Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe

Available From: Amazon.com and finer bookstores everywhere.

Price: $16.71 at Amazon

One of the problems with buying gifts for comic book readers is that we really like comics, but we tend to buy them every week. Even your pricier paperback and hardcover collections often get thrown onto the stack on Wednesday, so a lot of the time it's just safer to go with other stuff.

Books about comics, however, tend to be a little more rare -- and books about comics that are fascinating, well-written and incredibly informative are even more rare. Which is exactly what makes Marvel Comics: the Untold Story such a great gift idea this year.If you're even passingly interested in the history of how comics work, Sean Howe's detailed history of the men behind the Marvel Universe is a must-read. It's exhaustively researched, and Howe's writing would be enjoyable even if the things he was writing about -- like how Stan Lee and Steve Ditko quit speaking to each other for years while still producing Amazing Spider-Man, or the hallucinogenic wandering around New York City that produced the '70s cosmic books -- wasn't inherently interesting.

It's one of the best gifts of the year, and it's perfect for anyone who enjoyed Gerard Jones's Men of Tomorrow or Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's Comic Book Comics, or for fans of non-fiction in general. Just make sure you get an extra copy for yourself - you'll want one.