Stressed About Gifts? Not Anymore, You’re Not
Hello, and welcome to the holiday season! You know what that means: getting “Let It Snow” stuck in your head for forty-eight hours straight, drinking 20% more hot chocolate and, of course, proving your devotion to your loved ones by getting them gift cards to Target.
Or maybe you’re one of those people who had thoughtful, specifically-chosen gifts planned out back in July, in which case, you do you. But if you’re more like me and find yourselves struggling in the gift department (it’s ok, we all have that one person—come on, Steve, just TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT), may I respectfully suggest: books. Yeah, because here’s the beauty of books—even if you’re not gifting to an avid bookworm, people still like to have books. Why? Because having books on your coffee table, by your bed, or populating that trendy Ikea shelf you got last Christmas says that you’re a cultured, articulate person who can actually get through War and Peace before you die. Even if you never will, it’s the feeling that matters.
So! In no particular order, here are the top picks from your local bookstores, ranging from Old Firehouse Books, the Bizarre Bazaar, and alright, yes, the Barnes & Noble on College. Some are more mainstream best sellers that you can’t go wrong with, while others are a bit more off the beaten track for your hipster friend who owns mason jars instead of cups.
Old Firehouse Books Recommendations:
1) Scribe: A Novel by Alyson Hagy
Set in a dystopian Appalachia riddled by civil war, sickness and violence, Scribe follows a complicated young woman with a sought-after skill: the ability to write. After an unusual request for a letter draws her into a dangerous series of events, she must leave the only home she’s ever known.
Who to give it to: That one friend who likes their fiction to be tempered with a healthy dose of dysentery.
2) Melmoth: A Novel by Sarah Perry
Helen Franklin and her friend, Karel, think they’ve found a refuge in the city of Prague. But when they find a mysterious letter in a library, little do they know that they have attracted the attention of an ancient witness to everything humanity has ever tried to hide.
Who to give it to: Your family member who laments that Edgar Allen Poe isn’t writing anymore. Or breathing.
3) An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good: Stories by Helene Tursten and Marlaine Delargy
Maud is the petty, take-no-prisoners grandmother we all wish we had. Tursten’s collection of stories follow her misadventures through conniving local celebrities, jilted lovers, and irritating neighbors with a little murder thrown in for flavor.
Who to give it to: Your salty friend. They’ll never admit it, but you know the one.
4) The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
In this heart-warmer of a novel, vicariously live through Nana and Satoru as they travel through Japan, learning life lessons and forging friendships that have nothing to do with anime. At the very least, this book costs less than the plane ticket, and will hopefully give you the warm fuzzies to boot.
Who to give it to: Your crazy cat aunt with a serious case of wanderlust.
5) The Reckoning: A Novel by John Grisham
If you like your historical fiction twisty and filled with as much drama as Keeping Up with the Kardashians (or the French Revolution, take your pick) then The Reckoning’s here for you. Grisham tells the story of a decorated war vet and small-town darling who returns home and proceeds to blatantly murder the local priest.
Who to give it to: Honestly, this is a good one for your Grandpa. Any Grandpa. All of them.
Bizarre Bazaar Recommendations
6) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
12 years after its initial publication, The Alchemist is still making waves in the book world. Following the story of a young Andalusian shepherd as he goes on a life-changing journey, Paul Coelho takes readers on a magical adventure fit for the young and old.
Who to give it to: Literally everyone.
7) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut is currently the Bizarre Bazaar’s top-selling author, so if you’ve got someone who wants a little more gallows humor this holiday season, the Bizarre Bazaar's got your back. Slaughterhouse Five follows the trials and tribulations of Billy Pilgrim as he travels through war and time.
Who to give it to: Your friend who watched classic Doctor Who and owns at least three rainbow tie-die shirts.
8) Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
In Kurt Vonnegut’s 6th book, we see an American spy on trial as a Nazi war criminal in the aftermath of WWII. This book is haunting and funny by turns and its verdict is not one you’ll want to miss.
Who to give it to: Your younger cousin (or a niece or nephew) who just took a moral philosophy class and won’t shut up about it.
9) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
Eliot Rosewater is drunk and fabulously rich, a winning combination if there ever was one. Along with the visionary but struggling science-fiction writer Kilgore Trout, Rosewater will go on a cross-country journey that American author Conrad Aiken called “a brilliantly funny satire on almost everything.”
Who to give it to: Your wonderfully jaded friend from college who posts about capitalism on Facebook.
Barnes & Noble Recommendations
10) Becoming by Michelle Obama
Whatever your political affiliation or beliefs, we can all agree that Michelle Obama, much like Oprah and Beyoncé, is a queen. And she is here to grace us with her wisdom and knowledge from the story of her life. From her childhood in Chicago to her time in the White House, Becoming inspires us all to defy expectations.
Who to give it to: This is another one I’d freely offer to anyone you haven’t got a clue for, gift-wise. Even if they never read it, you KNOW it’ll up the classiness of any coffee table.
11) Everybody, Always by Bob Goff
In a world that seems to get a bit darker by the day, this book is particularly fitting for the holiday spirit. Bob Goff talks about love, the silver linings of failure, and friendship through his stories, pointing to how we all can embrace ourselves and others.
Who to give it to: Your aunt who posts inspirational quotes over pictures of sunsets on Facebook.
12) Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin
Although we’re still waiting on the 6th book in the Game of Thrones cycle, we DO get a detailed history of our favorite dragon-toting family of Westeros, the Targaryens. Full of conquest, drama, and, of course, dragons, Martin’s new book is sure to be a fantasy extravaganza.
Who to give it to: Your friend who gets super into Dungeons and Dragons.
13) Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich
Were you not able to score tickets to this multiple-award-winning musical as it traveled around the U.S.? Me neither—but have no fear, because it’s a book now! If you listen to the soundtrack as you read, I’m sure it’s almost like the real thing.
Who to give it to: The musical fan in your life who’s been to Broadway more times than they’ve been to the mall.
14) Bridge of Clay by Mark Zusak
Mark Zusak’s new book brings us a tale of five brothers, chronicling their entry and adaptation to the adult world, intermingling with the truth of their father’s disappearance. Powerful and full of feeling, this book is another great addition to any library.
Who to give it to: This one’s pretty versatile, but I think it’d best suit the quietest member of your family, the one who’d rather officiate instead of participate in the full-contact-sport that is Monopoly.
15) Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
Even though cookbooks might seem unconventional, they’re the gift that keeps on giving! And Nosrat’s blend of narrative, infographics, and recipes are a brilliant addition to any kitchen, from aficionados wanting to learn more about their craft to those of us who manage to set our cereal on fire every morning.
Who to give it to: Your friend who says it’s not their fault there’s rice burned to the bottom of the pot, it wasn’t soft yet…