You knew this was coming.
You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon, but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts…
Is there a better book to give your BFF than “How to Kill Your Best Friend” by Lexie Elliott? I think not. This is a book about three friends who’ve been inseparable since college. Sadly, one of them, a strong swimmer, drowns under mysterious circumstances. Is there a murderer in their rapidly-shrinking friends circle?
Fans of thrillers will absolutely want to unwrap “Bullet Train” by Kotaro Isaka, the story of five assassins who find out that their respective assignments have a little too much in common for comfort. So give this book as a gift, along with two movie tickets, since it’s about to become a motion picture.
The person on your gift list who loves mythology will be very excited to see “Daughters of Sparta” by Claire Heywood beneath the tree. This is a story of two princesses of Sparta, of which little is expected but birthing an heir and looking beautiful. But when patriarchal society becomes too overbearing, the princesses must decide what to do. Far from your normal “princess” tale, this one has shades of feminism in ancient times.
The giftee who loves romantic happily-ever-after may enjoy an anti-HEA with “Rock Paper Scissors” by Alice Feeney, the story of a couple that’s struggling with their marriage. It’s nobody’s fault: he has an affliction and can’t recognize faces; she’s tired of being ignored. So when they win a vacation, it’s a chance to make things better. Or not.
The Poe fan on your gift list will love unwrapping “Poe for Your Problems” by Catherine Baab-Muguira. Edgar Allen Poe as a therapist? Who knew? Add “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” by John Koenig to the gift box. It’s a book about words and feelings and how obscure language might help make things a little clearer.
Readers who particularly like stories with sugar will love “All the Lonely People” by Mike Gayle. It’s a tale of a lonely man who lives far from his family – far enough away that he feels confident in embellishing his life to his daughter. That’s fine until she says she’s coming to visit and he must make fantasy match reality. Wrap it up with “The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World” by Laura Imai Messina. It’s a beautiful story of loss, hope, and how we keep memories alive when someone’s gone.
Readers who love underdog tales will be so happy to unwrap “Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead” by Emily Austin. It’s the story of Gilda, an atheist lesbian who lands a job as the receptionist at a Catholic church by mistake. When a friend of the former receptionist tries to contact the deceased former secretary, Gilda impersonates the woman. The problem is, the woman’s dead and Gilda’s acting suspicious… Pair it up with “The Mad Woman’s Ball” by Victoria Mars, a novel set in France in 1885. The Salpêtriére asylum is full of “insane” women who may or may not really be insane. But then one patient, hospitalized because she claims to speak to the dead, hatches a plan to escape.
Historical novel fans will want to see “Island Queen” by Vanessa Riley beneath the tree this year, for sure. Based on a true story, it’s about Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, who had been a slave. Once freed, she ultimately became one of the most powerful, most wealthy, and most influential women in the West Indies in the early 1800s.
The folk music lover who just happens to also enjoy novels will love “The Ballad of Laurel Springs” by Janet Beard. The story starts with ten-year-old Grace, who learns something shocking about her family’s past, and the event became a song. She’s not the only one, though: songs and lyrics tell the rest of the tale through generations of Tennessee folk music. Wrap it up with a promise of summer music festivals to come.
The whodunit fan on your list will be happy to see “A Slow Fire Burning” by Paula Hawkins beneath the tree. It’s the tale of a nasty murder on a London houseboat and the three women who had big, big reasons to want to see the victim dead.
For the reader who genuinely loves time-period mysteries, look for “Dead Dead Girls: A Harlem Renaissance Mystery” by Nekesa Afia. It’s Harlem, 1926, and young Black women are showing up dead all over the area. This is too close for comfort for Louise Lloyd, and so when she’s given an ultimatum – go to jail for a past transgression or help solve these murders – well, the choice is clear, isn’t it? This is the first book in a planned series, and your giftee will be looking for the rest after New Years’ Eve. Or make it an even better gift by adding “Public Enemy #1” by Kiki Swinson, a novel about a new detective and a police department filled with corruption.
