For the Royals-obsessed.
If you find yourself entranced by every photo you see of Kate Middleton attending a charity event or Meghan Markle in a casual cool look at a sporting event, HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style was made for you. Style journalist Elizabeth Holmes examines the fashion of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle with painstaking detail while displaying hundreds of photographs of iconic moments in royal fashion.
But if you’d rather indulge in a more fantastical view of royalty, try Majesty, the second book in Katharine McGee’s American Royals series. The world of American Royals imagines what the United States would be like if it were still governed by a monarchy, and Majesty explores what happens when Princess Beatrice of the House of Washington takes the throne, becoming the first Queen of America.
If the Anglophile in your life somehow hasn’t yet read Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, which examines Harry and Meghan’s decision to step away from their royal lives, give them this tell-all book. It’s required reading for any modern royal family fan.
For people who love to be scared.
In Grady Hendrix's The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, a group of women who love to read about true crime and grisly murders must put their sleuthing skills to the test when they believe a vampire has moved into their neighborhood. It’s macabre, thrilling, and terrifying all at the same time.
In Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic, a young woman travels to a mysterious estate in the Mexican countryside after receiving a cryptic letter suggesting her cousin, who lives there with her creepy new in-laws, might be in danger. It’s perfect for anyone who loves classic Gothic authors like Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier.
Finally, for those obsessed with The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, there's Riley Sager's Home Before Dark, a spine-chilling book about a young woman’s haunted childhood home. Readers be warned: You'll probably want to sleep with the lights on.
For the pop culture fanatics.
Many celebrity memoirs tend to only skim the surface of the juiciest parts of their lives, but that is so not the case with Jessica Simpson’s Open Book. She goes into great detail about her failed Mickey Mouse Club audition, her toxic relationship with John Mayer, and her recovery from alcoholism. It’s a truly fascinating read, and you’ll leave with a heightened respect for this often misunderstood (and underestimated) pop star.
Speaking of pop stars, queen of Christmas Mariah Carey is no stranger to the spotlight, and in her first memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, she gives her fans an intimate look at her private life that she’s never revealed before.
For the person who reads every issue of Vogue cover to cover, The Chiffon Trenches — a memoir from former editor-at-large of Vogue, André Leon Talley — offers a fascinating look at the past 50 years of the fashion industry from the perspective of someone right in the middle of it all.
And if your friend can’t stop talking about how bananas this season of The Bachelorette is, give them Kate Stayman-London's One to Watch, a romance novel about a plus-size fashion blogger who finds herself cast on a Bachelorette-style TV show called Main Squeeze.
For your friend who’s always trying to guess the ending of the movie you’re watching.
Get ready to stump your friends with these thrillers and mysteries. In Lucy Foley's The Guest List, hundreds of guests attend a glamorous wedding at a castle off the coast of Ireland, but when someone ends up dead, the attendees are left scrambling to uncover who would ruin such a special day — and more importantly, why.
Alyssa Cole's When No One is Watching is like Rear Window meets Get Out. It’s about a young Brooklyn woman who starts researching her neighborhood and discovers that it’s not just gentrification that’s driving out her Black neighbors; in fact, there’s a much more sinister reason.
Readers will be second-guessing everything they think they know right up to the very last page of Liz Moore's Long Bright River, a suspense novel set in a Philadelphia neighborhood in the middle of the opioid crisis. Mickey worries about her sister Kacey, who lives on the streets as she struggles with addiction, and when Kacey goes missing, Mickey becomes determined to find out where her sister is before it’s too late.
For the friend who is constantly trying out new recipes.
Vegans and vegetarians, rejoice! Vegetable Kingdom, with over 100 recipes of plant-based goodness from the James Beard Award-winning chef Bryant Terry, is about to be their new food bible. And if you know someone who has Food Network playing 24/7, consider gifting them Ina Garten’s latest cookbook Modern Comfort Food with 85 indulgent recipes that are perfect for warming you up on a rainy day.
For the person who always has 100 things on their to-do list, help them out with Skinnytaste Meal Prep, which is full of make-ahead and freezer meal ideas that will save them so much time and money. Fans of The Great British Bake-off will remember Nadiya Hussain, the joyful and lovable winner of the 2015 season, and in her new cookbook Time to Eat, she’s delivering easy-to-make but flavorful meal ideas for busy weeknights.
Hooni Kim, the first-ever Michelin-starred chef in Korean cuisine, combines his experience in French and Japanese kitchens with his expertise in Korean cooking in My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes to create mouthwatering updates on classic Korean dishes like bibimbap, scallion pancakes, and stews. Here’s hoping whoever you give these cookbook to invites you over to try one of these dishes once they make them. 🤞🏼
For the reader who's decolonizing their bookshelf.
