Books are the best present

Books are, without exception or doubt, my go-to present.  The holidays are hurtling towards us, and as I do every year, I’m starting to amass gifts for the people in my life.  Last year I shared the books I was planning to give to various people in my life and I loved hearing your suggestions back.  Some of my go-to books are perennial and don’t vary year to year.  For example, when I have a small child to give a book to, I’m likely to choose Miss Rumphius, Roxaboxen, Space Boy, and the others in the small-child category from last year’s post.  Equally, I often give Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, Volume One or the work of Katrina Kenison (especially The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir) and Dani Shapiro (especially Devotion: A Memoir) to adults.

But on my list each year are also recent finds, either by me or by my children.  So, here are a few books we will be giving this year.  I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

For children (mostly older, though it’s worth noting that my kids, 9 and 12, still like picture books):

Rosie Revere, Engineer (Andrea Beaty) – Both Grace and Whit love this funny, inspiring tale of young Rosie and her unquenchable desire to invent things.  She’s briefly daunted by negative feedback but bounces back with positive input from a mentor.  I love this book and recommend it to children young and old of both genders.

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun (Joshua Glenn) – To call Whit obsessed with this book is a ridiculous understatement.  We’ve been giving this as a present to any and all birthday parties all fall, and this year many boys close to our family will receive it under the tree.  The highlight of Whit’s fall, perhaps, was meeting Joshua Glenn in person.  The follow up book, UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone, is also excellent.

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World (Cynthia Chin-Lee) – This book tells the story of 26 women whose lives and work impacted history.  The illustrations are a beautiful mixture of collage and drawing.  I’m always a fan of books that showcase the often under-reported achievements of women and I think Amelia to Zora does so in an approachable, entertaining way.

The Secret Series Complete Collection (Pseudonymous Bosch) – Whit has devoured this entire series with an enthusiasm I’ve not often seen.  A great gift for an elementary-school aged boy (or girl) who is looking for a world to dive into.

Grace for President (Kelly DiPucchio) – I wish the protagonist in this book wasn’t named Grace, since my adoration of the book (which my children share) has nothing to do with her name.  I cry every single time I read it.  Every. Single. Time.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) (Malala Yousafzai) – Grace loved this book and, having read it, was incredibly excited by and invested in Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize win.  Interesting and inspiring non-fiction for tween girls.

For adults:

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life (Erin Gates) – This book would make a beautiful hostess gift and would please any design-minded woman on your list.  In addition, Erin’s voice is both hilarious and deeply honest and compelling.  I wrote a more complete review of my most-anticipated book of 2014 at Great New Books.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace (Anne Lamott) – I love every book of Anne Lamott’s I’ve ever read, and her newest is no exception.  Lamott manages to make me feel like she’s speaking directly to me, and as though she has access to the innermost reaches of my heart and mind.  I loved this book.

Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table (Jenny Rosenstrach) – This book isn’t new (though the companion volume, also wonderful, Dinner: The Playbook, is) but I love it and plan to give it often.  Jenny’s recipes are easy and delicious and more than anything, her philosophy is one I embrace.  I believe in family dinner and we do it whenever we can (though that’s certainly not every night, and I do think that the outsize pressure to have family dinner every night can be punitive to mothers).

It’s been a year of fantastic novels!  If you have a novel-lover on your list, I recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (reviewed here), Euphoria by Lily King (mentioned very briefly here), Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (reviewed here), and Lila by Marilynne Robinson (reviewed here).

What books are you giving this holiday season?

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20 thoughts on “Books are the best present”

  1. I’m anxious to get Small Victories for myself! I often give Bread & Wine (Shauna Niequist), or any of Katrina’s books. I’m pondering what book to give Dan this year – we’re gifting each other a book, a bottle, and something under $20 bucks. 🙂

  2. I love reading and always have so its always hard for me that I have two dyslexic kids that don’t enjoy reading. My son had to read The Circuit for school and devoured it. It is a series of stories that weave into a full story about a migrant family working farms. He was fascinated with this family and very aware of migrant families and their issues and now with the immigration announcement this week, there is much discussion about it. He is a sports guy and slapstick humor movie guy, so I was very surprised by how much this book touched him.

  3. Am loving this list, especially for children. Have started to give books for birthday presents this year (The Boxcar Children, Pippi Longstocking and Ramona Quimby, Age 8) for the second grade/8 yo girl set and both the girls and their parents seem to have loved them. So happy to have more recs for as my children get older and also for the boys.
    I use DALS and Playbook almost every night … 🙂

  4. What a great list! I agree with many of these, and I’m adding some of yours to my list. Just last night, I wrapped 25 books, all for gifts to my extended family. I love that they’re easy to wrap! And, though not everyone probably wants a book, I love to give them. I can’t wait to read Euphoria and Lamott’s newest. Thank you, Lindsey!

  5. Love your list. Thank you for sharing. I will be giving Dani Shapiro’s Devotion and Still Writing. I also love Ann Patchett’s, This is the story of a Happy Marriage .

  6. Such a great list as always! I too love giving books as you can imagine. I added a few of your children’s selections to my list to give to the girls during our !2 Days of Christmas this year…I give a book for each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas- they seem to be appreciated more this way than under the tree 🙂

  7. Such a great reading age, that 2nd grade/8 year old group. And love that we’re both cooking Jenny’s recipes …

  8. Abra loves Rosie Revere (especially because her dad is a computer engineer — or, as she described his job when she was two, “Papa presses the buttons.”). I just finished Station Eleven and really loved it (and anything by Anthony Doerr). This year I’m giving John Williams’ “Stoner,” which is an old book. Have you read it? You would LOVE it, I am positive. I picked it up because I randomly heard Steve Almond interviewed on NPR, and he said this was his all-time favorite book. The prose is so sparse, the story about an very ordinary-extraordinary life, and so deeply affecting.

  9. Books are the best. My favourite. I hope I get some awesome ones this year! Like The Goldfinch. . I REALLY want that book, but won’t buy it for myself (if anyone can just slip that info to my mom, that’d be great… we’re not allowed doing lists :-S).

    I am going to give some good ones!

    I don’t do gifts with many people… but my friend just had her first book come out through a kickstarter campaign and I just bought Christmas bundles of her book and her EP to give to my besties… her stories are just so amazing and it is too good NOT to give! (Jenny Simmons, the Road to Becoming, in case anyone wanted to know!)

    I am also giving “the Fault in our Stars” to at least one person. Because it is amazing. It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. That and “the Still Point of the Turning World” by Emily Rapp are definitely top two.

    I usually get my sister a book with some kind of a sister theme (suggestions welcome, if anyone knows of any, for this year)…

    I give my littles (nieces, nephews, etc) books as well… I might do Fablehaven for the big-littles… or some dystopic fiction series, since that seems to be where they are at with their reading (girls, 12 and 13) and I already bought a Frozen sing along CD led storybook for the little-little and another giant Dr. Seuss book. Dr Seuss for the littlest little.

  10. Couldn’t agree more about books being the best presents! I only wish I got more of them as presents myself! Can’t wait to read Anne Lamott’s latest, and I’ll be coming back to this list for the kids I’m buying for this year.

  11. What a great post! I’ve put some of your children’s suggestions on the Christmas list for their grandparents!

    Oh, I cried and laughed equally hard reading “Wonder” — loved it.

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