The holidays are basically here, and you’ve only got a few days to find the perfect last-minute gifts for the book lover in your life. The clock is ticking, and there’s a limited time left to get that holiday shopping done. What do you do? Well, you can’t go wrong with the books on this list, all award winners and all guaranteed to please even the pickiest book aficionados. Whether the book lovers on your holiday shopping list prefer fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, or young adult (or anything else in between), there’s a book here that will make the perfect last minute gift.
The American identity has long been associated with individualism and, more notably, exceptionalism. And the American Dream has long promised that hard work and determination will lead you to a life of freedom and prosperity. The past decades, however, have put America's identity and ideology into question. Stakes is High is a series of essays that examines American mythology and how we can move past it to look at a better future for the country.
by Ayad Akhtar
Ayad Akhtar's novel Honeland Elegies is remarkable in the way that it blends fact and fiction to create a story that is both a social commentary and a family drama. The main character and the author of this novel share a name, which—along with the writing style—makes this book read like a memoir. But at its heart, this is the story of a family and what it really means to be an American post-911.
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender is the first book in a brand new young adult series. This first novel introduces readers to Sigourney Rose, an ambitious young woman who has the power to read and control minds. When Sigourney was a child, her family was murdered by colonizers who took over the island she calls home and enslaved her people. Now, she's ready to exact her revenge.
How to Pronounce Knife is the debut short story collection from poet Souvankham Thammavongsa. The author focuses primarily on the lives of Laos immigrants and their children. But more generally speaking, every story in this collection features characters who are trying to find meaning in their lives and a place for themselves in a world where they otherwise feel out of place.
If that book lover on your holiday shopping list loves a good book about loving books (and who doesn't?), then gift them The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. In a strange and sprawling old mansion filled with even stranger treasures, January Scaller falls upon the greatest treasure of all: a book. But this isn't just any book. Within the pages of this book are other worlds, tales of secret doors, and eye-opening truths about the world that will change January's life forever.
In search of a gift for that person who's always wanting to find their next favorite thriller? They'll love The Chain by Adrian McKinty. When Rachel Klein first drops her daughter at the bus stop, she thinks it's going to be a completely normal day. But then she gets a phone call. Rachel's daughter has been kidnapped, and the only way they'll release her is if Rachel pays a ransom and then kidnaps someone else to take her daughter's place. And so Rachel becomes the next link in a chain that turns victims into criminals. And kidnapping is only the beginning.
When Life Gives You Pears is the best-selling memoir from writer, director, wife, and mother Jeannie Gaffigan. The "pear" in the title refers to the pear-sized brain tumor that was threatening her life. And yet in spite of finding herself at a point where she truly thought she was going to die, Gaffigan’s family was there for her. With their help, she persevered and came out the other side ready to share her challenging story with others.
The Less People Know About Us is a fascinating true crime memoir in which Axton Betz-Hamilton examines a life of paranoia and fear as she and her family tried to escape an identity thief that followed them everywhere. Convinced the thief had to be someone they knew, the Axton family cut themselves off from the entire world, including friends and family. Axton grapples with her own feelings of anxiety and the ways she dealt with a family torn apart by someone so close to them.
by Joe Wilkins
In Fall Back Down When I Die, our protagonist Wendell Newman is a young ranch hand who has recently lost his mother and is now orphaned. He has less than a hundred dollars to his name, and his parents have left him their debt. Enter seven-year-old Rowdy Burns, the illegitimate son of Wendell's cousin, who has experienced more than his fair share of trauma for someone so young. As a result, Rowdy is mute and shows signs of violent aggression. But Wendell takes the young boy in and learns to love him as if Rowdy were his own son.
by Leah Price
In a time where it seems like readers aren’t willing to focus on any text that's much longer than a tweet, what does this mean for the future of books? Well, maybe nothing. In What We Talk About When We Talk About Books, author Leah Price argues that maybe readers have always been like this. Looking at the history of books, Price points out that this often mythologized “golden age” of reading might be just that: a myth.
For the book lover on your holiday shopping list who loves environmental nonfiction, make sure they don’t miss Inconspicuous Consumption by former New York Times science writer Tatiana Schlossberg. This book examines climate change, but more importantly it offers a call to action that readers can put into effect right away just by making simple but impactful changes to their everyday lives.
by Mo Moulton
The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen is a heartfelt coming-of-age story set in the 1950s. Theresa "Tessie" Finley is the President of the Mutual Admiration Society, a society dedicated to stopping crime and, sure, the occasional blackmail. Tessie, her younger sister Birdie, and their partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield will solve mysteries all while dodging the gossips in their blue collar neighborhood and, oh yeah, avoiding getting kidnapped by a murderer.
by Josh Levin
The Queen is a stunning true crime novel that explores issues of race and class in America all while telling the fascinating story of Linda Taylor, a woman who rose to infamy in the 1970s and became known as “the welfare queen.” Taylor cheated the welfare system for years, but on top of that she was a kidnapper and possibly a murderer. And yet all the media seemed to focus on was the cases of welfare fraud, using Taylor’s story as a way to demonize poor black women. This book gets behind the myth of Taylor to look at who she was, what she did, and what has been done in her name.
by Erika Lee
America is meant to be a nation that welcomes immigrants, and yet xenophobia remains a constant problem in the United States. In historian Erika Lee’s America for Americans, the author looks at the history of xenophobia in this country to explain how it works, why it endures, and the devastating impact it has on America.
Whether or not you’ve read Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, you should pick up a copy of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You for yourself and everyone else on your holiday shopping list. This young adult nonfiction book, written by Kendi and Jason Reynolds, traces the history of racism and the narratives that have been used to justify slavery and the mistreatment of Black people in America. Yes, this book is heavily based on the research and work Kendi presented in Stamped from the Beginning, but with the help of co-author Reynolds, the young adult version has a fresh new voice that’s accessible, educational, and entertaining.
Here’s another great book to add to your holiday shopping list that’s part-memoir and part-true crime. Notes on a Silencing is Lacy Crawford's story of struggle to regain her sense of self after her traumatic experiences at a New England boarding school. When St. Paul's School was recently in the news for reports of sexual abuse on campus, Crawford is forced to relive her own experiences with abuse. When she was 15, the powerful and influential people at the boarding school had convinced her to remain silent about her abuse. But now that the investigation is uncovering years of institutional silencing to cover up cases just like hers, Crawford is forced to reexamine the magnitude of what happened to her.