Today’s Holiday Gift Guide – which is probably the last one I’ll do this year – is all about books I think make perfect gifts. I love the idea of giving books, because they show you put some thought into your gift. They’re also something the recipient will spend a lot of time with, and get a lot out of. Below are some books I think will make excellent gifts this holiday season.
Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. – Neil Gaiman
For the Fantasy Fiend:
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I think it would make an incredible gift. If you’re buying for someone who loves Game of Thrones – the books or the TV show – this is the book to get for them. It’s epic and completely captivating. (And it was just announced that it’s being adapted by Lin-Manuel Miranda, so that’s a huge bonus.)
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. I’m kind of obsessed with this series, and I cannot wait until the conclusion is released next year. This book is not only a great novel and starter to the series, it is entirely unique, and a story I’m sure most fantasy lovers will appreciate.
For Your Favorite Sci-Fi Nerd:
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. This book completely blew me away, and I couldn’t put it down! It’s a fast-paced thriller set in a world highly influenced by science. I don’t want to spoil anything about it, but it’s an amazing book. It might not be 100% science fiction, but I think any sci-fi fan will appreciate the science-inspired twists and turns.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. This is a great book, with an original premise, told in an unconventional format. I truly adore the sci-fi aspects of this novel, and how they all tie together in the end. It’s the first in a series, but your recipient won’t have to wait too long – the second book comes out in April. The cover is also gorgeous, so it’s a visually impressive gift as well!
For the Friend Who Can’t Get Enough of Murder Mysteries:
Nutshell by Ian McEwan. This isn’t a murder mystery per se, but it has very similar elements, and definitely has the same feel. It’s actually a retelling of Hamlet, told from the point of view of a fetus who hears his mother and uncle planning the murder of his father, from inside his mother’s womb. It’s a brilliant story, and one I can’t stop recommending!
For the Classic Literature Lover:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (new translation by Anthony Briggs). The new translation of this book is fantastic (and, trust me, I’ve tried a few). It’s the reason I was able to finally read this book this year, and I’m sure any book lover will appreciate it. Even if it sits on their shelves for a few years.
Beowulf (translation by J. R. R. Tolkien). I haven’t read this particular translation in it’s entirety (yet), but Tolkien seems to have captured the essence of Beowulf better than any other translation I’ve encountered. Plus, it’s kind of a piece of literary history; Beowulf is the oldest English-languge text in the world, and Tolkien is a classic author and renowned medievalist.
For the Friend with a Dark Sense of Humor:
I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1 by Skottie Young. This is a comic series, the first installment of which came out this year. It’s kind of like Candyland. If Candyland was home to a deranged and murderous thirty-year-old in trapped in a little girl’s body and given an impossible quest. It is hilarious and enjoyable, and the art is a fun mix of candy colors and gore.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. A brilliant satirical novel about the end of the world, this one is a fun read. But you definitely need a dark (and slightly British) sense of humor to fully appreciate it.
For the Rom-Com Fan:
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Reading this book is like watching your favorite romantic comedy. The characters are fun, the plot is interesting, and the romance is entirely satisfying. If you have a friend who watches How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days whenever it’s on TV, this is definitely the book for them!
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Take Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang theory and toss him into a romantic comedy and this is what you’ll get. It’s about a socially inept professor trying to find himself a wife. It’s just as awkward as you’d expect, but it’s also really cute. Plus, it’s the only book of fiction on Bill Gates’s recommended reading list, which is kind of cool.
For the Reader of Historical Fiction:
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. Compelling storyline? Check. Recognizable characters? Check. Being made into a movie starring Eddie Redmayne? Check. This book chronicles the “current war” between Edison and Westinghouse, and is far more interesting than it sounds (trust me). Really, you can’t go wrong with a book written by an Oscar-winning screenwriter (for The Imitation Game).
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. This one has elements of magical realism, but it is wholly compelling. I listened to the audiobook, and found myself driving around aimlessly just to keep listening. It’s about a man who is reborn every time he dies, in the exact same place and time. He relives half of the 20th century in various places around the world. And, eventually, he’s tasked with stopping the end of the world itself.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Entirely deserving of it’s Pulitzer Prize, this novel is set in France and Germany during World War II and follows a young boy unwillingly drafted into the Nazi army and a blind French girl trying to survive the occupation. It’s one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve read in a long time, and I think most people will appreciate this book.
For the Young Adult:
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. This book is one of my favorite of Schwab’s novels. I love the monsters (both real and metaphorical) and the story itself is really compelling. This is also unique in that there is no romance, which is just so refreshing in a YA novel. Give this to the reader who likes things a little bit edgy, but still sweet.
Beast by Brie Spangler. I loved this book in which a teenager struggling with his appearance and the death of his father finds a friend in a transgender girl. I think it was brilliantly told from an outside perspective (not being transgender myself, I identified a lot with Dylan’s reaction to the discovery that the girl he likes was born male), and definitely impacted me in an unexpected way. It’s a touching story with a great message.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. This is historical fiction with a twist. Which is not something I usually like all that much, but this book did it perfectly! Set in Tudor England, it has romance, intrigue, and magic. Plus, it’s just so fun!
For the Historian:
A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy. This book is a brilliant overview of America’s history with immigration and the issues it creates today. I think it’s highly relevant, and important both politically and historically. Bundle it with a matching edition of JFK’s Pulitzer-winning Profiles in Courage, and you’ve got an impactful gift.
For the Friend You Can Talk Politics With:
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We should also all read this book. Honestly, if I could, I’d buy this for everyone I know for Christmas. It’s short and powerful, and one of those books you’ll keep coming back to. I think it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for any reader!
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. This is a young adult novel that looks at the Black Lives Matter movement from the inside. It is told two points of view: that of a black teenager beaten by a white cop over a simple misunderstanding, and the white teenager who witnesses it and is afraid to come forward.
For the Hopeless Romantic:
Persuasion by Jane Austen. I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen, and this book has a special place in my heart. The heroine is a bit more mature than many of the others I’ve encountered in her books, and I think I appreciated it more as an adult because there weren’t many of those cringeworthy moments that usually result from the protagonists naiveté. Bonus: pick up the Vintage Classics edition. The cover is beautiful enough that you can just slap a bow on it and be done.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. You’ve probably heard of the Brontë sisters, but I’d be willing to bet many of you have never heard of this book. Which is a shame, because it is not only one of the first feminist novels, it is also a wonderful story. I think it’s on par with Jane Eyre, so if you know someone who loves Charlotte’s classic, I think Anne’s masterpiece will make the perfect gift!
For the Serious Reader:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. This book is epic and heartbreaking. I sobbed through at least half of the 800-page book. It is one of the most beautifully written and impactful things I’ve ever read. And I think it’s a must-read for any fan of contemporary literature. Gift with a box (or two) of tissues.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This memoir of a young doctor diagnosed with terminal cancer is one of the best things I’ve read all year. Not surprising, since Kalanithi earned a masters degree in English before going to med school. I loved every second of reading this book, and haven’t stopped recommending it since!
Habibi by Craig Thompson. This is a graphic novel about two Muslim orphans who have to take care of each other while also figuring out their place in the world. It is by far one of the most beautiful books – inside and out – I’ve ever laid my hands on, and will definitely make an impact on anyone’s bookshelf. I think this is a brilliant gift because not only is it a stunning book with a beautiful story, it’s one many people might not have heard of or would get for themselves (because as far as I can tell, it’s only available bound in leather). Try Amazon, because I got mine half off!
That’s it for this (very long) gift guide. I think I got a bit carried away, but it was worth it.
Are you giving any books as gifts this year? If so, feel free to share them in the comments!