A top-notch gift guide for the bibliophile in your life! (Books; we’re talking about books.)
Gifting a book is a tricky business. When I was younger, I would give books that I loved, figuring those receiving them should love them, too. Unfortunately, that is not how books work. Key advice for book-giving, or perhaps all gift-giving: give them what they’ll like. And it’s okay if you don’t like the same thing. So how do you find the right book for a mystery reader when you’ve been devouring nothing but YA fantasy? Read on for recommendations for gifting these excellent new releases.
For your friend who is so ready for the apocalypse:
Although that friend might be disappointed because this novel opts out of dystopian post-apocalypse clichés. The titular Arrest is the sudden and unexplained dysfunction of all technology. It all just stops working, and everyone’s life changes. (The sudden transformation of daily life might feel pretty resonant right now.) Jonathan Lethem is known for his offbeat style and engaging characters. Give it to anyone who has enjoyed books by Michael Chabon and Jennifer Egan.
For your aunt who’s in a book club that’s really more of a wine-drinking club:
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
A book about women’s friendships that’s getting all sorts of rave reviews? It’s gonna be on the book club circuit for sure. Don’t let that deter you from picking up a copy of this heartwarming historical fiction about two women on an unexpected scientific expedition in 1950.
For your liberal uncle that you don’t really know very well:
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
It’s not the most personal gift, sure, but with 6 million copies being printed, people are going to be reading this book. Your uncle could be one of those people! (For perspective, a typical big-deal release might have a first printing of 200,000. Obama’s latest memoir is on its own plane.)
For the unionist witches in your life:
The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich
Witches using their magic to help their union when it’s time to strike? Sign me up! There is someone in your life who would love a dash of magic sprinkled atop their historical fiction about workers’ rights: please bless them with this book this holiday season.
For the Tarantino obsessive in your family:
Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino by Julián Herbert
Maybe you’re sick of them rewatching Kill Bill and you need to send a message, or maybe they also like short stories and this is a really good gift. Herbert’s stories feature strange characters in unusual circumstances, often turning violent. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “This provocatively cerebral volume should amuse those with a taste for literary horror.” Gift wisely.
For your Secret Santa exchange with coworkers:
Black Hole Survival Guide by Janna Levin
The perfect solution for Secret Santa when you don’t really know what your giftee is into, you have to keep it profesh, but don’t want to give them some lame stocking stuffer that they’ll literally put in the trash. This book dives into one of the universe’s most fascinating phenomena, the black hole. Informative but also a lively and engaging read even for those not typically scientifically inclined. A winner all around.
For your 1980s video game aficionado:
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
The long-awaited sequel to the blockbuster book (and movie) Ready Player One dives back into Cline’s nostalgic 80s video game universe with another fast-paced quest.
For the dad who tears through crime fiction like nobody’s business:
Be sure they like violence, though. Nesbo’s disturbing, page-turning rural noir ratchets up the tension as the story unravels. Give it to fans of Stieg Larsson or James Ellroy.
For your friend who started adding land acknowledgments on their social media posts:
Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West by Lauren Redniss
This work of visual nonfiction–an innovative combination of Redniss’ reporting and drawings –shares the story of an Apache family trying to protect sacred land for generations. An excellent gift for people in your life who are concerned with history and justice. Appropriate for teen readers, too. You might also consider: Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land by N. Scott Momaday
For yourself, as you escape from holiday stress:
How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
Because you deserve to take a break and sink into this romance about an arranged royal marriage in the fictional African kingdom of Njaza. Cole’s clever writing grapples with power and gender, without sacrificing fun and sexy escapism.
And for me, please:
Black Futures edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham
This imaginative anthology asks what it means to be Black and alive right now, and in answer, promises to open “a prismatic vision of possibility for every reader.” This timely collection brings together essays, visual art, tweets, recipes, and more. Gift it to anyone who is concerned with art, racial justice, and societal transformation.