Christmas is exactly one week away, which means the time for Christmas shopping is running short. If there’s anyone you’re still stumbling over or maybe a new gift obligation that was forgotten or just popped up, books make a great last-minute gift. Between your local bookstore and Amazon’s fast shipping, there’s still plenty of time to grab books for those final gift list outliers. Bonus: they are easy to wrap, also!
The Music Lover:
Chronicles – Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize this year for his achievements in writing for his music. This first volume of the folk legend’s memoir trilogy covers his arrival in New York and 1961 and goes in depth on the making of his key albums of the period.
Just Kids – Patti Smith: If you’ve got a young Bohemian in your family and are at a loss for what to get them, this book is an essential. Detailing Patti Smith’s evolution as an artist and her youthful years as a newbie in New York, as well as her tight friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, this is a must for any young creative type. Smith’s voice is earthy and raw and absolutely captures the life of an artist who is compelled to make art, of whatever kind she can.
The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen – Jacques Pepin: Jacques Pepin is one of the elder statesmen of American cooking. Along with Julia Child, he helped bring French cooking into American households through his television shows. Here, he details the many roles that food played in his life. For him, food is not a profession or a hobby, it is life itself.
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science – J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt: Serious Eats’ J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt is dedicated to determining the most fool-proof cooking methods, spending hours in the kitchen lab to present the best cooking methods for popular and classic dishes, with color photos and detailed how-tos, plus sections about the best cooking gear and techniques in a friendly, approachable voice.
Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay: Feminism doesn’t have to be all serious politics and theory. Roxane Gay writes about feminism from the perspective of a normal, flawed person; a lover of pop culture. Her writings touch on everything from abortion to Sweet Valley High. This funny, engaging book of essays is perfect for a young feminist who doesn’t take herself (or himself) too seriously.
Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman – Lindy West: Lindy West is one of the funniest voices writing from a feminist perspective today. The former Jezebel writer writes about being a large and loud person in a world where women are supposed to be small and silent. From her painfully shy childhood to her latest battle royales with internet trolls, West finds the humor lurking under the aches and pains of outspoken womanhood.
The Drunken Botanist – Amy Stewart: A must for any budding bartender. This comprehensive guide teaches how to get the most from your ingredients, as well as breaking down the botanicals in different spirits. The knowledge in this book will help creative types craft their own cocktails, but also has recipes for the less adventurous.
The Gentleman’s Companion – Charles Henry Baker: This is less an instructional book than a bon vivant’s guide for living. He’ll tell you how to make a flaming apple brandy in between stories of backroom feasts with “Bill” Faulkner and beachfront dining with Errol Flynn. And his practical tips don’t end with crafting cocktails – there is also sound advice on how to salvage a guest from the effects of hanging, should someone succumb to despair in the middle of a party. Clearly Mr. Baker went to wilder parties than I.
The Book Lover:
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead: For that friend who’s really into books, choose one of the best books of this year. The Underground Railroad is the story of two slaves, trying to escape via this hidden network, but there’s a slave hunter on their heels and the South is filled with traps for the men and women who desperately seek their freedom. It’s at once a thrilling story and a powerful meditation on America’s history and relationship with slavery.
The Girls – Emma Cline: During a long and lonely summer, teenager Evie Boyd spots a group of strange girls in a local park. They look like something from another world, beautiful and dangerous. She quickly becomes caught up in their group, a Manson Family-esque cult that revolves around a charismatic leader. But this is not the story of a young girl in the thrall of a powerful man. It’s the story of the relationships between women – Evie and her mother, Evie and her best friend, Evie and the cult girls – and it’s a story of how women can lose themselves in a world where they are nothing without a man’s approval.
The Non-Book Lover:
Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell: Why would you get someone who doesn’t read a book? Because even for people who associate reading with dull intellectualism, there are books out there that can entertain and provide an escape. And everyone can, at the very least, use an entertaining “beach read.” Eleanor & Park is perfect for this. It’s a book about teens, that’s not for teens. It’s a sweet, optimistic romance that even the most stubborn of readers will fly through.
S. – J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst: For that TV-loving friend who couldn’t get enough of Lost, try this book that’s as much of a puzzle and interactive adventure as it is a book. Readers who crack open this book find much more than just words – there are notes in the margins; maps, postcards and scribbled napkins tucked between pages – and all of these pieces connect to form a larger story. It’s a great way to show that books can transport you as well as TV shows can, and anyone who loves a good puzzle will be hooked.
The Science Nerd:
Time Travel: A History – James Gleick: Time travel is one of the most intriguing possibilities in science, and a subject that pops up time and time again in fiction as well. Why are we so obsessed with the idea of breaking the bonds of linear time? Gleick explores this obsession, from its origins to the modern day. In the process, he also explores the human psyche: why time is so important to us, and why we are so troubled by the inexorably forward march of time.
The Glass Universe – Dava Sobel: For a woman, pursuing a STEM career can be difficult. It’s still a field dominated by men and there are some who would prefer it stay that way. A young female scientist might be inspired by The Glass Universe, the story of early female astronomers (then called “computers”) who made trailblazing scientific discoveries in an era when they were not yet allowed to vote.
The Mystery Lover:
The Woman in Cabin 10: Travel writer Lo Blacklock is in the middle of a sweet gig reviewing a luxury cruise, when she finds herself caught up in a mystery. There a splash and a woman going overboard, sinking beneath the waves. But the only person who seems to be aware of the woman is Lo. As the ship sails on, oblivious, Lo has to figure out what it was she actually saw.
Before the Fall – Noah Hawley: Probably the most acclaimed mystery of the year, follows the aftermath of a charter plane crash filled with the wealthy and powerful (and one starving artist). The only survivors are the artist and a small boy. Was it chance that caused the devastating accident, or something more sinister?
Atlas Obscura – Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras & Ella Morton: True explorers love to get off the beaten path and see the truly unique sights that can only be found by getting out and traveling the world. Atlas Obscura catalogues the truly unique, hidden places of the world, from pubs inside of trees to caves that shimmer with the lights of a thousand glowworms, and just about everything in between.
Atlas of Improbable Places – Travis Elborough: A nice companion piece to the above book, this gorgeous book includes beautifully drawn maps and breathtaking photos and paints a picture of a world full of abandoned wonders and dreamlike destinations. In its pages you’ll discover the ghostly trails of Japan’s spooky Aokigihara Forest and the breezy Italian village of Portmeirion, which is actually located on the shores of Wales.