40 Books to Gift to Every Person on Your List This Year
We don’t mean to state the obvious, but books are an awesome gift. They’re thoughtful, compact and great for procrastinators (especially if you’re a Prime member and take advantage of Amazon’s free two-day shipping). Whether you’re shopping for your cool younger cousin or your baking-obsessed work wife, here are 40 tomes to consider for everyone on your list this year.
1. THE BOOK ON PIE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE PERFECT PIES BY ERIN JEANNE MCDOWELL
For the home chef
The second cookbook from PureWow’s very own recipes editor, The Book on Pie sees baker and food stylist extraordinaire McDowell sharing everything she knows about making one of our favorite desserts. Starting with the basics (including ways to mix pie dough for extra flaky crusts, recipe size conversions and tips for decorating and styling), she then dives into pies of all kinds, from classics like apple and pumpkin to avant-garde picks like Birthday-Cake Pie and Caramel Pork Pie with Chile and Scallions.
2. EX LIBRIS: 100 BOOKS TO READ AND REREAD BY MICHIKO KAKUTANI
For the bookworm
In this collection, Pulitzer Prize–winning literary critic Kakutani shares 100 personal, thought-provoking essays about books that have mattered to her and that help illuminate the world we live in today—alongside beautiful illustrations. As Kakutani writes, “In a world riven by political and social divisions, literature can connect people across time zones and zip codes, across cultures and religions, national boundaries and historical eras. It can give us an understanding of lives very different from our own, and a sense of the shared joys and losses of human experience.”
3. You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe
For the history buff
Historian Coe (Alice+Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis) is the first woman to write a biography of America's first president in 40 years. Combining rigorous research and lively storytelling, she argues that the male gaze has distorted our impressions of Washington (specifically, his relationship with his mother, Mary Ball Washington, to whom other biographers have referred as an illiterate shrew). What results is a fascinating and essential read even for those who think they know everything about Washington.
4. WINE GIRL: THE OBSTACLES, HUMILIATIONS, AND TRIUMPHS OF AMERICA'S YOUNGEST SOMMELIER BY VICTORIA JAMES
For the oenophile
At just 21 years old, Victoria James became America’s youngest sommelier and began working at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant or hospitality industry knows this is no small feat…and doesn’t come without its perils. In this very cool memoir, James battles demons, rediscovers herself at a vineyard and meditates on the glamorous but famously toxic restaurant world.
5. THE PURPOSE OF POWER: HOW WE COME TOGETHER WHEN WE FALL APART BY ALICIA GARZA
For the activist
In 2013, Garza wrote what she calls “a love letter to Black people” on Facebook, in the aftermath of the acquittal of the man who murdered 17-year old Trayvon Martin. One of the creators of Black Lives Matter, her first book is an essential guide to building the type of movements that can address the challenges of our time. She offers reflections on how making room amongst the woke for those who are still waking can inspire and activate more people to join the fight for the world we all deserve. So timely and so necessary.
6. This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by ashton applewhite
For the recent retiree
In our youth obsessed culture, we're bombarded by media images and messages about the despairs and declines of our later years. Author, activist and TED speaker Applewhite once held these beliefs too until she realized where this prejudice comes from and the damage it does. Funny and deeply researched, This Chair Rocks traces her journey from apprehensive boomer to pro-aging radical, and in the process debunks myth after myth about late life, explains the roots of ageism in history, describes what an all-age-friendly world would look like and offers a rousing call to action.
7. LEGENDARY CHILDREN BY TOM FITZGERALD AND LORENZO MARQUEZ
For the person who obsessively quotes Drag Race
From the super-popular culture bloggers behind Tom + Lorenzo comes a fascinating history of the first decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the past century of queer life. Each chapter examines different aspects of the show—the Werk Room, the Pit Crew, the Snatch Game and more—and how they tie to aspects of queer cultural history.
8. Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork by Reeves Wiedeman
For the one who loves a scam story
At the beginning, WeWork promised to make the American work place cool. Over the course of ten years, WeWork and its CEO, Adam Neumann, attracted billions of dollars from some of the most sought-after investors in the world, while spending it to build a global real estate empire that he insisted was much more than that. Culminating in a day-by-day account of the five weeks leading up to the company's botched IPO and Neumann's dramatic ouster, Wiedeman exposes the story of WeWork's incredible rise and fall.
