We don’t mean to state the obvious—especially if you read the title of this list—but books are an awesome gift. They’re thoughtful, compact and great for procrastinators (especially if you’re a Prime member and take advantage of Amazon’s free two-day shipping). Whether you’re shopping for your cool younger cousin or your podcast-obsessed work wife, here are 12 tomes to consider for everyone on your list this year.
For your friend who always hosts Friendsgiving: Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman
Whether it’s a spur-of-the-moment weeknight meal with a neighbor or a weekend dinner party with 15 friends, food-world darling Alison Roman believes that having people over is supposed to be fun, not stressful. Her book presents casual entertaining tips and crowd-pleasing recipes (like a DIY martini bar, coconut-braised chicken and chickpeas, and lemony turmeric tea cake).
For your great-aunt who loves to tell stories about her youth: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
In the 1940s, 19-year-old Vivian has just been kicked out of Vassar College. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her aunt, who owns a crumbling midtown theater. When Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. The Eat, Pray, Love author’s return to fiction is about discovering that you don't have to be a good girl to be a good person. It’s also a fun throwback to a very different time.
For your quirky and adorkable goddaughter: Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
Actress and comedian Jenny Slate (who also co-wrote Marcel the Shell with Shoes On) combines fiction, nonfiction and poetry in her adult debut. She ruminates on growing up in a haunted house in Massachusetts, admits to debilitating self-doubt and generally offers readers an intimate look inside her admittedly weird mind. (Note: Before giving this to someone you consider quirky, make sure they consider themselves quirky too.)
For your college pal whose Instagram profile picture is from the Women’s March: The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
If she loved Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist or Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, she needs to read The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West. West created the Hulu series Shrill, and in this collection of essays, she examines how patriarchy, intolerance and misogyny have overtaken politics and American culture. It’s eye-opening and funny, in an I-can’t-believe-this-is-real way.
For your English major sister-in-law: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Calling all literary ladies: Set over the course of five decades, the latest from Ann Patchett (Commonwealth) is a dark fairy tale about Danny and Maeve, siblings who are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. When the two wealthy siblings are thrown back into poverty, they find that all they have to count on is each other. It’s classic Patchett, and it will delight any fan of her immense talent.
For your work wife who’s never not listening to a podcast: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
The hosts of My Favorite Murder now have a collection of humorous essays. Combining personal stories with true-crime anecdotes, the two best friends muse on their biggest mistakes and fears. It’s funny, of course, but Kilgariff and Hardstark also go surprisingly deep, educating readers about the importance of advocating for themselves and valuing personal safety over being "nice" or "helpful."
For your neighbor whose Cardi B jam sessions are equal parts disruptive and endearing: God Save the Queens by Kathy Iandoli
Media coverage of the hip-hop industry has long focused on men, despite women’s obvious contributions to the art form. Kathy Iandoli’s book pays tribute to the goddesses of the genre—from the early work of Roxanne Shanté, to hitmakers like Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott, to the superstars of today such as Nicki Minaj and Cardi B.
For your mom who’s finally gotten aboard the Marie Kondo train: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno
She’s mastered the art of tidying up, so it’s time to take things a step further. Written by a Japanese Zen monk, this is a clear and practical guide to finding happiness through actions as simple as lining up your shoes after you take them off or putting down your fork after every bite. At the very least, she’ll have a new reason to make your dad take his shoes off in the house.
For your sister who bugged you for months to start watching her favorite Netflix show: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
This long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale picks up 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead. Margaret Atwood’s publisher is keeping many of the details under wraps, but the author has said, “Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” Intriguing…
For the childhood bestie who made fun of you for closing your eyes during scary movies: The Whisper Man by Alex North
In this creepy tale, a widower and his son move to a tiny English town to start fresh. Except the town has a scary history, including a serial killer who abducted and murdered five young boys. But, lo and behold, the culprit is caught. So why does the widower, Tom, start to feel like something isn’t right? Another boy goes missing, and Tom’s young son says he hears someone outside his window at night. Did “The Whisper Man” have an accomplice?
For your extremely cool younger cousin: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
In this excellent coming-of-age story, 19-year-old Juliet gets mixed reactions when she comes out to her family. Soon, she’s off to Portland, Oregon, for a summer internship with a feminist author who’s part Gwyneth Paltrow, part Gloria Steinem and part Lena Dunham. There, she attempts to come to terms with her sexual and racial identities. It made us think the kids are all right.
For pretty much anyone: Normal People by Sally Rooney
Stumped on what book to gift just about anyone on your list? Go with this. Irish writer Sally Rooney’s second novel (after 2017’s Conversations with Friends) is about Connell and Marianne, classmates in a small Irish town, where Connell is popular and Marianne is essentially friendless. Despite their differences, they form an unlikely bond. They eventually enroll at the same college, where their roles are flipped and suddenly Marianne is the cool one. They date, break up and make up…a few times over. It’s a buzzy read they’ll fly through in no time—and then share with all of their friends.
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