The Best Book Gifts for the Well-Read on Your List

Okay, okay — I know not everyone jumps up and down when she feels the outline of a book beneath the wrapping. But this gift guide will make sure that once your recipient tears open the paper, he or she will be pleasantly surprised, no matter if you're gifting to a chef, your sister, or someone who hasn't read a paper book in a year. And you'll find more here than just novels and non-fiction tomes to give to your mother and grandfather. In the last few months of the the year, publishers release tons of stunning, highly gift-able art and photography books, so this list is chock full o’ those, too.

And, hey, here's a little PSA: Although we link to Amazon for you to take a peek at these titles, there isn’t any better time than the holiday season to support your local bookstore. Nudge, nudge.

Image: bibliotheekkortrijk/flickr

For Your Stylish Friend

Critic Postrel’s examination of glamour and its cultural influence is an engaging, thought-provoking look at how the concept affects us on a broader scope. She makes a compelling case. And, as expected, the physical book is chic as can be.

The Power of Glamour by Virginia Postrel (Simon & Schuster), $28, Amazon

For the Domesticated Hipster

The Kinfolk aesthetic is a very distinctive (read: stylish) one, and no page in this cookbook of recipes and stories from home cooks around the world, is an exception. Even if they never make a single thing from it, the pages will get worn as they flip through its stunning photography.

The Kinfolk Table (Artisan), $27, Amazon

For the Redditor

It’s tough to find the words to describe Hyperbole and a Half, so we’ll just say that this book is ALL THE THINGS.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (Touchstone), $18, Amazon

For the Sports Nut

Garnering rave reviews across the board, Dawidoff’s intimate look inside a year spent with the New York Jets gives a humanizing portrait of a sport that can, at times, be the least human. His writing will capture anyone; diehard fans won’t be able to put it down.

Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football by Nicholas Dawidoff (Little, Brown), $12, Amazon

For the Shrink

Freud gets the comic biography treatment in this smart, illustrated book — and we’ve never seen such a cool, um, analysis.

Freud: An Illustrated Biography (Nobrow), $16, Amazon

For the Boozehound

This pocket reference has just about every fact about every fantastic whiskey for the know-it-all in your life.

Whiskey: Instant Expert by John Lamond (Princeton), $17, Amazon

For the Foodie/Wanderluster

If she travels to eat, she’ll devour (pun intended) these essays from famous foodies like Marcus Samuelsson, Gael Greene, Michael Pollan, Carla Hall, and more about food on the road.

A Fork in the Road (Lonely Planet), $11, Amazon

For the DIY-’til-Death

The King’s County Distillery, nestled away in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, makes some of the tastiest moonshine there is. This book’s for the one who’s not afraid to get nerdy about science and history, and who’s down to get her hands dirty.

The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey (Abrams), $20, Amazon

For the Chef with Skills

The recipes in this beautiful cookbook from Chelsea Market heavy hitters aren’t 1-2-3 to whip up, but if she’s up for the challenge, the results are well worth it.

Chelsea Market Cookbook: 100 Recipes from New York’s Premier Indoor Food Hall (Stewart, Tabori and Chang), $25, Amazon

For the Baker

Brooklyn-based Allison and Matt Robicelli are serious about cupcakes, and there isn’t a too-cute one in this bunch (fig cake and goat cheese buttercream, anyone?).

Robicelli’s: A Love Story, with Cupcakes (Studio), $25, Amazon

For the College Student

Written and curated by the guy who leads award-winning pizza tours all over New York, this book shows that there’s a ton more nuance and culture to the college student’s favorite food than anyone could have ever imagined. (The art of the Freshman 15.)

Viva La Pizza by Scott Wiener (Melville House), $12, Amazon

For Your Literary Friend

A meticulously crafted look at Colombia during the drug trade, the prose is seamless and the narrator’s rumination feels wildly original — it’s hard to believe that the novel is a translation.

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Riverhead), $14, Amazon

For the Poet

Poems about dogs — need we say more?

