The Books 36 Authors Are Giving Their Friends This Holiday

We wish we were friends with these authors! Here are the reads they're giving their buds for Jólabókaflóð.

Jolabokaflod Wrapped Gift Books

Book people are the best people, no contest. You feel it every time you’re greeted by an independent bookseller, every time you exchange pleasantries with your local librarian, and every time you catch the eye of a fellow reader on the subway. There’s a special joy in finding common ground in books. “Passing along a book you love is a way to find your people,” writes author Jessica Yu, and we couldn’t agree more. Here, 36 authors recommend the books they will be giving their friends this year for Jólabókaflóð.

 

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

“Hats off to Iceland for having a holiday that revolves around book giving. I think we need to adopt this holiday immediately. (Or at least make it a part of those we already celebrate.) There’s nothing like receiving a book from someone who loved it. Book recommendations are also a gift. Especially when they come at just the right time. Last summer I was on an unusually tight deadline, writing what felt like 24/7 for months. My brain was fried. I needed something to read. Something to escape into that wouldn’t result in a hangover. Something entirely different from what I write. A close friend recommended The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, a series about a professional wizard/detective in Chicago. It’s filled with magic and supernatural creatures and a police department that deals with “special investigations.” I’ve enjoyed paranormal, time travel, and magical realism on occasion; it’s just not my usual go-to genre. But my friend’s eyes lit up. Her voice rang with the kind of passion a writer hopes to ignite and a reader hopes to feel. I started on book one that night. I read during what passed for lunch and in those spare moments and evenings when I needed a break from my own work. The action and the magical world are finely drawn, but as a writer and reader, for me, it’s always about the characters. I fell in love with Jim Butcher’s flippant, flawed yet heroic, Harry Dresden on page one of that first book. My love grew. All these months later I’m trying not to finish the fifteenth, and final, book in the series. I’m going to miss Harry and his friends and allies horribly. I’ll even miss his enemies. I realized as I read the series that if you subtract the magic and all the really cool supernatural details, he and I are both writing about the bonds of friendship that get us through the toughest times. With a distinctly light touch. If we were celebrating Jólabókaflóð, and I really think we should, I would gift a loved one with the entire Dresden Files series. If we’re allowed to tweak the tradition to include book recommendations, then this is my gift to you with all best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.” —Wendy Wax, author of A Bella Flora Christmas

 

The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged

“Jólabókaflóð. The yule book flood! Everyone gives a book on Christmas Eve and they spend the night reading them. What a brilliant idea, and hooray for Iceland! What a wonderful country that values books and reading. I think I’d want to share the book I’d been given with those around me that night, so I’d choose a book to give that could be read out loud. One of my favorites and perfect for the occasion would be the poems of Robert Frost. His poetry is so evocative and so right for cold winter evenings. What’s more, his world is one of simplicity, of peace, and safe havens that so many of us crave right now. I once visited his farm with friends and we did the poetry walk, each taking turns to read the appropriate poem at the site about which it was written. One of the most memorable things I have ever done. And I am now inspired to do this myself this year: so picture me sitting by the fire and reading ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…'” —Rhys Bowen, author of On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service

 

…And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer

“When I was a senior in college, my roommate gave me …And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer as a Christmas present. It was (and still is) one of the best books I’ve ever read, and was published to great acclaim when the author was in her eighties. I would like to give this book to a dear friend, Carol Sue, who is in her seventies and who, like Santmyer, has been a lifelong career woman and writer. She has written a few novels but is sadly no longer writing. I’d like to give her this book to not only share the pleasure of reading it, but also to remind her that age is only a number and that youth does not have the monopoly on dreams.” —Karen White, author of Dreams of Falling

 

How to be Happy by Eva Woods

“On Jólabókaflóō, I would give a copy of How to be Happy, by Eva Woods, to my best friend. It’s an emotional but ultimately uplifting read about getting the most out of life, and making every single day count, and I think that everyone should read it! As someone who writes slightly darker, twistier books, I found How to be Happy the perfect change of pace from my usual thrillers, and I can’t stop recommending it to people. It’s perfect for anyone interested in mindfulness and gratitude.” —Clare Mackintosh, author of I See You

 

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

“Part portrait of an artist (as a little red monster), part a portrait of “otherness,” Carson collides Greek and indigenous Aegean myths, high and low verbal pyrotechnics, and provides adventures and laughs aplenty in this astonishing novel written in verse. One of my favorite books ever, a perfect gift for anyone who loves language.” —Cristina Garcia, author of Here in Berlin

