If your holiday gift shopping includes any book lovers, here are some suggestions for finding just the right gift.
Give your historian something a bit different this year by wrapping up “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio” by Derf Backderf. Written entirely in graphic-novel style, it’s a look the event that changed America more than 50 years ago. Wrap it up with “The Hardhat Riot” by David Paul Kuhn, a book about a little-remembered event that happened four days after the Kent State shootings.
What do you get for the person who loves reading about boats and submarines? You wrap up “Under Pressure: Living Life and Avoiding Death on a Nuclear Submarine” by Richard Humphreys, that’s what. When the author was just eighteen, he joined the Royal Navy and served underwater. What more can an adventure-lover want to read about? Can’t go wrong when you pair it with “Whatever It Took” by Henry Langrehr and Jim DeFelice. It’s the story of an American paratrooper at the end of World War II.
For the person who would love something a little unique this holiday, look for “The New Witch” by Marie D. Jones. It’s a book about Wicca, spells and potions, magic and all kinds of things that today’s spiritual practitioner needs to know. Wrap it up with “Earth Magic” by Marie D. Jones, a guide for the sorceress in you.
Is there someone on your list who craves a good scare? Then look for “Demonic Foes” by Richard Gallagher, MD. He’s a psychiatrist who specializes in the paranormal, particularly in demonic possession. You can feel the shivers from here.
The new or about-to-be parent on your gift list will love having “Calm the Hck Down” by Melanie Dole. It’s filled with common-sense parenting that will help your giftee take a big and much-needed breath. Wrap it up with “How Babies Sleep” by Sofia Axelrod, PhD. And wish them a nighty-night.
For the parent of older kids, wrap up “What Girls Need” by Marisa Porges, PhD, a book about raising strong, resilient future women; and “And Then They Stopped Talking to Me” by Judith Warner, a book about surviving middle school and the mean kids there.
It’s been an unusual year. So show your giftee that it’s possible to buck up and survive by wrapping “Why Fish Don’t Exist” by Lulu Miller. It’s the story of an early 20th century scientist and the day he watched his life’s work as it literally shattered. What he did was astounding, and a great lesson for 2020. Wrap it up with another book on what’s underwater: “Monsters of the Deep” by Nick Redfern. This book is more cryptozoology than biography, but for fishing fans, that’s fine.
Here’s a fun read: “Sealand” by Dylan Taylor-Lehman is the story of a micronation called Sealand, which is just off the British coast, and the Royal Family that rules it. With a little of everything in this book – history, pirates, battles, kings and even an attempted coup – your historian and the travel fan will love it. Pair it up with “We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State” by Kai Strittmatter. This book is a little more serious, and adds a nice balance.
The reader who loves quick essays will want to unwrap “This Is Major” by Shayla Lawson. It’s a funny-serious look at race from a Black woman who shares her thoughts on work, celebrity, names, “Black Girl Magic” and more. Pair it with “Why Didn’t We Riot?” by Issac J. Bailey, a book about being Black in America today.
Here’s an idea from dad to son or the other way around: “A Better Man” by Michael Ian Black takes a look at masculinity and what it means to “be a man” in the 21st century. Wrap it up for your son or son-to-be, who’ll get there someday. Wrap it up for Dad, to thank him for the guidance, paired with “The Toughest Kid We Knew” by Frank Bergon, a story of the “New West,” California, and life in small towns and ranches of today’s West.
Armchair scientists will be happy to see “The Handy Physics Answer Book, Third Edition” by Charles Liu, Ph.D. beneath the tree. This Q-and-A format is easy to read, easy to browse, and fun to use. Wrap it up with another science-y book: “The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars” by Jo Marchant, a book about how looking at the night sky makes us human.
For the giftee who is also a conservationist or activist, “Mill Town” by Kerri Arsenault will be perfect beneath the tree. It’s a story of a town in Maine, the local industry that may or may not be hurting the locals, and life near the mill. Consider adding these titles to your gift: “Barnstorming Ohio: to Understand America” by David Giffels and “Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It” by Tom Philpott for a total understanding of our country now. And since this subject runs deep this year, so you might also want to look for “Death in Mud Lick” by Eric Eyre, a look at the opioid epidemic, set in coal country.