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver (Penguin Press), $12, Amazon

For the New Yorker

This gorgeous photography book by the creator of the photo blog Humans of New York is the ultimate celebration of life in her beloved city.

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton (St. Martin’s), $20, Amazon

For the Feminist

No matter which wave of feminism she espouses, she’ll spend hours paging through this glossary of all (well, many) things female. Compiled by the present and former editors of the most successful feminist media project on the planet, it’s smart, hilarious, informative and exactly as opinionated as you’d expect from the Jezebels.

The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things (Grand Central)$20, Amazon 

For the Anglophile

The title tells you what you need to know: the full-color stamp illustrations provide a unique guide for navigating British history, used as tools to uncover tons about the empire from 1840 through 2012. Insanely comprehensive. 

A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps by Chris West (Picador), $12, Amazon

For the Word-Obsessed

If you’ve ever said, “I wish there were a word for that,” there is — in German, and you will probably find it in this book. Discover ways to say, “The incidents and accidents caused by alcohol” and “a shameful love of bad food” in one fell (word) swoop.

Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition by Ben Schott (Blue Rider Press), $13, Amazon

For Your Funniest Friend

Hanawalt’s drawing collection is dirty, smart, and shameless. It’s like social commentary on speed put through the illustrated ringer, taking on everyone and everything from Anna Wintour and Martha Stewart to sex and Thanksgiving. The result is just the right amount of weird and hilarious.

My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn + Quarterly), $19, Amazon

For the Culture Sponge

These essays individually touch on just about every aspect of 1980s culture — art, literature, sex — but Kostenbaum’s incisive criticism and smooth writing ties them all together for one comprehensive, impassioned read.

My 1980s and Other Essays by Wayne Kostenbaum (FSG Originals), $14, Amazon

For Your Dad

In Dissident Gardens, Lethem blends decades of history and New York City culture with an edge that feels totally fresh compared to the author’s last couple of efforts. It’s a novel that keeps delivering with its vivid prose, taking on American radicalism, Judaism, baseball, and way more.

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday), $13, Amazon

For Your Mom

Lahiri’s Lowland is not to be missed: the prose is arresting, the story heartbreaking and cinematic. But you don’t have to take our word for it — just ask the National Book Award committee.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf), $13, Amazon

For Your Older Brother

Gilbert’s textured tomb is a big undertaking, but worth every page. It’s one he’ll love especially for the relationship among the brothers and their father at the heart of the novel.

& SONS by David Gilbert (Random House), $11, Amazon

For Your Younger (but Not-Too-Young) Brother

This tale of friendship and surprising adventure between two childhood pals will resonate with the little brother who’s gone through a lot with a particular friend. Dolnick digs deep and never loses a step along the way.

At the Bottom of Everything by Ben Dolnick (Pantheon), $5, Amazon

For Your Older Sister

This book didn’t come out this year, but if she hasn’t read newly crowned Nobel Prize-winner Alice Munro’s latest (and possibly last!) story collection, this book is a sure hit gift. Munro is one of the most prolific and masterful writers of our time, and every story is crafted with a deft hand.

Dear Life by Alice Munro (Knopf), $10, Amazon

For Your Younger Sister

She may be too young to remember the days of cut ‘n’ paste zines and mixtapes, but Rookie’s second yearbook does a dynamite job of recreating that aesthetic. It also brings in incredible contributors like Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Tavi (of course!), and other up-and-coming feminist voices. Most of all, it’s fun.

Rookie Yearbook Two by Tavi Gevinson (Drawn + Quarterly), $20, Amazon

For the Person With No More Room on Her Bookshelf

She’s the reader you go to for all of your book recommendations… which makes her a veritable lending library, too. Here’s how she’ll get her beloved books back for sure.

Personal Library Kit, $16, knockknockstuff.com

For the Reader With One Foot in the Digital Door

This iPad case’s design is a nod to the Penguin Classics series. This can be either the snarkiest or most sentimental gift for the iBook reader — depends on how you write the card.

Penguin Classic DODOcase, $80, penguingroup.com