The holidays are here at last! Although there's still plenty of time to snag the perfect gift, increased shipping times could put a damper on your holiday spirit. So if your holiday shopping runs out the clock, don't worry. There's at least one new book to give every person on your holiday list in 2020, and buying them now will save you time for more important things — like hanging your holiday decorations and planning a socially distanced holiday gathering.
Books make such wonderful holiday presents that there are whole traditions devoted to giving them as gifts. In Iceland, the jólabókaflóð tradition — literally "Christmas book flood" — calls for giving new books to your family members on Christmas Eve, and then spending the night reading through your new hoard. Even if you've never been to Iceland, you can still start your own jólabókaflóð tradition this year with one of the best new books of 2020, found on the list below.
Here are the best new books you should give to the people on your holiday gift list this year:
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Your Mom: The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
One of the year's most lauded releases, Nancy Jooyoun Kim's The Last Story of Mina Lee centers on Mina's daughter, 26-year-old Margot, who discovers that her mother has suddenly and mysteriously died. Determined to find answers to her questions about Mina's final hours, Margot digs deep into the other woman's past... but the Mina she finds is at odds with the mother she knew.
Your Dad: A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Released just after the contentious 2020 presidential election, Barack Obama's first post-presidency memoir is all set to take the holiday season by storm. In A Promised Land, Obama discusses his path to the White House for the first time, touching on his administration's key decisions, including personal highs and lows from his eight years in Washington, D.C.
Your Sister: Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
One of Princess Margaret's ladies in waiting, Anne Glenconner has spent decades among the royal family, and now she's told her story for the first time, in her own spectacular way. Royal watchers know that Lady Glenconner is a sharp-tongued wit who pulls no punches, and they'll be pleased to read about her life in Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown.
Your Brother: The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek
The loss of longtime Jeopardy! host and pop-culture icon Alex Trebek continues to shake the western world, so why not give Trebek's 2020 memoir, released shortly before his death, to someone on your list? The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life is sure to delight anyone on your holiday list this year, but we think brothers — of all ages — looking for some wisdom as we move further into this uncertain decade will be the best targets here.
Your Best Friend: Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
As we come to the end of a pandemic year, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better book to read with your BFF than Big Friendship. This new book from Call Your Girlfriend podcast hosts Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman recounts the authors' long friendship, which has weathered long stints of time spent apart, as well as the trials and tribulations of over-familiarity. If you want to understand how your closest friendships operate, this is the book you need.
Your Partner: Snug: A Collection of Comics About Dating Your Best Friend by Catana Chetwynd
There's a good reason that Catana Chetwynd has millions of Instagram followers. Her four-panel comics about life with her partner are so relatable that you want to send every last one of them to your special someone, as soon as you see it. Chetwynd's 2020 book, Snug, is the perfect book to read with your partner this year, especially if you're spending less time together than usual this holiday season.
Your Roommate: Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey
Lauded as the next Normal People when it came out earlier this year, Miranda Popkey's Topics of Conversation remains one of the best books of 2020. Whether you and your roommate share reading recommendations on the daily, or you barely say two words to one another from week to week, this slim novel makes the perfect conversation starter.
The History Buff: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Living through 2020 has been like watching history unfold in real time, which makes it difficult to find a book to give your history-buff friends and family members. Everything's very raw right now, and while we don't want to turn completely away from what's going on in the country, most of us would also like to ignore some of the worst current events. For that reason, you should consider giving Isabel Wilkerson's Caste to the armchair historian on your holiday list. Its discussion of class in the United States is timely enough to be of interest, but not so on-the-nose that readers will want to cry afterward.
The Fashionista: HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes
If you're looking for a luxe new book to give the fashionista on your list, consider Elizabeth Holmes' HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style. This collection of glossy photos and essays on the Windsor ladies' fits is the perfect gift for any royal watcher, seamstress, or street-style photographer.
The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Geek: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
One of the year's best sci-fi novels, Yoon Ha Lee's Phoenix Extravagant centers on Jebi: an artist commissioned to paint magical, animating symbols on their government's military vehicles. It's not the best job in the world for a pacifist, but it pays. But when Jebi discovers a dark secret about the paints they're using, they have no choice but to steal a robotic dragon and engage in a battle for what's right... and against the odds.
The Eco-Conscious One: Superman's Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It by Erin Brockovich
It's been six years since news of the Flint, Michigan water crisis came to light, and the city is still without clean water. In Superman's Not Coming, Erin Brockovich lays out a plan for lay activists to fight the good fight for usable resources.
The Interior Decorator: Scandi Rustic: Creating a Cozy & Happy Home by Rebecca Lawson and Reena Simon
Hygge is still in style, especially at a time when most of us are spending more time at home than ever. Bigger — and perhaps more popular — than hygge is the Scandi interior design style, which makes the most of clean lines, natural materials, neutral color palettes, and feel-good textures. For the person on your list who is always changing out their furniture, there's Scandi Rustic, a new book of interior design inspiration from Rebecca Lawson and Reena Simon.
The Foodie: I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors from My Kitchen and Around the World by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose
My Two Souths authors Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose are back this year with a new cookbook of global recipes. Gomez is known for fusing the flavors of Kerala and the Southern United States, and now she's mixing her Southern Indian roots with flavors from around the world. Your foodie friends will thank you for wrapping this book up for them.