 

Ulysses by James Joyce

“To my smart, well-read friends, who aren’t necessarily writers themselves, I’d give James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’d tell them to read a very brief summary before they read it. Then, enjoy. Don’t get bogged down in the details. So much of the meaning of the novel is purely associative. Just let the poetry of it swim through you!” —Dinitia Smith, author of The Honeymoon

 

The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons

“This is one of the most epic love stories ever told with a good dose of history, taking place in WWII Russia and beyond. It’s such a tearjerker and page-turner. I would give it to a stranger so they can be touched by the words and because I’ve already given it to ALL of my friends.” —Anna Todd, author of The Spring Girls


The Time of the Doves by Mercè Rodoreda

“The Time of the Doves, by the Catalan writer Mercè Rodoreda, is a gift I would give to a friend who loves books as works of art, because this book is one of the greatest works of art I have ever come across. Set in Barcelona in the early 20th century, the novel tells the story of Natalia, a young woman who survives the Spanish Civil War and finds her way back to a self she had lost in the process. Rodoreda writes as if captive in the most lucid of dreams, the kind where the world is painted by an unknown genius, and draws the reader in so thoroughly that we feel like we are living and breathing another life. I have read this book four or five times in the last 20 or so years, and each time I arrive at the last page gently, delicately, and reverently plastered to the floor.” —Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

 

She Read to Us in the Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels by Kathleen Hill

“Of course, I love this idea of a flood of books. I thought at once of Kathleen Hill’s She Read to Us in the Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels. It’s a highly original sort of memoir that treats reading itself as a form of experience. My favorite chapter has the author as a young newlywed teaching in Nigeria, reading Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady and thinking about marriage, and there are equally splendid sections about Willa Cather’s meaning to a twelve-year-old taking in a tragedy, Madame Bovary’s shadow as the author tends her babies in an isolated northern French town, and six years spent reading Proust aloud to a friend losing her sight. Most of my friends who read obsessively would love getting this book as a present, but I think I will give it first to a beloved professor from college now bored by retirement—we’ve stayed friends for decades and it will make perfect sense to him.” —Joan Silber, author of Improvement

 

The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

 

“The Zuni Café Cookbook is something I would give to a friend who was interested in cooking, who wants to learn more about cooking than just following a recipe. This book explains how to coax flavors out of foods, such as why salting meat makes it more succulent, and more. Every sentence in this book has taught me something. I was fortunate to work and cook with author Judy Rodgers for a short period before she became chef and owner of the iconic Zuni Café in San Francisco. She put in a wood-fired oven which turned out the best roast chicken in the world. And the book has explicit instructions on how to get the exact same results at home, even in a crummy home oven. (She tested it in one, just to make sure.) Judy wasn’t just a perfectionist who had a wonderful palate, but also had a gift for conveying the essence of cooking, without any pretense. I refer to this book over and over, and it should be in any cook’s collection.” —David Lebovitz, author of L’Appart

 

A Seventh Man: Migrant Workers in Europe by John Berger and Jean Mohr

“It’s nice when a book you have loved in the past is re-published and introduced to a new generation of readers. A Seventh Man: Migrant Workers in Europe by John Berger and Jean Mohr, first appeared in 1975, but it is as relevant as ever and moves me just as deeply today. The book is a compelling mixture of photographs and poetry, history and political theory. In terms of facts and figures, it is inevitably out-of-date (nowadays a large proportion are women), but it succeeds better than almost any book I know in conveying the dehumanizing effects of migration, and in giving these men a human face. A Seventh Man will be my gift to Chinese novelist Jia Pingwa, because he has written beautifully about migrant workers in China, and because he will instantly understand the connection.” —Nicky Harman, translator of Happy Dreams by Jia Pingwa

 

Caesar’s Last Breath by Sam Kean

“Okay, so those diet and fitness books that I gave last year did not go over well. Evidently, no one really wants to dwell on such topics during the holidays. I’m moving on this year with Caesar’s Last Breath, by Sam Kean. I realize that the air around us sounds like it would make anyone’s list of the top ten more boring subjects in the world but stay with me here. You know that great feeling you get when you read a science book written by someone with the skills of a novelist—a writer who can make you feel like you actually grasp the concepts? That’s how I felt about this book. This is life and death stuff filled with harrowing adventure and I absolutely LOVED the ending!!! I’ll be giving this book to my brother, a professional dive instructor. I figure anyone who goes underwater with a tank of air strapped on his back will be interested in this book. Actually, I think anyone who is still breathing would find it fascinating.” —Jayne Ann Krentz, author of Promise Not to Tell

