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Need holiday shopping ideas? Here are some of our favorite books, DVDs of 2019

Brooke Cain  |  The News & Observer

Many of us rely more and more on streaming services for TV shows and movies and on Kindle downloads for the latest best-sellers. But the market for DVDs, Blu-rays and good old fashioned books remains strong.

At no time is that more true than at gift-giving time.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a short list of some of our favorite TV shows and movies on DVD this year, and some books we think would make great holiday gifts.

We’ve listed the suggested retail prices, but keep in mind that many retailers offer discounts off the list price, so you’ll most often pay much less than the prices listed here.

2019 best TV shows and movies on DVD and Blu-ray

“Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns” – This spectacular 16-hour documentary on the roots of country music and its trailblazers – Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and literally a hundred others – is one of the most fascinating documentaries we’ve seen. It’s the ultimate gift for a country music (or bluegrass) fan. The box set has the full 16-hour run plus three hours of bonus footage that did not air on PBS. The DVD retails for $99.99 and the Blu-ray at $129.99.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Would You Be Mine Collection” – While we’re in the PBS world (and in the middle of a national Fred Rogers lovefest), this four-disc set is a stroll down memory lane for those who loved the iconic children’s series, and it’s still extremely relevant for kids today. You get 15 hours of content at a suggested retail price of $19.99.

“Star Trek: Discovery – Season Two” – “Star Trek” fans love this series, and the second season was even stronger than the first. The series, set in the pre-William Shatner Trekiverse, streams on CBS All Access, a pay streaming service. Not everyone subscribes, so this is a great chance to make a non-streaming Trekkie very happy. The DVD retails at $29.99 and the Blu-ray at $34.99. (Note: There are some other great CBS All Access shows on DVD that you might consider, like “The Good Fight,” which now has all three seasons available on DVD, and the first season of “Tell Me a Story,” a horror anthology series created by North Carolina native Kevin Williamson.)

“Robin Williams: Comic Genius” – A super-sized version of this Robin Williams collection was released last year, but with a super-sized price tag: $200 (the price has since come down a little). This much more manageable 5-DVD set retails at $54.95, but is usually available closer to $40 at most retailers. It includes all of Williams’ HBO specials and other bonus materials.

Disney Classics – With the debut of the streaming service Disney+, “the vault is open.” But Disney knows that not everyone can afford (or wants) streaming services. That’s why Disney still releases a few of its Signature Collection classic movies onto DVD and Blu-ray every year. These stories are timeless and adored by kids and adults. Some of this year’s big titles include “The Little Mermaid,” “Cinderella,” “Aladdin,” “101 Dalmations,” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Most of these list at around $19.99 each, but there are some special sets that could go up to around $40. Note: If you want to go beyond classics, the recent live action versions of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” are also now on Blu-ray and DVD.

“The Wizard of Oz” in 4K UHD – 4K televisions are expected to be one of the most purchased items of the 2019 Christmas season, and those lucky folks will need some good 4K Ultra High Definition movies to watch on their crisp new screens. What could be more thrilling than flying monkeys in 4K UHD? This version, released in October, is a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code combo. It lists at $22.99.

“Batman Beyond: The Compete Series” – A little pricier (but very cool) is the “Batman Beyond” box set, which features all three seasons (52 episodes) of this Emmy award-winning series about a man who steals Bruce Wayne’s batsuit to avenge his father’s murder and fight crime. This special collection features a metallic Funko POP and collectible art cards, plus tons of extras. The retail price is $99.99, but you can find it around $69.99.

“Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” – Don’t scoff. The DVD collections for these old-fashioned TV westerns are extremely popular and make great gifts for fans of classic TV. If you search these titles on Amazon, you’ll find a lot of versions that are of dubious quality, so for the best sound and picture transfer, look for the ones that are titled by season with “Volume 1” and “Volume 2.” Volumes 1 and 2 of the fifteenth season of “Gunsmoke” were just released this year, and the tenth season of “Bonanza” releases Dec. 17. Expect to pay about $30 each for the later seasons, and around $15 for earlier seasons. Bonus classic TV recommendation: A special colorized collection of “I Love Lucy” was released this year, featuring 16 classic episodes.

2019 best books for holiday gift-giving

For the literary fan:

“Alice Adams: Portrait of a Writer.” Fans of literature will love Carol Sklenicka’s biography of novelist and short story writer Alice Adams, who grew up in Chapel Hill during the Great Depression and came of age during World War II. Adams wrote about women trying to find fulfillment in a man’s world and struggled in the early stages of her career. But she eventually became a regular contributor to The New Yorker and the winner of the O. Henry Special Award. This acclaimed biography gets bonus points for the local angle. It lists at $35 (release date Dec. 3).

For the history lover:

“Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster.” If someone on your shopping list loved the enthralling HBO miniseries “Chernobyl,” they can go even deeper with Adam Higganbotham’s detailed account of the 1986 nuclear power plant explosion. This was named by The New York Times as one of the best books of the year. List price is $29.99.

For the Southerner:

“Southern Women” from the editors of Garden & Gun magazine. This 2019 release features essays on more than 100 Southern women (both living and passed on) who are innovators, artists and icons. You’ll recognize a good number of North Carolina women in this collection, including Ashley Christensen, Vivian Howard, Amy Sedaris, Rhiannon Giddens, Lee Smith, Michelle Dorrance, Maya Freelon and Laura Vinroot Poole. List price $32.50.

For the Michelle Obama fan:

“Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice.” This journal is meant as a companion for Obama’s best selling memoir, “Becoming,” and will help guide readers to write their own story by providing quotes and prompts from Obama to get them started. Suggested retail is $19.99.

For the cook:

America’s Test Kitchen collection. If you’re not a pro in the kitchen, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the books from the America’s Test Kitchen collection, known for recipes that are tested to death to find the absolute best methods, and then explained in a way anyone can follow. ATK has had some particularly great releases in 2019: “The Side Dish Bible” ($35), “America’s Test Kitchen Twentieth Anniversary TV Show Cookbook” ($40) and “The Perfect Pie” ($35) are just a few of the standouts. The “Side Dish” book has more than 1,000 recipes for almost every kind of side dish you can imagine, from simple staples to special sides for special occasions. The TV show book is a collection of the best recipes from two decades of the show, plus all recipes from Season 20. It’s a great cookbook for basic dishes and the slightly more complicated. “The Perfect Pie” is pretty self-explanatory: it covers classic and modern pies, tarts, galettes and regional favorites, in addition to great instructions on how to master crusts, creams and sauces.

For the budding artist:

“Draw Any Animal Book.” This book would be great for kids, with its simple, step-by-step lessons from French artist Robert Lambry on how to draw animals. These tutorials were originally published in a children’s paper in the 1920s and 1930s and then published in a book called “Les Animaux tels Qu’ils Sont” (“Animals as They Are”) almost 100 years ago. The book has found new life this year from publisher Quarto. And it’s darling. Retail price: $16.99.

For the fiction (mystery) fan:

“The Last House Guest.” This is author Megan Miranda’s third novel and it was picked as the August selection for Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Though Miranda lives in North Carolina, the story is set in a small coastal town in Maine and tells the story of the longtime friendship between two women – a local and a vacationer – and what happens when one of those women is found dead. List price is $26.99.