Buying a book for someone else is tricky.
We don’t all like the same things. We don’t all enjoy the same genres. We don’t all laugh at the same jokes.
But what if there were some fool-proof books you could give almost anyone and they’d love?
Before I begin, if you give someone one of these books and they don’t like it, it probably means they have horrible taste in books and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I know good books. I stand by this list and it will never be my fault for someone not clicking with one of them.
Okay, now we can begin:
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
I read this years ago and still think about it often. Doughty is a mortician whose life mission is to make us rethink our traditions and customs of honoring the dead. I loved this book; it’s full of research, stories from around the world, and honest discussion about the way we’ve created a culture afraid of the dead bodies of our loved ones.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Sister by Kate Clifford Larson
As someone who doesn’t have any real interest in the Kennedy family, this book was engaging and interesting from beginning to end. The bigger story of our mistreatment and misunderstanding of mental illness and differently-abled people will break your heart and, hopefully, reframe the way you think and talk about God’s children the world often deems second class.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (or any Sedaris book, really)
This is not Sedaris’ first book, but it’s the first one I read as a sophomore in college so it holds a special place in my heart. Me Talk Pretty One Day is a collection of essays about his childhood and family. As a writer, I respect this book for the craft; as a reader, I love his voice and family, the way he paints such authentic, flawed people with love and honesty.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book is about two children, a blind girl and a young soldier, whose paths cross in occupied France during World War II. All the Light We Cannot See is such a well-written story, the talent and dedication it takes to tell such a moving fiction is awe-inspiring. I haven’t met anyone who didn’t love this book.
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
I’m throwing a little young adult fiction on the list because I will forever work against the stereotype that the label YA makes it childish or not valid for the adult reader. I participated in an adult book club read of Made You Up with my local library and sitting in a room full of elderly adults discussing this moving book made my heart so happy. Of course some YA literature isn’t engaging for adults, but this one is, so don’t write it off because of the genre.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
I made my dad read this book, and he begrudgingly did it. We read very different things and while he won’t say he loved it, I can tell in his eyes he did. A Man Called Ove is about a crumedgeon who seems to hate everyone. Underneath his grumpy exterior is sadness and pain, so as the reader gets to know Ove, you can’t help but fall in love with him even though you want to strangle him. The storytelling and character development in this one is beautiful to witness.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
I couldn’t put a gift list together without a side of social justice. I think The New Jim Crow should be required reading for everyone in America. Reading this well-researched and thought-provoking book about mass incarceration in the US will change your perspective on how race influences our criminal “justice” system. This will push lots of us to confront some bias and privilege we tend to ignore.
Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin
Want to feel pumped and excited for the new year? Grab this book. If you’ve got someone on your list who loves self-improvement and self-help and encouragement, Better Than Before is the perfect gift. I listened to the audio version on the treadmill every morning, and I felt so inspired. There’s good stuff for everyone in this one.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
There are two groups of people who read this book: people who see themselves in the Vance family and those who know people who are the Vance family. Either way, Hillbilly Elegy is a frank and honest look at the upwardly mobile white lower class struggles. Race and class in American is so twisty and complicated, and if we want to talk openly about all the parts, we all need to read this book.
Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
If you’ve been here for a while you know I recommend this book on all my gift lists. It’s just funny. Leave it on the coffee table and let the people laugh. If you’re a sensitive Nelly who doesn’t like curse words, you’ll want to sit this one out, but otherwise, it’s an entertaining and fun book that most (non-prudish) people will enjoy.
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff
Children’s version: Love Does by Bob Goff and Lindsey Goff Viducich
We all feel ordinary and stuck sometimes. In Love Does, Goff helps us change our perspective from boring to exciting with a call to see and interact in our world differently. This book feels happy and joyful and life-giving in a way we can all relate to.
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
You didn’t think I’d make a book-buying list without including this one, did you? If I was asked one book outside of the Bible that got me through the roughest year of my life, it would be The Road Back to You. Seeing myself through the lens of the Enneagram began a journey of work and healing, both for myself and my marriage, that I’m not sure would have happened otherwise. It feels crazy to say this book filled in blanks that were killing me in ways I wasn’t yet aware, but it’s the truth. I seriously do give this book to everyone, and I think you should too.
Remember: If you buy one of these books and the receiver doesn’t like it, it means they’re tasteless chumps who wouldn’t know a good book if it bit them in the butt. Because these are
good great books everyone should love.
Have a good one to add to the list? What book would you give to anyone because you love it so much? Help us spread good books!
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