Last year, my family started a new holiday tradition: a white elephant book exchange. We’re a family of readers, cooks, and travellers, so it works well for our clan. During our inaugural exchange, I was inclined to throw a bit of a tantrum when I lost The Kinfolk Table to my sister-in-law, but I’m hopeful that this year I’ll walk away happy.
Books (along with beautiful socks) are among my very favourite gifts to give. If I weren’t saving them all for this post, my previous gift guides would have included a great many more books.
So, friends, if the idea of Christmas shopping makes you wary, might I suggest popping into your local bookshop and getting all your shopping done in one go?
For the hopeless wanderer (or wanderluster)
If her adventures are a bit closer to home these days, give her the ultimate guide to great weekends. Based on the iconic New York Times column, 36 Hours USA & Canada includes the whole of the two countries. Smaller, more targeted geographical zones (like the West Coast) are also available.
Other options: 1) The World. Every seasoned traveller has a respectable collection of Lonely Planet guides. This is the first time the company has published a guide to the whole damn planet. An ambitious undertaking…2) One line a day. A journal-style book that encourages the owner to log their memories in one line a day. That’s about as much journalling as I ever had the time or patience for when I was on the road. How cool would it be to have five years worth of days micro-chronicled? 3) Lost in Translation, an illustrated collection of words/phrases that don’t exist in the English language.
For the hopeless romantic / bleeding heart
Seriously, I could easily have put this book (Tiny Beautiful Things) under the header ‘For Anyone With a Soul,’ but I recognize that a book adapted from a popular advice column may not be to everyone’s taste. I honestly think this book would speak to most women. Cheryl Strayed, incidentally, is also the author of Wild, the Reece Witherspoon vehicle currently playing at a cinema near you. I also recommend Wild, though chances are much higher that she’s already read that. It was a pretty big deal in 2013. Tiny Beautiful Things, on the other hand, is a lesser-known gem, and she’ll thank you for introducing her to it.
Other options for the ‘sensitive’ in your life: Chasers of the Light. I’ve long been a Tumblr follower of Tyler Knott Gregson, and I always love his ‘Typewriter Series’ poems (and I’m not even a poetry person). So many of his poems have made me think, I know exactly what he’s talking about or I’ve totally felt that way before…They’re romantic, they’re lovely, and now they’re a book.
Finally, I read an excerpt from Dear Old Love in a magazine and it was so, so relatable. I can’t speak for the whole book, but if that excerpt is any indication, this one is very good reading.
For the novel reader
I love giving books as gifts. I especially love giving books I’ve read and loved. The History of Love is one of my favourite novels of all time. For whatever reason, I’m a sucker for a good Holocaust love story.
For the lover and/or cooker of good food
If you’re like me, you read cookbooks as much for the design/food porn factor as for the recipes. This beauty has won awards for its lovely design – and is a useful kitchen manual to boot.
Other great options for the foodie (whether or not he or she self-identifies as such): Phaidon’s Cookbook Book, which is perfect for anyone who loves cookbooks more than cooking.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, on the other hand, is a real-deal cookbook that my cousin Meg (who knows things about such things) swears by. I’ve used a couple of Smitten Kitchen recipes from the interwebs (like so many books these days, this one started as a blog), and both were fantastic. Meg says each recipe is impeccably tested, and like I said, I consider her an authority on such matters.
Finally, for those who prefer to eat food prepared by others, Where Chefs Eat is a collection of restaurant recos from those who know best. Also a great gift for travellers.
Dad gets his own section because dad gifts can be tough, no? Maybe Mr. Hockey isn’t for every dad out there, but if you’re Canadian (or live in one of those North-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line hockey-loving states), this brand-new, well-received memoir is sure to be a hit. The only risk is that he might get multiple copies.
Another great option: Think Like a Freak, from the writers of Freakonomics. As a bonus, help him download the very informative Freakonomics podcast (after you explain to him what a podcast is). He’ll learn a lot and have all kinds of (actually interesting) trivia to talk about next time you hang out.
Finally, 101 Two Letter Words. A celebration of all those two-letter words you need to know to win at Scrabble. Yeah, apparently they’re real, actual words.
For the youngsters
First, for the tweens/teens: We Were Liars fits into that category of YA fiction that proper adults love too (also in that category: The Fault in our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower), so make sure to borrow it when she’s done.
The Book With No Pictures (by The Office’s B.J. Novak) is also apparently a huge hit — mainly because it requires major goofiness from the person reading it aloud.
That’s all I’ve got. I’m sure there are a number of types I’ve missed above – particularly males who don’t cook or travel.
Writing this post reminded me of working at Chapters when I was younger. I loved that job, especially at Christmas. Recommending books for a living…it’s the dream.