 

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

“In 1992, I taught English for a year, in Japan, and as a side gig, I was roped into teaching a rich old lady, and her friends, literature in English. The book Mrs. Horikawa gave me to teach her old-style literary salon was a novel translated into English, by Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood. Murakami wasn’t known much out of Japan then, and I was amazed by the fusions in his writing: the mix of jazz, Western food, and allusions to every kind of American and European book, all within a novel that was so traditionally Japanese, which caught the mournfulness and solitude of a Japanese garden in fall—yet based on the modern events of the student protests of the late 1960s. Two years ago, I made a quick, solid new friend, who I felt I had known for a long time—though I could also feel his solitude. The friend was the writer Tom Drury, and when I read his amazing novel Pacific, I encountered that solitary yearning to connect, again. I will see Tom for the first time in two years, in Berlin, this holiday. I will give him Norwegian Wood.” —Josh Barkan, author of Mexico

 

Pure Drivel by Steve Martin

“For Jólabókaflóð, I think I’d get my girlfriend Steve Martin’s Pure Drivel, a collection of essays (most originally appearing in the New Yorker) that the comedian released in 1998. I was about 18 years old when it came out, the perfect age to be a literary sponge. I was already trying my hardest to write comedy, with some essays published in my college newspaper, and then this came along. It influenced me more than almost any other book when it came to format and technique, and while writing my own memoir, I thought about Martin’s tone constantly. My girlfriend and I are always talking about own influences in our work, and I think this is a perfect look into what has shaped my humor. I might also get her a picture book of cute dogs, but I didn’t think I could write a paragraph about that.” —Jensen Karp, author of Kanye West Owes Me $300

 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

“Since I’m always on the lookout for powerful books written by brave women, this year I’ll be giving Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere as a gift to the smart, witty, and strong women I treasure as friends. I received Ng’s acclaimed debut, Everything I Never Told You, from a close friend who said, “Begin reading this tonight!” and I am glad I listened. From the first haunting line, Ng hooked me with the sensitivity and confidence she uses to tackle serious themes. Like myself, many of my friends have multi-racial families. This representation in Ng’s work is important and deeply meaningful to me as a reader. I can’t wait to share another book by Celeste Ng with the important women in my life. I hope her writing has as much impact on them as it did on me.” —Brenda Rufener, author of Where I Live

 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

“To my mind, there is no greater pleasure in the dark winter months than snuggling up with a ghost story. One of my favorites, which begins with the telling of a ghost story on Christmas Eve, is The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. It’s a short, sharp, utterly terrifying story, guaranteed to give anyone a chill. No matter how many times I’ve read it, I still read certain parts through my fingers. I’d give this book (and the terror that comes with it) to a good friend of mine who often boasts to never having been scared by a book. We’ll see about that.” —Beth Lewis, author of The Wolf Road

 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

“I would give Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend to my best girlfriend so that we could read it together—as my best girlfriend suggested we read it two years ago and changed my life. Because Ferrante has been so highly praised in literary circles it’s easy to be intimidated and misunderstand how absolutely readable and passionate her prose is. This is the female-driven story of two girls, Lila and Elena, from their very first meeting in poverty-stricken post-war Naples, Italy. It’s a book rich with relationship insights that honor the sticky bond of female friends—the good, the bad, the ugly, the triumphant and the petty. Lila and Elena are both intelligent and struggle over the span of their lives (and four books) for a sense of autonomy in a patriarchal society that is in itself in flux. The first book stands alone and instantly rose in my esteem to a place beside the works of Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Louisa May Alcott.” —Thelma Adams, author of The Last Woman Standing

 

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How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ

“My pick would definitely be How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ, which I would like to give to every young writer and reader I know, but I’ll settle for the dear friend with whom I trade work for critique. The book explores the ways in which the exclusion of women’s writing from the canon has been justified, and the specious reasoning for treating it as lesser. Russ was a pioneering writer of science fiction, so of course, the book begins with a parable about an alien race, which she uses to illustrate how ridiculous those justifications are once they’re divorced from their familiar context. It’s peppered with references to books and writers I’d never heard of, a lost heritage of women’s writing that I missed in favor of reading Dickens for the sixth consecutive school year.” —Sara Taylor, author of The Lauras

