Book gifts make the best gifts: that’s our motto around here, which is why we’ve gathered a mix of crowd-pleasing, perennially popular, and under-the-radar books to help you find the right gifts for your literary friends and family.
With a mix of fiction, biography, essays, or beautiful coffee-table-worthy hardcovers, you’ll finish your holiday shopping in no time (or come away with a much longer holiday wishlist for yourself).
The premise of this great research-based and story-driven nonfiction read is that when it comes to loving the place you live, YOU have a lot more power than you probably realize. People who love their communities don't just live in great places, they're also extremely proactive about the ways they engage in their communities—and I wish I could rattle off every single one by memory! I've gifted this book to new acquaintances, longtime neighbors, and friends who find themselves in the middle of big transitions. More info →
An option for the book lovers on your list: my own work is a beautifully presented essay collection that 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 →
This collection was a delightful addition to my bookshelves, curated by Glory Edim, founder of the Well-Read Black Girl book club. Contributors write about how essential it is that we all see ourselves in literature, and include essays from Jesmyn Ward, Lynn Nottage, Jacqueline Woodson, Gabourey Sidibe, Morgan Jerkins, Tayari Jones, Rebecca Walker, and more. A celebration of the power of story, filled with illustrations, inspiring words, and a big bunch of book recommendations. More info →
This fun doorstop of a collection (and I say "doorstop" with affection) includes titles I expected (all six Austen novels) and titles I didn't (Make Way for Ducklings, Into Thin Air, The Hunt for Red October). The book includes numerous shorter reading lists, thorough indexes, and a checklist so you can see how many on the list you have read. (My current total is 168.) I chatted with Mustich on a special New Year's episode of What Should I Read Next?. Give this one to classic book lovers, avid readers, or goal-setters. More info →
This is a wonderful book to carry you through the holiday season and into the new year. This workbook-driven guide walks you through the why and the how of overcoming negative thought patterns that are repetitive, unhealthy, and unhelpful, and also incorporating simple strategies to bring more peace, joy, and love into your life—but it doesn't feel like work, it feels like a conversation with a friend. When you give a copy of Don't Overthink It, you give your friend or loved one an easy-to-use framework for making decisions, using the right amount of energy on the right things, and focusing on what really matters in life. More info →
There's no one I trust more for guidance on making my home livable, welcoming, and beautiful. Her new book walks you through the seasons of the year, highlighting simple and gratifying ways to decorate (yay) and host (eventually) in tune with the rhythms of the year. Even before I finished Welcome Home, I was putting Myquillyn's principles into action—and enjoying the process. This would make a lovely gift book for HGTV fans or new home owners. More info →
I’m currently cooking my way through Ina Garten’s newest cookbook because I couldn't wait for it to appear underneath the tree. I’m a big fan of Ina's recipes; her cookbooks get a lot of use in our house. I can’t believe that she had a book on comfort food ready and waiting, just in time for a pandemic-induced return to home cooking. I’m even thinking I might cook my way through this entire book? I’ve never been a completist, but after reading your responses to this blog post, I'm nearly convinced. I can vouch for it being a great book for every home cook, from beginners to pros. My local booksellers said that cookbooks are flying off the shelves earlier than ever this year, so grab your copy soon! More info →
A display-worthy collection of images, songs, and history from the inimitable Dolly Parton and her 60 year career (and counting) in songwriting. Parton tells the stories behind her songs, along with personal photos and memorabilia on the page. The perfect gift for music lovers and Dolly fans alike (and who doesn't love Dolly?). A gorgeous cover makes this book all the more giftable. If you want to make a special gift bundle, consider pairing this with one of my favorite books of the year, She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh. More info →
We get a lot of messages about what we "should" be prioritizing over the holiday season, but have you stopped to ask yourself what matters most to you? With her five Lazy Genius principles, my friend Kendra will help you live according to what matters and let go of the stuff that doesn't. I make much use of her "decide once" principle when times get stressful, and her guide has helped my whole family plan our holidays around what matters most to us. With her friendly voice and style, Kendra illustrates each principle with stories from her own life. It's a great book to set yourself (or a loved one) up for success in the new year. More info →
This beautiful cookbook brings literary feasts to life with recipes from classic and modern literature, like vanilla layer cake from Anne of Green Gables, buckwheats from Little Women, or a thousand pork & ginger dumplings from The Kitchen God's Wife. Regardless of whether you cook any of the recipes, this book belongs on any bookworm's coffee table or shelf. If you do pick a few recipes to try in the kitchen, fear not: even the Dickensian recipes are tailored to modern life. I'm thinking of several bookish friends who would love to receive this collection for the holidays. More info →
