2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Not only is this my first ever blog post and my first ever gift guide, but it's also the first day of Chanukah! And there are only 19 days until Christmas! Chooray! Or chelp, as the case may be. I'm firmly on the latter and in fact the main reason for doing this blog post was to procrastinate from actually buying presents. The good news is that nearly everyone in my family, including me, appreciates a carefully chosen book or a literary-themed item. The bad news is that nearly everyone in my family, including me, has a birthday between October-January, so while the presents are doubled the bank balance is halved. With that in mind, below are book-related items for specific sorts of people, but anyone's budget.

for The social worker mom who deserves to relax after work, has a stack of paperbacks on the bedside table, and loves female authors

the husband's secret

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

What: When I was studying abroad in Australia, I babysat the gorgeous son of Jaclyn Moriarty, one of my absolute favorite writers of all time. While Jaci writes primarily YA, her sister, Liane, is an adult author. They are both excellent crafters of plot, layered storylines, and subtle wit. This is the perfect book for a beach getaway or getting away from the family (after reading this, you might realize how good you have it!).

Where: I picked this book up for a few pounds in an Oxfam bookshop in London, but you can find it for $16 at your local bookstore or used on Abe Books for around $3.50 (free shipping in the U.S.!).

FOR the younger sister who introduces you to lesser-known authors, is unbiasedly brilliant at photography, and sometimes lets you borrow her sweaters

women in clothes

Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, and 639 Others

What: My sister raved about Sheila Heti's How Should a Person Be for so many years that I finally bought it when I was in Foyles a couple months ago and wrote a bit about it here. We've both read Important Artifacts and Personal Property by Leanne Shapton, but we haven't read this one. Technically, this is a present for me as well (if she lets me borrow it).

Where: Abe Books has it for $11.54+ (not including shipping), if you're in NYC they'll likely have it at The Strand, or Amazon has it for just under $20 (not including shipping).


the food lab

The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

What: Whenever I look up how to sear a steak or what combination of certain ingredients will lead to the type of chocolate chip cookie I like best, I almost always come across Kenji's column over at Serious Eats. His book gives detailed instructions as well as tips and explanations, making this an ideal book for the beginner or more advanced home cook. 

Where: Currently just under $28 on Amazon (not including shipping) or $30 with Books-A-Million (members get free shipping).



Bibliotherapy with The School of Life

What: Yes, this is a pricey present (£100 or approximately $150), so you may want to split it with a sibling or partner. But, having done a session, I will say it's extremely fun to talk to someone about books and reading habits for an hour and then get 6 extraordinary book recommendations that you may never have picked on your own, some of which may change the way you approach reading forever.

WhereSessions can be done over the phone or in-person, depending on where you live.

FOR The laura ashley-wearing grandma who can answer every question on university challenge, passed down her gardening talents to her daughter but not her granddaughter, and has bookshelves in each room of the house

the writer's garden

The Writer's Garden by Jackie Bennett

What: My mom and her mom can name any species of plant or bird at the drop of a hat while I can barely keep a cactus alive. This is a beautiful book detailing the gardens that both inspired and were tended to by a number of British authors.

Where: It's $25+ (not including shipping) with Abe Books, or $21 used and $29 new (not including shipping) on Amazon.

FOR the adorable cousins and boyfriend's niece who need to be indoctrinated into the world of roald dahl asap

ludo roald dahl
factory roald dahl

Ludo and Snakes & Ladders (£10) and a Build Your Own Chocolate Factory (£7.99)

What: For my 31st birthday, I wanted to go to the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden. As a huge Roald Dahl fan, this was to be a pilgrimage of sorts; the family were brought along to stop me from looking like the odd lone fan. Roald Dahl gives children license to be gruesome, mischievous, and cleverer than adults, and he allows adults to feel similarly, guilt-free. My whole family, from the 5-year-old to the 79-year-old, had a whoopsey-splunkers time there and these gifts can bring those moments to life again and again. 

Where: These and other items can be bought from the Roald Dahl shop, which ships worldwide.

FOR The english friend who recently got her ph.d., grew up in libraries, and is traveling to south africa in january so needs to pack light

british library logo

Adopt a Book at The British Library

What: Even I, a lifelong book lover and professional researcher, sometimes forget the joys and limitless resources housed within a library. Where else can you get so much for free and hold decades-, if not centuries-old, items in your hands? By adopting a book at The British Library, you're ensuring that these often-used and much-loved items can remain on the shelves for future generations. And, bonus, you and the gift receiver won't have to worry about packing yet another book in your suitcases over the holidays!

Where: Adopt a book for £25 at The British Library, buy a $25 membership to the New York Public Library, or check out your local library to see how you can support them.

FOR the writer friend who interviews people for a living, takes notes the old-fashioned way using pen & paper, and loves a good story

voices of our time

Voices of Our Time with Studs Terkel (audio collection)

What: I first met Craig at a reading of his book, Londoners, and afterwards we talked about the legend that is Studs Terkel. Terkel is a joy to read, though you're not reading his words, but the words of the people he interviews, often the 'common person' in a particular context (an office worker in the 1970's or someone who lived through the Great Depression, for example). If you know what incredible insights Terkel can get out of an ordinary person, imagine what he can get out of Dorothy Parker, James Baldwin, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Mel Brooks, and 44 others.

Where: Buy it for $21 at Barnes & Noble (free shipping with purchases over $25) or used on Amazon starting at $15 (not including shipping).

FOR the hilarious boyfriend who is a master pizza detective, takes photos of bookshops on his travels for you, and COLLECTS more than just PIZZA BOXES


Nick Carter spy novels

What: Many people know that Scott holds the Guinness World Record for largest pizza box collection. Fewer people know that he also collects Nick Carter books (not the Backstreet Boy's literary works) and even has a spreadsheet detailing each copy he has. A collector is often passionate, detail-orientated, and organized, which just so happen to be the ideal qualities in a mate (if you're me). Such behaviors should be encouraged.

Where: Old paperbacks like these not only have great covers and ridiculous titles, but they're often very cheap as well. They can be found on Amazon for around $2, eBay for around $4, and in musty bookshops where you can easily lose hours of your day.