The Traveler: The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes by Mia Kankimäki
Karen Blixen, Yayoi Kusama, and Artemisia Gentileschi are among the heroes whose paths Finnish author Mia Kankimäki retraces in The Women I Think About at Night. An Eat, Pray, Love for the modern age, this travel memoir recounts Kankimäki's global adventure and her search for purpose and belonging in the footsteps of 10 women she admires most.
The Quirky One: The Super Sassy Book of Pop-Out Earrings
We all have that one friend who wears whatever she wants, from a thrifted 1980s family reunion t-shirt to an untailored blazer, and somehow always manages to look put together. For her, there's The Super Sassy Book of Pop-Out Earrings, a whimsical collection of 33 earring styles — including silvery skulls and mismatched sushi rolls — that doubles as a holding case.
The Witch: Plant Witchery: Discover the Sacred Language, Wisdom, and Magic of 200 Plants by Juliet Diaz
Witchery author Juliet Diaz returned to stores this year with Plant Witchery, and trust us: the practicing witch on your list would love this book. Containing rituals, spells, and potions, as well as a guide to the properties of 200 different plants, Diaz's latest release is a must-have book for any witch looking to expand or enhance her practice.
The Marathon-Watcher: The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History by Andy Greene
It's been off the air for the better part of a decade, but we still can't get enough of The Office. Andy Greene's oral history is a must-have book for any TV fan, especially if they'd be your first call for an Office-themed trivia night.
The Culture Critic: Sh*t, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema by Lindy West
From the author of Shrill and The Witches Are Coming comes this new guide to contemporary movies. Lindy West's Sh*t, Actually asks the real questions about your favorite movies, and it'll have you thinking about Disney, Twilight, and more in a whole new way. Give it to the cinephile on your list this holiday season.
The True-Crime Lover: We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper
Praised by Ron Chernow and Ariel Levy, Becky Cooper's We Keep the Dead Close tells the story of her all-too-personal investigation into the life and death of Jane Britton. A 23-year-old Harvard University grad student at the time of her violent death, Britton and her story fascinated Cooper for 10 years. The author explores both the crime and her relationship to it in this compelling work of true crime.
The Gamer: The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy by Liz Marsham and the Cast of Critical Role
In 2019, the web series Critical Role, in which a group of voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons live, launched a record-breaking Kickstarter that raised $1 million in its first hour and more than $11 million overall, proving once and for all that tabletop roleplaying is at an all-time popularity high. For the gamer in your life, there's The World of Critical Role, which not only delves into the fantasy settings of the show's two campaigns, but also explores how the series came to be.
The Hopeless Romantic: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
For your swooniest friend, there's Talia Hibbert's Take a Hint, Dani Brown. This 2020 romance novel has everything: a fake-dating couple, a no-nonsense woman who just wants a no-strings-attached sex partner, and a broody guy with a heart of gold.
The Dog Person: Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Long Black Veil author Jennifer Finney Boylan shifts her literary focus inward in Good Boy: a memoir that recounts the events of the author's life through her relationships with seven pet dogs. Born from a New York Times column about Boylan's dog Indigo, Good Boy is ultimately about what every other "dog book" is about: loving and being loved in return.
The Cat Person: Travels of Suki the Adventure Cat by Martina Gutfreund and Leigh-Anne Ingram
The Instagram-famous Bengal cat who travels the world, Suki came to an analog platform this year with Travels of Suki the Adventure Cat. The lush photos are the real star here, and your cat-loving friends are sure to go ga-ga for them.
The Plant Parent: Killer Plants: Growing and Caring for Flytraps, Pitcher Plants, and Other Deadly Flora by Molly Williams
We all know at least one true green thumb, and now's the perfect time to inspire them to expand their plant-parent horizons. Rather than giving them a new succulent or planter this year, wrap them up a copy of Killer Plants. This guide to carnivorous flora ownership will delight anyone who's ever gazed longingly at a pitcher plant or Venus flytrap.
The Photographer: GLORY: Magical Visions of Black Beauty by Kahran and Regis Bethencourt
It's difficult to overstate just how gorgeous this photobook is. At a time when Blackness continues to be over-scrutinized and vilified, Kahran and Regis Bethencourt's GLORY is a bold reminder that Black is beautiful. Pick it up for your photographer friend today.
The Artist: Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
Allie Brosh is back! After a years-long hiatus following the untimely death of her sister, the Hyperbole and a Half author returned to store shelves earlier this year with Solutions and Other Problems: a new collection of illustrated stories that's every bit as funny and heartfelt as her previous offering. The artist in your life will love unwrapping this book.
The Writer: Or What You Will by Jo Walton
For your favorite writer, there's no better gift than Jo Walton's Or What You Will. In this striking new novel, a writer's imaginary muse sets out in search of a way to save his creator and himself, as her life nears its end.
Yourself: Hood Feminism: Notes on the Women a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Lauded when it appeared in stores earlier this year, Mikki Kendall's Hood Feminism has been overshadowed somewhat by more recent releases. As we approach the new year, now is the perfect time to read Kendall's righteous takedown of white feminism and embrace her call to better, more inclusive action.
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