If you’ve got someone on your list who likes westerns and mysteries, why not marry the two by wrapping up “Dark Sky” by C.J. Box. It’s another in the Joe Pickett series (but it can be read alone), and it’s the story of a wealthy man, poaching, and murder, and it could send your giftee scrambling for the rest of the Pickett books.
And why does your giftee love mysteries? The answer lies inside “Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution” by Jonah Lehrer. This book ties advertising with assassination, major league football to murder, Shakespeare with slayings, to show how our curiosity and the urge to solve is tickled by a mystery.
For readers who require a lot of grit in their novels, look for “The Song His Mother Sings” by Teresa Collins, the story of a mother whose son is caught up in the drug trade. The trouble is, he thinks it’s fine, and he blames her for filling his head with lies. Great for urban fiction fans, this is a quick read.
No doubt, there’s someone on your gift list who’s concerned about climate change. And so the book to wrap up is “Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid” by Thor Hanson, a natural historian. Here, Hanson reveals how climate change is driving evolution. And what will happen to us? Pair it with “A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth” by Henry Gee, a small book that looks at the Big Picture, where we came from, and where we might go…
For the reader who’s new to America, or for someone welcoming a recent immigrant to these shores, look for “A Beginner’s Guide to America” by Roya Hakakian. Nearly forty years ago, Hakakian came to live in America from Iran, and she noticed a few (ha!) differences that she writes about. This book is a bit humorous, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and a lot helpful for new Americans and for Americans who were born here so that we might see ourselves as others do. Wrap it up with “How Iceland Changed the World” by Egill Bjarnason, a small island with a big world footprint.
The singer or orator on your list will devour “This is the Voice” by John Colapinto. It’s a scientific look at the human voice, how it differs, and how our ability to speak and verbally communicate as complex as we can has made us the dominant creatures we are. Wrap it up with “The Invention of Miracles” by Katie Booth, the true story of Alexander Graham Bell’s work with deaf individuals (including his wife).
If there’s a new cook on your list (or someone’s about to strike out on their own), “Burnt Toast and Other Disasters” by Cal Peternell will be the perfect thing to wrap up this holiday. It’s filled with relatively easy recipes with lots of chances to impress and hacks to take care of those inevitable kitchen uh-ohs. And speaking of disasters, if your giftee is also concerned about health matters and the environment, wrap up “Toxin Nation” by Marie D. Jones, a book about manmade disasters and how it affects our food, air, water, and health.
Got an adventurer on your gift list? Then you can’t go wrong with “True Raiders” by Brad Ricca. It’s the story of the 1909 expedition to find the Ark of the Covenant, a story that few know and that’s largely undiscussed. Your giftee will be overjoyed to see “Latitude” by Nicholas Crane in the same gift box. It’s the true story of a ten-year expedition that started in 1735, in which a dozen men journey to determine the shape of the planet.
If you’ve got someone on your gift list who’s very interested in current and world events, then “The Raging 2020s” by Alec Ross might be the perfect gift. It’s a book that peers into our (possible) future in business, geographical issues, politics, and more. Pair it up with “Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty” by Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox. It’s a book that looks into the future and offers ideas for hope.
The person who’s concerned with racial justice will be glad you gave “State of Emergency: How We Win in the Country We Built” by Tamika D. Mallory. It’s an overall look at continuing racism in America, including what’s happened in the past year or so; it’s a demand to think and a call to action for everyone. Pair it with “Better, Not Bitter” by Yusef Salaam, a memoir as well as an urge for racial justice.
For the giftee who worries about gun violence in America today, “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America” by Carol Anderson might be a good gift. It’s about what she says is the real reason gun violence exists, and beware: it’s very controversial.
If it seems like the last two years have fractured families, you’re right. That’s why “Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation” by Fern Schumer Chapman might be a great gift. Wrap it up for someone or for yourself.
TV fans of that iconic Sunday night show will love getting “Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes” by Ira Rosen, producer of the show. Fans and followers will love the behind-the-scenes peeks.
