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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

If you, dear listeners, are still crossing items off your holiday gift list, remember this: don't worry about the right fit or color if you pick a book. Joining us is Karen Grigsby Bates with a big stack of books there in front of you.

Karen, you've been here each holiday season to go through good holiday picks. What looks good this year? How about a novel?

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: You are in luck this year, Alex. There has been a bumper crop of them out there. If you want to give a little suspense, try "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Satterfield.

CHADWICK: And you know when you buy a book online, you get this little key that says people who bought this also liked - what would people like who would get this book?

BATES: I would think if they liked "Wuthering Heights" or "Great Expectations" or "Jane Eyre," you'd be a likely candidate for "The Thirteenth Tale."

Its heroine is a young women, Margaret Lee, who works in her dad's rare book shop in London.

She gets an invitation to visit Vita Winter), considered the greatest living English writer and the most reclusive. Ms. Winter is supposed to have written one more story that nobody can fine.

CHADWICK: This is "The Thirteenth Tale" of the title.

BATES: It is. And Ms. Winter wants Margaret to ghost-write her autobiography. Margaret agrees to do this, but she has some mysteries of her own to unravel before she can finish Ms. Winter's assignment. It's really quite a ride, so you shouldn't start this when you have to get up and go to work the next day, because you'll be up all night.

CHADWICK: All right, I'm forewarned. How about non-fiction?

BATES: I really liked "On Her Trail," John Dickerson's book about his mother, reporter Nancy Dickerson.

CHADWICK: Our listeners know John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate and a frequent contributor to DAY TO DAY.

BATES: And he got his reporter genes from his mom. Before there was a Barbara Walters, a Katie Couric or a Diane Sawyer, there was Nancy Dickerson, the first female correspondent for network television. And reading through "On Her Trail" is a reminder of how far journalism has come since John's mom started in it.

CHADWICK: So what kind of example have you got there?

BATES: Well, Katie Couric and Jane Pauley, when they were pregnant, we watched them grow, I mean literally, right up until they took maternity leave. But here's John on how he came into the world:

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Author, "On Her Trail"): The day before I was born, in 1968, my mother followed her usual routine. She visited the hairdresser and anchored her morning newscast.

(Soundbite of newscast)

Ms. NANCY DICKERSON (Correspondent): This is Nancy Dickerson in Washington.

Mr. DICKERSON: The next day, she went into labor and I was born, to the great surprise of her viewers. The network brass already doubted that a woman had enough authority to present the news, but a pregnant woman? Forget it. They filmed mom in such a way that no one knew she was with child.

CHADWICK: Well, you're right. It is different today, Karen. How about a picture book?

BATES: Okay, you'll recognize many of the photos in this one, Alex, and it's hefty, so I'm going to hand it over.

CHADWICK: Oh right, that is big.

BATES: It's Life magazine's platinum anniversary collection, and it probably contains just about every famous Life photo you can remember.

CHADWICK: Okay, and you have a graphic novel there. Graphic novels. This is what we used to refer to as comic books when we were kids.

BATES: This is a very grown-up graphic novel, as you can maybe see by the cover of a woman in a skimpy dress, kicking her heels up.

CHADWICK: Yeah, and the title across here, "Cancer Vixen."

BATES: Yeah. It's based on the real experiences of Marisa Acocella Marchetto. She's a cartoonist for the New Yorker. You've seen her work in there, and for Glamour magazine. She was diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks before she married the love of her life.

CHADWICK: This is a really grim subject, it sounds like.

BATES: You know, the reason I liked this book was that it isn't grim. Marisa decided early on she was going to be a cancer vixen, not a cancer victim, and after the initial shock of her diagnosis, she set out to kick cancer's butt with the support of some good friends and her family and her husband.

CHADWICK: Well, I hope that's got a happy ending in there.

BATES: It does indeed. It's funny, it's sarcastic, it's really uplifting, and people who are addicted to "Sex and the City" will like this book very much, I think.

CHADWICK: Okay, time for one more. A food book for this season?

BATES: This right here would be a lovely gift to people who want to entertain and aren't always sure about how they can do it. I'm going to hand it over to you.

CHADWICK: Okay, this is "Real Simple Celebrations: Easy Entertaining for Every Occasion."

BATES: Yup. It's published by Real Simple magazines, and you can use this and through all kinds of parties. They include easy-to-follow instructions for sending invitations, menu suggestions with recipes; there's even this little paper calculator. See this?

CHADWICK: Uh-huh. So this is number of guests and what you need. Six guest, you need red, white and sparkling wine, three to four bottles total. Six guests, that might be a little short.

BATES: They're talking about real people, Alex, not journalists. So it's probably enough in the real world.

CHADWICK: I'll keep that in mind. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates, thank you and happy holidays.

BATES: You're welcome, and the same to you.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man (Singer): (Singing) Happy holidays, happy holidays.

CHADWICK: Karen Grigsby Bates's list of books, along with other holiday gift suggestions, can be found at our Web site, npr.org/holidays.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Happy holidays to you.

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