This award-winning cookbook is at the top of my holiday wishlist. It has everything: history, heritage, culture, and food. Stunning photos accompany stories and recipes that showcase the depth of African American cuisine. I want to read it like a novel, and then cook the sweet potato biscuits and seafood gumbo. "Deeply beautiful, culturally diverse, fit for celebration"—pair it with a good bottle of bourbon for the Bourbon & Apple Hot Toddies recipe. More info →
W. Kamau Bell says it best: "To paraphrase Maya Angelou, Bryant wants us to know that once we know vegetables better, we will cook vegetables better.” Vegetable Kingdom is a sophisticated-looking cookbook, written in a delightfully snarky voice (my favorite anecdote involves Stanley from The Office)—and the photos are absolutely gorgeous. You can’t underestimate the joy of flipping through a beautifully photographed, drool-worthy cookbook, especially after you've unwrapped it as a gift. More info →
Whenever I visit a used bookstore, I hunt for a few orange Penguin Classics to add to my shelf. It's one of my favorite bookish collections, and this gorgeous hardcover celebrates the joy of a beautiful book cover. Every book published by Penguin Classics (not just the orange covers) gets a page with an illustrated cover, summary, backstory, and author biography. View classic covers from 500 authors, 1,200 books and 4,000 years of world literature. A must-have volume for bookworms who love classics, history, or art. More info →
This is another book I picked up at my local indie on publication day—I just couldn't wait! It shot to the top of my wishlist when Grettel mentioned it on WSIRN Episode 251 ("I love books and books love me back"). My fascination with urban planning is well documented. I love learning the stories behind sidewalk placement, street signs, or park-building. This well-researched guide to city design reads like an extra-nerdy encyclopedia and includes illustrations, stories, and explanations of the things we usually overlook, like crosswalk signals, building exits, and left turns. More info →
We get A LOT of questions from readers about what books to gift the men in their lives, and my husband's first answer is reliably "David Joy." Gifting fiction can be tricky, but page-turning literary fiction is a go-to crowd-pleaser (for readers of any gender!). Joy's latest novel hasn't gotten as much attention as it deserves, which makes it perfectly giftable. A father, an addict, and a federal agent are brought together by chance and redemption. Told in alternating points of view, a complicated family story meets a noir-ish literary mystery. More info →
Rilke's poetry brings me much comfort, and these beautiful editions bring a whole lotta joy, besides. When I reflect on this past year, this line comes to mind: "I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone / enough / to truly consecrate the hour." Each book in the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets hardcover series, which I happily collect, makes a lovely gift. I'm partial to Rilke's poetry; it's nice and accessible, not intimidating. Poems of comfort, poems of celebration, and quiet poems of observation fill this compact book. It might even fit in your stocking! More info →
Longlisted for the National Book Award, Wilkerson's latest book explores how America has been shaped by a hidden caste system. Wilkerson links the caste systems of the United States, India, and Nazi Germany in a story-driven deep dive into history, class, and race. I loved The Warmth of Other Suns and can't wait to read this one. Wilkerson's narrative nonfiction makes a great gift for history buffs and readers who appreciate true stories, well-told. It would also make an excellent family book club pick! More info →
Take a closer look at American history with Jill Lepore's sweeping overview, beginning in 1492. The title comes from “these truths,” as Jefferson called them: political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. The book explores whether those truths have held up over the course of our nation's history. Lepore is a gifted writer, and her impeccable research reveals nuance behind our typical textbook version of events. Bonus: this one is in paperback! No matter which historical time period your loved one is obsessed with, this book will cover it and shed light on a new perspective. More info →
I have such fond memories of watching Jeopardy! as a family when I was growing up, and I was deeply saddened by Alex Trebek's passing. His reflections in this volume are sure to be nostalgic and illuminating as he shares anecdotes from over three decades of hosting the show. More than a history of his hosting career, this volume includes Trebek's musings on parenthood, education, and spirituality. In a nod to the show, each chapter title is in the form of a question. More info →
A master of short-form storytelling, David Sedaris shares his best stories in this "best of" collection. Though his stories revolve around his personal experiences, Sedaris proves to be keenly aware of the world around him, sharing observations about human nature with humor, wit, and ... a whole lot of sex jokes. Both avid Sedaris fans and readers who are new to his work will appreciate this volume of his most memorable work. (I'm currently 90% through the audio version; Sedaris narrates himself, as always, and this new audiobook includes some live performances that are outstanding.) More info →
Who are you shopping for this year? 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.