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As I’ve gotten older, it’s become increasingly more difficult to thoughtfully select presents for all 50+ on my shopping list, especially distant relatives, coworkers, and obligatory acquaintances. Gift cards look lazy, wine assumes that the recipient drinks, and sweets aren’t appreciated when gyms have shortened hours and cakes and pies are already running rampant around the kitchen (ie. the holidays). For these very reasons, books have become my go-to gift for both genuine book worms and home dwellers with coffee tables in need of literary decoration, which essentially covers all the adults I know. Everyone’s reading preferences are different, so I’ve broken down this list of the best books to give as gifts into the following categories: books for anyone, books for the fashionista, books for the entertainer, books for the interior designer, books for the creative, books for the wanderluster, books for the comedian, and books for the mindful.
These books are just too great to not recommend. They don’t necessarily fall into any specific category, but they’re all worth a read.
You’re Saying It Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words–and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras
You’re Saying It Wrong is perfect for anyone with a love for the English language and an aversion to sticky linguistic situations. With wit and good humor, this handy little book of 150 of the most commonly mispronounced words serves as a valuable English resource and an opportunity for fun cocktail party chatter.
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be is a handbook of how to succeed in the world and possibly the world’s best bathroom book. Amazon calls it a “pocket ‘bible’ for the talented and timid to make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible.”
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Our neighbor recommended this to Kyle, and ever since, I’ve seen it pop up on every Must Read list online. When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming memoir about the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from an internationally praised writer who became both and eventually died while finishing this book.
The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad is the kind of tear-jerker they (and you) won’t want to put down, written by #1 New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist Colson Whitehead. The novel, which chronicles a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South, was recently chosen as a 2016 Oprah’s Book Club Selection.
F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson
F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers made the list of the best books to give as gifts because it’s downright hilarious– so hilarious, in fact, that Benson has come out with at least five editions since his first. It doesn’t matter if you’re gifting it to a college student or a senior citizen.. the stuff in this hilarious coffee table book will make you laugh out loud over and over again.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
What If? is great for any of those analytical engineers or scientists on your list. If anyone you know is curious about the possibility of successfully building a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns, they can (fortunately) turn to Randall Munroe for the answer.
Speaking for myself, any of the girly girls, trend setters, and/or aspiring fashion designers on your shipping list would love to receive any of these photographically stunning books.
Vanity Fair 100 Years: From the Jazz Age to Our Age by Graydon Carter
The title of Vanity Fair 100 Years: From the Jazz Age to Our Age says it all. A reviewer from the New York Times said, “The best photographers, the best designers, the best illustrators all came together over Vanity Fair’s contents, and the book unfolds in page after page of stunningly rendered images, some iconic and some that never even ran.”
Chanel: Fashion/ Fine Jewelry/ Perfume (Set of 3 Books) by Francois Baudot
Yes, this is the same Chanel collection you see on virtually every fashion blogger’s Instagram, including mine. As an undeniably elegant addition to a fashionista’s decorative bookshelf, this slipcase set includes three primarily black and white memoir volumes celebrating Mademoiselle’s revolutionary style: Chanel Fashion, Chanel Jewelry, and Chanel Perfume.
Dior Couture by Ingrid Sischy
Dior Couture comprises a portfolio of portraits of over one hundred incredible gowns from the entire era of Christian Dior haute couture, including dresses designed by Dior himself, with photography by Patrick Demarchelier, known for his exquisite fashion portraits which have graced the pages of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and many other magazines.
It by Alexa Chung
This full-color compilation of personal writings, drawings, and photographs is a must-have for anyone who loves fashion, entertainment, and just about every other aspect of Alexa Chung’s life. It covers everything from her candid thoughts on life, love, and music to her favorite trends and how to decide what to wear in the morning.
This is the book to buy for anyone interested in the raw history of the evolution of fashion. From the early draped fabrics of ancient times to the catwalk couture of today, Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style is a stunning guide to more than three thousand years of shifting trends and innovative developments in the world of clothing.
Fifty Dresses that Changed the World by Design Museum
For anyone fashionista with a prominent interest in vintage couture, Fifty Dresses that Changed the World shares fascinating appraisals of what gave the 50 most important garments their iconic status. Filled with pages of beautiful clothes and even more beautiful style icons, including Audrey Hepburn, Wallis Simpson, Jackie Kennedy, Twiggy, Cher, and Princess Di, this book would make a fabulous gift for fashion lovers of any generation.
