Ok!! So, I couldn’t decide on a gift roundup post. Workout wear? Foodie must-haves? Books? The post would’ve been 29385734985 words long. SOOOOOO, I decided to split it up. Today is books, Sunday is food, next week Mon or Tue is fitness wear.
I thought the best way to divide this up would be by the person for whom you are purchasing. I’ve decided to go with personality and position in your life! You know, so it’s super duper easypants. (aside: Super Duper Easy Pants was
not my nickname in high school.)
Here is my criteria for appearing on my list:
I must’ve personally read the book. (notsohumblebrag, I’ve read 200 this year alone, so it’s a pretty big field from which to choose.)
The book MUST BE AVAILABLE IN PHYSICAL FORMAT. Nothing strictly e-book. You can’t wrap a digital copy.
The book must be worthy of at least 4 cups of coffee and 4 glasses of wine to get over the book hangover.
No religious books. I know, I know, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” “Have a Happy Hebrew Hanukkah,” “Fuck you very much, Festivus.” The reason to not include any religious books? (devotionals, etc.) They’re DIVISIVE UNLESS YOU ALIGN PERFECTLY in opinion with the recipient of the gift. For instance, I could totally buy Amy A Very Spiritual, But Totally Areligious Daily Devotional Brought to You by Darth Vader and Doctor Who. Because she and I would get that shit entirely. We may even start a twitter hashtag #DailyDarthandDoctor I have a strong feeling this devotional would feature a lot of Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side cartoons with illustrations from The New Yorker and Marvel artists on special holidays.
Last, but not least, the damn thing cannot yet be a major motion picture. (in the works is ok) I’m totally ok with weird youtube fanfic cosplay, because, OBVIOUSLY. They’re basically the best thing ever.
So….here we go. Ready?
This set of books is for that friend of yours who is a teacher, or a google addict. This friend of yours may read Sartre for background information about a NYT article they just read.(meta-reading reading about reading in On Reading) They’ve started more than one sentence with “You know, in the 19th century….” They watch the Daily Show every night and Jon Oliver as well. They voluntarily read The Science Times, and may or may not have penned love notes and fan letters to Neil DeGrasse Tyson. (read: cut out magazine words and mod podged them to a piece vantablack) Levar Burton was their childhood crush. Basically me.
First in this category? The now completed All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. This has easily become one of my favorite trilogies. Set in two time periods, this is the harrowing journey of Matthew Claremont and Diana Bishop. It’s a little PNR, a little HistFic, but mostly, it’s just a really good low-fantasy story. (no archangels or anything more other than vamps, witches, and daemons.) This is perfect for your friend who has a tote bag that reads, “I like big books and I cannot lie.” These bitches are deliciously long. Not Outlander long, but damned close.
Next up! The Elemental Mysteries Series by Elizabeth Hunter. If you need any reason to read her books or gift them, see here, here, and here. Giovanni and Beatrice have the sort of relationship everyone dreams of. As Tenzin puts it, “She is his balance in this life…in every life.” I know, you’ve got the “sparkly inside the chest” feeling from that, right? Something I love so much about this series is its attention to detail. She discusses Savanarola and old Papal practices in a way that you KNOW she researched the ever-loving eff out of it. These books are great for your friend who watches The History Channel and Buffy reruns on the regular.
Third course, but certainly NOT third place! Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series. Need convincing? See here and here. This is a series about smart, kick-ass women who can handle life, but aren’t afraid to lean on their friends and their loves. Each protagonist is uniquely her own in a way that can only be described as inspired. Too often, authors feel the need to make the characters all too similar, lacking dimension and personality. Penny Reid does not. Her women are at once divergent and comfortably compatible with one another.
Finally for this category, a book that may be a BIT controversial, but it’s so based in fact and reality that questioning it seems to make as much sense as giving a fish an umbrella. On Immunity by Eula Biss is a frank and honest discussion about inoculations and the fear mongering surrounding vaccines. It strips bare the facts and points out why vaccines are so crucial, and why the epidemic of the anti-vaxers is endangering us all. As if she drew from the well of Jenny McCarthy herself, the reviews on GR and Amazon that are negative are mostly written by people who HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK. Yeah, that.