 

The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman

“Recommending a book and giving one as a gift are slightly different animals. To recommend a book, all I need is to have liked it, and to suspect you would, too. A gift, though, should also say, “Hey! I know you. I care about you.” For Jólabókaflóð, then, I’d look for the same things I do in a Christmas gift: first, a beautifully made book, the kind that feels gift-wrapped even before you break out the Scotch tape and scissors. And second, a book that speaks the deep language of the soul. I love Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty for just this reason. It’s a genre-defying work that grounds Kalman’s visual whimsy in the intimate mysteries of life. Another favorite gift is Anne Carson’s Nox, a one-of-a-kind “book in a box” in which she confronts the death of her brother. It’s a book and a talisman, at the same time. And last year, I gave out several copies of The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (best known for her Moomins comics). Its illustrations are lower-key than Kalman’s, but the piercing simplicity of its voice feels like your own speaking back to you.” —Garth Risk Hallberg, author of A Field Guide to the North American Family

 

The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction by Rachel P. Maines

“With its severe cover (is that a drill? It really looks like a drill), witty footnotes, and priceless vintage artwork, this 120-page scholarly treatise on the history of the vibrator is the perfect book for these absurd and enraging times. Feminist historian Rachel Maines starts way back in the B.C., when “hysteria” was identified (invented?) as a disease stemming from a lack of female sexual gratification. Rather than wonder whether, hmm, maybe intercourse just isn’t as fun for women as it is for men, Hippocrates, Galen, and other towering minds decided that there must be something wrong with women. Having pathologized normal female sexuality, the male medical establishment set about devising treatments, and Maines traces two millennia-worth of bizarre and sometimes hilarious attempts to make women come under the guise of curing their dreadful affliction. This caustically funny book mocks the medical profession, skewers the patriarchy, and casts a merciless light on male sexual prerogatives. In short, it’s the perfect companion for cold winter nights, Icelandic or otherwise, and I’m giving it to all of my female friends.” —Eliza Kennedy, author of Do This For Me

 

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

“The book I would recommend for the holidays is Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell, creator of the Sharpe novels. It’s a kind of “there’s no business but show business” story set in the Elizabethan theatre world of William Shakespeare and his younger rival brother putting on the first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hugely entertaining and very funny, It’s a perfect snuggle-up Christmas fire-side read.” —Peter Turner, author of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

 

Battles in the Desert & Other Stories by José Emilio Pacheco

“If I could give one book to one person for Jólabókaflóð, that book would be Battles in the Desert & Other Stories by the Mexican author José Emilio Pacheco, and I would give it to someone who didn’t like to read. I would give it in the hope that they would learn to love to read. Although I’ve since gathered that Pacheco is a giant of Spanish letters, I’d never even heard of him until just a few years ago, let alone had I heard of this perfect collection. It’s a short, fast book—just 117 pages in Katherine Silver’s English translation—and it’s as warm and hilarious as it is quick. None of which is to say that it’s a light book—grit and evil and human complexity are lurking behind this or that garbage can or cat in the majority of its seven stories’ alleys—but rather that it’s a lovable book, a generous book, one that speaks so directly to its reader so frequently, it almost seems like a friend. “You won’t believe it, you’ll just say I’m an idiot,” the first story opens, “but when I was younger I used to dream about being able to fly, being invisible, and watching movies at home.” Who wouldn’t want to know more? Well, I’m sure there’s someone you can think of, but would you be interested in buying them a gift to begin with? If so, you need to make better friends.” —Camille Bordas, author of How to Behave in a Crowd

 

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

“It’s rare for me to read a book and immediately think ‘y’know who’d really like this..?’ That’s pretty much just what happened with Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel’s sequel to Sleeping Giants. It hits so many elements that my friends and I enjoy—complex characters, ancient mysteries, scientific puzzles, a little bit of secret government agencies, and—of course—giant robots fights. And Neuvel just did such a fantastic job casually weaving all these threads together with his “live interviews” narrative, making the whole thing a one-sitting page-turner. I’m tempted to get copies of both of them for my friends Marcus, Gillian, Matt, and Jeff… except, well, we all exchange and open gifts together. So while I know they’ll all love it, it might make me look a bit lazy…” —Peter Clines, author of Paradox Bound

 

Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach

“A perfect Jólabókaflóð gift is Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Romancing the Ordinary. Most people know Ban Breathnach from her blockbuster Simple Abundance, but I prefer this invocation to the senses. We spend so much time focused on technology that we often forget to pay attention to the natural world. This book is a beguiling invitation to change that and is organized around monthly essays celebrating not just the seasons but how we absorb and process and enjoy them through our senses. Ban Breathnach writes with charm and verve, and I love the fact that this is a book best read slowly. I begin each chapter on the first day of that month, spinning out the experience as long as I can, flirting with the essays and exercises through the weeks that follow. This is a book to savor and a thoughtful and enchanting gift for anyone who needs a little more magic in their days.” —Deanna Raybourn, author of A Treacherous Curse

 

The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison

“I would recommend Toni Morrison’s The Origin of Others, which is not only by a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, but the trim-size of the book makes it look like the perfect gift or a stocking stuffer. I also suggest Nikki Giovanni’s A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter.” —Stephanie Stokes Oliver, author of Black Ink

 

Dusk and Other Stories by James Salter

“I would give this to one of my best friends, Keith, a fellow writer, who is choosier about reading “good prose” than anyone I know. And Salter delivers. Every sentence is a gem, as he takes Carver-esque minimalism and injects it with more emotion. The stories all look effortless, but they somehow seesaw from heartache to joy and then back to tragedy. I’m sad that I discovered Salter relatively late in life, so now I’m going to be That Guy who (annoyingly) recommends him to everyone I know, a la The Wire.” —Jeff Wilser, author of The Book of Joe

 

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

“The book I want to give to everyone I love is Sally Rooney’s debut, Conversations with Friends. It’s one of those novels that reminds you of reading experiences you had as a teenager—so absorbing and all-consuming that you feel grief when you come out the other side and re-enter the world, asking where have these characters gone and how do I go on without them?” —Hermione Hoby, author of Neon in Daylight

 

Here is New York by E.B. White

“When I moved to New York in 1988, I firmly rooted myself in the East Village, in what I believed to be a fixed and unchanging neighborhood. It felt like the artists, the junkies and the poets would always be there. The teams of homeless living in Tompkins Square Park, and the late night transvestite performers at Stingy Lulus. That even rent would never cross the unspeakable threshold of five hundred dollars. I learned when I was given a copy of E.B. White’s Here is New York, by someone older, someone who knew, that the city is built less with bricks and mortar—it moves too quickly for that; it moves at an unimaginable pace. It’s fluid, like memory. This book is about change. We watch it through the perspective of an exile. Even as the author looks at the city, he laments what had been. ‘Remember when? Wasn’t that there?'” —Karl Geary, author of Montpelier Parade

 

Things That Are by Amy Leach

“I would send a copy of Things That Are by Amy Leach to my good friend, the writer and publisher, Éireann Lorsung. She already knows far more than I do about the natural world of which Amy Leach writes, but I know she would appreciate the exuberance with which these short essays are written. The way that Leach mostly ignores physical description on her way to finding the essential thingness of the various beavers, peas, and moons on which she focuses, and the way she finds language that encapsulates that thingness every time, is a joy to behold. It’s a slim book, although it manages to pack a lot in, and will slip easily through the post. Éireann is a long way away, and I miss her, and a book is the best way I know of saying so.” —Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13

 

Foolproofing Your Life by Jan Silvious

“Foolproofing Your Life, by Jan Silvious is a great gift to give to anyone who is struggling with relationships. The greatest takeaway is realizing that you must protect yourself from foolish people and Jan offers skills to deal with impossible individuals. Halfway through the book, Jan Silvious suggests that the reader look in the mirror at the bigger fool for repeatedly try to achieve healthy relationships with unhealthy people. This book is hard-hitting, honest and offers emotional healing.” —Jane Jenkins Herlong, author of Rhinestones in My Flip-Flops

 

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen

“This Christmas, I’m giving a copy of Anya Von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking to one of my closest friends, a person I have dinner with at least twice a month. We’re neither of us serious foodies, just people who love good talk over good food. Bremzen’s winning memoir was made for us, combining in savory detail many shared interests: 1) autobiography; 2) food writing; 3) mothers and daughters; 4) Russian history. An award-winning food writer, she grew up in the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev/Brezhnev era before emigrating as an adolescent with her mother to America. Calling on her expertise, she has chosen to tell a family history through the prism of twentieth-century Russian food, decade by decade. Despite her mother’s and grandmother’s affectionate memories of family parties and holidays, most of the food Bremzen describes was dreadful, from the “French” cooking of the Romanov era, with butter drowning everything, even the lettuce, to late Soviet meals featuring jello lathered in mayonnaise. More darkly, as famine was Soviet policy during the Stalinist years, the book is imbued with deep irony and apprehension, along with wit and charm, becoming a tale of food and hunger. I originally bought the book because of its title, with its winking nod to Julia Child’s groundbreaking French cookbook. I judged a book by its cover and hit the jackpot.” —Susan Rieger, author of The Heirs