Here are six of my favorite books to give as gifts to any of those compulsive party planners you know:
Kate Spade New York: All in Good Taste by Kate Spade New York
This charming guide to entertaining is a pretty as it is useful– and not just for devoted Kate Spade New York fans. All in Good Taste covers the essential lost arts, like how to shuck an oyster, curate a vibrant guest list, guide a dinner-table discussion—right alongside modern millennial conundrums, such as Instagram etiquette at dinner. For Kate Spade enthusiasts, tack on Kate Spade New York: Things We Love.
Palm Beach Chic by Jennifer Ash Rudick
For any of the Lilly Pulitzer lovers on your list, Palm Beach Chic would make a perfect gift for anyone who may have a burning curiosity about the culture and interiors of jaw-dropping Palm Beach homes. It’s a bit more informative than Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining, which is also an undeniably fitting coffee table book for all the preps in your life.
Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails by Eric Prum
Cocktail books are always useful. Even if the giftee doesn’t drink, the art of cocktail mixology is a necessary skill for any aspiring host or hostess. Each recipe is presented visually, in four color photos, as well as in written recipes, making Shake both an arresting gift and a practical guidebook to simple, elegant cocktails for both men and women.
The New Cocktail Hour: The Essential Guide to Hand-Crafted Drinks by André Darlington
Again, one can never have too many cocktail recipes, especially when one key focus is substituting sugar with healthier quality ingredients. The New Cocktail Hour shows you how to mix incredible craft cocktails from every era, reimagined for a contemporary palate, and gives you a complete history of classic recipes and spirits.
Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes by Cortney Burns
Every cocktail book needs a culinary companion. In case you aren’t familiar, Bar Tartine is an extremely popular San Francisco Mission District eatery and a national favorite for locals, travelers, critics, and fellow chefs. This cookbook draws on time-honored processes, such as fermentation, curing, and pickling, with a focus on cuisines of Central Europe, Japan, and Scandinavia to deliver a range of dishes from soups and salads to shared plates and, of course, sweets.
The Art of Entertaining Relais & Châteaux: Menus, Flowers, Table Settings, and More for Memorable Celebrations by
This is the stunning coffee table book for just about anyone who enjoys throwing or attending lavish parties. The Art of Entertaining presents seventeen seasonal parties, both intimate and grand, held at a variety of Relais & Châteaux venues with food and cocktail recipes, entertaining tricks, sample menus, flower arrangements, table settings, and more.
Food & Beer by Daniel Burns & Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø
Food & Beer is perfect for both beer and brewing enthusiasts, as well as serious chefs, culinary students, and overall foodies. It features 60 recipes and in-depth descriptions of the nature, taste, flavor, and proper food pairings of the different kinds of beers brewed today globally.
Similarly to fashion and entertaining books, vibrant interior design volumes can be just as informational to those interested in home decor as they are aesthetically pleasing. Here are six books to give as gifts to anyone with a special affinity for interior design, architecture, or home decor:
Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life by Erin Gates
From the rising-star designer and blogger Erin Gates, Elements of Style is a unique and practical full-color decorating guide that shows how designing a home can be an outlet of personal expression and an exercise in self-discovery. Drawing on her ten years of experience in the interior design industry, Erin combines witty and honest design advice and gorgeous professional photographs and illustrations with personal essays about the lessons she has learned while designing her own home and her own life.
The Finer Things: Timeless Furniture, Textiles, and Details by Christiane Lemieux
Christiane Lemieux set out to answer the question of “Is this well made?” by interviewing the world’s greatest experts on furniture, textiles, and interior design. Weaving together the insights and guidance of dozens of wallpaper and paint specialists, textile fabricators, accessories artisans, and interior designers, Lemieux has curated an unparalleled education in recognizing the hallmarks of timeless, heirloom-quality pieces in The Finer Things.
Living with Pattern: Color, Texture, and Print at Home by Rebecca Atwood
Living with Pattern is a vibrant design book filled with beautiful photography and clear ideas for how to use pattern to decorate your home. This stunning book showcases distinct uses of pattern in homes all over the country to inspire you to realize that an injection of pattern can enliven any space, helping to make it uniquely yours.
The Big Book of Chic by Miles Redd
This is the ultimate coffee table book for Miles Redd fans and/or anyone interested in eclectic design. The Big Book of Chic, written by internationally acclaimed interior design sensation Miles Redd, features a diverse selection of his unique interiors with a collection of both full color and black and white images and inspirational quotes about the power of harnessing creativity.