9. CAN’T EVEN: HOW MILLENNIALS BECAME THE BURNOUT GENERATION BY ANNE HELEN PETERSON
For the millennial
In January 2019, culture writer and former academic Anne Helen Petersen wrote a hugely viral piece for BuzzFeed about millennial burnout, which Peterson argues has been “born out of distrust in the institutions that have failed us, the unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace and a sharp uptick in anxiety and hopelessness exacerbated by the constant pressure to ‘perform’ our lives online.” Using a combination of sociohistorical framework, original interviews and detailed analysis, Can’t Even examines how millennials have arrived at this point—and where we go from here.
10. No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by michael j. fox
For the boomer
You know Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, as Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties and more. Diagnosed at age 29, Fox has been equally engaged in Parkinson's advocacy work. In his brand-new memoir, he shares personal stories and observations about illness and health, aging, the strength of family and friends and how our perceptions about time affect the way we approach mortality. Thoughtful and moving, but with Fox's trademark sense of humor, No Time Like the Future provides is a reflection on our lives, loves and losses.
11. LOVING SPORTS WHEN THEY DON’T LOVE YOU BACK: DILEMMAS OF THE MODERN FAN BY JESSICA LUTHER AND KAVITHA DAVIDSON
For the sports fan
Rooting for a favorite team can be a blast. But what about when a football player takes a hit to the head after yet another study has warned of the dangers of CTE; or when a team whose mascot was born in an era of racism and bigotry takes the field; or when a relief pitcher accused of domestic violence saves the game? In this fascinating book, acclaimed sports writers Luther and Davidson explore how we might begin to reconcile our conscience with our fandom.
12. LADY IN WAITING: MY EXTRAORDINARY LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROWN BY ANNE GLENCONNER
For the royal family fanatic
Ever wonder what it’s like to hang out with royals? (Um, of course you have.) Baroness Anne Glenconner, now 87, writes about acting as maid of honor at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and as Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting, and covers her own personal dramas, tragedies and excitements.
13. THE BEST OF ME BY DAVID SEDARIS
For the person whose sense of humor is dryer than the desert
Chosen by the author himself, The Best of Me is a collection of Sedaris’s greatest essays (from Me Talk Pretty One Day, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls and more), and features an introduction by and interview with Sedaris, and a new story, ‘Unbuttoned.’
14. THE ANSWER IS…: REFLECTIONS ON MY LIFE BY ALEX TREBEK
For the one who’s seen every episode of Jeopardy (twice)
On November 8, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek died at 80. After debuting as host in 1984, Trebek was a mainstay in the homes of millions of devoted viewers. Last year, he made the stunning announcement that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The announcement was met with an outpouring of love, kindness and encouragement. Though he had been offered numerous book deals, Trebek writes in The Answer Is that now was the right time, saying, “I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year.” An incredible way to honor his legacy.
15. LET’S NEVER TALK ABOUT THIS AGAIN BY SARA FAITH ALTERMAN
For the person with the kookiest family stories
Alterman enjoyed a G-rated childhood in suburban New England, with over-the-top birthday cakes and nerdy word games invented by her prudish father. But her world changed when she discovered that her dad was actually a campy sex writer who'd sold millions of books in multiple languages. For decades, the books remained an unspoken family secret, until he developed early onset Alzheimer's disease and announced he'd be reviving his writing career…with his daughter’s help. In this memoir, Alterman describes the experience of discovering new facets of her father; once as a child, and again as an adult.
16. THE ANTI-RACIST BABY BY IBRAM X. KENDI AND ILLUSTRATED BY ASHLEY LUKASHEVSKY
For the woke baby (or, more likely, the woke baby’s parents)
Targeted for actual babies and up, The Anti-Racist Baby wants to help you make your child anti-racist. In addition to the awesome art, the book provides language to help you start that conversation at an early age in a way that's accessible and eye-catching.
17. MUSICAL CHAIRS BY AMY POEPPEL
For the rom-com lover
Bridget and Will are loving, compatible and devoted to each other. The thing is, they’re strictly friends who have, for three decades, performed in the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin. In the years since, Gavin has become one of the classical music world’s stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success. After Bridget’s boyfriend breaks up with her and her elderly father announces he’s getting married, she hatches a plan to host the wedding while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight.
18. UNTAMED BY GLENNON DOYLE
For the mom who is doing it all
The latest book from bestselling author, mom and speaker Doyle is equal parts intimate memoir and wake-up call. It’s the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. Doyle writes about navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and learning to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries and unleash our truest, wildest selves.
