money in the world, there are some things you cannot change," she said.
Jane Sewell, of Union Mills, thought Sharpe's selections were outstanding.
"There are several I'm going to go out and look for," Sewell said. "I'm always looking for gifts for people who are difficult to shop for."
Joyce Muller, of Westminster, said Sharpe had excellent suggestions.
"This is one of the easiest ways to Christmas shop," Muller said. "She covered everything from children's board books to more sophisticated history tales. You can see she has quite a following from people who love to read."
Patricia Kemp, of Arcadia, praised Sharpe for her diverse selections.
"She represented all types of writing. I think she gave people some good ideas not only for gifts but books to read themselves," Kemp said.
Sharpe ended the lecture by wishing happy holidays to the group and encouraging them to buy books for everyone, including themselves.
"There's no better present for yourself than a good book," Sharpe said.
Jane Sharpe's Books for Holiday Gifts list 2015:
• "The Little Paris Bookshop" by Nina George
• "At the Water's Edge" by Sara Gruen
•"A Curious Beginning" by Deanna Raybourn
•"The Lake House" by Kate Morton
•"The Last Bookaneer" by Matthew Pearl
•"Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee
•"A Basket Brigade Christmas" by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser and Stephanie Grace Whitson
•"The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge" by Charles Lovett
•"Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living With Books" by Michael Dirda
•"The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey" by Jessica Fellowes
•"Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter" by Kate Clifford Larson
•"White Dresses: A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughters" by Mary Pflum Peterson
•"The Witches Salem, 1692" by Stacy Schiff
•"The Wright Brothers" by David McCullough
•"Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania" by Erik Larson
•"Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops" by Gayle Tzemach
•"Wild Women of Maryland: Grit & Gumption in the Free State" by Lauren R. Silberman
•"60 Years of Orioles Magic" by Jim Henneman
•"The New Southern Living Garden Book: The ultimate Guide to Gardening" by Steve Bender
•"Chesapeake Bay Cooking" by John Shields
•"Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters' Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas and Traditions for the Whole Family"
•"Christmas to Color" by Mary Tanana
•"The Disney Book" by Jim Fanning
•"A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Charles M. Schulz
•"The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with Adults" by Mike Berenstain
•"Picturepedia: An Encyclopedia on Every Page"
•"The Hired Girl" by Laura Amy Schlitz
•"The Blackthorn Key" by Kevin Sands
•"The Island of Dr. Libris" by Chris Grabbenstein
•"Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner" by Rush Limbaugh and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh
•"The Day the Crayons Came Back" by Drew Daywalt
•"That's (Not) Mine" by Kadin Kang
•"If You Plant a Seed" by Kadir Nelson
•"The Turnip" by Jan Brett
•"Christmas in America" by Callista Gingrich
•"The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Jade Fang
•"The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Christmas 123" by Eric Carle