Do you have a person on your list who has a serious case of wanderlust? Then wrap up “Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City” by Gary Kamiya, drawings by Paul Madonna. It’s an easy-to-browse book of things to look for when you’re looking for somewhere different to visit. Pair it with “The Change: My Great American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour” by Lori Soderlind, the story of one woman, one elderly dog, and a road trip to remember.
The DIY woman on your gift list (and the one who craves self-sufficiency) will love having “Girls Garage” by Emily Pilloton. It’s a super-helpful book about using tools, fixing things, understanding do-it-herself language, tackling projects, and getting it DONE. Bonus: it’s great for women ages 16 to 96. Wrap it up with “A Lab of One’s Own” by Rita Colwell, PhD and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, a book about women in science and how inequality and sexism has hurt the industry, and what women can do about it today.
If there’s a traveler – physically or of the armchair sort – “The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes” by Mia Kankimaki is what you’ll want to give this year. It’s a story of ten historical female pioneers, and the author’s journey from continent to continent to get to know them. Pair it with “Olive the Lionheart” by Brad Ricca. It’s the story of Olive MacLeod, who went to Africa by herself more than a century ago, in search of her fiance, who’d gone missing.
Is there a scientist in your family who also loves to be in the kitchen? You’re in luck, then: wrapping up “Science and Cooking” by Michael Brenner, Pia Sorensen, and David Weitz is a no-brainer gift to give. It includes recipes. How can you go wrong? Wrap it up with “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food” by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn, Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook, photos by Angie Mosier. It’s a look at Black cooks, heritage, and soul food. Be sure to volunteer to be the taste-tester.
For the giftee who is addicted to TV, “Sunny Days” by David Kamp is just right. It’s a look back at children’s TV in the 1970s, but not of the cartoon-types; think Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Nostalgia + TV = a great gift.
There’s someone on your list who loves gardening, and will love to see “The Language of Butterflies” by Wendy Williams under the tree. It’s the story of butterflies, why we love them, what scientists are learning about them, and how the world would be the lesser without them. Pair it with “Naturalist” by Edward O. Wilson, adapted by Jim Ottaviani & C.M. Butzer, a graphic-novel-type biography about Wilson, who is a science-expert on ants and bugs.
The giftee who looks toward the future, always, will love to unwrap “A Woman’s Influence” by Sheri Gaskins and Tony A. Gaskins, Jr. It’s a book for women who want to take better control at work, at home, and in their relationships. Wrap it up with “Ready for Anything” by Kathi Lipp, a book about resilience amid crises of any size.
Is your political animal a little sorry to see the election over? Then wrap up “Fight House” by Tevi Troy, a book about the back-stabbing, fang-baring tumultuousness and rivalries inside the White House in the last century or so. Pair it with another great history book: “Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood” by Colin Woodard.
For the writer on your gift list, you want to choose right… so choose “Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel” by Elizabeth George. You may know George as a novelist – and if you do, you know the advice in this book is solid.
Wanna see your scientist smile? Here: wrap up “The Next Great Migration” by Sonia Shah. It’s a sweeping, vast look at us: where we’ve been, where we went, when we left, and how we got to where we are. For your armchair biologist, this is a no-brainer. Pair it with “The Sum of the People” by Andrew Whitby, a book about why countries take a census and how it’s shaped the world.
And if you’ve got a science-minded someone you’re looking to gift, look for “Exploring the Elements: A Complete Guide to the Periodic Table” by Isabel Thomas, pictures by Sara Gillingham. It’s seriously lighthearted and makes this branch of science easy and fun to understand. Wrap it with “Can People Just Burst into Flames?” by Larry Scheckel, a great book of science trivia, questions and answers for any scientist (or anyone who’s curious), ages 12 and up.
