Holiday Gift Guide 2022: Books Edition
Our resident bookworm picks the best reads for every book lover on your list...with plenty of ideas for your own TBR pile as well
Years ago, I started a Christmas gifting tradition with my family that included “Something You Want,” “Something You Need,” “Something to Eat,” and “Something to Read.” As a bookworm since birth, it’s that last category that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Over the years, the “Reads” have run the gamut from collector’s editions of magazines (think Rolling Stone to feed my Springsteen obsession) to a book on crafting cocktails for my son-in-law (our resident mixologist) to the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Puzzle Book that I gave as (somewhat of) a joke gift to my husband last year (the child in him remains a fan of the man in the cardigan sweater).
Gifting books is a thoughtful act that shows the recipient you were listening when they mentioned a particular passion project or hobby that they have or would like to pursue, or a favorite author or genre that resonates with them. With books becoming increasingly popular when used as décor (think bookshelves with titles arranged by color), there are boundless options to please both literary and aesthetic palates. As the masterful storyteller Stephen King said, “Books are uniquely portable magic.”
On that note, here are some book suggestions that will hopefully bring a little bit of magic to those on your holiday gift list this year.
For the one who’s silently correcting your grammar, get Rebel with a Clause: Tales and Tips from a Roving Grammarian by Ellen Jovin (Mariner Books, $26.99). Word nerds, unite! Jovin — famous for setting up a “Grammar Table” in Manhattan in 2018 to field grammar questions (and complaints) — treats readers to an unconventional guide to the English language based on her cross-country travels. (As of the book’s publication, Grammar Table has been to 47 states.) Jovin leaves no syntactical stone unturned, including discussion of the Oxford comma, the great “who/whom” debate, and the ever-popular Boomer question: “Is it still two spaces after a period??”
For the one Who’ll Be There for You, get Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry (Flatiron Books, $26.99). Known to many as Chandler Bing, Perry tells all in what People magazine calls a “heartbreakingly beautiful memoir.” Perry, who apparently was the last actor to be cast before the hit series Friends premiered back in ’94, covers his highs, his lows, and everything in between. He gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at his time on the sitcom and takes them along on his harrowing journey with addiction — including detoxing more than 65 times and coming close to death from Vicodin abuse — and how it affected his work, his life, and his health. While the road Perry traveled is no picnic, readers will see that his story is an unforgettable one about persistence, peace, and hope.
For the one whose green thumb needs a bit of encouragement, get How to Raise a Plant and Make it Love You Back by Morgan Doane and Erin Harding (Laurence King Publishing, $11.40). I give Doane and Harding full credit for the fact that my succulents are still thriving. The authors — who began detailing their “daily plant musings” on Instagram — formed an online friendship and have created a virtual community called House Plant Club. In this beautifully illustrated book, they offer tips for plant shopping, repotting, and selecting the right tools and materials. (They even make “plant propagation” a no-brainer.) DIY project instructions for “happy houseplants” and tips for pretty plant displays round out this book that will make even those with the blackest of thumbs (like me!) rejoice.
…and for the one who enjoys self-care as much as plant care, get Growing Joy: The Plant Lover’s Guide to Cultivating Happiness (and Plants) by Maria Failla, illustrated by Samantha Leung (St. Martin’s Essentials, $21.99). Failla, whose website states that she’s “spreading kindness and joy through singing and plants,” touts her book as “70% self-care, 20% plant care, and 10% stories. Failla, who also hosts the podcast Bloom and Grow, shows readers how to “deepen their engagement” with both indoor and outdoor plants and discusses how plants have been the answer to her search for joy, writing, “When I learned to care for plants, I learned to care for myself.” Failla’s book aims to prove that no matter your experience level, a “plant-focused routine” can help anyone grow more joy. Yes, please!
For fans of fiction, get The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99). A grandmother and granddaughter with a knack for identifying soulmates in unexpected places? Count me in! With a dual-timeline story alternating between the perspectives of two women from two different eras (a 1920s matchmaker on New York City’s Lower East Side and her divorce attorney granddaughter in 1990s Manhattan), Loigman’s third book includes colorful characters, relatable struggles, and a touch of humor. Loigman — author of the book club favorites The Wartime Sisters and The Two-Family House — has a knack herself: for rich storytelling. (She’s also accessible to her fan base on social, which rates her an A+ in my book!)
