2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Books and Documentaries

Whether you’re shopping for someone that likes to kick back with a good book or graphic novel, or enjoys watching documentaries and other non-fiction films, you’ll find several great suggestions here.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Before Watchmen Collections

Have you ever wondered what happened before the events of “Watchmen”? Creator Alan Moore has been pretty outspoken about his thoughts on the matter, but that didn’t stop DC Comics from enlisting some of the industry’s best writers and artists to create eight new miniseries exploring the histories of characters like Nite Owl, Rorschach, The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre and Ozymandias. Serving as a prequel to the original 12-issue series, the “Before Watchmen” comics have since been collected in four hardcover editions, and the end result is a pretty mixed bag, especially since each collection features at least two characters per book. Though that’s good news for diehard fans, those that want to read J. Michael Straczynski’s Nite Owl series but couldn’t care less about his Dr. Manhattan story, for instance, are screwed. Additionally, some of the series are much better than others, with Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen yarn the clear standout. Still, if you know someone who loves “Watchmen” that doesn’t mind that the property’s original creators aren’t involved, “Before Watchmen” makes for interesting supplemental reading.

American Experience: JFK

The story of John F. Kennedy is one of the most fascinating in American history. Regardless of your opinion of our 35th President, he will always be an iconic figure in American history, due to both the pivotal nature of his presidency and his tragic assassination. Debates will rage on about his performance in office and the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and his prolific adventures with the opposite sex have been fodder for the tabloids for decades. His story will captivate anyone who appreciates American history, so any documentary is likely to maintain the attention of viewers. But it’s hard to imagine anyone telling the story better than the folks at PBS who produce “American Experience.” They have consistently told the story of America through its presidents and other influential Americans in a series of compelling documentaries. “JFK” easily lives up to that legacy, and it’s a must-see, as this year we marked the 50th anniversary of that terrible day in Dallas. Like other “American Experience” documentaries, this is not just a story of the JFK presidency, but also the man.

ESPN 30 for 30 Gift Set Collection: Season Two – Volume One

ESPN gave new life to the sports documentary with its excellent “30 for 30” series of films celebrating the 30th anniversary of the network. Fortunately, they decided to continue telling great stories with a new season of films, and Season Two is loaded with excellent documentaries, including “Broke,” which told the story of athletes who lost everything. Other classics include “You Don’t Know Bo,” “Elway to Marino” and “The Book of Manning.” Sports fans will love this, and you can also check out ESPN’s Nine for IX set, which has nine films made by nine female filmmakers covering women in sports.

After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story

Michael Hainey is the Deputy Editor of GQ Magazine, and he has written a haunting and compelling story about the search for his father. It’s a story of Hainey’s quest to understand the mystery of his father’s death, which took place when he was a young boy. His father, a newspaper man in Chicago, died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 35 and was reportedly found in the street “after visiting friends.” Yet the circumstances and lack of details surrounding his death always bothered Hainey, and nobody, including his mother, could ever answer his questions. He started digging into the events of that night, and this book tracks his relentless investigation over the years. It’s a great read that you can pick it up in hardcover or as an e-Book for your Kindle.

Going Underground: Paul McCartney, The Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture

There are tons of documentaries out there covering The Beatles, and naturally, most of them focus on the music. This documentary focuses more on the UK counter-culture in the late 1960s and the role of The Beatles in that movement. The emergence of a cultural underground movement in the UK was similar to what happened in the US, but the British culture was even more rigid than American culture. The movement was led by a loose collective of young radicals that introduced new social, sexual and aesthetic perspectives. The Beatles were influenced by, and of course also played a significant part in, this social revolution, and this documentary offers Beatles fans yet another way to get a better understanding the band.

MLB 25: Greatest Postseason Home Runs

It’s hard to beat the drama of a post-season home run. Think back to some of the classics, like Carlton Fisk waving the ball into fair territory, Joe Carter blasting one to win the series, Reggie Jackson launching three home runs to clinch the 1977 World Series, and Kirk Gibson stunning everyone with his shocking home run off of the seemingly unhittable Dennis Eckersley. This DVD from Major League Baseball Productions looks back at the 25 greatest postseason home runs, and baseball fans will love it. It also includes some excellent interviews as well.