Excuse this departure from your regularly scheduled sewing programming — but after all, I’m a librarian! The holiday season is the perfect time to gift books: who doesn’t want to curl up with a good read in front of a roaring fire after a good dinner? But sometimes, choosing the perfect book is harder than it sounds. Never fear: I’m here to help! Today I’m sharing the perfect books to gift to everyone on your list. And just so you know, I won’t tell anyone if you buy one of these for yourself! All of these books are either ones I’ve read or ones that are on my to-read list (which is a horrifying 40+ pages long).
For added ease of purchase, I’m including links to Amazon and IndieBound. If you’re new to IndieBound, it helps you find independently owned and operated bookstores in your area. Don’t have one, but still want to shop small? Allow me to recommend the Cottage Bookstore in Glen Arbor, Michigan (zip code 49636)! Call ’em up — they’ll order anything you want and have it shipped directly to you or the recipient (and I think they even do gift wrap!). Shopping local can see up to 48% of your purchase re-spent locally, compared to 14% of a purchase at a big chain.
Still, I know that sometimes shopping locally can be cost-restrictive, so I’m including those Amazon links! If you buy from Amazon, won’t you consider trying to make at least a few local/small purchases? Or go make sure your library card is up to date, and show your local government how much you value that local service!
The Perfect Book for Everyone On Your List
For that one friend who keeps trying to get you to spoken word performances:
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
I’ve started listening to audiobooks at my new job. I was never into them before, but let me tell you — if you listen to one audiobook in your life, let it be this one. The only word I have to describe Another Brooklyn is lush — luxurious prose that provides such an insight into the mind of teen girls (although it’s not a young adult novel). If you’ve found yourself recently nostalgic for the time when you didn’t know the implications of adulthood, this is the novel for you. It’s a quick read, and feels perfect for an sunny afternoon.
For the reformed bad girl in your life:
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
This is my favorite adult fiction book I’ve read this year. It’s the story of a young woman who is pulled back to the town where her grandparents raised her in her teens when her cousin goes missing. The true story of her teen years and what happened to her cousin is like an unraveling thread — once you start to pull on it, you just can’t stop. This book has some heavy and potentially triggering content, so I definitely recommend it for an audience that can handle it. Since the trigger is a spoiler I won’t be including it here. However, if you think you’d like it, please contact me and I am happy to share!
For the person who loved The Nightingale:
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Let’s be real for a second. I think a lot of people wonder what they would have done in a situation like the Holocaust (and if you’re wondering that, I have the answer. Whatever you’re doing now if you’re an American is what you would have done). The Women in the Castle is a fascinating look at women’s actions in World War II Germany. Three women are bound together by circumstance and yet have very different paths. A fascinating look at another side of World War II.
For the scrapbooker or pack-rat:
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
I can’t wait to get this book from my library! It’s kind of two parallel stories, which I love. A man collects lost “treasures” he finds on the street after a tragic event that he feels stemmed from losing one of his own treasures. Years later, his assistant adjusts to life after a divorce. When he passes, she inherits his home and all his treasures and must continue his work reconnecting them with their owners.
For the friend who loves a good journey:
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
This has been on the top of my to-read pile for a while, and now that things are settling down at work I can’t wait to get into it! It’s the story of a black family living in Mississippi, but also a larger story about poverty, racism, the prison-industrial complex, drugs, and ghosts. Yep. I love southern gothic tales, and I know I’m gonna love this book too!
For the friend who can’t get enough of stories of empowered women:
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
This is the amazing story of women who worked in factories in New Jersey and Illinois, using radium to paint luminous numbers on clock faces in the 1920s and 30s. The carcinogenic radium quickly caused health problems for many of them, which resulted in bone damage, miscarriages, and eventually death. Unsurprisingly, their employers did their best to deny any of these health issues were related to radium. Two groups of brave women used their remaining time to take these factories to court, resulting in increased worker protections and awareness about the dangers of radium poisoning. A gruesome but powerful and inspiring true story.
For the true crime lover who’s also obsessed with historical fiction:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Are you true-crime obsessed like I am (heyaaaaa murderinos!)? Then this book is for you! It unpacks a string of murders that took place in the 1920s on the Osage reservation. Oil had just been discovered beneath the soil, and the members of the Osage tribe were suddenly targets because of their share in the profits. This is kind of a multi-part story, exploring race relations in Oklahoma, exposing misdeeds of the American goverment towards American Indian people, and early FBI techniques. David Grann’s writing is super accessible, and plenty of pictures help you envision the story. I do wish that it had included a little more about the early FBI, though.
For the friend who was OBSESSED with S-Town:
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
I got this in one of my Book of the Month boxes a few months ago (scroll to the bottom to learn more about Book of the Month!). I think it’s going to be the perfect holiday read. Okay, yes, it’s kind of an odd choice, but I have a feeling this is going to suck me in for days so I need some time off! It’s the story of a series of arsons in rural Virginia that took place almost five years ago. Dozens of buildings burned down, and the local police were overwhelmed trying to put them out. But American Fire is about more than just fires. It’s about what people do for love, it’s about small town life, and it’s about the decline of rural America. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this book.
For your stone-loving, chakra-balancing, candle-burning friend who may or not be a witch:
Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven by Jaya Saxena
I’ve got a few friends who may get this book for Christmas! I guess you could call it a witch primer, but it’s more than that. It’s really a way for people (specifically women, here) to reclaim their power. It has chapters focused on some major problems people face, from self-care to relationships, and simple witchy solutions. No matter what you personally believe, any book that speaks to someone and helps them take control of their lives is a good one to me!
