The holiday gift-giving season is upon us, and we believe books make great gifts for any occasion and for everyone on your list. Books are obviously our favorite gift to receive, too, and our Off the Shelf staff has compiled a list of eleven titles we’d be thrilled to be gifted, whether tied up in a pretty bow or not. We think you’ll find a few to add to your own wish list. Happy holidays, and happy reading!
Hoping to satiate my wanderlust, I’ve asked for Lucy Kinsley’s “graphic travelogue,” in which she details her travels and anxieties about life. There was also mention of cat cameos, which are never unwelcome! —Amy
I’ve been on a nonfiction binge lately, particularly savoring in-depth looks at major cultural events or figures of the twentieth century like Walt Disney, Audrey Hepburn, and Truman Capote. Furious Love would be the perfect addition to my reading pile: what screams Hollywood glamour and American culture more than the epic, romantic, tempestuous, and controversial marriage and remarriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton? Stocking stuffers, for any friends who might be reading this(!), may include a DVD of Cleopatra (on the set of which the two stars met) and a strong holiday cocktail to toast the drama. —Julianna
I read cookbooks for fun. I found this one on my brother’s bookshelf recently and have been coveting it ever since. Dorie Greenspan is a master baker and a gentle instructor. She’s written recipes for Daniel Boulud and Julia Child—Julia Child! Greenspan’s true love is home baking and in this cookbook she shares her secrets for spectacular desserts. Here’s a Dorie tip: to get a cheesecake out of its pan without a mess, run a hairdryer around the edges of the pan. It will loosen the sides but not melt the cake like a water bath will. Brilliant, right? —Wendy
The First Bad Man by Miranda July is one of my top five favorite books of 2015. Over the past year, I’ve given several copies of it to friends—which is why I need a new copy (or three!). July is an artist who is willing to share a world that is even stranger than what I experience in my fantasies. The characters in this novel use imagination as a tool for emotional healing and challenge readers to go beyond their comfort zones in a way that no novel I’ve read has done before. —Erica
I am always on the lookout for the unusual, and while I cannot remember how Jeanette Winterson’s short story collection found its way onto my wish list, I will be placing it back at the top this year. These stories seem to have everything I love, from dark social commentary to outright bizarre circumstances, and I look forward to diving into worlds where an “alien intrudes in the form of a midnight visitation by a tutued fairy on a downcast shopgirl” and “sleep has become as taboo as red light sex.” —Erin
I’ve been reading Kenji’s food column for years and waiting for this cookbook just as long. It boils every recipe you’d ever need down to a science. —Chris
Theater is living, breathing, real-time entertainment. And the most entertaining stories are usually about things that happened backstage, during a show, or during the creative process. Seth Rudetsky has long been a beacon for any theater dork worth their weight in Playbills, and this book has been hailed as one of the greatest compilations of theater gossip and behind-the-scenes tell-alls that has ever been collected. I mean, he got Patti LuPone to admit she didn’t like her singing voice! Can you imagine? I must have this book . . . so . . . Mom, get the hint? —Leora
In these sharp, funny, and insightful essays from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color and comments on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but an inspiring call to arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
When I was a child, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder . . . and I sometimes still do. I treasure every soothing Little House title in my collection. Pioneer Girl feels like the perfect book to finish out this year. I’m already picturing myself cozied up on the couch on December 26 with a cup of tea, a blanket, and a few hours to myself to read more about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life in her own words, while I unwind from all the merrymaking. Ahhhh! —Allison