The Booklist Reader’s Oddly Specific Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving, 2017

It’s always a headache shopping for certain people on your list, particularly when it comes to books. But we’re here to help—again—with an oddly specific gift guide. Check out our entries from last year if you need further suggestions.


For your favorite bookish Lutheran

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, by Eric Metaxas

This year marked the 500th anniversary of the reformation of the Catholic church, which many Protestant denominations—especially Lutherans (the food-loving, hymn-singing denomination I grew up in)—reflected on over the course of the year. The book, which made Booklist’s Top 10 Religion & Spirituality Books this year, places the reformation within a global, century-spanning context, exploring not only its theological impact, but its political impact as well. I am giving this book to my dad.
–Sarah Grant



For your slightly pretentious friend who should be in a Wes Anderson movie

The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery, by Kyril Bonfiglioli

Everybody has at least one friend whose name is inevitably modified by the word “quirky” and always seems to be about two-and-a-half steps behind the times. When you’re talking about the latest TV show, they haven’t heard of it and instead reference some 1960s art-house film. They have never knowingly read a best-selling novel. Entering their apartment is like stepping back to a time when hi-fi hasn’t yet been replaced by surround-sound and taxidermy and model ships are still reasonable decorating choices. You don’t give this person a James Patterson novel for a frothy holiday read, you give them one where the mystery is really just an excuse for a bunch of high culture and low humor, where whodunit is as forgettable as the dialogue is memorable. Oh wait, I just realized that I was describing my apartment. I’d tell you to give this book to me, but I already have it.
–Keir Graff


For the relative you see every year who is bad at life (there’s always one)

Pogue’s Basics: Life: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying Your Day, by David Pogue

You love them, you enjoy their company, but that certain someone you see at the holiday get-together is just a walking disaster. The answer is clearly a manual for life. Pogue’s Basics started with their tech guide and expanded to just life. In this chock-full-of-tips manual, you will find how to successfully pick someone up at the airport without having a nervous breakdown from traffic. You will finally know how to get ketchup out of the bottle quickly and, should there be an unfortunate spill on your light-colored clothing, how to get that pesky stain out. More than just a gimmick, this book provides some real practical tips to make life easier.
–Michael Ruzicka


For your favorite, fidgety-est fidgety skeptic—which might even be you

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, by Dan Harris and others

Think the whole eyes-closed, lotus-position-sitting, incense-sniffing notion of meditation just isn’t for you? Look at that, we’re already past requirement numero uno for this gift! In seriousness, though, Harris and co. provide realistic advice to help us help ourselves de-escalate stress and find the time to disconnect from our uber-connected world (While we’re brushing our teeth! Or standing on a packed train!) Plus, there’s mindfulness! If I remember correctly, it means something like “being cool and not freaking out.” Who couldn’t use a little help with that in these ol’ 2010s?
–Annie Bostrom



For your sister who is in grad school and has no time to read

This is Just My Face, by Gabourey Sidibe


For your brother’s new girlfriend who you really don’t know that well

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, by Samantha Irby


For your cousin who listens to My Favorite Murder

See What I Have Done, by Sarah Schmidt


Passive-aggressive gift for your sister-in-law

The Idiot, by Elif Batuman


Passive aggressive gift for your brother-in-law

White Tears, by Hari Kunzru

Both books are good, so giving as gifts them is unimpeachable. But don’t you think it’s just a little satisfying to give someone you don’t really like a book called The Idiot? Or someone who refuses to see his own privilege a book called White Tears?
–Susan Maguire




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