The person who hopes to conquer fear in the new year will appreciate a gift of “Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual” by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. Jones is a blogger and public speaker, and she knows how to take fear out of the equation. Your giftee will see how three words can make all the difference and how to make good trouble.
The reader who loves a good scare will enjoy “The Vampire Almanac: The Complete History” by J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D. Pretty much everything you’d ever want to know about the undead is in here. Dare to wrap it up with “A Very Nervous Person’s Guide to Horror Movies” by Mathias Clasen, a book that picks apart those scary flicks and why we should (or shouldn’t) watch them.
For the reader who dreams of life in the past or wishes to know the future, “Time Travel: The Science and Science Fiction” by Nick Redfern is a book to give this year. Filled with short entries and packed with information, ideas, and possibilities from literature, philosophical thought, eyewitness accounts, and science, this book may make your giftee wish they had a ticket now.
Much has been said about Black women and their hair, but your giftee will love “My Beautiful Black Hair” by St. Clair Detrick-Jules. This book is full of pictures of Black women and the styles they’re rocking, accompanied by those womens’ stories. It’s a great gift for stylists, Black women who love their hair, and for their daughters who must learn to.
If you’ve got someone on your list who wants to make the world a better place, then look for “An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World” by Patrisse Cullors. Part memoir, part instruction, this book will help show how good can be done, not just in big ways but in everyday life. Wrap it up with “Say Their Names: How Black Live Came to Matter in America” by Curtis Bunn, Michael H. Cottman, Patrice Gaines, Nick Charles, and Keith Harriston.
True Crime and Police Stories
The true-crime lover on your gift list will absolutely want to unwrap “Rogue’s Gallery: The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York” by John Oller. The title says it all; wrap it up with a couple of mysteries for the best gift ever.
For the social activist on your list, or for anyone who wants to know more about the death penalty, look at “Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty” by Maurice Chammah. Specifically looking at Death Row in Texas prisons, this book takes a look at penal punishment and how it affects the condemned and those who know them.
A true-crime lover knows that nothing is better than a great book as a gift, so wrap up “Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case” by Caitlin Rother. Rebecca Azhau’s death was ruled a suicide. Rother shows that that might not be the case.
Your giftee will also be very happy with “American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000” by Peter Vronsky. It’s an anthology of crime that’ll chill your favorite true crime aficionado and leave them begging for more – and so wrap up “Serial Killers: The Minds, Methods, and Mayhem of History’s Most Notorious Murders” by Richard Estep, for the best gift for a true crime fan ever.
For the Sports Lover
The fisherman on your list will love opening “The Unreasonable Virtue of Fly Fishing” by Mark Kurlansky this year. The thing to know is that this isn’t a how-to, it’s more of a how-to-love the art of casting and catching from coast to coast and around the world.
No doubt, there’s someone on your list who plays favorites when it comes to sports. That’s why you’ll want to wrap up “Talking to GOATs” by Jim Gray. It’s a book full of interviews with sports’ Greatest Of All Time competitors (GOATs, get it?). Surely, there’s more argument in this book, just as there’s more to know about superstar professionals.
Want to make a home run this holiday? Then wrap up “42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy,” edited by Michael G. Long. It’s a collection of essays on the impact Robinson left on folks today and memories that others have of the great man.
For the woman on your list who has a love-hate relationship with sports, wrap up “Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America” by Julie DiCaro. It’s a book that looks at pro sports’ “thorny issues” of sexism, exploitation, and the toxicity that women sometimes face when competing. Not for the faint of heart, for sure.
If there’s a young player on your list, here’s a book for their parents: “The Brain on Youth Sports” by Julie M. Stamm, Ph.D. Help them lay to rest the myths and be armed with the facts on brain injuries in kids’ sports.
The reader who can’t have enough World War II history will relish reading “Into the Forest” by Rebecca Frankel. It’s the true story of a family that escaped the Nazis by hiding in a nearby wooded area, and they were able to stay safe for two years. Decades later, long after their liberation in 1944, another miracle happened, and so did love. Wrap it up with a tissue. It’s that kind of book.
