Books are a reliable option when it comes to gift-giving. Figuring out what book is right for which reader can be trickier. That’s exactly why we’re here. We’ve gathered a mix of crowd-pleasing, perennially popular, and under-the-radar books to help you find the right gifts for your friends and family.
We can’t promise you won’t come away with a longer holiday wishlist for yourself but we hope this mix of narrative nonfiction, travel guides, cookbooks, poetry, and coffee table books will help you finish your holiday shopping all the same.
This beautifully presented essay collection was formatted with gift-giving in mind. This book is for those for whom reading isn't just a hobby or a way to pass the time—it's a lifestyle. By turns wistful, funny, inspiring, and entertaining, I wax poetic on the magic of the library next door, bookworm problems, the books that made me fall in love with reading, and an "instructive" piece on how to organize your bookshelves that would fit right in at McSweeney's. More info →
Like many cooking enthusiasts, we first encountered Vivian Howard in her PBS series A Chef’s Life, “a show about people, place, tradition and family told through the lens of food.” I have cooked exactly zero recipes from her gorgeous first cookbook Deep Run Roots; for me it's more for reading than cooking from. But I love this newer one, filled with simple recipes that Howard insists will change the way you cook. She made a believer out of me: I especially love her methods for spicy tomatoes and preserved lemons—and her style is just plain FUN. Also nice: more than half the dishes are vegetarian, gluten-free, or both. More info →
Wise, warm, and relatable, this is the perfect read for anyone interested in exploring how to use their words to deepen their relationships. I read it fast because I wanted to read the story of it, but the themes and questions have lingered even though I read it well over a year ago. I still think regularly of Laura's stories about her family, and the message she once received about a certain blue car. More info →
Proving nothing and no one is safe from a one-star review, Subpar Parks is a hilarious look at what the grumpiest and most disappointed visitors have to say about national parks. It also includes descriptions of each park and tips like the best time of year to visit. Not all books that started as Instagram accounts are created equal but this one is sure to delight both outdoor enthusiasts and indoorsy souls. We know many nature lovers and habitual national parks visitors, and they're all getting this book for a Christmas or birthday gift. More info →
Fans of Rosenstrach's cookbook Dinner: A Love Story or her Cup of Jo column will love her latest offering. Her family decided to limit their meat consumption to the weekends and turn to plant-based meals during the week—thus the "weekday" vegetarians—and this cookbook tells the why and how of it, holding 100 recipes, plus what Jenny and her family learned along the way. The leek and mushroom tart is already a staple in my household: I highly recommend flipping straight to that recipe and starting there. More info →
Amanda Gorman became a household name as the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. This slim volume is a special gift edition of her poem for President Joe Biden that day. Her full-length debut Call Us What We Carry is out December 7. More info →
This conversational guide to a dreaded household chore was the book I didn’t know my reading life—or laundry room—needed. Reading about domesticity can be reliably soothing, but in Richardson’s hands, the subject makes for fascinating narrative fodder as well. Who knew? I've already given this book to multiple friends and I don't see that stopping anytime soon. It's packed with entertaining anecdotes (my favorite being his hero’s account of removing a fresh permanent marker stain from a bride’s gown on her wedding day) plus practical tips you or your giftee can put into action right away. A perfect gift for myriad occasions, perhaps paired with a box of Shout Color Catchers or Richardson's oft-recommended sodium percarbonate. More info →
In a wide assortment of essays, lists, quotes, recipes, and musings, Matt Haig shares his “life rafts,” the things he turns to for comfort and reassurance when he’s feeling low. As someone who has lived with depression and suicidal thoughts for many years, Haig collects snippets to cling to when it feels like life has thrown him overboard, such as an ode to peanut butter toast or an essay titled “Ferris Bueller and the Meaning of Life.” Because it’s designed to be read in any order or manner that meets your needs, it’s the perfect fit for do-as-you-wish reading or when you need a dose of encouragement. More info →
Tracking the books you read is one of the best ways to improve your reading life. This journal will help you both articulate your reading taste and broaden your literary horizons, and help you enjoy the process. Bound in a sturdy (and oh so pretty) hardcover, this compact book journal fits right in your tote bag, whether you're going to the library, to school, or to work. And of course, it makes a great gift! More info →
The Best American series is an annual collection featuring notable fiction and nonfiction and special guest editors. This year's editions are beautiful. Food Writing is edited by Gabrielle Hamilton, Padma Lakshmi covers Travel Writing, Science and Nature Writing is Ed Yong, and Short Stories is Jesmyn Ward, along with a few other collections. I picked up The Best American Essays edited by Kathryn Schulz when I was at Wild Geese Bookshop a few weeks ago (but most of those essays are about the coronavirus, so pick up a different volume if you've had your fill of that topic). More info →
Bourdain’s co-author and long-time collaborator Laurie Woolever met with him about this project just once before he died, a meeting she details in the book’s heartfelt opening. Yet she managed to deliver a transporting reading experience in a true travel guide that combines Bourdain’s stories and travel tips with colorful essays from his friends and colleagues. Vicariously experience Bourdain’s favorite destinations near and far—from Toronto to Tanzania, Manhattan to Myanmar—as Bourdain tells you how to get there, where to stay, and, perhaps most importantly, what to eat. Jam-packed with potential for adventure and exploration. More info →
In his first full-length nonfiction work, poet and journalist Smith explores the legacy of slavery in the United States, and to do so he takes his readers on a tour of sorts, visiting nine physical monuments crucial to that history, like Jefferson's Monticello, the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, Angola Prison, New York City, and finally Senegal's Gorée Island. Each visit is packed with stories from both past and present, as Smith examines the site's history and explores what that means for us today. This is a stunner. If your giftee enjoys audiobooks, you should know this audiobook is fantastic. More info →
There you are, innocently planning a trip to a charming English village, when you remember just how murderous those places can be. (If you've read the Inspector Gamache series, you’ll know this applies to quaint Canadian towns as well.) Good thing author Maureen Johnson and illustrator Jay Cooper are here to provide much needed tongue-in-cheek guidance! More info →
This stunning anthology embodies the collaborative spirit it celebrates. “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” This line from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem serves as the epigraph and guiding spirit of this magnificent collection, which includes essays, poems, photographs, and conversations from fabulous contributors like Michael Twitty, Joy Harjo, Elizabeth Alexander, and Ross Gay. In addition to gathering beautiful poetry and reflective essays, Baszile travelled the country to interview Black farmers, winemakers, and culinary experts about the African American land-owning and farming experience, both past and present. More info →
I picked this up because I love the author, What Should I Read Next alum Mallory O'Meara from Episode 176 ("Books in the freezer, & other horror stories") and I'm so glad I did! In this fascinating, irreverent, whip-smart history, she highlights the female distillers, drinkers, and brewers who shaped alcohol consumption as we know it today. So many readers enjoy nonfiction books that deeply explore niche subjects they didn't even know they wanted to know about; this book will satisfy many such readers. I listened to the audio, narrated by the author, and it's outstanding, and I've already given the hardcover to a handful of friends (both male and female). A bottle of bourbon or bitters would make an excellent accompaniment to your gift. More info →
I have long loved illustrator Jane Mount’s work. She followed up Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by partnering with Diverse Spines book community founder Jamise Harper to diversify bookshelves and shine a light on books by authors who are often underrepresented. Richly illustrated and packed full of bookworm delights like curated book stacks, bookstores owned by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and recommendations from BIPOC literary influencers, as well as copious inspiration for your TBR. More info →
Do you have a suggestion for a crowd-pleasing, giftable book? Let’s help each other build our holiday book shopping list in the comments.