I covered the die-hard hiker, the dedicated cook, and the bummed out friend in Part One, but there are still so many more books to gift! I really do think that books are a great gift for everyone on your list; the trick is figuring out just what book to buy them.
Which is what I’m here to help you do! So let’s do it!
For the Mad Scientist
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have a ton of people on my list who I would jokingly (or not-so-jokingly) call “mad scientists.” These are the people who homebrew, who create self-sustaining terrariums, who are always trying some new (and only slightly dangerous) hobby, often in the kitchen. This year, I’m getting those people a book called Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food.
Rather than presenting recipes (as I mentioned in Part One, I really don’t like giving cookbooks), Ingredient discusses the eight “essential elements” of all food: water, sugars, carbs, lipids, proteins, minerals, gases, and heat. Ali Bouzari, who is both a chef and a scientist, writes about how these elements make the difference between fluffy mashed potatoes and gloopy ones, the perfect sear and an inedible char.
Ingredient isn’t a book for the traditional home cook. This is for the tinkerer, the perfectionist, the cook who wants to know why recipes include the steps they do. As a casual home cook, I found it a little overwhelming, but my partner (who, if I’m being honest, does 95% of all kitchen-related things in our relationship) got a copy from me for our anniversary in November and has really enjoyed it. He’s able to pick it up and skim a few pages over his morning coffee or when he gets home and needs to decompress. It’s a lovely book: there are so many pages dedicated just to showcasing different incarnations of the essential elements, laid out with an architect’s precision and an artist’s eye for color. It’s beautiful enough that you’ll want to leave it on your coffee table, and it’s useful enough that you’ll actually reach for it as much as your guests do.
For the One Who’s Read Everything
They’re hardly human– every book you bring up lights a knowing spark in their eye. “Oh, I loved that one!” they gush, before offering up the title of the book it reminded them of– some fascinatingly obscure novel found in the pocket of a beggar in Prague in the 19th century and only recently published in English. “You’ve never heard of it? Well, now I know what I’m getting you for the holidays!” If only you could say the same.
If you’re definitely committed to getting this uber-reader a physical gift, I would recommend choosing a nice hardback or signed copy of a book you two have enjoyed together. Alternatively, you might consider getting a nice version of a book you enjoyed as a child or that you’ve heard them speak of fondly. As avid book collectors, we all know that there’s no shame in having two copies of a book– especially when one is meant more for display.
If you don’t mind getting gift certificates, I would absolutely recommend getting them a subscription to Book of the Month! (That’s my personal recommendation link.)
Book of the Month is a monthly subscription service that offers members five new releases, each chosen by a judge, for less than $15 per book. The books come with little notes written by the judges to explain why they chose that particular book (Anthony Bourdain picked A Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem– the guest judges are fun!), as well as a bookmark with a bookish quote (a bunch of which are currently decorating my fridge) and a small gift, like mints or a crazy straw, with the BOTM logo. It makes a great gift (for yourself as well as any readers of contemporary fiction on your list).
The October selections were my favorite group so far (I ended up getting three of the five!), and as you can see, you can pick them up for $9.99. A dangerous deal, to say the least.
There are a lot of other bookish subscription boxes to consider, including The Strand’s Book Hookup, Quarterly’s Literary Boxes (they have a YA box as well as adult fiction version), and many others. Several indie bookstores (like The Novel Neighbor in St. Louis) offer their own subscription boxes, so make sure to check with your local stores!
For the Tech Enthusiast
I think I’ve read a lot of books this year that would appeal to the Snapchat fan, the hobbyist Twitch streamer, or the person who always seems to know what the “next big thing” is in VR or biotech. I tend towards optimistic views on technology, though there are plenty of writers who want to warn us about our current trajectory.
If you’re looking for a book with a positive spin on technology and what it can do (this gift would also work if you’re hoping to convert someone who’s always lamenting about “distracted youth” and “the era of misinformation,” although maybe the holidays aren’t the time for that…), I’d recommend Smarter Than You Think, by Clive Thompson.
It was released in 2013, which might feel like a millennium in the internet era, but it’s still very relevant, I promise. Each chapter works to show how technology can actually make us better thinkers, readers, communicators, and friends. Thompson is an incredibly engaging writer, and although the book is nonfiction, it’s anything but dry. This is a man who has fully embraced the internet and all its weirdnesses, so it’s no surprise that he skips seamlessly from discussing online activism to chess computer programs to human memory.
If you’re looking for a book to make its reader think twice before checking their phone for the third time in ten minutes, wrap up Children of the New World, by Alexander Weinstein.
This is a collection of short stories, all set in different versions of our world. Some are utopias, some are horrifying dystopias, but they all share one thing in common: an obsession with technology. It’s speculative fiction that will hit home for everyone who uses the internet (so, uh, everyone. I think). The stories make great conversation fodder (“What if we figured out a way to produce and sell false memories?”) too. Way better than the usual job/family/gossip discussions that I often find myself in around the holidays. Why discuss the real world when you can discuss the horrors and delights that await us in the future?
Well, that’s it for Part Two! I’ve got plenty more people on my list, and I’m sure you do too. If you want a recommendation, leave me a comment, find me on Twitter (@OmnivoreadsBlog), or tag me on Litsy (LectricSheep)! I’m happy to help. Enjoy the holidays!