For the person who races through books faster than fast, wrap up “The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from The New Yorker,” edited by Jelani Cobb and David Remnick. It’s a thick anthology filled with essays from decades ago but are still relevant, thoughts that need reconsideration, and historical tales that modern eyes need to see. Wrap it up with “Black Nerd Problems” by William Evans & Omar Holmon, a book that’s perfect for geeks, nerds, Con-lovers, and gamers of any race.
History lovers will love unwrapping “Travels with George” by Nathaniel Philbrick, a book that chronicles the author’s trip across America to see how our country has changed, including the way we see George through modern eyes.
Memoir and Biography
For the fan of police procedurals and courtroom drama, “Redeeming Justice” by Jarrett Adams is a no-brainer gift. When he was just a teenager, an all-white jury convicted Adams of a crime he didn’t commit, and they sent him to prison. Ten long years later, he was exonerated and released but not without help and a long fight to prove his innocence. He’s now an attorney, and this is a must-read tale. Wrap it up with “The Prison Guard’s Daughter: My Journey Through the Ashes of Attica” by Deanne Quinn Miller, whose father was murdered in the 1971 Attica Prison uprising.
The reader who’s also a fan of World War II stories will want to unwrap “Eva and Eve” by Julie Metz. It’s the story of Metz’s cosmopolitan, ultra-urbane mother and the side that Metz didn’t know about: when Eve was a child, she lived in Nazi-occupied Vienna. Wrap it up with a bookmark, though your giftee won’t need it.
Hollywood biography lovers will truly enjoy unwrapping “Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship” by Charles Casillo. It’s the story of a deep friendship, but that’s not all; it’s also a dual-biography of two of H-wood’s most beloved stars.
The teacher in your life will love reading “Matchsticks” by Fred Engh. In 1961, Engh was a husband and father living in Maryland when he was inspired by an interview he saw that made him want to become a Physical Education teacher. And so Engh, a white man, enrolled in Maryland State College, which was then an all-black, segregated school. Bonus: this book is also a great read for the sports fan on your list.
For the skater on your list, wrap up “The Most Fun Thing” by Kyle Beachy. The author is a skateboarder and he writes about how he first learned the sport, what it’s like to be a middle-aged sk8r, and he addresses other “fun things” about life and skateboarding. It’s like a biography on wheels.
If you know a family that loves to travel, wrap up “We Came, We Saw, We Left” by Charles Wheelan. Long before Covid-19, the Wheelan family decided to take a long extended trip to “recharge and reflect” and see the world. Picture it: nine months and six continents with three teenagers. Wrap it with an atlas because you know what could be next…
Fans of the late Anthony Bourdain will absolutely love unwrapping “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography” by Laurie Woolever, who was Bourdain’s co-author on many books. This is a collection of memories from those who loved Bourdain, like a love letter to those who followed him fiercely.
For the woman who finds herself alone this holiday, “But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits” by Kimberly Harrington is a book about the end of a marriage, but also about the beginning of a marriage, things between those two points, and how it’s possible to find something good again.
Readers who love historical biographies will devour “Cleopatra: The Queen Who Challenged Rome and Conquered Eternity” by Alberto Angela. It’s a sweeping story, and your giftee will love getting it, no de Nile.
What do you give to the person who longs for a time gone by? How about “The Farm on Badger Creek: Memories of a Midwest Girlhood” by Peggy Prilaman Marxen? Set in Wisconsin in the middle of the last century, your reader will find tales of life on the farm, of one-room schoolhouses, chickens in the coop, and Grandma in the kitchen. It’s got warmth, and it’s perfect for the nostalgic one on your list.
Of LGBTQ Interest — Nonfiction
If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.
For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.
If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.
So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later — in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.
The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence have caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.
Of LGBTQ Interest — Fiction
Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.
The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.
For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.