 

Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color by Chandler O’Leary and‎ Jessica Spring

“I would give Dead Feminists to all of my best girlfriends. The book is a wonderful combination of art and feminist history, showcasing 27 different amazing women and their stories.” —Anna Brones, author of Live Lagom

 

Tenth of December by George Saunders

“When giving books as gifts, I choose from favorite books I’ve received, gifts that deepened my sense of kinship with the giver. A couple of years ago, some close friends gave me Tenth of December by George Saunders. I read it on a day-long train ride along the California coast. Upon reaching the last page, I stared out at the Pacific Ocean for a few minutes, then started at page one again. I can’t think of another writer who so beautifully explores humanity through the surreal. My feelings about Saunders are forever connected to the friends who made the introduction. A summer later, at the Sun Valley Writers Conference, I had the pleasure to meet the brilliant and delightful Anthony Doerr. Upon discovering our mutual love for Tenth of December, he asked if I was familiar with W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn. I wasn’t. At the end of the conference, someone came up to me and handed me a copy of the book—a gift from Tony. How cool is that? I found it uniquely moving, rippled with wonder and melancholy. Sebald evokes the feeling of nostalgia for a place and time to which one has never actually belonged . . . that pang I always feel when finding the family albums of strangers in secondhand stores. These were gifts from kindred spirits, and I like giving them to others I suspect might be as well. Passing along a book you love is a way to find your people.” —Jessica Yu, author of Garden of the Lost and Abandoned

 

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen

“All pies not in this book are week-old gas station hot dogs.They are two-year-old packs of gum. They are chicken patties from your high school cafeteria. This book will teach you how to make pies like the Elsen sisters—and ruin you (and your friends, and your family) for other pies forever. With its extraordinary, tangy, buttery crusts; inventive, easy to assemble fillings; crystal-clear instructions and clever tips, this book is a warm, wonderful gift for ANYONE with an oven—your boss, that summer wedding you forgot to send a gift for and now the registry is empty, your mail carrier, the friend whose sofa you crashed on for a week, or your entire family. If you’re feeling bucks up, ribbon it to a fancy pie pan for someone you love.” —Barbara Bourland, author of I’ll Eat When I’m Dead

 

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

“I would love to gift all the college freshmen that I teach The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx. This magnificent book, both wild and quiet, is perfectly suited to the reader who is in a time of change. Annie Proulx writes some of the strangest lines you will ever read: “…the devil had long ago taken a shine to Tert Card, filled him like a cream horn with itch and irritation. His middle initial was X. Face like cottage cheese clawed with a fork.” And she urges us to consider impossible things: ‘…For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat’s blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.'” —Rebecca Kauffmann, author of The Gunners

 

Seizing Beauty by Paulette Tavormina

“The book I would give to a loved one is Seizing Beauty by Paulette Tavormina. It is a book of beautiful and fascinating still life photos of nature and botany, with one of the best takes on reinterpreting the paintings of the Dutch master paintings that I have ever seen. I would give this book to my friend Anna. She is a botanical artist who works in printmaking and linocut, and is studying to be a credentialed art teacher right now. I think this book would give her great joy and inspiration.” —Tiffanie Turner, author of The Fine Art of Paper Flowers 

 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“I’d gift The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s a marvelous, touching story that moved me deeply when I first read it as a child. I’ve reread it a couple times as an adult and found myself transported back to that breathless first reading. And second, I think it’s the perfect book to read when winter is at its coldest. The theme of rejuvenation will bring lightness to the reader’s heart on those short winter days. The robin, the return of roses to the secret garden, and Colin’s return to health remind us that brighter times lie ahead.” —Kate Carlisle, author of Eaves of Destruction

 


Feature Illustration: Elsa Jenna

About Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare is a writer based in San Francisco and the founder of Silent Book Club, an international network of book lovers who host introvert happy hours in more than 40 cities. Her first book, I’d Rather be Reading (Chronicle Books), is a love letter to books and readers.

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