Got yourself a friend who’d rather curl up with a good book than come out with you on a drunken adventure? Everyone’s got one, and while you might sometimes worry that their social tendencies lean more towards agoraphobia than a genuine love of literature, you shouldn’t just give them anti-axiety meds for Christmas. That’s rude. Instead, take the advice of these brilliant literati who were nice enough to suggest a few gifts that will make a book worm happy when you hand it to him.
Saga, Vol 1-5 written by Brain K Vaughn and illustrated Fiona Staples ($9.99 – $14.99 each at your local bookstore)
The Saga series is perfect for that bookish friend who wants to be into graphic novels, but doesn’t really know where to start (that friend is me). The funny, dark and poignant series follows a pair of lovers from warring parts of the cosmos and their young daughter as they embark on adventures both large-scale and small. The storyline has grown and shifted in compelling ways with each volume, the fifth of which was released this fall. Binge-read them.
Balm, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez ($25.99 at your local bookstore)
The years directly following the Civil War were some of the most fertile for storytelling, one would think, with people all over the country reassessing their lives after years of uncertainty. Perkins-Valdez’s novel follows three characters—a male former slave, a born-free black woman, and a white woman—in Reconstruction era Chicago. It’s a good gift for anyone who is interested in history and human nature.
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris ($24.95 at your local bookstore)
For anyone who has ever wondered why there’s a hyphen in Moby-Dick—that is to say, the unabashedly nerdy among us—Norris, longtime copy editor at The New Yorker, has answers. Even if you don’t obsess over grammar, Between You & Me serves as an interesting and humorous look at how convention becomes convention, and might boost your confidence when you decide to break the rules.
Jen Doll – Author of Save the Date; managing editor at Mental Floss
THINGS WITH BOOKS ON THEM
I am a huge fan of Society 6 for their cute, original printed items (everything from pillows to iPhone cases to T-shirts and leggings). They have a fair amount of bookishly arted stuff, and if you don’t know if your gift recipient has read any of the many awesome books of the year (some personal faves: Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On and Katherine Howe’s The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen in young adult; Heather Cocks’ and Jessica Morgan’s The Royal We; Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops), you could just go with, say, a shower curtain ($68), or an iPhone case ($15), or maybe a pillow ($20) to help provide bookishly sweet naps.
THINGS THAT SMELL LIKE BOOKS
I don’t know about you but if I opened up one of these Book Lovers’ Collection candles ($18 each) from Frostbeard Studio I’d be pretty happy. They come in scents ranging from “Gatsby’s Mansion” to “Reading at the Cafe.” (There’s an “Old Books” one!) Or, if someone on your list has a particular favorite book, check to see if there’s a candle inspired by it already—Hi Wildflower has some fantastic-sounding ones ($30 each) in homage to literature from Saeed Jones, Alexandra Kleeman, and Lincoln Michel, and proceeds go in part to the worthy cause Girls Write Now.
THINGS THAT ACTUALLY ARE BOOKS
When in doubt, go with options! You can order subscriptions from One Story ($21 for 12), Emily Books ($13.99 monthly, $159.99 yearly), and Lizzie Skurnick Books ($125 yearly, other options available) to keep your book-friend happily reading all year long. Also, I just love the Penguin Drop Caps collection (prices vary, in the $20-range) and would love a full alphabet of these beautifully repackaged classics for my shelves.
Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo – Owners of Greenlight Bookstore, opening its second location next year in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens
Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradel ($25 at your local bookstore)
This is one of my favorite novels of the year, in a very good year for novels. Stradel’s debut circles around a Midwestern chef savant and the people and foods that touch her life, and manages to create a picture of the American food revolution of the past 25 years, and of its intersections with class, economics, family, and culture. Beautifully structured, affectionately and hilariously written, brilliantly subtexted, and satisfying as a perfect bowl of soup, Kitchens is a great gift for foodies, fiction lovers, aunts, cousins, party hosts, bosses, and pretty much everyone else. (Jessica)
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert ($24.95 at your local bookstore)
I’ve never read Eat, Pray, Love, but I met Gilbert when we hosted her last year and was impressed by her intelligence, her practicality, her compassion, and her slightly mystical, very useful vision of how creativity works. Reading her (self-identified) self-help book Big Magic is like having a conversation with that warm, funny, listening intelligence, and it surprised me over and over with its relevance. Whether you’re a serious aspiring artist or just would like to be a little less fearful and a little more joyful in the course of your days, read this, enjoy it, give it to anyone who has their own strange treasures to share. (Jessica)
The Age of Reinvention, by Karine Tuil ($27 at your local bookstore)
This page-turning international novel was a bestseller in France and was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt. Now translated into English, it reads big in scope. Centered around a self-made immigrant named Tahir and the ways he’s navigated success in the United States, it spans his childhood in Tunisia and his time in Paris but it mostly focuses on his life in New York, where he’s become a successful lawyer and has married into an elite family, but he isn’t everything he appears to be. This book shows, doesn’t tell about broad topics like fidelity, love, honesty, deception, international racism, entitlement, and what it means to be successful. (Rebecca)
The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America, by Stephen Silverman and Raphael Silvera ($45 at your local bookstore)
From early settlement to the iconic Woodstock concert, from Jewish resort towns to gangster hideouts, the Catskills have a history that spans the founding of our country, the entertainment industry, and religion. Underscoring the major (and ever changing) role the Catskills have had on our developing nation over the past 400 years, this is the perfect balance between illustrated coffee table book and comprehensive history — it is a book with meat on its bones! (Rebecca)
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