If you’ve got a biker on your gift list this year, “Revolutions: How Women Changed the World on Two Wheels” by Hannah Ross is the book to give. It’s a history of bicycling mixed with feminist history. Wrap it inside a new helmet for a great gift, and add “Mobile Home” by Megan Harlan, a book about travel and the things we call home.
For the lover of sports, sort of, “Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back” by Jessica Luther and Kavitha A. Davidson is the right book to wrap up. It explores and discusses all the sports-related things that make your giftee take pause: loving teams that lose, racist mascots, paying for that new stadium, owners who are unethical…
BIOGRAPHY / MEMOIR
The biography lover on your list will be very happy to unwrap “Family in Six Tones” by Lan Cao and Harlan Margeret Van Cao. It’s a book about a woman who came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a young girl, settled in and became an American success but then struggled to raise an American daughter. It’s a book about family, legacy, love, and your giftee will adore it. Wrap it up with another story of time and place: “Miracle Country: A Memoir” by Kendra Atleework, set in Eastern Sierra Nevada, Minnesota, and back.
Is there a giftee on your list who’s obsessed with celebrity? Then why not wrap up “Ladeo Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity” by Tana Wojczuk. It’s a fascinating story that includes history and a lot of old-time glitz and glamour, and history buffs might enjoy it, too.
If your giftee needs something inspirational this holiday season, wrap up “More Alike Thank Different” by David Egan. It’s a memoir about living with Down syndrome, competing in Special Olympics, and teaching those who need to learn. Wrap it up with “Sitting Pretty” by Rebekah Taussig, the likewise inspirational story of a disability advocate who never lets four wheels hold her back.
The reader who loves a good family story with a twist will love unwrapping “Let’s Never Talk About This Again” by Sara Faith Alterman. It’s the story of growing up in a strict family that abhors profanity – and then finding some skeletons on the family bookshelf.
HEALTH / SELF-HELP
What’s better than a family drama beneath the tree? “The Heart and Other Monsters” by Rose Andersen, that’s what. It’s the story of sisters, addiction, and learning more about them both than you bargained for. Pair it with “Empty” by Susan Burton; it’s a memoir about the work it takes to overcome eating disorders and the understanding it demands.
For the woman on your list who needs a little inspiration this holiday, wrap up “More Than Ready” by former White House Domestic Policy Council leader Cecilia Munoz. Intended especially for women of color, it’s a book of insights, inspiration, and stories that will give her something to ponder long after the tinsel is gone.
For your giftee who wants to dedicate their life to doing better, wrap up “One by One by One” by Aaron Berkowitz. It’s a book about how one tiny action (or a series of them) can make a difference in the world, and a doctor’s urge to be that change. Wrap it up with “Carville’s Cure” by Pam Fessler, the story of a disease and the people who changed how we look at its sufferers.
For the giftee who loves to people-watch the ones they love, wrap up “Perception: How Our Bodies Shape Our Minds” by Dennis Proffitt and Drake Baer. It’s a book about seeing things a little differently in several new ways. Wrap it up with “In Praise of Walking” by Shane O’Mara, a book that will encourage your giftee to get out and take a little stroll, and see what it does to a body.
The woman’s history lover on your gift list will truly be happy to unwrap “No Man’s Land” by Wendy Moore. It’s a story of British nurses in World War I and the barriers they broke under duress.
If you have a giftee who’s already tired of “adulting,” then you can’t go wrong with “Barely Functional Adult” by Meichi Ng. These humorous short stories, complete with cute cartoons, will tell your young adult (or an older adult, for that matter) that things will eventually work themselves out. Wrap it up with “The Hilarious World of Depression” by John Moe, a story with humor can maybe help with the worst days.
For the giftee who ponders the future beyond, “Death is But a Dream” by Christopher Kerr, MD, PhD may be the right gift this year. It’s a book about the end of life and how to see it as more than just a loss.
The person on your gift list who’s fascinated with biology and the way their body works will love “The Remarkable Life of the Skin” by Monty Lyman. It’s a look at your cover, inside and out, including nice surprises about your largest organ.