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Shopping for thoughtful Christmas presents for the loved ones on your list? Step away from the gift card! Jane Sharpe, librarian emeritus at McDaniel College, suggests books as the ideal gift for anyone.

Sharpe led Books Sandwiched In, a presentation of 31 book recommendations, at McDaniel College on Thursday.

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Books Sandwiched in began as a lunchtime book recommendation session in the 1980s. Sharpe has held so many recommendation sessions, she can't remember the exact number, but she does put a lot of thought into the books she adds to her list.

"My original premise was I took my list of people that I would shop for and pick books they would like," she said. "Lots of times, the books pick me. They'll keep popping up and I say, 'OK, I have to read you.' "

Some of the titles Sharpe recommended this year include the following:

Inventing Scrooge: The Incredible True Story Behind Dickens' Legendary "A Christmas Carol" ($18.95)

While most people know the story of "A Christmas Carol," they don't know the story behind the story. Author Carlo DeVito takes a look at the history of one of the most popular Christmas tales.

"It is all about Charles Dickens and writing 'A Christmas Carol,' " Sharpe said. "I just thought it was interesting, and Dickens was a very interesting person too."

Maya Angelou: Her Phenomenal Life & Poetic Journey ($17.95)

This book explores the writings of Maya Angelou, one of the most famous American literary masterminds.

"I'm glad Essence magazine put this together," Sharpe said. "It's a beautiful photographic essay. The quotes are wonderful to read."

Sharpe called the book "a good introduction" for those not familiar with Angelou's works.

Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors ($25.99)

A chance meeting with a Holocaust survivor inspired author Michael Dean Rosen to write this book that lets readers follow the lives of three girls who survived the Holocaust.

"We think of Anne Frank, but Anne Frank did not survive. These children did," Sharpe said. "This is a fascinating story and it's true."

Ruth's Journey: The Authorized Novel of Mammy From Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" ($26)

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"Gone with the Wind" fans might enjoy this novel by Donald McCaig, that focuses on one of the film's less popular characters, Mammy.

"It's a very interesting story. The very first chapter is about a miracle," Sharpe said. "It really gives me some ideas on a point of view of slavery that I did not know."

Another neat fact: The book is dedicated to Hattie McDaniel, the actress who played Mammy in the film.

October the Octopus: A Huggable Concept Book About the Months of the Year ($24.99)

What better way to keep children interested in reading — and learning — than a book that comes in the form of a stuffed animal? This book by Matthew Van Fleet comes equipped with textured pages that reveal clues to October's next catch.

"October the octopus teaches you the months," Sharpe said. "He goes through the different creatures of the sea."

October "catches" seas creatures up until the month of December, when he catches something else, but you'll have to read it to find out what.

Many of the event's attendees found the presentation helpful.

"I'll be heading to the bookstore," Jackie Hering, Westminster resident and McDaniel alumna, said. "I love the way she highlights things from each book that intrigue me and make me want to read them."

Hering also said she has a new granddaughter and plans to buy some of the children's books for her.

New Windsor resident Lorraine Thompson also found the recommendations interesting.

"I'm particularly interested in the historical novels. I just think we need to know our history," she said. " 'Rush Revere and the First Patriots,' [by Rush Limbaugh] I think that's a good example of a historical novel for children. It gives them an example of what our country was really like."

Those who missed the event will have a chance to hear Sharpe give her recommendations again at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the North Carroll Branch Library.

"I think books are the perfect gift," Sharpe said. "I hope everybody goes away with something they want to read themselves or give away as a gift."

Reach Sarah Hainesworth at 410-857-7873 or email sahainesworth@tribune.com.

If you go

What: Buying Books for the Holidays

When: 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1

Where: North Carroll Branch Library, 2255 Hanover Pike, Hampstead

More information: Call 410-386-4480

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