You may have heard the rule about gifting: want/need/wear/read. It’s cute, and it rhymes so it’s easy to remember. But I say why not skip the first three and just gift a book? Or several? I’m steadfast in my belief that books make the best gift. They don’t dip in and out of fashion, they can be passed around or reread, and they can take you out of your world and into another. Books teach us lessons and help instill empathy within readers. They are, in short, the perfect gift.
If you don’t know what books to gift this holiday season, or to whom, I’ve got you covered.
For your writer friend, your friend who’s gone through hard times recently, your friend who needs a reminder to take care of themselves, or your friend who simply loves a good read, here are six books to gift this holiday season.
Love & Saffron by Kim Fay
I heard author Kim Fay explain on a podcast that she wrote the first draft of this book as a love letter to send to her friends during the beginning of the Covid lockdown. She wanted them to feel the warm fuzzies we all so desperately lacked in the heat of quarantine. To the utter fortune of those of us who are not Fay’s personal friends, she ended up publishing the book so we can all read it.
It’s a novel in the form of letters exchanged between two women in the 1960s. They talk about food and Kennedy’s assassination and love, and they frequently top the letters off with brilliant recipes. It’s a delicious rapport full of innocence and admiration, respect and reckoning. And it’s under 200 pages, so it’s a brisk read for those who either don’t manage to find the time to read or who are returning to their love of reading. This book will surely suck them back in.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
This book transformed me. It’s about enduring hard times and learning to take care of ourselves in the process, “winter” being both a metaphor for difficult cycles of life as well as the season that can be so brutal. Told in beautiful vignettes from author Katherine May’s life, including stories about her husband falling ill and her own medical issues leading her to leave her job, Wintering is a narrative on rest and rejuvenation, and the importance of nurturing ourselves during our own winters.
Wintering moved me so much that I wrote an article about this concept in December 2020, going into detail about what it means to use winter as a time to heal, rest, and come out stronger on the other side. I think anybody who has gone through a difficult winter, which is to say everybody, needs this book. It’s a permission slip to indulge in the rest that comes with the difficult seasons of life.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Gift this one to your friend who is a reader. Better yet, gift it to your friend who is a writer so this can be her reference book for how to write a sentence. Great Circle is my favorite book I read in 2022, and one of my top five favorites ever. It’s the fictional story of one of the first female aviators and, a century later, the Hollywood star playing the aviator in a movie about her life. I underlined dozens of sentences that stopped me in my tracks as I read them. An example:
“She was at an age when the future adult rattles the child’s bones like the bars of a cage.”
And another: “She bends like a willow in the gusts of her own sorrow.”
What beauty! What an otherworldly way of stringing words together to make meaning. Maggie Shipstead amazes me with her gift, and I buckle under the realization that I’ll never be able to read Great Circle again for the first time.
This book is a tome, clocking in at 608 pages, but it’s 608 pages of immense beauty; of recognition and interpretation of the world of female aviators and the men who tried to control them. Mostly, it’s a story about finding oneself, and isn’t that the most universal story of all?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
What a stunner. I think about this book on a near-daily basis. Author Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist, and she’s also an absolute poet. This collection of essays weaves Kimmerer’s vast ecological knowledge with her identity as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, cooking up stories about belonging in this beautiful world that came before us and what we owe to nature as we trample on it each day.
This is a thoughtful gift for anyone interested in Native American culture or the natural world in which we dwell. Gift this to someone who appreciates nature as the mother she is to us all. It’s an exquisite read, and it will certainly become a classic of our time.
Inward by Jung Pueblo
I came upon this book of poetry by way of finishing a book on a trip and not having a backup, so someone lent me this. I was so glad for this happy mishap. I loved so much of what I read that I ended up snapping pictures of several pages because I knew I’d want to refer back to them at times, whether to share what I loved about this book or to remind myself to go inward, to take care of my head. The messages are love letters to readers, reminding them on every page that taking care of our minds is the only thing that matters.
is this worry real or is my mind just looking for something to grab onto?”
when the body is tired
the mind will often create
worries to focus on”
Gift this to someone who needs a nudge to look inward, to take care of themselves this winter. Pair it with Wintering for the coziest self-care nectar.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
This is the first novel I read that takes place during the upheaval that was 2020. I wasn’t sure I’d feel ready to read about the events of that year, but Louise Erdrich, a true goddess with words, pulled together a most compelling story about everyone’s least favorite year. The Sentence takes place in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, and touches on injustice and illness and the fears that plagued all of us who lived through that year, all through the lens of charismatic characters that I still think about, nearly a year after reading it.
The Sentence is an artful novel that those interested in social commentary would particularly enjoy.
When writing out your gift list this holiday season, don’t forget about books. Books are life-changing; they are a true gift.
Kolina Cicero is enamored with stories – reading them, writing them, getting lost within them. Other things she loves include yoga, traveling, and taking cooking, Italian, and writing classes. Her first children’s book, Rosie and the Hobby Farm, was published in July 2020.