Made to Order by Campion Platt
Made to Order is recommended by architects and interior designers alike all over the internet. This lavish color presentation of over 200 images showcases the results of Campion Platt’s unique approach to clean and simple design coupled with an embrace of color in eighteen projects that range in size and location from demure city pied-à-terres to chic lofts and grand country estates.
Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color by Leatrice Eiseman
Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color is the perfect gift for anyone who loves color and may potentially care what the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year will be. In this vibrant volume (literally), Pantone collaborators identify more than 200 touchstone works of art, products, decor, and fashion, and carefully match them with 80 different official PANTONE color palettes to reveal the trends, radical shifts, and resurgences of various hues– all while taking you on a rich visual tour of 100 transformative years of color.
If you have a creative friend who may be feeling stuck or lost in their artistic career, whether it may be all-encompassing entrepreneurship, writing, graphic design, etc., consider any of these six motivational books to give as gifts. I’ve been the recipient of most of these books myself, and I can personally attest to the gratitude I felt after reading them. If you’re looking for career book recommendations for women specifically, here’s my entrepreneurial reading list for 2016.
Kyle actually gave me this book when I was going through a blogging dry spell about a year ago, and I flipped through the entire thing in a few hours. I highly recommend it for anyone with an artistic or inventive professional mind. Steal Like an Artist is a fun guide whose positive message, graphic look, and illustrations, exercises, and examples will motivate readers to get in touch with their artistic side, to ignore imposter syndrome, and to stop doubting their awesomeness. Kleon’s first manifesto was so popular that it spawned two additional works– The Steal Like an Artist Journal: A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs and Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Productivity and Get Discovered.
The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
This was yet another book that Kyle lovingly forced me to read to pull me out of my creative slump. The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline by identifying the enemy that every one of us must face and outlining a battle plan to conquer this internal foe head on.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
This is a must-have manual for creative writers. Bird by Bird was one of the first books that Kyle ever gave me, and he even inscribed a personal note inside the cover, which I’ll never forget. He also bought me an audio version to ensure that I had no excuses for not absorbing “Bird by Bird” in its entirety. Readers will be inspired by Anne Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block, and going for broke with each paragraph– all while helping you to find your creative passion and your voice.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is the perfect book for any reader (creative or not) who loves Elizabeth Gilbert, the worldwide best-selling author of Eat Pray Love. In this memoir, Gilbert digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. PopSugar called her new book a “must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.”
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
This is a great gift option for anyone creative, mindful, or striving to improve their quality of life– both personal and professional. Designing Your Life will show you how design thinking can help you create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where you are, what you do or have done for a living, or how young or old you are.
The Art of Getting Started by Lee Crutchley
The Art of Getting Started is the first of two books by Lee Crutchley to make my list of the best books to give as gifts. Since we all are guilty of procrastination of some degree, Crutchley’s creative method to taking action guides readers to inspirational heights by writing, drawing, cooking, and exploring through this fun hands-on guide that’ll undoubtedly get those creative juices flowing.
If anyone on your shopping list has been to more than four continents, they may most appreciate a gift which ignites their sense of wanderlust. These are six perfect books to give as gifts for passionate travelers:
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Wild is the ultimate addition to any avid traveler’s non-fiction collection. Told with suspense, style, warmth, and humor, Cheryl Strayed powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman (herself) forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. For a more elaborate gift, pair the memoir with the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon.
Paris in Color by Nichole Robertson
I can personally guarantee that any female, regardless of her desire to travel, will love Paris in Color. At the very least, it’ll make a visually stunning addition to her book shelf. This colorful compilation of photographs will take the reader on a journey through the world’s most romantic city, traveling from color to magnificent color.
Amsterdam: Made by Hand by Pia Jane Bijkerk
This is the second Made by Hand guide by stylist Pia Jane Bijkerk– the first being Paris: Made by Hand. A perfect gift option for any craft or design-loving wanderluster, Amsterdam: Made by Hand takes readers to dozens of boutiques, studios, and workshops, offering not only newly created items fashioned by hand, but also vintage objects and found objects that may have been reworked by a talented artist. Also included are shops providing exclusive European supplies if you want to make your own objects.
