As I sat down to write our holiday gift guide this year, there were so many great books that I wanted to recommend that I decided to create a gift guide specifically all about books and gifting to people who love books. I will admit that this sort of gift guide feels a little bit more personal than the usual roundup of gifts that we typically write. In the same way I’m often reluctant to share which books I’m reading and loving for fear of book judgment, I’m a little hesitant to share the books that I love, the books that I’m wishing for, and the books that I think would make great gifts. Reading, our reasons for reading, when and how we read are all personal choices, so I hope you’ll read this guide with an open mind. I couldn’t possibly include every book that I think would make a great gift here – there are far too many. My hope is that this list will inspire you and that you’ll find a treasure or two among this list.
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I’ll Be There For You – I had to start this list with a softball. For the person who can finish the scene that begins, “It’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy, and it IS a big deal!”
This Will Only Hurt a Little – If you’ve spent even a few minutes watching Busy Phillip’s Instagram stories, you know she’s a captivating storyteller. She’s real and raw and if you haven’t heard me say over and over again that we went to college “together” I’ll say it again. It’s like we’re best friends and she just doesn’t know it yet.
GMorning, Gnight – If you follow Lin Manuel Miranda on Twitter you’re aware of the affirmations he regularly posts to his followers. They have been a light in a dark time in the world and now the best of them have been gathered into book (and audio) format. It’s the sort of book I want to give to everyone I on my list, and maybe I’ll do just that.
Becoming – I told my husband to put this on my list, but I doubt I’ll be able to wait until Christmas morning to read it.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – Note that this is the screenplay, not a novel, but diehard fans will want to add this to their collections!
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat If you haven’t seen this absolute gem of a show, you need to start now. Add this book to your list for everyone who loves spending time in the kitchen.
You are a Badass Everyday – If you have someone on your list who loved Jen Sincero’s previous books, make sure they get this extra dose of motivation and a reminder that you think they’re pretty great, too.
Shade – While this is certainly for a very specific person on your list, this book from the official White House photographer during the Obama administration, Pete Souza, is making a splash. He tells the tale of two presidents by placing the tweets and quotes of President Trump alongside the photos of President Obama.
Cravings: Hungry for More – I’ll admit this one is on my list because I love Chrissy Teigen as a human being, but that seems like as good a reason as any.
Favorite Books of 2018
The Animators – This book continued to awe me throughout. My friend Hillary says she thinks this is the perfect novel for “young professionals, especially in creative fields.” Even if that’s not you, I think this novel is a work of art.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies – This is easily my favorite book of 2018, and so many of my own friends loved this one as well. It makes a great gift because you can’t blow through it in an afternoon and the story sticks with you for a while. It’s the sort of book people want to pass along to their friends, and I think you should, too.
From the Corner of the Oval – This book recently appeared on my Fall reading roundup and this was a truly excellent memoir of a woman who somewhat accidentally found herself working as a White House stenographer during the Obama administration. This was a surprise delight.
Recommendations from Our Friends
These books appeared over and over on the favorite book lists of friends of mine, so now they’re all on my personal list as well.
I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O’Farrell’s astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter–for whom this book was written–from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life’s myriad dangers.
Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion.
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them—and escaped into the darkness.
Since women earned the right to vote a little under one hundred years ago, our progress hasn’t been the Olympic sprint toward gender equality first wave feminists hoped for, but more of a slow, elderly mall walk (with frequent stops to Cinnabon) over the four hundred million hurdles we still face. Some of these obstacles are obvious-unequal pay, under-representation in government, reproductive restrictions, lack of floor-length mirrors in hotel rooms. But a lot of them are harder to identify. They’re the white noise of oppression that we’ve accepted as lady business as usual, and the patriarchy wants to keep it that way.
Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents―artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs―Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa’s father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he’d become the parent she’d always wanted him to be.
A memoir of betrayal and self-discovery by bestselling author Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior is a gorgeous and inspiring account of how we are all born to be warriors: strong, powerful, and brave; able to confront the pain and claim the love that exists for us all. This chronicle of a beautiful, brutal journey speaks to anyone who yearns for deeper, truer relationships and a more abundant, authentic life.
New Releases from Favorite Authors
My Favorite Half-Night Stand – Look, not every book needs to be a deep thinker. I enjoy the hell out of Christina Lauren and think this book would be amazing paired with a bottle of wine, a new nail polish and your favorite lip gloss.
The Witch Elm – Faithful fans of Tana French will already have this one in their hands, but even newcomers to the author will be excited to get their hands on this suspenseful story from one of the masters. Perhaps pair this new release with fan favorite The Likeness for someone who doesn’t have French on their radar yet.
Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver is an absolute literary gift. Look at your list and find the person with whom you exchange knowing glances about the state of our country. Buy this for that person and make a promise to get together to talk about it after you’ve both read it.
Dear Evan Hansen – Fans of the musical will love having the story in their hands, but I love that this story can reach a wider audience than those who are able to see the show on Broadway or in a touring production. You might want to gift this book with a pocket pack of Kleenex.
Non-Book Gifts for Book Lovers
Kindle Paperwhite – I put a kindle on my gift guide every single year because I think it’s one of our greatest technological advances. I held out on the Paperwhite for a long time, because I believed myself to be an e-reading purist – no backlights for me! Turns out reading with a Paperwhite is absolutely nothing like reading on a phone or tablet screen and I was very wrong for many years.
Study Date Candle from WickHabit – From our favorite independent candle maker, this candle smells of old books, wood, and peppermint tea.
100 Essential Novels Scratch Off Poster – For the book lover that has everything, this poster will allow them to track their progress in completing the ultimate book bucket list.
As always, if you find this list useful, we would love it if you would share with a friend. We would love to hear the books you’re gifting and hoping to receive this year.