Whether your mom has a bookshelf packed with self-help books or your cousin’s a budding chef or your dad is full of random facts about the Civil War, here’s the best new-ish book to gift them this holiday season, depending on their personality.
For the Self-Help Devotee...You Are Here by Jenny Lawson
Part therapy, part humor and part coloring book, Lawson, who wrote the equally hilarious Furiously Happy, draws on the tenets of art therapy to help readers cope with anxiety and general negatvity. As in her previous books, Lawson is candid about her personal struggles and offers up tangible solutions—here, in the form of fill-in-the-blank lists and sometimes-irreverent drawings.
For the Late Night Enthusiast...Letterman by Jason Zinoman
For anyone who stays up until 2 a.m. watching comedians roast politicians and schmooze with actors, Zinoman’s book is a fun inside look at one of the genre’s legends. Part portrait of stardom, part pop culture chronicle and part love letter from a fan, Letterman will definitely make your giftee’s top ten list.
For the American History Buff...Grant by Ron Chernow
Chernow’s much-lauded biography gets inside the head of the often misunderstood general and president whose fortunes rose and fell as he resigned from the army in disgrace, soared through the ranks of the Union army and ultimately won a two-term presidency. Like his previous books about Alexander Hamilton and George Washington, Chernow strikes the perfect balance between informative and gripping. (And who knows, maybe Lin Manuel Miranda's looking for a new work to adapt.)
For the Russian History Buff...The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
Gessen is a Russian activist and award-winning journalist. (She's written for The New York Times, The Washington Post and Vanity Fair, to name a few.) As a harsh and longtime critic of Vladimir Putin, her latest book is a sweeping history of Russia over the past four decades and, yes, includes her take on the country's role in the 2016 presidential election.
For the Guy Who May or May Not Be Having a Midlife Crisis...Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss
Krauss's latest novel follows Jules, a 68-year-old who, following his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of 30 years and his retirement from a high-powered job, gives away much of his wealth and heads to Israel, where he gets talked into helping fund a movie about the life of David. Basically, it’ll make the whole “buying a sports car” thing seem super tame.
For Anyone Who Went to College in the ’90s...The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Batuman’s novel begins at Harvard in 1995, when the protagonist, Selin, has just encountered email for the very first time. Wry and remarkably attuned to details, this will hit home with anyone who remembers the thrill of the very first time she encountered an Ethernet cord.
For the Best Friend...When You Find Out the World Is Against You by Kelly Oxford
If you’re not already following Kelly Oxford on Twitter, you’re missing out. If you haven’t already read her first collection of essays, Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar, you’re definitely missing out. This Canada-born, L.A.-based writer and mom of three speaks candidly about everything from stalking her husband when he goes on an accidental date with another man to the time she got into a fight with her parents after almost getting swept up into a tornado.
For the Wino...Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker
Bosker is a journalist who's written extensively about food and wine for The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The New York Times. Her first book is an enlightening inside look at the wine industry, with peeks into underground tasting groups, exclusive restaurants, mass-market wine factories and even a neuroscientist’s office.
For the Sports Freak...Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig
Using dozens of hours of unaired video, government documents and interviews with members of Muhammad Ali’s inner circle (including his three surviving wives and his managers), Eig’s biography does justice to one of the 20th century’s most polarizing figures.
For the Celebrity Gossip Hound..According to a Source by Abby Stern
Ella works as an undercover reporter for a celebrity magazine, using aliases to sneak onto red carpet events and into nightclubs for the best scoops. When her boss starts a competition among the reporters, the stakes get even higher, as Ella has to decide if being in Hollywood’s elite inner circle is worth jeopardizing pretty much everything else.
For the Traveling Couple...Ultimate Journeys for Two by Mike and Anne Howard
Written by the founders of the travel blog HoneyTrek, this useful book reveals hidden-gem destinations and insider tips for folks who want to tour the world together. Drawing on their experience traveling together across seven continents, the Howards (the so-called World's Longest Honeymooners) offer tested-and-approved recommendations for bringing culture, adventure and romance to your journey—regardless of age, budget or how intense (or not) you want your trip to be.
For the Animal Lover...Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello
In 16 witty and playful essays, Passarello touches on history, mythology, science and pop culture to investigate different famous animals, from Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth recently found in the Siberian permafrost to Mr. Ed and Cecil the Lion.
For the Armchair Science Geek...Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Our favorite astrophysicist understands that not everyone was blessed with his intellectual gifts and capacity for contemplating the cosmos. His newest book translates high-level stuff (like black holes, quarks and quantum mechanics) into terms us normal folks can understand.
For the Recent College Grad...The Little Book of Life Hacks by Yumi Sakugawa
Author, illustrator and comic book artist Sakugawa wants to make your life happier, healthier and more beautiful. This gorgeous book is chock-full of helpful tips for everything from getting rid of dark under-eye circles (hint: use tea bags or frozen vegetables) to making a tiny apartment feel like a palace.
For the Thrill Seeker...Ill Will by Dan Chaon
In this gripping thriller, a psychologist in suburban Ohio links two headline-grabbing unsolved crimes…that is, if his memory can be trusted. Give it to your pal who’s got a thing for good mysteries and unreliable narrators.
For the Foodie...Coming to My Senses by Alice Waters
The long-awaited memoir from chef and restaurateur Waters recounts her illustrious career in food, including her longtime championing of the local, sustainable food movement and the story of how she founded, at age 27, the famed Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.
For the Environmentalist...Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance by Bill McKibben
Writer and environmentalist McKibben's first novel is about a group of radicals in backwoods Vermont who use an underground radio show to recruit people interested in seceding from the United States. Get this one for the die-hard Bernie fan in your family.
For the One Who Loves True Crime Shows...Lady Killers by Tori Telfer
Inspired by the author's Jezebel column, Lady Killers is a thrilling investigation of female serial killers throughout history. Most notable? Kate Bender, a member of a family of serial killers responsible for the deaths of 11 people in Kansas in the 1870s.