The Best Books to Give as Gifts 2019

best books gifts best books gifts

Giving someone a book for the holidays is a high-risk, high-reward situation. Essentially, you’re telling the recipient how to spend hours of precious down time. Does it get more personal than that? But a book is way better than a pair of slippers and, well, you can nail it. Below is a list of foolproof book recommendations to give as gifts to all the women on your list — no matter their life stages.

For your neighbor who just had a baby…best books
Dear Girls by Ali Wong 

She already has a freezer full of lasagna and a dresser stuffed with onesies so why not bring over something that’ll make her laugh? Comedian Ali Wong’s memoir—told in the form of letters to her kids—is perfect for dipping into while basking in newborn newness or recovering from sleepless nights.

For your coworker who’s SO over her job…

best books

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox

Espionage! Geopolitics! Motherhood! If you’re in the market for adventure, this gripping memoir tells the story of one woman’s time spent in the CIA. She’s hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists while pausing to have a baby and recommend clove oil to a nuclear arms dealer. No pressure or anything.

For your sister who’s read everything under the sun…

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

My favorite book of the year happens to be an exquisite account of domestic abuse. Bookworms will rejoice at Machado’s experiments with storytelling and style of blending literary criticism, scientific texts and pop culture. It’s a quick read but requires frequent breaks to catch your breath.

For the mom in your kid’s class who didn’t think Last Christmas was romantic enough…

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Turn up the steam with a global romance novel as America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales. Breezy and banter-y, this book is the winter equivalent of a beach read. It’s a ridiculously ludicrous, totally over-the-top and hopelessly romantic story that’ll pair nicely with a holiday movie binge.

For your mother-in-law…

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Have you heard about the Ann Patchett Phenomenon™? For whatever magical reason, all mother-in-laws love Ann Patchett. Next time you find yourself making small talk at a children’s birthday party, sidle over to the grandmother huddle—the best place to be, really—and casually bring up Ann Patchett. Boom. You’re in.

For your mom…

Little Women: 150th Anniversary Edition by Louisa May Alcott, illustrated by Shreya Gupta

The timeless treasure literally opens with the March sisters talking about what to give their beloved Marmee for Christmas. So, fine, it’s an obvious choice. But you could go one step further and throw in some tickets to the Greta Gerwig remake, because you *know* mom would love to be your date.

For your group chat crew…

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

You’re sharing articles and memes all year long so why not toss a book of topical essays into the mix? Lindy West digs into today’s political climate and cultural cornerstones with brash humor. Feminist culture essays are having a real moment—fans of Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror will enjoy this chattier collection—and that’s perfectly fine. There’s plenty of room at the table.

For your friend who’s on the verge of burnout…

How to Be a Family by Dan Kois

When a writer and attorney realize their suburban lives are overworked and full to the brim with kids’ activities, they take off on a trip around the globe, giving the reader reflections on a variety of parenting styles that are both funny and poignant. Plus, it’s refreshing to hear that no matter where you travel in the world, you cannot escape your kids’ whining.

For the high school friend you see once a year but still knows you like the back of her hand…

Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

Ah 1999. The economy was stable. Soulless algorithms were nonexistent. You had a driver’s license. And, as argued by Brian Raftery, it was also a transformative year for movies, from Office Space to The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, and The Matrix. Gift a trip down memory lane with an added bonus: it costs less than a ticket to your high school reunion.

For your water cooler ride or die…

Watchmen by Alan Moore

I’m giving this to my husband because I work from home so our breakfast table is my water cooler. (And it’s usually crawling with kids.) But, assuming you’re as captivated and confused by HBO’s Watchmen as we are, whomever you digest Sunday night TV with will appreciate a graphic novel that helps to shed some light on the show.

For your BFF…

Flower Color Guide by Darroch Putnam, Michael Putnam

She’s there for every one of your emergency vent sessions. And you’d send her fresh flowers once a week if you could… but we’re not made of money, honey. Besides, real flowers wilt and she can keep this lush reference guide on her dresser all year long.

For yourself…

best books

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Why don’t you save some merriment for yourself after you’ve made everything merry for everyone else around you? Your future self will thank your past self when you’re able to escape into this awarding winning coming-of-age novel on day 3 of winter break. There, you won Christmas.

Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Nashville. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.