When it comes to buying gifts for loved ones, I have a hard time finding a better gift than a well thought out and deeply personal book selection. While I am unable to offer bespoke book picks for you all (although, dare I say, I would enjoy that), I am able to pull together some of my favorite reads from this past year, and the type of friend or family member who they would speak to the most. I have personally read all of these selections, and would overall recommend every single title on this list to my bookworms out there. But alas, tis the season for gifting. Just send some good book karma out into the universe, and hopefully your gift recipient will pass the book on to you once they finish it 🙂
For the parents with time to read and re-read: Outline
This is the first book in a trilogy by Rachel Cusk, but when I say that it is a standalone masterpiece, it doesn’t begin to do this book justice. It’s the story of a woman spending a summer in Athens, told via her interactions with those around her. These interactions start to create an outline of this woman, without us being given any direct, first person information or reflection. The prose are a thing of beauty, and it’s a book to own and re-read for many years to come.
For the millennial sibling: Self-Portrait with Boy
When a young photographer living and working in a decrepit Brooklyn warehouse apartment accidentally captures an accident on film that becomes her artistic masterpiece, a lot of space for self-reflection is created in the reader. What’s “off limits” when it comes to making art? What must we sacrifice in the name of a masterpiece? You’ll get sucked in to this young 20s artist’s grappling as much as I did, I’m sure.
For the single friend: No One Tells You This
Opening up on the eve of her fortieth birthday, Glynnis MacNicol takes a sharp, fearless, and witty dive into entering this new decade of her life sans spouse or children. She calls into question everything that she’s been taught she “should” be doing and achieving at this age, and emerges with a roadmap for her next four decades that looks decidedly different than the norm, and exists on her own terms. All women should read this book, but it especially hits home as a single gal (or as Emma Watson would call it, “self-partnered.”)
For the wellness nut in your life: The Body Keeps the Score
When considering issues of our time such as mental health, chronic physical ailments, childhood trauma, and how these interact with therapy and medication, I’ve found no better work than Dr. Van Der Kolk’s. Whether trauma is from childhood, or experienced in adulthood in the aftermath of an event such as wartime, the way that this trauma physically manifests in human bodies, and also in their behaviors, emotions, and ways of thinking, is explored in this incredibly comprehensive yet easy to read work.
For the keen social observer friend: Conversations with Friends
The friendships, the romantic relationships, and everything in between are thrown into spectacular relief in Sally Rooney’s breakout novel. Whether they’ve read Normal People (her other great work) or this is their Rooney entry point, your most socially adept friends will appreciate the complexity of the dialogue as much for what’s said as for what isn’t said, which lingers long after the pages have been turned.
For the beach reader: Delicious
Ruth Reichl writes… fiction? That’s what I asked myself when a friend passed me this novel earlier in 2019. As much as I love Reichl’s memoirs about her childhood and time at the helm of Gourmet Magazine, this cream puff of a novel is pure joyous, light reading. I would highly recommend it as a pleasurable and non-dense option for a friend looking for a literary confection to accompany he or she on their next adventure.
For, literally, everyone: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Easily a top three read of 2019 for me, and perhaps the best of all. This book came highly recommended by, well, everyone in my life. I normally approach a much-lauded book with a healthy dose of skepticism, but this one I can sincerely say was not done justice to in the least bit. It’s the story of a therapist who herself seeks therapy during a challenging period in her adult life. However, the book is about so much more than therapy. The relationships described in this book are beautiful in the truest sense of the work, and I found myself so very attached to these characters (who are in fact, real people) even after I turned the last page.
For yourself: Things That Join the Sea and Sky
If we have any Rupi Kaur fans in the house, this book of short stories and observations about living will be right up your alley. I open to a page and read one excerpt each morning, and it’s become a favorite 2019 morning ritual. I’ll share my favorites once you’ve read it and have discovered your own.