We all have those people in our life. We love them, we really do, but they can be incredibly picky, which makes it so hard to find presents! Never fear, though, I’m here to help. Below are few of the classic “picky styles” that you might encounter, and some solutions on what bookish presents you might consider giving this holiday season.
Every cooking fan has their favourite cookbooks, be they general use or speciality cookbooks (I’m particular to The Cookiepedia myself…). This year, there were plenty of wonderful books to choose to give to your favourite chef, such as the delectable Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton (complete with faux smudges and personal post-its on variations to recipes), the always beautifully presented Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi and the latest by celeb chefs Ina Garten (Make it Ahead) and Michael Smith (Family Dinners). You might know Stanley Tucci (The Tucci Cookbook) from film rather than the kitchen, but his cookbook is also a terrific read.
Let’s not forget those great food-lit reads as well…. There have been some wonderful food-related non-fiction books this year, so broaden their horizons. The Trouble With Brunch by Shawn Micallef explores the developing social issues surrounding our fascination with brunch, and how class consciousness is starting to affect the way we eat. The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti is one of my favourites of the year; a tale about a fabulous cheese from Spain, blood oaths, murder plots and intrigue that is all the more fantastic because it’s true. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber helps readers to redefine what ethical eating should be about in the 21st century.
These can be particularly picky people to buy for, as everyone has their own vision of what constitutes iconic, but I don’t think you can go wrong with a behind the scenes look at Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Season 3 & 4 by CA Taylor and David Benioff. Seasons 1 & 2 were profiled in a previous volume; now it’s Seasons 3 & 4 that get special treatment with never before seen footage, sketches, interviews and the like.The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore follows the history of this iconic figure, and the corresponding development of feminism.
Lev Grossman wrapped up the Magicians trilogy with The Magician’s Land this year, so all three books would be a great way to spend the holidays. Brandon Sanderson has been very busy lately, writing for others, for his Young Adult series and finally for his sequel to the best-selling Way of Kings. Words of Radiance has been four years in the making, and fans were not disappointed. Finally, Ann Leckie’s astounding Ancillary Justice has been winning every major award under the sun; for a debut novel, it’s breaking all kinds of barriers in terms of gender speak. The sequel, Ancillary Sword just came out a few months ago, and is also racing up the charts. There is no masculine pronouns used in this society, so you really need to let go of your conventions and embrace the characters as individuals, not as male or female.
There are lots of great books for health-conscious readers, but one of my favourites was the cookbook Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon. Beautifully photographed, smart recipes and some interesting new twists made even this confirmed meat-lover try something new and interesting. More controversial is The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz, promoting the ingestion of foods that you might not normally see on a clean eats plate. A number of friends fell hard and fast for Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsley, and the stories of her first runs turn on its head the common notion that we are all “born to run”. It exposes the truth about starting to run: it can be brutal. Finally, one of the best cookbooks of the year (in my opinion) was Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F&ck by
Keeping the mind healthy is just as important as the body, there are some great books for the brain to help be the best possible you. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris explores how Harris restructured his life after a nationally televised panic attack on GMA. Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull helps you explore what you are doing and adjust your habits in order to unleash your creative side. Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One is Looking by Christian Rudder, a co-founder of OK Cupid! helps readers to understand how to present themselves in a better light, and while it may be tailored for dating, it’s actually pretty applicable to all aspects of life.
Ah… the eternal challenge. How do you get that uninterested teen back into books? 2014 was great for these kids … so many options! Let’s start with the award-winning This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and sister Mariko Tamaki, a story of friendship, growing up and heartbreak between two friends over the course of one summer. Beautifully drawn with a compelling story, this deserves every accolade it’s received thus far. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson chronicles the tale of young woman who has spent her life travelling with her father as he struggles with PTSD from his time in Iraq. They finally settle in one place, but life is not easy for Hayley and her father. Powerful, compelling and heart wrenching – and utterly captivating. Sway by Kat Spears has a similar feel, but this time with a male protagonist, Jesse, who is the king of the deal. Smart, funny and at times highly inappropriate (in other words, perfect), this is a fantastic read. I’ve raved about The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnson before, but if you haven’t read this very Canadian tale of a dragon slayer and his bard then you are missing out.
Sometimes all it takes is some great non-fiction to grab you. The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide by Heather Dakota has a mix of tongue-in-cheek and real-life survival information that will keep your Walking Dead fan engaged and interested. Find Momo by Andrew Knapp is a photography book that happened by chance; Andrew’s dog, Momo, loves to hide in plain sight, and his online photos of his mischievous dog quickly found a following. This book, as well as Humans of New York by Brandan Stanton is a collection of some fantastic shots, and will encourage budding photographers and artists to create their own versions. Maya Van Wagenen made news earlier in the year when she published her book Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek after spending a year following a 1950’s popularity guide at the age of fifteen. Witty, honest and frankly fun, this is a great read for anyone who has ever wondered if they really fit in.
Hopefully this has given you some new thoughts on what to get that hard-to-buy-for member of your family or friends … Have suggestions that might work for one of these individuals? Leave it in the comments! I’m always up for new recommendations.