The holidays are just around the corner, with plenty of shoppers still scrambling to find the perfect gift. If this sounds like you, there's no reason to worry, because I've picked out the one new book to give every person on your holiday list in 2019, so you can do more important things — like party-planning and hanging your holiday decorations.
Every year, I say that I'm going to give books as holiday presents, and every year, I renege on that declaration. It's not that I don't believe books are important — I do! But the fact of the matter is that no one in my family enjoys reading as much as I do, and some have even gone so far as to make me feel silly for making reading part of my New Year's goals each year. Giving books to people who don't like books doesn't seem like it's in the holiday spirit, you know?
Just because my family doesn't appreciate books doesn't mean books don't make great holiday presents, however. 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. (So if anyone wants to send me to Reykjavik for the season, I'm 100% here for it.)
Here are the best books to give as holiday gifts this year:
Your Mom: The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Part memoir, part microhistory of her family home, Sarah M. Broom's The Yellow House traces the story of her parents, Ivy Mae and Simon, who raised a blended family of 12 children in New Orleans East. Following Simon's death when Broom was an infant, Ivy Mae threw herself into the upkeep of their home, only to have her work undone when Hurricane Katrina leveled the area. The Yellow House is a poignant look at the impact of the family home on a prodigal daughter.
Your Dad: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff
Drawing on previous research into our Minority Report-esque future, Shoshana Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism sounds the alarm against new technological developments that work behind the scenes to evaluate and predict your behavior — with potentially disastrous consequences. If this is a "dad book," it's one you'll want to borrow once he's done with it.
Your Sister: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
First-year students David and Sarah fall in love while attending the Citywide Academy for the Performing Arts. Their relationship ends at the beginning of the next school year, leaving Sarah ostracized among their high school community. When a visiting group of British actors lands in their midst, she and another girl, Karen, embark on relationships with two of the most prominent new arrivals — the director and his leading talent. In the wake of these new romantic entanglements, Choi revisits David and Sarah's relationship, challenging everything the reader thought they knew about what transpired in the past.
Your Brother: Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
From Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow comes this exposé of the #MeToo Movement's biggest targets. In Catch and Kill, Farrow recounts the story of his investigation into sexual assault and harassment accusations against Harvey Weinstein, alleging that Hollywood's most powerful forces conspired against him to prevent the truth from getting out. This is one of 2019's must-reads, and your brother will love it.
Your Best Friend: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Candice Carty-Williams' debut novel, Queenie, centers on the eponymous, 25-year-old Jamaican-Brit as she deals with adulthood in the wake of a bad breakup. Looking for love from men who don't have her best interests in mind, Queenie tumbles around the messiness of life, and begins asking herself the big questions about who she is and where she belongs in the world.
Your Partner: Willa & Hesper by Amy Feltman
After meeting one night in Brooklyn, the eponymous heroines of Amy Feltman's debut novel fall deeply in love. Wrapped up in her romance, Hesper doesn't notice that she's let Willa get too close until it's too late. She charts her course for Tbilisi, Georgia, searching for answers to her family's past, leaving Willa alone and unmoored in New York. As Hesper discovers that her family history may be a lie, Willa travels to defunct Nazi concentration camps with a group of Jewish-American young adults, looking for her own answers. A deeply affective novel, Willa & Hesper alternates between its two heroines as they move along their separate paths, ending at the close of the Obama administration.
Your Roommate: Normal People by Sally Rooney
When they were young students at the same school, popular Connell and shy Marianne ran in separate circles. They fell into a relationship by chance, and kept their romance a secret from everyone they knew. Their roles reverse in college, however, where Connell has trouble fitting in, and Marianne thrives. As the two old flames become drawn into one another's orbit yet again, they're forced to face tough questions about what they truly mean to one another.
The History Buff: The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Years after Josephine used an innate, supernatural ability to escape the bonds of slavery, her descendant, Ava, has fallen on hard times. Forced to find a new way to provide for herself and her son after losing her job, she moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, who is willing to pay Ava for her time in Martha's home. As her grandmother and the creepy old house become increasingly hostile, however, Ava finds herself confronting forces that threatened Josephine long ago.
The Fashionista: Worn on This Day: The Clothes That Made History by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell
Your friend whose looks are always pitch-perfect and on point will love Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell's history-hopping fashion photobook. From Jackie Kennedy's infamous pink suit, to the outfit worn by King Charles I at his execution, Worn on This Day is an eye-opening look at a year's worth of iconic fashion.
The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Geek: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
One of the year's most celebrated fantasy novels, Gideon the Ninth throws readers into the midst of a murder mystery set in a space-faring community of necromancer heirs and skilled sword-wielders. At the center are Gideon and Harrow — childhood rivals forced to work together by their darkest secrets and deepest desires.
The Eco-Conscious One: Live Green: 52 Steps for a More Sustainable Life by Jen Chillingsworth and Amelia Flower
Perfect for the family member who always brings her own shopping bags and eschews single-use plastics, Jen Chillingsworth and Amelia Flower's Live Green is a cute little lifestyle manual for anyone who strives to live an eco-friendly, carbon-neutral existence.
The Interior Decorator: Architectural Digest at 100: A Century of Style
Architectural Digest celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, and published this retrospective best-of in recognition. Including article excerpts and photographs from throughout the magazine's first century of being, this book is an amazing resource for that friend who is always planning their next reno project.
