Readers, we know the power of books, and when gift season rolls around we’re eager to find the right ones to give to friends and family. So break out the wrapping paper, because our yearly WSIRN holiday recommendation episode is here! Listeners wrote and called in to let us know who they wanted to give the gift of reading to this Winter, and today, my friend Holland Saltsman of The Novel Neighbor in St Louis is here to help recommend the perfect titles for your distractable teens and tweens, reluctant-reader spouses, impossible-to-buy-for parents, and that friend who seems to have already read everything.
If you’re not normally a podcast listener but still want the scoop on recommendations, you can read the letters and list of recommendations from me and Holland below or check out the episode’s full transcript for descriptions details of our conversation.
Let’s get to the gift matchmaking!
Click here to read the full episode transcription (opens in a new tab).
Click here for the lowdown on The Novel Neighbor’s fabulous book subscriptions, available for adults, teens, elementary/middle school readers, and picture books.
My son is 17 and interested in visual arts. He does not read often, so I’m hoping you can recommend something based on his favorite movies! A book for him would need to be fast paced and funny with a sci-fi or fantastical element for him to get into it. A graphic novel would be good! He likes Neil Gaiman, sci-fi and fantasy, the Star Wars movies (not the 3 prequels), Thor from the Avengers franchise and really loved Into the Spiderverse.– Laura
• The Ocean at the End of the Lane illustrated edition, by Neil Gaiman
• Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir, by Stan Lee
• An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green
• Loki: Where Mischief Lies, by Mackenzi Lee
I’m hunting a book for my 12 year old daughter, Rebecca. She’s an avid reader at that in-between phase where middle grade is not enough and young adult (in her opinion) is all too “romance-y”. She loves historical fiction, mystery, fantasy that is more fairy tale based but not a direct retelling, and “not too spooky” thrillers. She has checked out Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice but hasn’t read either. I think she wants to prove she CAN read them but fears ruining a classic by reading them too early (did I mention she’s 12 going on 30?). In the past few months she has read and loved One of Us is Lying, The Book Thief, The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, Salt to the Sea, and all of The Hunger Games series.– Joy
I’m shopping for my teenage niece. Some of the things I’ve given her that she’s liked are The Ms. Marvel graphic novels (I think I gave her the first three or four over the years), Hyperbole and a Half, and In Other Lands. When she reads, she reads a lot of graphic novels – she’s read through my entire collection and my brother’s entire collection, including all of Neil Gaiman, lots of Marvel and DC superheroes, the ElfQuest series, the Books of Magic series…. No stories that are focused on romance, though slipping in LGBTQ characters/plots without making a big deal of it is great.– Amy
• We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour
• The Wayward Children series, by Seanan McGuire
• I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly
• Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson
• Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson
• The Rat Queens series, by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Fiona Staples
• Grimoire Noir, by Vera Greentea
I’m looking for a recommendation for my 16-year-old granddaughter. She and I do share books so I think she’d prefer fiction geared toward adults. Her favorite author is Kristin Hannah and her favorite Kristin Hannah book is Magic Hour. She also loved A Man Called Ove and Fingersmith. A book she disliked was No Exit. Another favorite book was The Miseducation of Cameron Post.– Maudeen
I would love to have some book buying advice for my 8-year-old son, Logan. He’s a voracious reader and he blows through books as fast as I can bring them in the house. He loves the Spy School series, the Nanny Piggins series, the Story Thieves series, and the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series. He loves science, animals, and learning new things.– Liz Manning
I am looking for book gift recommendations for my almost 14, year old daughter. She is a “reluctant reader”, and would much rather spend time creating something or dancing. As an avid reader and English major myself, I am encouraging her to give reading a little corner of her life as well. She loved The Selection series and the Ruby Red trilogy. Most of the time she abandons a book after she begins it. I recommended the Matched trilogy, but she felt that was too slow. She was likewise recently bored by The Book of a Thousand Days and abandoned that as well. I struggle to find books that engage her enough that she will stick with them. For reading encouragement, I have started a mother-daughter book club with her where we take turns choosing the book every other month. I read aloud while she follows along. I find that she sticks with books better when we are reading them together. For example, right now we are finishing up Dreamland Burning, which has a bit of a mystery element, and she has really enjoyed that.– Mary Liddle
I’m writing for a recommendation for my fourteen-year-old daughter a couple of books. She loved: A Mango Shaped Space , Counting by 7s , and Out of My Mind. Based on those three books, last year for Christmas I got her Turtles All the Way Down. Unfortunately, she did not like it and when I pressed her about it, she said she just didn’t like the way John Green wrote. Recently she has been so busy in school, and she’s told me that reading has felt like a real chore for her. Based on that information, I went to my local bookstore and got the recommendation of the graphic memoir Spinning. I brought that home and she devoured it in one night and totally liked it. I think realistic fiction is the way to go.– Andrea
My husband is definitely the reader in the family and I’d love to surprise him. One of his favorite books is 11/22/63, along with Ready Player One. After the holidays with short days, he likes the company of characters in a long book to keep him out of any winter blues. All of these books have a romantic couple or gang of friends working together to overcome something and I think he likes to feel like he’s part of this fictional group until he can get back out with his people in the spring. He also really loves mysteries and crime fiction with well developed characters, at least one he can root for.– Claire
I am looking for book recommendations for my dad this holiday season! First off, he is impossible to buy gifts for because he says he doesn’t want anything, and when I do find a gift for him, he doesn’t give a strong reaction about his feelings on the gift. The one time I have really found exception to that is when he receives a good book. He is a HUGE fan of the Mitch Rapp series. He also really enjoyed reading Daisy Jones and the Six, which was a recommendation I gave him because I know he loves This Is Spinal Tap. He seems to be open to trying most genres of books, but I can say for sure he would not enjoy anything where the focus is romance or relationships. He also probably would not love dramatic family sagas.– Maggie
