For those casting about for last-minute presents, here are some possibilities:
1) Orin Hargraves (see this LH post) has produced an excellent book on clichés, It’s Been Said Before. He classifies them, gives citations, and briefly discusses their use and degree of perniciousness. In his “Afterthoughts,” he says that “carelessness and ignorance are certainly responsible for a great deal of cliché that is expressed in speech and print,” but he adds:
I will have failed in my mission with any reader who, after perusing this book for minutes, hours, or days, feels at liberty to dismiss me as a usage curmudgeon. I have no agenda to reform English. I embrace the whole mansion of it, from the dankest corner of promotional blurb to the grandest auditorium of epic poetry. It is out of love and respect for it that I write about it. It is a tall order to suggest to speakers and writers that they choose their words more carefully and that they be more circumspect about using words whose presence does not add meaningfully to what they are saying, but I fully own that there is a respect in which this book urges that advice.
2) Neil MacGregor’s Shakespeare’s Restless World: Portrait of an Era is gorgeously illustrated and should make any Shakespeare-lover happy.
3) Slavica Publishers (see this LH post) is publishing a series Russia’s Great War & Revolution, “a decade-long multinational scholarly effort that aims to fundamentally transform understanding of Russia’s ‘continuum of crisis’ during the years 1914-1922.” I haven’t seen any of the books yet (and at $44.95, the ones so far published are too pricey for my budget), but I have every confidence that they’re worth reading.