Or The Next Thing You Know by Jessica Strawser (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99). Strawser, the editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest, is the author of four previous novels, which she describes as “at the intersection of women’s fiction and suspense.” A People magazine “Best New Novels” pick, The Next Thing You Know brings together an end-of-life doula and a musician who recently vanished from the public eye. Called a Me Before You meets A Star is Born, Strawser’s latest story is one of love when you least expect it, surviving loss, and the power of human connection.
For the music buff, get Revolution: The History of Turntable Design by Gideon Schwartz (Phaidon, $89.95). In this robust work, Schwartz explores the design and cultural impact of the turntable, known as the chief component of the “vinyl revival.” Touted by its publisher as “an essential book for audiophiles, collectors, and design fans,” Revolution offers the reader a fascinating history of turntables and vinyl technology from the 1950s to today and reminds us that the dawn of ‘70s DJ culture would not have existed if not for what many of us grew up calling “the record player.” A must for any vinyl collector.
For the home cook who knows that gauc is extra, get The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte (Phaidon, $54.95). With stunning food photography and nearly 400 recipes, the cookbook focuses on varied, plant-based dishes and includes chapters on Breads, Drinks, “Basics” (Salsas, Moles, and Adobos), and more. Each recipe even lists the region from which it hails. Arronte — who has organized dinners for the likes of Barack Obama and Harrison Ford — offers naturally vegan and dairy- and gluten-free dishes sure to please even the pickiest of palates at your table this season (or any time of year).
For those who love New York, get Walk With Me New York (Abrams Image, $24.99), which shows readers the Big Apple in all its charm via a walking tour as seen through the lens of photographer Susan Kaufman. A resident of Greenwich Village (she splits her time between there and Amagansett, on Long Island), Kaufman began posting pics on Instagram using what she calls her “serious” Nikon camera. After followers commented that they wished they could walk New York with her, she was inspired to create this collection, which includes maps highlighting her favorite streets. As an added bonus, Kaufman treats readers to the location of each image so that they, too, can discover all of the city’s hidden gems.
And for the Little Ones on Your List:
You’re My Little Bookworm, written by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Natalie Marshall (Silver Dolphin Books, $8.99). A personal favorite for snuggling up with my granddaughter, this rhyming board book declares that with “adventures bold, new worlds unfold,” and “You’re my sharpest crayon, you make the dark skies light.” Featuring a bespectacled inchworm surrounded by books on the cover, you and your little one will be delighted with this one from the get-go. Babies to 2 years
The Feel-Good Alphabet Book, written by Lisa Calhoun Owen, illustrated by Jordan Wray (Warren Publishing, $17.95). I had the pleasure of meeting Calhoun at the Sunset Market in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, earlier this year, and she was more than happy to tell me how this book came about: Calhoun’s mother was a retired kindergarten teacher when diagnosed with dementia. Calhoun came up with an alphabet game to brighten her days, asking her questions like, “If you were an ‘A,’ how would you feel?” (“Amazing!”) This sweet tribute introduces children to words not heard every day, like “valiant” and “magnificent,” and includes diverse, colorful images. Ages 3-6
It’s Christmas Everywhere, written by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by João Fazenda (Phaidon $19.95). This introductory guide to how Christmas is celebrated in cultures across the globe includes rhyming verse and vibrant illustrations, inviting young readers to experience new and old Christmas traditions. When opened and folded back, the book transforms into a 3D freestanding Christmas tree. Ages 2-5
The 7 Days: A Classic Nursery Rhyme Made New, written by Deborah Burns, illustrated by Cydney Bittner (Velvet Hammer Press, $24.95). Inspired by the classic 19th-century nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child,” Burns’ book offers a culturally diverse reboot, noting on the book’s cover that “Every child in the world is born on one of seven days — what does your day say about you?” As readers of the original rhyme may recall, “Wednesday’s Child” was “full of woe,” however in Burns’ retelling, the child is now “worldly and wise.” With amazingly beautiful watercolor illustrations and a special keepsake section in the back to document a child’s first three years, 7 Days will no doubt please young and old readers alike. Babies to 5 years
The “Good Night” series (Good Night Books, $9.95). This collection of board books was designed and developed to “celebrate special places and themes in a way that young children can easily relate to and enjoy with their families.” With titles such as Good Night, Jersey Shore, Good Night Yoga, and Good Night Sharks (as well as bilingual titles), these books make it easy-peasy to find a title to share with your little one that represents a place, activity, or interest near and dear to their — and your — hearts. Babies to 5 years
Happy Holidays — and Happy Reading!