Struggling with ideas for what to get your friends and family for the holidays this year? Want to share your love of books with loved ones who don’t crave the strictly literary as much as you do? Look no further than this list of stellar books, examples of great literature, yes, but also fit for readers of all kinds. From poetry to prose, indie to mainstream, there’s something for everyone on your list.
For your bestie who always knows the perfect thing to say:
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
In her three previous books and her “Dear Sugar” column, Cheryl Stayed dished honesty, spirit, and ample tough love, encouraging her readers to “Be brave enough to break your own heart,” “Keep walking,” and “Ask yourself: What is the best I can do? And then do that.” This book gathers more than 100 of Strayed’s most inspiring quotes and thoughts.
For the mad-scientist foodie:
The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt
If you know someone who’s always looking to get better in the kitchen, and who loves to understand the science behind their successes and failures with food, here’s the cookbook they’ve been waiting for. Full of fun experiments, gorgeous photos, and perfected recipes on American standards, this book will provide hours of delicious fun long after the holidays are over.
For your budding-feminist, comic-loving teenage niece:
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
From a niche web-comic to a 2015 National Book Award finalist, Nimona is as big in heart and scope as this book’s success. The story of a superhero sidekick in training, it’s both funny and dark—medieval meets sci-fi adventures of a shape-shifting girl with a kick-butt haircut!
For your mom, who reads a poem every night before bed:
Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón:
There is ferocity in Ada Limón’s poems, a revelatory jazz. As she grapples with the most profound of losses—the death of a loved one—she also uncovers intimacies: a desire for for beauty and change, and for something “disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.”
For your sibling who always wanted to be an astronaut:
Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean
Part history, part elegy, Dean chronicles the end of manned space exploration with details that will make you think, make you angry, and make you feel like you were there. The next-best thing to being in zero gravity is having a writer this good take your breath away.
For anyone who loves a good, literary page-turner:
The Last September by Nina de Gramont
Set against a desolate Cape Cod landscape, The Last September tells the story of Brett, a wife, trying to reconcile her feelings for her husband after his untimely death. Delving through Brett’s psyche into a complex emotional mystery, this book promises to keep you in chilling suspense until the last page.
For your coworker, who loves a quirky, well-told tale:
Upright Beasts by Lincoln Michel
From the respected indie press that loves this book enough to produce this trailer, Upright Beasts is a wild ride. With advice on how to work through your relationship during a zombie invasion, and a baby growing up in the stomach of a fox, these twenty-one stories offer snippets of poignant absurdity, perfect for reading over lunch and thinking about all day.
For the new parents and their little one:
The Menino by Isol
When “the Menino arrives naked and yelling, as if to make sure everyone notices,” everyone does notice. Menino is Portuguese for “child” and this book by an internationally award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books—and new mom—is all about the arrival of baby, the family’s response and adjustment, and the shocking perfection of our bodies. A humorous, wry exploration of the new baby’s reality.
Didn’t find your someone special or favorite title on our list? Well, tell us about it! Go to Lookout’s Facebook page and post the name of a book you’re giving your tall-tale-telling grandfather or your party-like-a-rock-star boss this holiday. We’ll randomly select three people to win two books of your choice from the Lookout catalog—one for you and one for a friend! Enter by December 15 to be in the running.