Holiday Gift Guide 2023: Read, Relax, Repeat… 10 Must-Have Books
Family drama page-turners, mouthwatering Shabbat menus, and an inside look at Babs’ personal life... this list is as eclectic as it comes
Gift giving is my love language, and one of the fabulous things about gifting books is that there is something for everyone. Each lovingly wrapped package holds the potential to transport its recipient to new worlds and ignite the imagination. How many gifts can claim that? There are titles for every hobby, topic, beloved icon, and genre. Pro tip: Play author and inscribe the inside cover with a personalized message, sign, and date. It’s the perfect way to memorialize your gift.
My Name Is Barbra ($47, by Barbra Streisand)
Babs’ 992-page memoir is out just in time for readers to settle-in with on those long winter nights! She has put pen to paper, and the result is My Name Is Barbra (album of the same name). I have been obsessed with Barbra ever since I can remember; her amazing voice filled my childhood home and through the years I have watched her movies, purchased her albums, and read about her family life. In 2012 I attended one of her incredible concerts with my daughter. This highly anticipated and long-awaited memoir includes stories about her early life (her father died when she was just 15 months old, she had an unsupportive and self-absorbed mother), her early years on Broadway, actors she enjoyed working with (and those she didn’t), and details about her many relationships and flirtations. Now that the memoir is out, Streisand says she no longer needs to give interviews. As is fitting, Barbra has the last word.
The Flowers of Provence ($25, by Jamie Beck)
Flowers and Provence… I’d say that’s a winning combination right there. Sure to please everyone on your list, this is a book to pick up for yourself as well. With its stunning photography and gorgeous storytelling, fans of The New York Times bestselling author’s first book, An American in Provence, will be glad to have this new book to add to their collection. I love following Beck’s Instagram account for lifestyle inspiration and gorgeous photography. Most of the spectacular photos in this book have not been shared online, so for fans and everyone, it’s all new! (Also, if you want to learn more about the author, we have her reinvention story right here on Covey!)
Little Monsters ($28, by Adrienne Brodeur)
This debut novel from Adrienne Brodeur is dazzling family drama at its finest. Brodeur’s first book and memoir, Wild Game, was one of my favorites, so to say Little Monsters was highly anticipated is an understatement. There is nothing like long-buried secrets, complicated family relationships, and an idyllic setting, and this book has it all. This unputdownable novel will keep you turning the pages way into the night.
Thicker Than Water ($30, by Kerry Washington)
The title hints at what lies beneath the surface of this award-winning actor, director, producer, and activist’s life. Washington is out driving on an ordinary day when she receives information that will send her on a journey of self-discovery. In her beautiful voice, Washington tells the story of a Black girl from the Bronx making her way in white Hollywood while feeling as if she didn’t belong in her own family. The truths she uncovers might explain a few things. Giving the reader intimate views into her worlds and sharing how she managed to subvert childhood traumas and triumph in her career can be liberating and daunting. Written with grace and compassion, this memoir invites the reader to dig deeper as well.
Hotel Kitsch: A Pretty Cool Tour of America’s Fantasy Getaways
($35, by Margaret Bienert and Corey Bienert)
Margaret and Corey Bienert are the couple behind A Pretty Cool Hotel Tour, a viral travel series exploring themed rooms and adults-only hotels in the US and abroad. Where to first? And where to begin with this whimsical must-have book? We have a bevy of riches right here in the US, and what better way to see what’s in our own backyard than by traveling from one kitschy hotel to the next. It just might inspire travel or at the very least be a fun conversation starter at your holiday dinner parties. Hotel Kitsch profiles industry greats Morris Wilkins, inventor of the heart-shaped tub and the champagne whirlpool; Carleton Varney of the legendary design firm Dorothy Draper & Company; and car-designer-turned-hotelier Gary Strobusch and his manufacturing company Rainbow Nights Inc. Think Schitt’s Creek with the chic!
Bountiful Cooking ($30, by Agatha Achindu)
This captivating cookbook is dedicated to Achindu’s family, with unique inscriptions for each member. I have gotten to know Agatha a bit from her can’t-miss Instagram videos, which makes me feel even more connected to her stories and the food she prepares and shares. The introduction includes her story, which begins on her mother’s farm in Cameroon in West Africa. This cookbook includes clever and helpful meal prep tips as well as tempting recipes for Carrot and Zucchini Muffins, Warm Crunchy Coleslaw with Leeks and Carrots, and Plantain Tapé. I love that along with her cookbook categories (Snacks and Treats, Breakfast, Sides, etc.), the main dishes are further categorized by meat, seafood, and vegetarian (we vegetarians especially appreciate that).
Ana Turns ($18, by Lisa Gornick)
This novel is up next on my TBR list. Lisa’s previous book, The Peacock Feast, was such a treat — to find out a new novel was on its way was just what I needed to hear this holiday season. The novel is set over the 24 hours of Ana’s 60th birthday. Having recently celebrated my own, I am particularly drawn to the storyline and the cast of characters I can’t wait to meet. Weaving in her skill as a formerly practicing psychotherapist, Gornick astonishes with her richly drawn and complicated characters. If there’s anyone out there thinking of what to get me for the holidays, this book is it.
The Lioness of Boston ($29, by Emily Franklin)
Historical fiction at its finest, this book will entice the reader to learn more about the woman behind the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (yes, that one, of the big heist in 1990 where the empty frames remain). One of the tidbits I learned is that Gardner bequeathed the museum to the city of Boston as a public institution. There was one condition, however: the collection had to be maintained precisely as Gardner had arranged it — nothing could be added, removed, or rearranged. I so admire that sense of control. Fun fact: Entrance to the museum is free on your birthday.
Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals From My Table To Yours ($35, by Adeena Sussman)
Dedicated to Sussman’s mother, Steffi Sussman, “my first and forever Shabbat Queen,” this book is all about celebrating Shabbat: the cooking, setting aside time, being with family — it’s passed down from generation to generation. The introduction begins with a Friday morning in Tel Aviv and “my Shabbat kitchen is beginning to hum.” This gorgeous book includes mouth-watering photographs, sample menus, and everything from challahs to Sabbath stews to desserts. I can’t wait to try the Roasted Kohlrabi Cherry Tomato & Feta Salad, Caramel Apple Noodle Kugel Ring, and Jewel-Topped Chocolate Barks. Whether or not you celebrate Shabbat, I think we can all get behind the idea of setting aside time to unplug, be with the people who are important to us, and break bread (or challah, as the case may be).
Unreliable Narrator: Me, Myself, and Imposter Syndrome ($28, by Aparna Nancherla)
The notion of the unreliable narrator comes up often in book club discussions. It’s a literary device where the person telling the story cannot be trusted for one of several reasons. In Nancherla’s collection of essays, she explores this notion in a clever and relatable way using her signature humor — which has been showcased on Netflix, Comedy Central, and more. She’s also a successful actor who has shared publicly about her struggles with depression and anxiety. Despite all of her success, Nancherla thinks of herself as a total fraud. Or is that part of the act? One thing is for sure, with this self-doubt comes laser-focused introspection that’s served up with a healthy helping of laughs.
Robin Kall is a literary influencer who over the past two decades has built a devoted and passionate following. In addition to her radio talk show, Robin has hosted countless “can’t miss” author events including “Summer With Robin” and “Evening With Authors.” She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and their corgi, Benny. Follow Robin on X @robinkall, Instagram, or Facebook