The Booklist Reader’s Oddly Specific Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving, 2018

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!


TotalCatMojoFor your nephew who wants a cat but his father (your brother) won’t let him get one because Reasons

 Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat, by Jackson Galaxy and Mikel Delgado

Do this only if you agree with your nephew that he is being UNFAIRLY DEPRIVED of feline companionship and if your nephew is old enough to read aloud to your brother the best parts of this book that is chock-full of pet-care info, cat facts, and Galaxy’s infectious cat nerdiness. Next year you’ll be buying toys for your nephew’s cat! —Susan Maguire




JapaneseCookingwithMangaFor your niece who won’t eat your California rolls since her Japanese Club got back from Kyoto

Japanese Cooking with Manga: The Gourmand Gohan Cookbookby Alexis Aldeguer and Maiko-San, illustrated by Ilaria Mauro

She used to be your Saturday afternoon sushi buddy but has grown way beyond your pedestrian, suburban taste now that she’s a fancy teenager/cosmopolitan world traveler. Give her this cookbook with manga styling, authentic Japanese recipes, and a dose of cultural real talk to remind her of the fun you used to have. Then crank her playlist (that is, you must admit, way cooler than you are) while you drive her to the nearest specialty grocery for ingredients, and you’ll regain your Favorite Aunt/Uncle status in no time. —Heather Booth


The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House, by Norman EisenFor the parent who’s never passed up an opportunity to drop everything and read a historical plaque

 The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House, by Norman Eisen

Your parents are planning a big trip this year, and their brand of preparedness has more to do with learning about the architecture they’ll see—so they can see it, and then remember learning about it—than finding out which local pastries they absolutely must eat. You don’t get it. But anyway, their time in Prague will be made infinitely better by former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic Eisens’s spectacular inquiry into the history of the palace he lived in, which ends up also telling the twentieth-century history of the country itself. And, who knows, there might even be a pastry or two in there. —Annie Bostrom


Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats, edited by Iain McIntyre and Andrew NetteFor your friend who always gets distracted by the paperback spinners in thrift stores

Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980, by Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette

You know the type, always hissing across the aisles at Goodwill or Salvation Army while you’re trying on that vintage sport coat. “Look at this one!” they say, giggling in disbelief and holding up a dog-eared 1960s paperback featuring a lurid and tastelessly illustrated cover designed to titillate readers of yore. This large-format book features hundreds upon hundreds of those fascinating covers, from Beatnik Wanton and Marijuana Girl to A Kiss a Day Keeps the Corpses Away and Jazzman in Nudetown. Even better, this is actually an entertaining and almost scholarly treatise on the phenomenon of “youthsploitation” novels, meaning your friend will learn a lot about the lurid literature written about and for juvenile delinquents, beats and bohemians, disaffected British youth, hippies and other counterculture types, musicians and groupies, and bikers and wannabes. With a resource this rich, there’s no need to face the sights, smells, and textures of “Sally Ann” to get your paperback kicks. —Keir Graff


For your impressionable teenage niece

 The Antifa Comic Book: 100 Years of Fascism and Antifa Movements, by Gord Hill

Save your 17-year-old niece from the college talk this holiday season. Stellar SAT scores aren’t going to cut it—give her what she really needs to fight fascism: this nifty handbook and a mean right hook. Quick, quick! While her parents are distracted by your cousin’s new baby! Kickboxing lessons not included. —Ada Wolin




For the gal who is going through a difficult health situation but doesn’t want to keep thinking about that difficult health situation

The Bucket List, by Georgia Clark

Yes, it’s about a young woman dealing with a scary breast cancer situation, but it is also the best of modern chick lit: young person in the city, romance troubles, sexcapades (hilarious and steamy!), career conundrums, friends-as-family . . . the most fun breast cancer book you’ll read all year.
Susan Maguire




MyYearofRestRelaxationFor the recently retired person in your life

 My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh

For that one person who has been doggedly working their tail off and finally decides to retire. That’s fair! They need the rest. Maybe they can find inspiration or a cautionary tale within the pages of Moshfegh’s newest novel, which stars an individual who accepts the lethargic temptation to hunker down, close the outside world out, and finally get some sleep . . . for an entire year. Your recently retired friend can live vicariously through the book’s surreal moments and see how the wish to be truly work-free plays out. —Michael Ruzicka



PaperbackCrushFor the high school friend you lost touch with but you’re getting together for a quick drink because you’ll both be home and there’s nothing else to do

Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of ’80s and ’90s Teen Fiction, by Gabrielle Moss

Awkward silences will disappear as you flip through this ode to the books that were formative to the Gen X woman: the Babysitter’s Club, Taffy Sinclair, Girl Talk, and Our Twin Teen Queens, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. —Susan Maguire



CityOfGhostsFor the 11-year-old who’s too young to know about The Sixth Sense

City of Ghostsby Victoria Schwab

The twist that defined the twist ending is now old enough to drive and smoke cigarettes, but this kid certainly isn’t. He’s taking his first steps into the horror genre, and what’s more classic than a ghost hunt? Victoria Schwab’s middle-grade mystery, set in one of the most haunted places on Earth, is the perfect starter for a lifetime of scares. Packed with poltergeists and peppered with juicy tidbits of Edinburgh’s bloody past, this fast-paced read is sure to leave newfound horror fans itching for more. Pair with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for a thrilling double feature. —Kenneth Otani


For the stickler in your life who only reads nonfiction because fiction is frivolous

Underworld, by Don DeLillo

DeLillo’s start-of-the-nuclear-age masterpiece opens on October 3, 1951, at New York’s Polo Grounds, where a now legendary baseball game is underway, attended by the likes of J. Edgar Hoover, while across the Atlantic the Soviet Union detonates an atomic bomb. DeLillo sends the ball that was hit into the stands in the game-winning home run on a talismanic journey through time and space and the arms race, looping in other historical figures along the way, including the revolutionary comic Lenny Bruce, and telling the intricate stories of a waiter, a nun, artists, weapon designers, and a young girl in the Bronx, each life knotted by moral and social dilemmas. DeLillo’s imaginative and commanding epic forges fact into story, and it is many-faceted, powerful, and robust enough to snare and sustain the most serious and novel-leery of readers. It is a gift and a gauntlet thrown. —Donna Seaman


AsGoodasFirstTimeFor the person on your list who loves Hallmark movies and only pretends to do so ironically

As Good as the First Time, by K. M. Jackson

Does this sound familiar?: woman leaves a high-pressure and highly disappointing big-city life because Reasons and returns to the small town where she was Happy but also Heartbroken, and the Hunk who broke her aforementioned Heart is still there, and also he has a cute but troubled child. That’s every Hallmark movie ever, and that’s this book! (NO SHADE to either—this suggestion comes from a place of very much love.) Bonus: a bakery is involved, and Jackson includes RECIPES. —Susan Maguire






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