For the businessperson who wants to spend this winter making that business grow, wrap up “The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It” by Sandra J. Sucher & Shalene Gupta. Highly researched, this book explains why trust may be the most important advantage you have in your business, what you need to do to maintain your clients’ trust, and what to do if you lose it.
If you’ve got someone on your gift list who struggles at work for whatever reason, then “Anxiety at Work” by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton with Anthony Gostick will show you care about what they’re going through. This book offers eight strategies to overcome the Sunday Night Dreads, the lack of self-confidence, and the building of new relationships at work. Pair it with “The Rejection That Changed My Life” by Jessica Bacal, a book of essays from powerful, sometimes famous people about the “no” that led them to a career’s worth of “yesses.”
No doubt, there’s a budding leader on your gift list, so wrap up “Make It, Don’t Fake It” by Sabrina Horn. It’s a book that will help your entrepreneur to strive for authenticity in business and, by extension, in life. Then let that authenticity lead to impact by giving “Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact” by Liz Wiseman.
Business is a hard game these days but “Rogue Waves” by Jonathan Brill will help ensure that the storm doesn’t last forever. This is a book that looks at the future, helping business people to get there intact, make money, and survive. Wrap it up with “Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change” by April Rinne, a book that’ll help your business person to stay resilient. Pair it with “Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval” by Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., a book on leading in times like ours.
And for the person on your gift list who desires to be The Best this coming year, wrap up “Your Pocket Guide to Corporate America: A Roadmap to Achievement” by John Dortch. In this book are fourteen “rules” to live and do business by, and all of them are easier than you’d think to incorporate into day-to-day life. Wrap it up and watch what happens!
Pets and Animals
If there’s someone on your list who loves animals, wildlife, and working to save them, then “The Wild World Handbook: Creatures” by Andrea Debbink, illustrated by Asia Orlando, is a great book to wrap up. This isn’t just about the animals or conservation efforts; it also includes easy-to-do projects to help creatures in the wild, mini-biographies of people who fought for conservation and preservation, and short chapters on animals and why we should care about them. This book is perfect for readers 12-to-17, but an adult who wants something light might likewise enjoy it. Pair it with “Wild Life!” by Re:wild and Syd Robinson, a book about weird and unique animals around the world, and what conservation efforts are doing to keep them there. Bonus: PICTURES!
The dog lover on your list will really like “The Forever Dog” by Rodney Habib & Dr. Karen Shaw Becker with Kristin Loberg. It’s a book filled with ideas and science that’ll help that puppy parent keep their fur-kid around a whole lot longer.
Beware of this as a gift: “Why is My Child in Charge?” by Claire Lerner is a book to help end frustration, power struggles, bratty kids, and upset parents. It’s helpful, kind, and clear-headed; just be careful, give it to the parent who expressly wants a book like this.
The parent or caregiver who was home with the family last Christmas might be fresh out of ideas about now, so wrap up “The Ultimate At-Home Activity Guide” by Mike Lowery. It’s chock-full of more than 100 activities for little kids, big kids, and grown-up kids, and some of them are quiet lesson-teachers. Bonus: give it to your favorite babysitter, too!
Health and Wellness
For the past months, it seems like we’ve heard a lot from doctors and nurses. So why not wrap up a book by a psychiatrist? In “Committed: Dispatches from a Psychiatrist in Training,” author Adam Stern, M.D. writes about what it’s like to be accepted for a prestigious program in which he and his colleagues learn to help patients on a psychiatric ward. Wrap it up with “Being You: A New Science of Consciousness” by Anil Seth, a book to help you tap into an inner self and get to know yourself.
Give this one carefully: “Everything I Have Is Yours: A Marriage” by Eleanor Henderson is a book about boy-meets-girl and love blossoms. It’s about two children and a Happily-Almost-Ever-After, until chronic illness steps in. It’s a hard book to absorb but for the right giftee, it may be the best gift to give. Also look for “The Problem of Alzheimer’s” by Jason Karlawish, a sort of history of the “crisis” and where science is taking its treatment.