Swept Away by WANDERLUST by Axel & Ash
Full of inspiration, beautiful photography and travel motivation that ignites the wanderlust spirit, Swept Away by WANDERLUST is the perfect gift for every traveler, adventurer, and life seeker. With every page individually designed, this coffee table style journal is full of quirky questions, fun writing prompts, and list pages that’ll inspire you to dream and capture all your travel adventures.
The Geography of Bliss is perfect memoir for all grumpy (and also non-grumpy) travelers! Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author’s case, moments of “un-unhappiness” and offers travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.
Fifty Places to Play Golf Before You Die: Golf Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations by Chris Santella
This is an obvious candidate for any of the passionate golfers and armchair travelers on your list. Fifty Places to Play Golf Before Your Die is a beautiful full-color book that presents the world’s greatest golf venues, the personal favorites of renowned players, course architects, and other experts in the sport.
If you want to give your brother-in-law or comedian co-worker a gift they’ll like– or at the very least display on their coffee table, here are six of the most entertaining books to give as gifts written by famous comedians and stand-up comedy writers:
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Who doesn’t love Aziz Ansari– whether it be his character on Parks and Recreation or his stand-up routine on Netflix? In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world, and it’s hilarious.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
After starring in her own show, writing for The Office, and publishing Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Questions I Ask When I Want to Talk About Myself: 50 Topics to Share with Friends, it’s impossible to not like Mindy Kaling. In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
Vogue says it all– “Amy Schumer’s book will make you love her even more. For a comedian of unbridled (and generally hilarious) sarcasm, Schumer has written a probing, confessional, unguarded, and, yes, majorly humanizing non-memoir, a book that trades less on sarcasm, and more on emotional resonance.”
Bossypants by Tina Fey
I’ve personally purchased Bossypants as a gift for at least five of my girlfriends. Not only is Tina Fey hilarious, but her book is a captivating memoir of her personal journey from an awkward young girl with a dream to one of the most successful female comedians on TV with all sorts of girlboss insight, like the fact that you’re no one until someone calls you bossy, peppered in between.
The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak
This is a must-read for any true fan of The Office with or without children. From award-winning humorist and actor BJ Novak, also known as Ryan The Temp on my personal favorite TV show of all time, The Book with No Pictures is a cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly book with hilarious words which must be read aloud, like BLORK or BLUURF.
Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow
All those dudes who loved Knocked Up and 40-Year-Old Virgin will love Sick in the Head. In his book, famous writer and director Judd Apatow presents a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past thirty years, including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham.
In order to live truly fulfilling lives, we all strive to be mindful and inspired. Here are six useful books to give as gifts for nurturing a more introspective view on life:
Mindfulness Coloring Book by Emma Farrarons
Know someone who’s also stressed? The Mindfulness Coloring Book is a fun and unique pocket-size coloring book designed to channel stress into relaxing, creative accomplishments. You can supplement the book and further squash their anxiety with a box of bright colored pencils, too!
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
This gift-sized package is as irresistible to give as it is to receive, and it’s one of my all-time favorite books to give as gifts. Yes, it’s the same Cheryl Strayed who wrote Wild– except instead of a memoir, it’s a collection of quotes drawn from the wide range of her writings that capture her wisdom, courage, and outspoken humor. A sample tidbit of Brave Enough wisdom? Ask yourself: What is the best I can do? And then do that.
52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy by Moorea Seal
Looking to help nurture self-
Meditations on the Wisdom of Action by Kyle Eschenroeder
Written by my brilliant and deeply philosophical boyfriend Kyle Eschenroeder, this e-book, which contains 116 short “devotionals” on the nature and importance of taking action, is particularly awesome because you can download (and print) it for free here. It’s in the process of being published, so grab it while it’s free, punch some holes in it, put it in a binder, and give it to someone who may benefit from a kick-in-the-butt series of motivational meditations.
How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook by Lee Crutchley
I received How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad) as a gift from my best friend when I was depressed and in the early stages of eating disorder recovery, and I recommend it every chance I get. The pages of this engaging workbook will offer solace, distraction, engagement, a fresh perspective, and hopeful new beginnings for readers of all ages and walks of life.
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel
One can never have or give too many interactive journals, right? Start Where You Are is an uplifting workbook featuring vibrant hand-lettering and images that is designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation. It helps readers navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: by taking the time to know ourselves and what those dreams are, we can appreciate the world around us and achieve our dreams.
Happy shopping! Let me know if I left any of your favorite books to give as gifts off this list!