Great books to give as presents: kicking off the series
Whatever your occasion for giving presents, books are the present to give. (I try like crazy to avoid the generic term "holiday," so I'll say: Christmas presents for me, Hanukkah presents for you, Kwanzaa for somebody else, and general midwinter cheer for another person. Whatever they are, I'm going to call them "presents," and we can all get along.)
One worth considering: The Fourth Part of the World, by Toby Lester. It's a great, absorbing, richly illustrated, makes-you-feel-smarter-and-better-for-having-read-it chronicle of the race to map what became the Americas five centuries ago. Toby Lester explains the idea behind the book in this clip:
There's also a nice Flash-based interactive version of the influential 1507 map at the center of his story, here. Toby Lester is a friend and one-time Atlantic colleague -- but part of the reason we're friends is the sensibility and intelligence he exhibits in this book. Worth checking out.