If your giftee is determined to live life to the fullest this coming year, then “Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind” by Barbara Becker may be what you need to wrap. Yes, it’s the story of death, but it’s also about the way that grief can lead to growth. Wrap it up with “Crossing the River: Seven Stories That Saved My Life” by Carol Smith, a book about loss and healing; or “Little Matches: A Memoir of Grief and Light” by Maryanne O’Hara, the story of a mother’s loss and a daughter’s gift.
Here’s a book that any reader can identify with: “Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine” by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley. Learn what quarantine meant almost 400 years ago during The Black Death, what it means in a world with COVID-19, what we can expect during the next pandemic, and how this all meshes with the entire idea of freedom.
What to give to the person who loves the world of scent? Easy: “Revelations in Air: A Guidebook to Smell.” by Jude Stewart. Yes, it’s about things that smell good (and bad), but it’s also informative, with lessons on how to practice to gain a discerning nose. Wrap it up with a scented candle or a bottle of perfume, of course.
For Picture Book Fans (kids ages 2–7)
The child who’s a budding ecologist will want to see “All of Us” by Kathryn Erskine, pictures by Alexandra Boiger. It’s a book that shows small kids that we live on a big ol’ world, and we can take care of it together. Wrap it up with “The Universe and You” by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, a book that’ll make your little stargazer very, very happy.
Small children who are ready for big ideas will love “Begin with a Bee” by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Phyllis Root, illustrated by Claudie McGehee. It’s the story of bees and why we should help them. Also, look for “Except Antarctica!” by Todd Sturgell, a very cute book about creatures on our southernmost continent; or “Where’s My Cow?” by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Scott Brundage, a book about friendships.
For the kid who needs a dose of self-appreciation, you can’t go wrong with “Beautifully Me” by Nabela Noor, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali. It’s a book about an adorable Bangladeshi-American girl who’s bullied. At first, it hurts her feelings, but she learns how to deal with kids who tease.
Sometimes, it’s hard to learn to make friends, so “A Friend Like You” by Frank Murphy and Charnaie Gordon, illustrated by Kayla Harren, is perfect to give your little one this Christmas. It’s a book about getting along and being open to making pals with kids who don’t look like you. Wrap it up with “Meesha Makes Friends” by Tom Percival, a book about a girl who literally makes friends, or “Sharing a Smile” by Nicki Kramar, illustrations by Ashley Evans, a book about making friends when you’re both masked.
For the child who’s new to this country, or the kid with a new classmate who’s new will love “The Color Collector” by Nicholas Solis, illustrated by Renia Metallinou, the story of a small immigrant, the colors she sees around her, and the ones she misses from her former home. Wrap it up with “If Dominican Were a Color” by Sili Recio, illustrated by Brianna McCarthy, for a great and wonderfully colorful gift.
If you want to wrap up pure silliness for your picture-book fan, then look for “Monday” by Lucy Branam, illustrated by Kevin M. Barry. Monday is the worst, right? Who needs it? Find out in this hilarious book, then pair it with “A CAPE!” by Marty Kelly for the best kind of Christmas fun.
Quieter kids who love to create will love paging through “Nerdycorn” by Andrew Root, illustrated by Erin Kraan. It’s the super-colorful tale of Fern, who is not your “usual” unicorn; she prefers being in her laboratory, coding software, and creating with her chemistry set. The other unicorns make fun of her but when Unicorn Tragedy happens, who do you think saves the day? Wrap it up with “Rock and Vole” by Jennifer Sattler, a book about a little vole who loves her routine, and what happens when change arrives.
For Young Readers (kids ages 6–9)
The very young reader who shows an interest in history will love “I Am Anne Frank” by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. Based on Frank’s famous diaries, it’s a great entry to this subject and perfect for this age group.
Kids who drift more toward nonfiction books will love “Jungle Animals: A Spotter’s Guide” by Jane Wilsher. This book has the look of an encyclopedia, but it reads much easier and offers a ton of information for curious youngsters.