The Foodie: From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes That Look After Themselves by Diana Henry
A lot of people hear "foodie" and think of endlessly complicated dishes, like osso buco and pressed duck, but trust me: being a foodie is also about enjoying the elegance of simplicity. Diana Henry's From the Oven to the Table is a masterful presentation of the latter, and you may even want to pick up a copy for yourself.
The Traveler: Wanderlust: A Traveler's Guide to the Globe
Whether your friend is an old hand at globetrotting, or has just started planning their first trip out of the country, Wanderlust is sure to be a hit. Featuring amazing photos and insider tips on the world's most intriguing locations, this oversized guide makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift.
The Witch: Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within by Juliet Diaz
Have a friend who's just embarking on their witchy journey? Pick them up a copy of Juliet Diaz's Witchery, which contains oodles of great tips on everything. Spells, charms, altars — you name it, Diaz has it covered. Witchery is an indispensable resource for the modern-day witch.
The Marathon-Watcher: Fleabag: The Scriptures by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Her hit U.K. series isn't getting a third season, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge continues to delight with the release of Fleabag: The Scriptures — a collection of show scripts, annotated with her own comments about writing and production. The TV-lover on your list will be thrilled to have this one, so make sure you're the one to buy it for them.
The Culture Critic: Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino
New Yorker culture critic Jia Tolentino published this debut essay collection back in August, and now it's time to share its wit and wisdom with the culture critic in your life. Trick Mirror was one of the year's most lauded books, and your friends and loved ones are sure to enjoy reading it once the hectic holidays die down.
The True-Crime Lover: The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity by Axton Betz-Hamilton
Part true crime, part memoir, Axton Betz-Hamilton's The Less People Know About Us traces her family's experiences with identity theft, which began when she was 11 years old and led her parents to seclude themselves inside their home, distrusting of even their closest friends and loved ones. When Betz-Hamilton reached adulthood, however, she found that her parents were not the only family members who had been targeted by identity thieves.
The Gamer: Dungeons and Drawings: An Illustrated Compendium of Creatures by Blanca Martínez de Rituerto and Joe Sparrow
No matter whether your friend plays video games, tabletop games, or something else, they're sure to love Blanca Martínez de Rituerto and Joe Sparrow's Dungeons and Drawings, which brings a variety of monsters and mythical creatures to life in colorful artwork.
The Hopeless Romantic: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
As the creator of a popular dating app, Rhiannon has more important things to worry about than getting ghosted by Samson, a former pro-football star and total hottie. Months after he left Rhi on read, Samson's back in her life, and he's working with a rival dating service she's trying to acquire. But how can the two of them ever work together as business partners, when their last endeavor ended so abruptly?
The Dog Person: On Dogs: An Anthology
Containing an introduction from comedian Tracey Ullman, On Dogs: An Anthology collects vignettes and essays on man's best friend from actors, writers, and explorers, including Miranda Hart, John Steinbeck, and Roald Amundsen. Your dog-loving friends and loved ones will delight in this book.
The Cat Person: Walter Chandoha. Cats. Photographs 1942–2018 by Susan Michals
Susan Michals' lauded photobook collects nearly 80 years of the late Walter Chandoha's cat photographs. This coffee table book contains a foreword from Chandoha himself, which precedes nearly 300 pages of cat pictures that range from funny to elegant.
The Plant Parent: Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
At 40, gardener and cat lady May Attaway is the same age as her mother was when she died. After an unexpected vacation arrives, May sets out to reconnect with four old friends. They haven't spoken in years, and May is the last person they expect to show up at their doorsteps, but each invites her in, sharing not just her home but a slice of her life. As she spends the month hopping from one long-distance friend to the next, May searches for answers to what place friendship — and something more than friendship — can have in her life.
The Photographer: prettycitynewyork: Discovering New York's Beautiful Places by Siobhan Ferguson
The follow-up to prettycitylondon, Instagram photographer Siobhan Ferguson's prettycitynewyork showcases the Big Apple's most beautiful nooks and crannies. Alongside her gorgeous pictures, Ferguson offers up tips for fans who want to photograph their own cities and travels.
The Artist: Edith Halpert, the Downtown Gallery, and the Rise of American Art by Rebecca Shaykin
In this slim volume, Rebecca Shaykin recounts the story of Downtown Gallery founder Edith Halpert, who helped shape the style and focus of American art in the 20th century. Edith Halpert, the Downtown Gallery and the Rise of American Art is a must-read microhistory that any artist will be sure to love.
The Writer: Bunny by Mona Awad
Accepted into an elite MFA program in New England, Samantha struggles to fit in with the other aspiring fiction authors. Rich, chummy, and bright, the Bunnies — so called because they all refer to one another as "Bunny" — are nothing like her. But when Samantha receives an invite to join the Bunnies' writing group and go on a retreat with them, she finds herself entangled in a creepy, cult-like mystery from which there may be no easy escape.
Yourself: Know My Name by Chanel Miller
After coming forward as the victim in the Stanford rape case, Chanel Miller published this memoir in September 2019. Know My Name takes readers through Miller's experiences on the night she was attacked, during Brock Turner's trial, and in the aftermath of the lenient sentencing he received.