The Annotated Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"I love the way Holmes reasons through his cases, using the tiniest details to reveal the larger story. I read all the Sherlock stories and novels during my senior year at Yale, and they still remind me of that time. Oh, and it's cool that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor and based Holmes on one of his med school professors. I used to be premed!"
— Henry Louis Gates Jr., 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm
written and illustrated by Alice And Martin Provensen
"This beautiful, funny, unsentimentally moving children's book is set in rural Vermont. My wife and I routinely give it as a gift to new parents. We love that none of the Provensen's dogs or goats or cows are cutesy; none of them talk. But the authors' simple observations on the temper of geese, the laziness of certain horses, the vanity of some cats show them to be true characters.

The book was written more than 40 years ago and concludes with a touching inventory of the animal friends that have passed. This may be seen as controversial to those who feel kids should be shielded from any knowledge of death. But I find its message to be luminous with the beauty and fragility of life."
— John Hodgman, Vacationland

Mercy
by Lucille Clifton
"This book of poems, published just after 9/11, is a salve for the soul. Clifton speaks to our collective pain as a nation as well as the hurts we nurture within ourselves. Even people who think they don't like poetry find comfort and hope in her gorgeous words."
— Tayari Jones, Silver Sparrow

Emma Who Saved My Life
by Wilton Barnhardt
"A bygone New York has been very much in vogue in TV and books as of late, but Emma is as much a universal coming-of-age story as a very specific tale about New York from the mid-'70s to the early '80s. Plus, it's just flat-out hilarious. Gil moves to New York to try to become an actor and falls under the spell of Emma, one of his roommates. I love it because it's not overtly nostalgic, yet it also doesn't require Gil to disavow his younger self."
— Laura Lippman, Wilde Lake