We can’t believe the holiday season is already upon us. Or maybe we can, because we’ve already finished all of our holiday shopping. It’s actually pretty easy when you believe books are always the best gifts. Here are the 13 books we’re really excited to give to our family, friends, and other readers this year.
My dad is a thorough and intense reader. His idea of a vacation read is WAR AND PEACE (I’m not kidding, he lugged around all 1,200 pages through Spain and Portugal on a recent trip). He prefers a historical, well-written book and typically reads nonfiction. So when he does read a novel, he likes it to be intelligent, enlightening, and original. I’m excited to gift him GOLDEN HILL and to await hearing his thoughts about the book that Maureen Corrigan called “gorgeously crafted” on NPR’s Fresh Air. —Meagan
This book is very impressive in its writing as well as its physical beauty. There are full-color images throughout that illustrate Leonardo Da Vinci’s lifework. But more importantly, Walter Isaacson, known for his biographies of innovators and risk-takers, shines with this latest book about history’s most creative genius. This is one of those books I can buy a few copies of and have ready to wrap up for everyone on my list. It will be appreciated far and wide. —Stu
I can’t wait to watch my youngest sister unwrap her soon-to-be copy of THEFT BY FINDING. She’s read all of David Sedaris’s earlier books, but is now a college student “too poor to buy new books.” I’ll be shocked if I don’t spend my entire Christmas vacation listening to her laugh along to this diary of overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap-opera plot twists, and secrets confided by total strangers. —Taylor
I plan on giving my mom the audiobook of BORN TO RUN so she can hear Bruce Springsteen’s story directly from the Boss himself. A fan since her sister interviewed him in the 1970s, my mom will enjoy not only the behind the scenes of his songwriting career but also his reminisces of coming-of-age in the same county she raised her family. —Kerry
My friend is the biggest Breaking Bad fan known to man (she’ll still routinely binge entire seasons in a matter of days), so I know she’ll love this insightful memoir, organized by the many “parts” Cranston played in his life—everything from son to father, to murder suspect, to dating consultant, and, of course, to Walter White.
This is the best kind of gift, because it’s basically a gift for yourself, once you’ve attended a friend’s or family member's party expertly crafted on Amy Sedaris’s solid advice. You’ll learn helpful tricks for deterring a nosey guest from rifling through the medicine cabinet (it involves lots of marbles) or entertaining the elderly. And there are folksy recipes that will make your snooty Aunt Heidi flick her nose up in disgust. It may seem like a joke cookbook, but it is more succinctly described as an Amy-Sedaris cookbook. Bonus points if you gift the audio version as well. —Chris D.
I’m excited to give THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES to my friend Sara. We love both nerding out over comics and discussing feminist issues, so this is the perfect book-club book for us. The collection, a ferocious riff on women in superhero comics, features interconnected short stories told by wives and girlfriends of superheroes and original female heroes, giving them their own voices in a genre that so often makes them only plot points in a male character’s story. —Sarah Jane
I’m ashamed to say, that as a huge fan of her work, I’d never read anything by Carrie Fisher before this year, when I came across a stack of paperbacks she authored and started flipping through. They’re all fabulously funny and insightful, but WISHFUL DRINKING might be my favorite—the perfect blend of memoir, pop culture, humor, and self-reflection—plus it doesn’t require a PhD in Star Wars to understand. Fisher was always a larger-than-life personality, but this book really reveals who she was as a person, and I can’t wait to give it to readers I love this season. —Julianna
Reading this laugh-out-loud memoir makes you realize that no matter how messed up everything is, there’s always vodka and then of course—the repercussions. — Chris
This is the debut cookbook from Samin Nosrat (cv includes learning with Alice Waters and teaching Michael Pollan), whose ultimate goal is not to teach you how to follow a recipe, but how to actually cook. By breaking down the fundamentals of cooking into four categories—salt, fat, acid, and heat—she explains how once you understand the different elements you can figure out how to create delicious and complementary pairings. Plus this food bible is gorgeously illustrated throughout by San Francisco artist Wendy MacNaughton, making it as much a visual feast as instructions for one! —Elizabeth
My relationship with my girlfriend (who is a nonprofit lawyer) basically started with me gifting her a copy of IN MY OWN WORDS by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so there’s no question that I’m always on the hunt for RBG-related titles. This biography, SISTERS IN LAW, has the added benefits of the story of Sandra Day O’Connor and a gripping narrative about the intertwined lives of the first two women to serve on the United States Supreme Court. —Erin
SISTERS IN LAW portrays the fascinating relationship between Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first and second women to serve as Supreme Court justices. Linda Hirshman’s dual biography describes how these trailblazers fought for their own recognition in a male-dominated profession—battles that would ultimately benefit every American woman.
I'm a reluctantly transplanted Californian, and one of the things I miss most about the San Francisco Bay Area is the food. I’m dying to read Alice Waters’s new memoir that details not only how she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley 45 years ago but also how she changed American cuisine. Seasoned with stories, recipes, letters, and photographs, this book is as much about the time and place as the food. I figure if I give COMING TO MY SENSES to my brother for Hanukah, I’ll get to borrow it from him next year. —Wendy
This is the book I’m giving to everyone on my list this year. It’s a beautiful, fully illustrated guide to wooden spoons and woodworking. It sounds niche, but it’s really the perfect gift for anyone who appreciates a gorgeous book. I’m giving it to my parents (who keep asking if they can have it early because I was too excited about this book to keep it a secret), to all of our family friends, to my best friend and her boyfriend, and to my Secret Santa at our annual Bingo night. —Taylor
My boyfriend and I went to go see IT in theaters and enjoyed it, but I couldn’t resist nitpicking to him afterward about all of the parts of the book that the film left out, and how the book so brilliantly weaves together the stories of the members of the Losers’ Club as children and as adults. I’m looking forward to his reading the book so he can see for himself how King expertly layers past, present, and the history of fictional Derry, Maine, in this masterwork of horror. —Sarah Jane
For fans of “Stranger Things”
Teeming with the best kind of ‘80s nostalgia, the perfect follow-up read to this summer’s Netflix hit “Stranger Things” is Stephen King’s classic thriller IT. Seven adults are forced to revisit the horrors they once experienced when they were teens, battling an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. With the town’s terrible history repeating, they must once again face the evil monster.