December 10, 2014

The Ultimate Holiday Book-Giving Guide.

Photo: Porsche Brousseau via Flickr

Panic sets in. There are no parking spots, the checkout lines are endless, shoppers are frustrated, hurried and confused and the stores won’t stop playing those god-awful, earworm carols like “Santa Baby” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

Holiday shopping is the absolute worst and it represents everything that the season isn’t supposed to be. Plus, nobody knows what one earth to get for their loved ones!

Luckily, I have the answer because no one ever really wants that basket of summer sausages and cheese that doesn’t need refrigeration. You don’t have to eschew gift-giving altogether. In fact, the spirit of thoughtfulness and generosity that comes from gift giving is a big part of the magic of the holidays. So here’s the solution to buying the perfect present:

Give Books!

Books can be anything to anyone. Their possibilities are limitless.

Books are invitations, guides, escapes and one single book can change someone’s life. They cost little, don’t take up much space (or no space at all if they’re e-books). Shipping books is inexpensive with media mail and if you buy online, you can skip the trip to the post office altogether. Did you know that you can even send e-books as gifts directly to your loved one’s device? Easy, fast, dirt cheap, no shipping costs and totally paperless. Everyone wins.

Still don’t know what to get? Here’s a fool-proof, literary gift giving guide to help (I’ve provided some descriptions, but many of the titles are self-explanatory):

Books to Inspire

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace – Anne Lamott. Her newest meditations, thoughts, anecdotes and stories to get you through.

Carry On Warrior: – Glennon Doyle Melton. Essays about being strong when you’re not perfect, about love and family and being brave enough to be authentic.

Bread and Wine – Shauna Niequist. Inspiration and lots of simple, yummy recipes centered about the importance of friendship and family and coming together over a good meal.

Books for Truth Seekers

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion – Sam Harris

Birth, Breath, Death – Amy Wright Glenn. Tales of peace and light from a former Mormon who became a chaplain and a doula. Absolutely beautiful memoir.

The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help – Amanda Palmer. An incredible book about compassion and being gracious.

Linda Barry’s Syllabus: An Illustrated Field Guide to Keeping a Visual Diary and Cultivating the Capacity for Creative Observation – Linda Barry. Gorgeously illustrated homage to creativity, originality and exploration. A magical book to give as a gift.

Holy Cow! – Sarah Macdonald. A westerner moves to India and discovers, with hilarity, many of the country’s diverse and unique religious experiences.

Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe – Yumi Sakugawa. Evocative drawings, instructions for hope, joy and connection. An excellent gift for anyone really. This one is a must have.

For the College Student or Recent Grad

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easyish Steps – Kelly Williams Brown.

What to Get an Art Lover                                 

The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti.

Outside the Lines – A Grownup coloring book for art lovers!! A great gift when paired with a pack of crayons and markers.

Foodie Friends Will Love These

Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, Flavor Friendly Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant – Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavy. It’s a graphic novel, a memoir and a veggie cookbook and it’s amazing.

Lust for Leaf: Veggie Crowd Pleasers to Fuel Your Picnics, Potlucks and Ragers – Alex Brown and Evan George.

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook, Eat Like You Give a F@ck – Thug Kitchen. Irreverent and delicious vegan recipes for those who aren’t easily offended.

The Flavor Bible –Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

Delancey – Molly Wizenberg. I’m a big fan of this memoir with recipes about a couple opening their first restaurant and starting a family. Good stories and good food.

For the Indie Movie Fan

The Wes Anderson Collection – Mat Zoller Seitz. An incredible art book dedicated to the work of this original director, illustrated as intricately and lovingly as a children’s book.

For Parents

The Scary Mommy Guide to Surviving the Holidays – ed. Jill Smokler. A hilarious ebook complete with recipes, comic essays, holiday disasters and a drinking game.

Dad is Fat – Jim Gaffigan. The funniest book about being a parent ever written.

You have to F@cking Eat – Adam Mansbach and Owen Brozman. A poetic expression of parental frustration.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood – Jennifer Senior. A thoughtful, serious book about our culture of parenting and a must read for moms and dads of kids today.

Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi – Brian Leaf. Sweet, funny, charming and informative book about mindful parenting.

For Children

Once Upon a Northern Night: A Loving Illustrated Lullaby of Winter’s Whimsy Jean E. Pendziwol and Isabelle Arsenault.

Wild – Emily Hughes. Colorful, tropical, quirky and well, Wild. A little girl raised in nature is adopted by civilization.

The Lion and the Bird – Marianne Dubuc. Named by many as the best children’s book of the year, about kindness to strangers and an unlikely friendship. You will happy cry over this one.

For Music Fanatics

Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism – Devon Powers.

The History of Rock n Roll in Ten Songs – Greil Marcus.

Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot – Masha Gessen.

Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records – Amanda Petrusich.

Books for Yogis

Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi – Brian Leaf. This memoir of a man’s journey to healing, self-discovery and yoga had me cracking up from page one.

May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga and Changing My Mind – Cyndi Lee. A touching and wise memoir about learning how to have compassion for ourselves.

For Fans of Dystopia and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

California – Edan Lepucki. Los Angeles is crumbling and a wilderness dwelling couple expecting a child set out to find a new community.

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel. Described by Amazon as “the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.” You’ll love it. Totally original.

Fiction Buffs Will Appreciate

Boy, Snow, Bird – Helen Oyeyemi. A modern, African American retelling of the classic Snow White.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. Perhaps the best loved book this year, this is the story of a German orphan and a blind, French teen in Breton just before D-Day.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris. Funny and odd book about a man who finds he is being impersonated online and decides to track down whomever stole his identity.

The Fever – Megan Abbot. I loved this book which is based on the mysterious real life events that occurred when several teen girls in one town became ill with symptoms blamed by some on hysteria and others by toxic waste.

The Book of Strange New Things – Michel Faber. An intergalactic missionary leaves behind his problems on earth to find himself on the planet Oasis. More metaphor than science fiction.

For the Memoir Fans

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast. I fell in love with this graphic memoir about a woman caring for her elderly parents after hearing an interview with the charming author on NPR.

Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat Victoria Fedden. What happens when the ultimate good girl goes to work in a strip club in order to make over her disastrous love life. Bonus! It now has a sequel! Sun Shower: Magic, Forgiveness and How I Learned to Bloom Where I Was Planted is about how a confused 20-something finally finds the secret to self-confidence and figures out her direction in life.

The Noble Hustle – Colson Whitehead. The author, aware of his own personality quirks, gets an assignment to become a professional poker player and write about it. Great writing and a funny look into a truly unique person’s mind.

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham. I was shocked by how very much I loved this insightful, witty, very funny and surprisingly poignant memoir by the creator of the TV show “Girls.”

The Unspeakable – Meghan Daum. Clever and sometimes caustic memoirist Daum takes on the topics most of us would rather sweep under the table. She’s honest, smart, brilliant and wildly entertaining in these essays. I’m an embarrassingly big fan of this author and I cannot recommend her writing enough.

I think I’ve covered all the bases, but if I haven’t and you’re still stuck, feel free to ask me in the comments section and I’ll find your loved one the perfect book for them too!


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!


Author: Victoria Fedden

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Porche Linn at Flickr 




Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Victoria Fedden  |  Contribution: 19,035