19. FURIA BY YAMILE SAIED MENDEZ
For the teen athlete
Camila lives two lives: one as a well-behaved daughter who carefully abides by her father’s short temper and her mother’s strict expectations, and one as a rising soccer star whose talent could set her up for a better life. When Camila’s team qualifies for a major tournament, she must come clean about her secret passion and get her parents’ permission to play. But opening up to them isn’t as easy as it sounds in this Reese’s Book Club YA pick.
20. HOW TO GET OVER A BOY BY CHIDERA EGGERUE
For the friend who needs (and appreciates) tough love
Activist Chidera Eggerue has blunt advice for heartbroken women: Stop treating men like the prize and start treating yourself like one. When you take the reins and gain control of your relationships, you get to decide how much power he has (or doesn’t have) over you. Make sure you only give this one to friends you know can handle it!
21. THE GENIUS OF WOMEN BY JANICE KAPLAN
For the feminist
Despite how far we’ve come, New York Times journalist Kaplan points out that society still defines genius almost exclusively through male achievement. So, she set out to determine why. Her book uses interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists and high achievers to investigate women geniuses now and throughout history, in fields from music to robotics.
22. HOOD FEMINISM BY MIKKI KENDALL
For the intersectional feminist
Kendall argues that the feminism many women know actually excludes and ignores certain groups and only benefits a specific type of female. She asserts the feminist movement and its participants need to face these issues head-on…and they need to do it today.
23. GODSHOT: A NOVEL BY CHELSEA BIEKER
For the person who devours anything cult-related
In Peaches, California, 14-year-old Lacey May lives with her alcoholic mother in an area that was once an agricultural paradise but is now an environmental disaster. During a disastrous drought, the town’s residents turn to a cult leader, Pastor Vern. Though Lacey has no reason to doubt the pastor, her life soon implodes when her mother is exiled from the community. Abandoned and distraught, Lacey May moves in with her widowed grandmother. As she endures the increasingly appalling acts of men, she goes on a quest to find her mother at all costs.
24. YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN BY LEAH JOHNSON
For the high schooler planning for college
Liz has big plans for her future: attend her dream school, play in its orchestra and eventually become a doctor. But when her financial aid falls through, she has to find another way, deciding that her next best option is the school’s prom king and queen scholarship. But when she falls for the competition, the new girl in school Mack, winning the crown might become a bit trickier.
25. THE GILDED ONES BY NAMINA FORNA
For the fantasy lover
In this fantastical YA book, 16-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, and, well, suffice it to say this total book candy for fans of Tomi Ayedemi's Children of Blood and Bone.
26. THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2020 EDITED BY CURTIS SITTENFELD AND HEIDI PITLOR
For the short attention span
Featuring stories from Emma Cline, T.C. Boyle, Mary Gaitskill and more, this year’s edition of The Best American Short Stories—edited by authors Sittenfeld (Rodham) and Pitlor (The Birthdays)—is a striking and nuanced collection, bringing to life awkward college students, disgraced public figures, raunchy grandparents and mystical godmothers.
27. Guinness World Records 2021
For the kid who's an encyclopedia
You think they're full of random facts and information now? Wait until they get their hands on this year's edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, which has a particular emphasis on the history of exploration. Packed with thousands of incredible new feats across a wide range of topics, it'll keep the most inquisitive of kids busy for weeks.
28. THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS BY ELENA FERRANTE
For the Neapolitan Novels obsessive
She’s baaaaaaack. Ferrante’s newest novel follows Giovanna, a meek, obedient 12-year-old growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in Naples. An expert chronicler of young adulthood, Ferrante (The Neapolitan Novels) follows Giovanna’s life from age 12 to 16, charting her development from the sweet girl who adores her parents to a sulking, aggressive teenager who finds pleasure in self-abasement and making other people uncomfortable. (And yes, she leaves open the possibility of a sequel.)
29. HOW TO BE FINE BY JOLENTA GREENBERG AND KRISTEN MEINZER
For the person who listens to self-help podcasts religiously
Well, this is meta. In their podcast By the Book, Greenberg and Meinzer do a deep dive of one popular self-help book every week and apply the advice to their lives—here, they talk about what advice worked (learning to declutter) and what didn’t (becoming a morning person, ha).
30. HERE FOR IT BY R. ERIC THOMAS
For the pop culture lover
Thomas is known for his hilarious Elle.com column, “Eric Reads the News,” where he discusses his take on politics, celebrities, pop culture and more. His debut memoir-in-essays covers growing up in a Baltimore neighborhood while attending a majority-white private school, landing his dream job, dealing with impostor syndrome, and grappling with love, breakups and many other setbacks in between.
