Book Lovers: A Gifting Guide
I know, I know. It's too early. But...is it? I feel like I go through this every year: it's always too early to start thinking about the holidays until December 20th, and then I'm scrambling to find or make good gifts for my family and friends. I don't know about you, but I do not work best under that kind of pressure. I also don't have the foresight to do what my mom does and just shop for presents year-round, finding things she thinks people will like. We can't all be planners.
So, November 4th seems like a good enough in between. And what better gift is there to give than a good story? Whether your recipient is an enthusiastic reader or hasn't picked up a book in years, I think there's something for everyone at the local book store. Here are my recommendations, no matter who you're giving to!
For the Non-Reader
This is definitely the hardest person to buy a book for. But with the rise of audiobooks, coloring books, and graphic novels I think you can find something for everyone! Let's break it down.
I can't overstate how much I love audiobooks. I spend so much time walking, running, doing laundry, cooking, stretching, doing, and being able to spend that time with a book in my ears has been life changing. I use Overdrive (way better than Audible!), which connects to your local library and lets you download e-books and audiobooks to any device, including your phone. For free. Fancy, right? Here's how you can turn that into a non-reader gift:
- Set it up. Installing the app, connecting it to the library, downloading books, connecting the phone to the car...it can be a lot. Getting everything ready to go so your loved one just has to press 'play' could be the push they need to remember how much they love books!
- CDs. I know I know I know. But again, sometimes setting it all up on the phone is just too much. Give your loved one a book on tape they can play in the car. Especially perfect if you've got an upcoming road trip!
- Your own recommendations. Sharing a book together is a beautiful thing. Seeing a novel through someone else's eyes can open up new perspectives, interpretations, and meaning you may not have seen. And you get to share a thing you love with a person you love.
You've seen them. You've thought "Really? Adult coloring books?". Your friend's mom has one. And now, your mom can have one too! Coloring is meditative, methodic, excellent to keep your hands busy while watching TV. Here are a few that look neat:
- The Secret Garden. Kind of the OG coloring book.
- Color Me Calm
- Pride and Prejudice: A Coloring Classic
Find more of them at Powell's
Not just for kids! Graphic novels have grown into beautifully illustrated, intricate stories with as much character development, plot, and meaning as any other book. Here are a few that are really stunning:
For the History Buff
- White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. America is hardly classless, anybody-can-be-anything country we like to think it is. This book recounts the history of the mistreatment of the poor, and discusses the surprising origins of elitism in the US (hint: owning land used to be a BFD).
- HRC by Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen. You may as well start reading up on the life and times of our future president ;) It focuses on her time as Secretary of State, but I think it has great insight into how she makes decisions, what motivates her, and is relatively objective and accurate.
For the Girl Boss
By far the hardest category to narrow down, it's hard to go wrong with any of these titles for the feminist reader (woops, sorry, I misspelled 'everyone') in your life:
- Shrill by Lindy West. So many 'aha' moments in this book. Lindy West names and confronts some uncomfortable truths in this book. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll become a better human. Really you should just get it for yourself as a present.
- The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. An incredibly intimate look into who Amy Schumer is, and how she came to be the person she is today.
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I know this book was trendier last year, but if your loved one didn't get a chance to read it it's well worth coming back to.
- I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. If you're not sure who she is, you definitely need to read this. If you know her, you know why you need to read this.
- Yes, Please by Amy Pohler. The life and times of an amazing woman, featuring some great advice we could all use.
For the Mathlete
These are ordered by difficulty + level of math, from most advanced to most accessible.
- Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter is a mind-bending, brain-exploding math + philosophy book. This is perfect your friend who just started grad school.
- Love and Math by Edward Frenkel is just a great math book. Part memoir, part linear algebra, Edward Frenkel discusses how he came to love math, what he endured to be part of the mathematics community, and what he spent his life researching and discovering.
- How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg is for the armchair mathematician. It's a critical analysis of how we approach problems, and common data analytics methods. More "How to think about this real-world issue" than "Here's how Andrew Wiles solved the Fermat Theorem". My favorite quote is: "And you can't deny that there are aspects of the natural world - I'm thinking pandas here - that seem more likely to have resulted from grudging bureaucratic compromise than from the mind of an all knowing deity with total creative control"
For the CSI Fan
I've unexpectedly started reading mysteries recently. I didn't even know what I was getting myself into, but here are a few juicy ones I've enjoyed.
- I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. A short but satisfying thriller.
- All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker. As a mystery noob, I'm so invested in this book. Is it the son? The pot dealer? I was hooked, and so satisfied by the ending.
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Honestly, when I first read it I thought it was a little meh. I had a hard time connecting to the main character, or caring about what happened to her. But with all the hype + the movie, I may have to give it another read.
For the Friend with a BB8 Pillow
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a totally accessible and fun story. It's a classic hero's tale, with 80's geek and gamer culture mixed in. Highly recommend for readers of any age.
- Use of Weapons by Iain Banks is by far my favorite sci-fi book. Great characters, an excellent ending, compelling plot, and very interesting premise. Highly, highly recommend for all readers
- The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin is a solid, satisfying sci-fi adventure.
For the People Person
This section is really just an excuse to recommend When Breath Becomes Air.
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi is the heartbreaking story of a young neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Intimate with the American healthcare system as both a doctor and a patient, this book has fascinating insights and thoughts around the ultimate question: What makes life worth living?
- The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, for when you need to revitalize your faith in our country's politicians.
And that's all she wrote, folks! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, surrounded by family and friends you love ♥