• One Rough Man, by Brad Taylor
• The New Girl, by Daniel Silva
• The Deserter, by Nelson DeMille
• Just Kids, by Patti Smith
• Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc, by Jeff Tweedy
• The Beautiful Ones, by Prince
I’m interested in getting some recommendations for my hard to please hubby. Good luck! Books he loves: The Paper Magician series, The Alchemist, Where is Joe Merchant? (I will say he is/was a Jimmy Buffett fanatic and this probably influenced this choice), and Looking for Alaska. He says he loves good coming of age stories. He does not love nonfiction books/memoirs; historical fiction.– Jessica
• Kids of Appetite, by David Arnold
I’m looking for a book suggestion for my dad. He’s a huge reader! Some of his favorites are Stephen King, John Sandford & Louise Penny, with Penny at the top of that list! One book he didn’t enjoy was In the Woods. He didn’t love the style, I think because he was really comparing it to Louise Penny’s books. I’d love to find him something in a series or an author who has multiple books – that’s what he enjoys best!– Maria Zandri
• This Tender Land, by William Kent Krueger
• Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger
• Iron Lake, by William Kent Krueger
• A Share in Death, by Deborah Crombie
• A Bitter Feast, by Deborah Crombie
My husband Robin is a stay-at-home dad and he often listens to audiobooks. We buddy-read Recursion this year and we both loved it. In the past we’ve also buddy read Ready Player One and equally loved that. I’m looking for something in the same genre with the same length of a fast-paced twists and turns that he can devour during the holidays at home bonus points if it has a great audio audiobook narration.– Diana
I am looking for book recommendations for my fiance Tyler. He loves fantasy. That is his genre of choice. I really think he just loves being able to escape into a different time and place, and he loves the world building aspect. Some of the books that he loved were The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Name of the Wind, and anything Brandon Sanderson at this point. A book that didn’t work for him was The Three-Body Problem. I’m not sure if it was a translating issue, but he did not enjoy that book.– Chloe
My sister Shanna is the person I am looking for help with in buying books for. She is a prolific reader, and that makes it difficult to shop for her. Her Goodreads lists are HUGE. She has traveled to Asia a handful of time and does enjoy reading books from Asian authors or about Asian culture, but also likes things based in the wild (she is a big hiker/tent camper). Books listed as her favorites are H is for Hawk, The Cider House Rules, and The Lotus Eaters. She didn’t finish The Wild Places by Robert McFarlane due to “drab writing and subdued atmosphere”. She is currently reading one of the Masie Dobbs series by Jaqueline Winspear.– Breanne
• Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata
• The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay
• The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, by Kirk Wallance Johnson
I’m looking for books for my sister Karen. She’s very conservative in her reading tastes, and I think she’s rediscovering reading after a couple of decades of being a mom. She recently loved Before We Were Yours and also loves Karen Kingsbury books, but I think she’s read them all. I just recently pressed into her hands The Language of Flowers because I really think she will like that one. She likes emotional stories. I think she like historical fiction and maybe some closed-door romances.– Sarah
• Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, by Patti Callahan
• Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, by Judy Christie
• Necessary Lies, by Diane Chamberlain
• The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
Hey an I am looking for a book recommendation for my mom Nancy. I try to get her a book every year for Christmas because she’s the one who instilled a love of reading in me, but I’m kind of drawing a blank this year. The last couple of years I’ve given her The Shoemaker’s Wife which she loved as well as Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake, which she also loved but the wild card is at some of her favorite books are Robert Ludlum, which is throws kind of a wrench in my bookish search. She doesn’t like anything that moves really slow. Although The Shoemaker’s Wife is kind of an outlier cuz it’s pretty meandering.– Leah
I’m looking for a book for my cousin. We have similar reading tastes but not exactly the same and she is very up to date with new/recent releases which makes it challenging to find something she hasn’t read. I’d love a good backlist pick to surprise her. She likes “literary fiction” (Little Fires Everywhere and A Gentleman in Moscow), “women’s fiction” (Evvie Drake Starts Over), classics like The Great Gatsby and the unclassifiable The Night Circus. A book I know she really disliked was Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win because she “didn’t find out if she won”.– Meagan
My 67 year old mother is a reluctant reader. Right now she reads whatever I recommend but it takes her years (she is currently reading the Discovery of Witches trilogy, but is early in book two and started over a year ago!). She also read and liked The Kitchen House, plus its sequel, Glory Over Everything. Before I had any influence on her, all I remember her reading was Danielle Steel novels. Please help! I would love to surprise her with a book for Christmas.– Christine
I am looking for a recommendation for my sweet mother-in-law. Recent books I know that she has loved: Where The Crawdads Sing, The Nightingale, and The Gown. She loves hand crafts (quilting, crocheting, sewing, etc.) so anything that ties these in would be an added bonus. I know she loved The Gown partly because of details of the intricacies of making the dress. She doesn’t particularly enjoy dark reads (murder mysteries, dark suspense thrillers, etc).– Elaine
I struggle to find good reads for my 23 year old daughter, who has a degree in English and Global Liberal Studies from NYU, and is going to graduate school for film. She loves feminist writing and a good classic. She loves anything Joan Didion or Toni Morrison, other books she loved are Black Leopard Red Wolf, Children of Blood and Bone, and Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.– Tricia
I am looking for recommendations for my immediate families book swap. A few years ago I suggested this for the adults so people wouldn’t feel obligated to buy gifts. We do it as a white elephant exchange so stealing is involved! I would love finding a book that can appeal to an age range of 30-67, preferably fiction. Last year I took News of the World and it reached its stealing capacity!– Liz
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What books are YOU gifting this year?