31. MAGIC LESSONS BY ALICE HOFFMAN
For the nostalgic one
For the 25th anniversary of her novel Practical Magic, best-selling author Hoffman goes back with the origin story of her beloved Owens family. A celebration of life and love, Magic Lessons unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.
32. NOTHING MUCH HAPPENS BY KATHRYN NICOLAI
For the insomniac
Nicolai has nearly two decades of experience as a yoga and meditation teacher. She also hosts the popular podcast, Nothing Much Happens, where she narrates soothing bedtime stories for adults that—combined with her calming tone and carefully interwoven mindfulness techniques—quickly lull listeners to sleep. Her first book features sixteen new stories never aired on the podcast, along with whimsical illustrations, easy-to-make recipes for healthy comfort food, crafting exercises and unique meditation guides. Basically, it’s a calming tome to pick up before bed to ensure a restful night’s sleep.
33. THERE’S NO MANUAL: HONEST AND GORY WISDOM ABOUT HAVING A BABY BY BETH NEWELL AND JACKIE ANN RUIZ (FEBRUARY 4)
For the parent-to-be
From the women who brought you Reductress comes an upbeat yet brutally honest prep manual for anyone planning on giving birth in their lifetime. Newell and Ruiz want mothers everywhere to know “there’s no right way to have a baby.” Full of illustrations, no-nonsense explanations and “shitty truths,” this book will be a fun read (and a great gift for anyone who’s expecting).
34. THE BADDEST BITCH IN THE ROOM BY SOPHIA CHANG
For the music lover
The daughter of Korean immigrants in predominantly white suburban Vancouver, Chang left for New York City in the early 90s, where she became a powerful voice in music boardrooms and worked with the likes of The Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest. In her debut memoir, she writes candidly about her rise to the top of a male-dominated industry, and all the things that happened along the way, including marriage, motherhood, aging and martial arts.
35. THINK LIKE A MONK BY JAY SHETTY
For the overstimulated
Instead of attending his college graduation ceremony, Jay Shetty went to India to become a monk. After three years, a teacher told him he would have more impact on the world if he left the monk's path to share his experience and wisdom with others. In this book, he draws on his time as a monk, combining ancient wisdom and his own experiences to reveal how to overcome negative thoughts and habits, and access the calm and purpose that he says lies within all of us.
36. STRIKE ME DOWN BY MINDY MEJIA
For the wannabe crime reporter
Nora is a forensic accountant in Minneapolis. Her firm’s latest client is Strike, an anti-corporate, feminist athletic empire that’s about to host a major kickboxing tournament with $20 million in prize money. But when the prize money goes missing, Nora is hired to find both the thief and the money. The problem is, Nora has a secret connection to Strike that could change the course of the investigation in a shocking—and even deadly—way.
37. WOW, NO THANK YOU BY SAMANTHA IRBY
For the funny friend
When she published her first hit essay collection, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Irby was working at a veterinary clinic in Chicago. She has since left that job and city, and charts the sometimes rocky transition in this collection, which covers bad dates with new friends, spending time in L.A. as a “cheese fry–eating slightly damp Midwest person” and more.
38. I Need a New Butt! by Ross Kinnaird and Dawn McMillan
For the five-year-old who thinks butts are the funniest
In this totally fun, totally silly children's book, a young boy suddenly notices a big problem—his butt has a crack. So he sets off to find a new one. Kids and parents will love this illustrated book—no ifs, ands or butts about it. (Sorry.)
39. YOU CAN ONLY YELL AT ME FOR ONE THING AT A TIME: RULES FOR COUPLES BY PATRICIA MARX & ROZ CHAST
For the couple who've been quarantining together
This illustrated collection of love and relationship advice from New Yorker writer Patricia Marx and New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast isn’t your typical “don’t go to bed angry” fare. Think “If you must breathe, don’t breathe so loudly” and “sexual favors in exchange for cleaning up the cat vomit is a good and fair trade.”
40. WHY FISH DON'T EXIST BY LULU MILLER
For the lifetime learner
Lulu Miller is a Peabody Award–winning journalist and cofounder of NPR’s beloved science podcast Invisibilia. Her nonfiction debut is the strange tale of 19th-century scientist David Starr Jordan, who made it his life’s work to discover and catalog as many of the world’s fish as he could. Decade by decade, he built one of the most important specimen collections in history. Then the 1906 San Francisco earthquake hit, sending more than a thousand of his fish, housed in glass jars, plummeting to the floor and shattering his life’s work. Miller digs into this obscure moment in science history while exploring the nature of persistence and of life’s purpose.