Next up, books for that person who waited in line at the theatre for an hour or more at each of the Hunger Games movies’ premiere nights. They love Divergent and Angelfall, and you think they’re ready to graduate to heavier books. YA books can be OMGSOAWESOME, but sometimes, a book with more adult themes and language is just what The Doctor ordered.
First Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel This is a distope of a new breed. It’s less “fightfightactionzombiedead” and more “here are some interpersonal relationships and how people are still people even in the most dire of circumstances.” It’s a story of desire, and hope, and the need to protect the past as much as learn from it. It explores what happens to culture in a post-apocalyptic world, and how important it is to keep really living, not just surviving.
The next book on my list isn’t a dystopian, per se. Although, it could be argued that WWII era France is as close to a dystopian society as recent history has shown us. I’m talking of course about All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book is perfect for that person in your life who is drawn to books featuring a ton of metaphors; think Gatsby or Steinbeck. A perfect transition for someone who loved Code Name: Verity.
Sometimes, an author’s catalog is so important to a specific type of reader, that everything the writer pens quickly becomes a part of the recognized canon of that group. No one personifies this more clearly than Margaret Atwood. From The Handmaid’s Tale to Alias Grace to Madd Addam, her books are essential for the feminist voice. In this year’s Stone Mattress , she revisits characters from her famous book, Robber Bride, in brief, eloquent, short stories. This collection is great for your cool feminist aunt who loves wine and cheese and sticking it to the man. (everyone should have this aunt.)
The last of this category doesn’t require much analysis beyond “omg omg. is that true? holy shit.” Ok, it needs more than that. Those were just my thoughts when reading it, and, although the book is only a few weeks old, I’m about to reread it. Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas J Emlean and illustrated by David J Tuss (DJ and DJ!) Emlean flawlessly weaves his knowledge of animal behavior and the weapons and tactics used in modern warfare. The book is enhanced by Tuss’ gorgeous illustrations and amazing attention to detail. This book is perfection for the prepper or zoologist in your life….or someone who loves good books.
The next and last group is gifts to gift for someone of whom you know likes to read, but you can’t really pin them down to a genre. Their GR read pile reads like a library card catalog. (for those under 25, card catalogs were a thing.) You just know they have a love of books, and perhaps a bad gin problem. (just kidding, there’s no such thing as a “bad gin problem!”)
First is Nadia Hashimi’s The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. When I first read this book, I was so swept up in the story I was telling everyone to read it. I still do. I even wrote about it here. A story told through time and in the perspective of two Afghani women, it’s the perfect book for your friend who checks HuffPo and Twitter 93847653x/day. Eye-opening, enlightening, engaging, excellent read.
Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears by Ken Wheaton is like a bildungsroman, if a bildungsroman can happen at age 50. It’s a beautiful story about the comfort of home, the bonds of family, and how sometimes, who we thought we were, isn’t who we are at all. If Cheryl Strayed wrote fiction that I wanted to read, this would be it. I have no idea why more people aren’t over the moon for Ken Wheaton. (FYI, fitness buffs. I follow him on IG, and he’s a DISTANCE RUNNER. Your mom would love this book. You would love this book.
The final book for this list is from one of my favorite people/musicians/activists in the world, Amanda Palmer. Her book, The Art of Asking gives us real insight into the woman, and how it is she got to be the media juggernaut she is today. She recognizes our inability to ask for help, (omg, YES!) and speaks candidly about how she has done just that. This book is perfect for your friend who seeks out indie bookstores and drinks scotch while listening to LPs.
I really hope this helps!!! Remember, wrapping a book is extra easy. You know, incentive.
AND NOW FOR THE FUN!!
I get a lot of tweets/emails/comments about how much PNR I read. Yes, paranormal romance isn’t for everyone, but there are some truly awesome and/or fun books in this genre that hold a lot of universal appeal. So I made a personality quiz to match you with one. Because everyone loves personality quizzes.