For the person who loves Malcolm Gladwell:
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil
We hear about algorithms all the time. They run programs, they affect prices, they decide where your Instagram posts show up in people’s feeds… but just how much of our everyday life do they really touch? Well, a lot. For decades, the wage gap in America has been increasing. The rich get richer, and the poorest in America are just getting stuck further and further in poverty. It turns out that algorithms are no bueno for this situation. They’re reinforcing active and subliminal discrimination that has been alive and well in the US for years. O’Neil unpacks the ways in which algorithms affect us and our neighbors, and what we can do to turn the tide.
For the friend who always goes as a flapper for Halloween:
The Diviners series by Libba Bray
I’ve loved Libba Bray’s books for a long time, and I also love books set in the 1920s, AND I love supernatural stories set in everyday life. Boom! This series is a winner for me. Evie is an Ohio transplant to NYC, living with her uncle who runs a museum about the supernatural. And Evie herself has supernatural powers, which she soon puts to the test fighting an evil the city can’t understand. I powered through the first book in this series, and really enjoyed the audiobook version of the second. The third book came out last month, and I can’t wait to read it!
For the woke teen (or just woke person!) in your life:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is one of the biggest books in YA literature right now, for multiple reasons. 1 – it’s well-written. 2 – it’s being made into a movie. 3 – it’s TIMELY. Thomas writes well about a young black girl dealing with the aftermath of police violence in her community.
For the person who looooooves superhero tv shows and movies:
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness in general is a good bet. His Knife of Never Letting Go trilogy is one of my favorites. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is another amazing read! Ever wondered what it’s like to be the non-superhero in a world with superheros? This book follows Mikey, who lives in a town where some of his best friends have super powers. And Mikey? Mikey’s just trying to survive high school. It’s a fun take on a popular genre, and also offers an insightful experience of mental illness in a teenager.
For the person who still isn’t over the fact that Leo died in Romeo + Juliet:
A Million Junes by Emily Henry
I devoured this book. Like, I inhaled it, and then I went to go get Henry’s other book, The Love that Split the World. I am enthralled with her writing style. A Million Junes places that classic family-dispute-but-there’s-a-romance story into Northern Michigan, and incorporates elements of magical realism/fabulism with a ghost. Even without the fantasy aspect, it would still be an amazing portrayal of change and grief in a teenager’s last year of high school. It’s definitely my favorite YA book I’ve read this year, and her other is a close second.
Slip these into the stockings of your cultured friends, your impressionable youths, your a-woke-ening parents… I don’t know, just give them to everyone.
1984 by George Orwell
1984 flew off the shelves right about this time last year. Suddenly, a nation cut off from its allies, destroyed by war, controlled by a dictator, in which conformity is key to survival doesn’t seem too far from reality.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Hi, I was that kid that read every summer reading option in high school. This was one of those, the summer before my sophomore year. My English teacher that year said that she’d give one of her pinkies to make everyone in the world read this book, and I have to say that I agree with her. Like 1984, this book is set in a dystopia. Here, children are born artificially and conditioned to think one way, and those who try and break out are social outcasts.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
If you didn’t catch this miniseries on Hulu in the spring, who even are you???? It ended on a cliffhanger, so if you’re dying for a season 2 preview, check out the book!
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
Narwhals are adorable. Unicorns are adorable. Narwhals and unicorns in one book? AMAZING. I love that Not Quite Narwhal is not just a story of never feeling like you fit in. It’s about being able to bridge experiences in two different communities and love them both.
She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton
Turn all the little folks in your life into activists! I love that this book showcases amazing women of diverse backgrounds and accomplishments, and without becoming overwhelming with detail. Kids with a multitude of interests can find a story here that speaks to them.
Bob, Not Bob!: *to be read as though you have the worst cold ever by Liz Garton Scanlon
I know my cousins would LOVE this book. They think books where you have to make the person reading say funny things or use a funny voice are hilarious (and they’re right, they are). In fact, I might be adding this book to my cart right now…
Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail
Any middle grade book that professes to be awkward catches my eye, because that’s exactly what middle school is. Just a total parade of awkwardness that goes on for years. Right? Years? That wasn’t just me? I have a feeling this book is a pretty accurate depiction of ~middle school romance~.
The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman
Historical fiction? Love it. Arthurian legend? Here for it. Kids exploring a museum to save the world? GIMME. This seems to be in the vein of Chasing Vermeer (which was big about 10 years ago), and I really hope it can inspire a new world of museum lovers!
When All’s Said and Done…
I’m pretty confident that you’ll find a good book for anyone on this list! But just in case you haven’t, or if you have someone on your list that’s an avid reader who’s read all these, I recommend the Book of the Month Club! I love Book of the Month — this isn’t sponsored, I literally love them that much. On the first of each month, you get to pick from five amazing books for just $14.99. Your choice is shipped directly to your door with a bookmark! Considering a hardback book usually costs at least twice that in a store, it’s a serious saving.
If you can’t pick just one, no worries. You can add books for $9.99, including any of the recommended books for that month or a rotating selection of past books. Since BoTM has been around since the 1920s, that’s a lot of books!
You can gift a Book of the Month subscription, but I totally encourage you to get one for yourself as well ;). If you’re interested in BoTM, would you use my referral link to purchase your subscription? You’ll get $5 off your first book when you do, plus a free tote bag!
I hope you found a book or two that speaks to you or someone on your present-buying list. Do you like to get book recommendations? I often include one in my newsletter, but I can start posting them here, too! Let me know in the comments if this is something you’d like to see more of!