It’s here. The time of year where we must pretend to have thoughtful and personalized gift ideas for everyone close to us. I’m not the kind of person who comes across a very specific thing in June, thinks it would be the perfect gift for someone, and buys it immediately and/or remembers it when the holidays come around. That’s just way too hard!
One thing I am always thinking about is books, and who might like them, so my usual move is to get everyone a book. Are there many unread books I’ve bought my family lying around my parents’ house? Yes. The trick is to make the books also ones you want to read, so when the person eventually doesn’t read it you can take it for yourself.
Basically, I’m telling you to buy people the books you want and pretend they are thoughtful gifts.
Buying gifts for the sake of buying gifts can get really tedious, I think, and by buying someone a book you are inviting someone to learn something, which is very nice of you! Look at you go!
Don’t stress, I’ve picked out some books for every member of your family, friend group, office, book club, or even just for yourself.
For the person who’s obsessed with funny animal videos (i.e., everyone):
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach
A deep-dive into human-wildlife contact, and why humans are usually the problem. That sounds sad, but this book is actually super fun!
For the only cousin you actually talk to at family gatherings because they have the funniest comments once Aunt Betty is three Chardonnay glasses deep:
¡Hola Papi! by John Paul Brammer
A heartwarming memoir-in-essays chronicling advice-columnist Brammer’s journey growing up as a queer, mixed-race kid in America's heartland to becoming the "Chicano Carrie Bradshaw" of his generation.
For the uncle who has never stopped talking about that one legendary trip to that one place but does most of their adventuring from the couch:
The Third Pole by Mark Synnott
Another Mt. Everest book! This expedition happened in 2019, when that notorious photo of the huge line of climbers going up the mountain went viral.
For the True Crime Aunt:
Last Call by Elon Green
A fantastic true-crime account of a serial killer who preyed on gay men in NYC in the 1990s.
For anyone who needs a holiday party conversation starter:
The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lorr
An investigation into all that goes on behind the scenes to create the miracle of the American supermarket. Spoiler alert, it’s spooky!
For anyone, really (have you READ Ann Patchett? She’s an American treasure!):
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
Author and owner of Parnassus Books Patchett’s first collection of essays! Deeply personal reflections on home, family, friendships and writing. And that’s her dog on the cover!
For anyone who reads one fantastic memoir a year, this one is it:
Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
A moving memoir about a family fragmented by incarceration, and one daughter’s journey to reconcile her childhood with who she grows up to be.
For the dad who takes six months to read a book, or anyone who likes a big juicy novel to sink their teeth into:
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
Franzen is back with another Midwestern family epic, this time centered on the family of pastor of a liberal church in suburban Chicago in the 1970s. I know, that doesn’t sound that compelling, but trust me, Jonathan Franzen can write characters like nobody else and can make anything interesting.
For the sister who is studying English, or anyone in their 20’s (or any age!) still figuring things out:
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
A portrait of a young woman writer who, after the death of her mother, is fumbling through jobs, relationships and novel drafts as she learns to live with grief and overcome self-doubt.
For the person who just graduated and entered the corporate world and after sending their one thousandth email for the day is wondering Is This All There Is?
Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
A man’s consciousness gets uploaded into his company’s Slack channels. The entire novel is structured in Slack conversations.
For any outdoorsy type:
The Guide by Peter Heller
A fishing guide shows up to a lodge where not all is as it seems.
For the funniest person you know:
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins
A hilarious, bonkers book that I can’t even begin to explain, just read it!
For the person who won’t shut up about the movie Dune (duh):
Dune by Frank Herbert
Just watch the movie.