For the kid who loves to travel, you can’t go wrong with “Little Kid, Big City! New York” by Beth Beckman, illustrated by Holly Maher. It’s a book about all the fun things a kid can do in The Big Apple. Wrap it up with “Keeping the City Going” by Brian Floca, a book about transportation and movement in a big metropolis. Bonus: This book will be a treat for your truck-van-taxi-vehicle lover, too.
For Preteen Readers (kids ages 7–12)
The young jokester on your list will love unwrapping “The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh” by Helen Rutter. It’s the story of Billy Plimpton, who wants to be a comedian some day. Great idea, except for one little problem: Billy stutters.
Kids who love history will enjoy “Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History” by Schele Williams, a beautiful, colorful book that honors Black History year-round.
Your young social justice activist will love seeing “Racial Justice in America: Topics for Change” by Hedreich Nichols, Leigh Ann Erickson, and Kelisa Wing beneath the tree. It’s a book that explains the racial issues of today and gives kids things to think about. Wrap it up with “Marching for Change: Movements Across America” by Joyce Markovics, a book about some of the important marches that have been held in America over the past sixty years. Also, look for “Across the Tracks” Alverne Ball and Stacey Robinson, a graphic novel that looks at the Tulsa Race Massacre in a way that’s very accessible for young readers to absorb.
Here’s a gift for the kid who dreams of being someone influential: “Kid Innovators: True Tales of Childhood From Inventors and Trailblazers” by Robin Stevenson, illustrated by Allison Steinfeld. It’s a book full of tales of young kids just like your giftee… who grew up to make a big difference. Wrap it up with a different kind of science book: “Who Gives a Poop?” by Heather L. Montgomery, illustrated by Iris Gottlieb is a fun book that shows kids how waste isn’t just icky.
If there’s a kid who loves art or who’s a museum fanatic, then “The Ultimate Art Museum” by Ferren Gipson is what you’ll want to give this year. It’s like having a permanent pass to visit paintings, sculptures, antiquities, and more. Bonus: your adult art fan will love it, too.
For the kid who’s fascinated by biographies, wrap up “Signs of Survival” by Renee Hartman with Joshua M. Greene. It’s the story of two sisters and their true story of the holocaust. Wrap it up with “I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944” by Lauren Tarshis, artwork by Alvaro Sarraseca, a book written in graphic-novel format, for a doubly great gift.
Kids who love a good biography might enjoy unwrapping “Dr. Fauci” by Kate Messner, illustrated by Alexandra Bye. It’s the story of Dr. Fauci, told in a wonderful kid-friendly form, and a quick tale of vaccines. Wrap it up with “Jump at the Sun” by Alicia D. Williams, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara, a picture biography of Zora Neale Hurston.
And speaking of history, another book young historians will want this holiday is “The Who Was? History of the World, Deluxe Edition” by Paula K. Manzanero. It’s full of quick-to-read but highly informative chapters on all sorts of historical figures you want your kid to know.
For Young Adults (kids 12 and up)
Check first to be sure your giftee hasn’t already read this one: “The Desolations of Devil’s Acre: the Sixth Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs. Ask because this very popular series has many very rabid fans who may not have been able to wait to find out what happens next.
For the reader of romance with a twist, wrap up “You & Me at the End of the World” by Brianna Bourne. It’s a story of Armageddon, stuck with a boy who thinks he’s all that (or a girl who’s a bit of a nerd, depending on your point of view). Can they figure out what happened and why they’re alone on the planet together?
Young readers who love history will want to unwrap “When I Grow Up” by Ken Krimstein. Written in graphic novel format, this book is a compilation of six stories of Yiddish teenagers and their lives on the edge of World War II.
And now for the housekeeping:
Keep in mind that, with the supply chain issues and all, publication dates may change and move. Books get canceled, or they might be short-stocked, so be patient. If you have any questions, if you’re desperate for ideas, or if you need a good substitute, ask your favorite bookseller. Seriously, booksellers have special powers, and they’ll know exactly what you need. Trust the pros.