I think books are the best present, always! Here are some of the books I’m wrapping for those on my list this year. I’d love to hear what books you’ll be giving for this year’s holidays.
Novels and memoirs:
Moments of Seeing: Reflections from an Ordinary Life, Katrina Kenison – This book glows with wisdom and glimmers with the traces of magic that can be found in our regular existence. These essays make me feel grateful, and aware, and less alone in the world. I look forward to sharing that with others.
Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood’s Messy Years, Catherine Newman. Newman, one of my favorite writers, captures the particular blend of startling heartbreak and riotous joy that animates every day of motherhood (for me, at least). This book made me laugh and made me cry many times. I have given this already a lot and have no plans to stop.
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead. This novel lives up to every superlative that’s been heaped on it. Powerful, riveting, essential, Cora’s story has stayed with me in a visceral way since I finished it.
Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift – such a glorious book, small, written with lapidary beauty. About how our lives can radiate forward from a single moment, about secrets and identity and being a writer.
Sweetbitter – I reviewed Stephanie Danler’s beautiful first novel for Great New Books, and I think often of its atmospheric, sense-soaked rendering of early adult life in New York.
The Atomic Weight of Love, Elizabeth Church – I loved this story of a woman’s growing into her own identity, strength, and wisdom, set against the landscape of New Mexico and with the backdrop of science, birds, and nature.
Picture books, cookbooks, and other:
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, Randall Munroe – This has been one of my favorite books to give to kids and adults alike for a while now. It’s funny, thought-provoking, and beautiful.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, Randall Munroe -Makes a great pair with the Thing Explainer. Whit reads this book almost every night. He’s fascinated by the questions that Randall asks and by the clarity, borne of deep knowledge and intelligence, with which he answers them.
How to Celebrate Everything: Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between, Jenny Rosenstrach – This is the third of Jenny’s books that I pre-ordered and eagerly read and its’ by far my favorite. The recipes are wonderful, but most of all I adore the philosophy that Jenny describes. Ordinary life is full of occasions for celebration, and cooking is a great way to do that. We’re not strangers to the random, just-because Tuesday night cake around here.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, Rachel Ignotofsky – I love the visual element of this book, which features a drawing of a female scientist or engineer on one page and the story of her life on the facing one. Both Grace and Whit were riveted by the book and learned all kinds of new facts. I will be giving this to science-loving children I know of both genders.
I Wonder, Annaka Harris and John Rowe – I was moved to buy this book for the small children in my life based on Daniel Goleman’s blurb: “I Wonder offers crucial lessons in emotional intelligence, starting with being secure in the face of uncertainty….” I have since read it and agree with his enthusiastic support of the book.