We had a glorious gift recommendation episode two weeks ago, but I hope you haven’t put that wrapping paper away yet… because today we’re bringing you even MORE bookish gift-giving ideas!
This episode is specially geared toward the people many WSIRN listeners consider the hardest to buy for — your nonfiction readers, true crime lovers, political thriller fanatics, and doorstop history book deep-divers. Sometimes these are called “dad book,” sometimes they’re called “dude books,” and our inbox was definitely FULL of people desperate for recommendations for their dads, brothers, and grandfathers… but genre knows no gender, and around here the expert we trust for nonfiction, crime, and intrigue is none other than Traci Thomas from The Stacks podcast.
The Stacks is running an amazing book drive for Rocketship Delta Prep a low income school in northern California. They are hoping to get every single student a book of their own to take home for the holidays. Please check it out and help these young readers out.
We’re recommending a BOATLOAD of titles in this episode, so to help you navigate we’ve made the full letters and recommendation lists available below. You can also click here to read the full episode transcription (opens in a new tab).
Books mentioned in this episode:
My dad is near impossible to buy books for. He loves Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiasson and buys their books as soon as they’re released. I gave him Go Like Hell after hearing about it on WSIRN and he REALLY loved this one. He collects vinyl records (especially from the 60s-80s), loves cars, and one of his fave TV shows is the x-files.– Liz
• Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, by Chuck Klosterman
• I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), by Chuck Klosterman
• But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking about the Present As If It Were the Past, by Chuck Klosterman
• The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months that Changed the World, by A. J. Baime
• The Peak of Racing: Pikes Peak Through the Racers’ Eyes, by Chris Lennon
I would like to get a book for my friend Rebecca for Christmas but she has very different book tastes from me. She is a Buddhist minimalist who lives by the ocean with her two dogs and does yoga daily. Her favorite author is Henry David Thoreau. She has also liked The Year of Less and When Breath Becomes Air.– Steph
• Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action, by Seane Corn
• The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying, by Nina Riggs
• The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After, by Julie Yip-Williams
• Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande
• The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondō
• The Initiates: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs, by Étienne Davodeau
I would love to hear your recommendation for my husband. He loves to read biographies and history. His favorites lately have been the Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, and he’s still enjoying The Story of Britain: A History of the Great Ages, From The Romans to The Present. He doesn’t have a lot of time to read because he’s a student and he works full-time as an archives assistant… so it’s just a really busy time, but I would love to find a historical fiction pick for him that has that biographical historical element but with a story that really grabs him and draws him in because he doesn’t really seek out that genre. He really gravitates towards nonfiction, but I would love for him to have a fun reading experience like that over Christmas break.– Lindsay
• In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and the American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Eric Larson
• The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth
• Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
• Underground Airlines, by Ben Winters
I am looking for a gift recommendation for my husband. He usually reads a few books a year for work. He is a Chief Development Officer, so he focuses a lot of reading on team building and team leading, but I’d love to gift him something in a different genre. He’s a big fan of wrestling biographies and history, so he loves the behind the scenes looks. His top favorites are Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling and It’s True! It’s True!. He also enjoys murder mysteries. He read the whole Dexter series.– Victoria
• The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling, by David Shoemaker
• The Chew graphic novel series, by John Layman and Rob Guillory
My son is nearly 16yo, and currently reading The General. He enjoyed the Lorien Legacies & Nethergrim series (when younger), Salt Line, and likes Tom Clancy books although they are a bit technical for him still. Ship Breaker was also good. Basically adventure, especially if there are trains/ships/military involved. He’s a sailor, model train guy and likes history in school.– Monica
• City of Thieves, by David Benioff
• We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter
• Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad, by M. T. Anderson
• The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Chrichton
I’m looking for the perfect book for my husband of ten years. He’s been a lifelong reader. And I think it was one of his goals to turn me into the same. It took him six years, but he succeeded and now he’s trying to keep up with me. So my husband is an outdoorsman. He’s also a pastor so he’s always reading theology books while I’m immersed in a gripping novel, but I want to get him something that’s a real page-turner. He loves history, like Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, as well as behavioral psychology/sociology and biographies like the autobiography of Malcolm X.– Stacy
My husband likes legal thrillers, mysteries and biographies. He has read all of John Grisham (but thinks that his earlier work is stronger). He likes presidential biographies but has read many of them. Loved the six volume Churchill series, and liked The Blind Assassin by Atwood.– Tricia
My daughter is a big reader! She has an interest in public health and science, but also reads about social justice. I think she would be up for trying fiction or non fiction, but nothing too sappy or romance-y. She really likes essays by Rebecca Solnit, and she has recommended The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness to me. She re-reads Ella Enchanted at least annually, and reads everything in between.– Laura
• Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to Present, by Harriet A. Washington
• Thick: And Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan
• Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, by Rebecca Traister
• Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, by Brittney Cooper
• The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk M. D.
• The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson
I’d love a book gift recommendation for my husband, who is not a big reader. His favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird and he liked Becoming by Michelle Obama. He still loves Marvel Comics, has read several graphic novels but isn’t only interested in that. He is a video game artist and has an hour train commute, so I have recently gotten him into audiobooks (which he still considers cheating).– Erin
• Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep
• Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations, by Mira Jacob
• I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly
• The movie adaptation of I Kill Giants
My dad loves political thrillers and historical narrative nonfiction. A year or two ago, I gave him Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI for his birthday, and he STILL talks about what a great book it was! I’d love to give him another book he can’t stop talking about for Christmas this year!– Jamie
• Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
• Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by Jon Krakauer
• A Thousand Lives: The Untold story of Jonestown by Julia Scheeres
I’m all about doing the Icelandic Jolabokaflod or Book Flood for Christmas Eve this year (every bookworm’s dream right?). It’s hard to surprise my husband with books because we read so differently until more recently. I surprised him with The River by Peter Heller and he loved it (so did I). He enjoys science fiction, but reads a lot of non-fiction from Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Bryson. Long books are not a problem for him. Help me surprise my husband with something to cozy up with on Christmas Eve!– Nicole
• The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
• Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, by Tracy Kidder
• The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, by Jon Ronson
• The Current, by Tim Johnston
I’m hoping you can help me choose a gift for my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Amanda. She works in historical restoration and is extremely handy — she works on her car and motorcycles herself. Literally she’s the coolest. We both love to read, so I really want to prime her for our kick butt sisters-in-law friendship!– Cate
She really enjoyed Einstein: His Life and Universe, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. We’ve talked about how hard classics are for us both to get into. She’s not a huge fan of books about war/military.
• The Reckonings, by Lacy M. Johnson
• The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life, by Lauren Markham
I am looking for recommendations for my dad for Christmas. Growing up, I was always an avid reader. My dad loves to be outdoors (we live in a small Northern Ontario town) and whenever he took me ice fishing, canoeing or out to cut wood I always had a book with me. My dad, on the other hand, was late to discover reading. At first I think he was reading to make me happy, but now, 30 years later, he is a regular reader!– Megan
A few books I know he has liked are The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett, The Book of Negroes, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.
He hates going to the library by himself, and relies on my mom to find him a book or for my husband or I to pass something on to him. The lunchroom at the lumber mill where he works also has a book shelf, so he has discovered a few authors this way.
I think a series or an author with many similar books is best for him, as he tends to find something he likes and stick with it. A historical element is also important. He recently read a non-fiction about the Vietnam War and he loved it. The whole family learned many facts during that month!
• Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, by Mark Bowden
• Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, by Heather Ann Thompson
• Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe
• Author Richard Russo (try Straight Man)
• The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
• Going After Cacciato, by Tim O’Brien