Sparked by the police killings of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, protests against police brutality spread across the country this summer, and people of power in media, business, and culture were held publicly accountable for racist practices and lack of diversity. Part of this "great racial reckoning" was a call to look critically at our libraries: Whose stories do we prioritize? Which histories are we reading? And how many BIPOC authors are on our shelves?
There was no shortage of fantastic books that touch on race, racism, and white supremacy this year. In fiction, Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age explores the nuanced and complicated relationship between a white woman and her Black babysitter when the babysitter is wrongfully accused by a bystander of stealing the woman’s daughter during a grocery run.
Longlisted for the Booker Prize, C. Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills Is Gold takes place in the Gold Rush-era American West and centers on two children of Chinese immigrants who go on the run in the hope of giving a proper burial to their recently deceased father.
In Kelli Jo Ford’s Crooked Hallelujah, the reader follows Justine, a young Cherokee woman who has to deal with her father’s abandonment and comes of age under the tough but tender care of her mother and grandmother.
And anyone who has been active in protesting and antiracism work will appreciate Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism, a critique of modern feminism and its tendency to ignore intersections of race, class, sexual orientation, and ability.
For the traveler who's getting stir crazy.
If you know a big traveler who's getting extremely sick and tired of their tiny apartment, why not give them the gift of mentally escaping through a book? They can pretend to travel to the luxurious island of Capri in Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan, who is best known for his Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, or they can get lost in the beauty of the photographs in Patterns of India, a striking journey through the colorful Indian state of Rajasthan.
Traverse the globe by flipping through the pages of Humans by Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton. In this latest photography book, Stanton traveled to more than 40 countries to conduct interviews with everyday people, and you’ll be touched at how relatable the stories are, even if they’re from thousands of miles away.
Folks can plan their next adventure with the help of Hidden Places by Sarah Baxter, which transports you to 25 of the world’s most secret places, like forgotten cities or passageways to the ruins of ancient civilizations.
And of course, one of the best ways to pretend you’ve gone on an exciting journey is by cooking a dish from a culture different from your own. Explore cuisines from India, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, and more through the recipes of East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing by Meera Sodha, or try your hand at French cooking with the help of NYT food writer Melissa Clark in Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France.
For anyone who took up a dozen new hobbies in quarantine.
2020 gave us a lot of extra free time, and as we head into a long, long winter of staying home, it’s the perfect time to give the crafty-est person on your holiday gift list some new inspiration.
Huw Richards encourages a super sustainable life in his how-to book about growing your own vegetables and fruit at no cost, Grow Food For Free: The Sustainable, Zero-Cost, Low-Effort Way to A Bountiful Harvest. In the perfect intersection of pop culture and hobbies, Outlander Knitting by Kate Atherley offers 20 patterns inspired by the hit STARZ show. And if for anyone who'd rather take up a hobby that offers more instant gratification, let them brush up on their bartending skills with the help of The New Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff.
For young adults (the literal ones and the young at heart).
Clap When You Land, written by National Book Award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo, tells the story of two girls, one from the Dominican Republic and one from New York City, who are brought together when they discover they both share the same father who has just tragically died in a plane crash.
In Leah Johnson’s You Should See Me in a Crown, Liz is determined to escape her small town, and when she’s admitted to the prestigious college of her dreams, she finally finds a way out. But when her financial aid falls through, her only option left is to win Prom Queen — and the college scholarship that comes with it.
Any thriller fans will fly through Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl's Guide to Murder about a high school senior who decides to re-examine a closed murder case in her hometown as her final project. She suspects there’s more to the story, and she’s determined to figure it out herself.
For the hopeless romantic.
Jasmine Guillory will be no stranger to romance fans — she's released five delightful rom-coms in just three years, and her latest novel, Party of Two, might be her best yet. In this entertaining and smart novel, Olivia, who’s just moved to LA to start a new law firm, starts flirting with a handsome stranger, only to discover he’s a junior senator. Will their budding relationship work out as his high-profile job forces them to hide from the public eye?
Fans of Jane the Virgin won’t be able to put down Alexis Daria’s You Had Me at Hola, which follows soap opera star Jasmine as she moves to New York after a messy breakup and starts filming a rom-com opposite a telenovela hunk. A steamy real-life love affair ensues, naturally.
And if you’re looking to give a seasonally-appropriate romance novel as a gift, try Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze, a Groundhog Day-esque story about a woman who gets into a car crash after Christmas and wakes up to find herself reliving the same holiday all over again. She has to figure out how to break the cycle while trying to finally get her lifelong crush to fall in love with her.
For anyone who needs a good laugh.
If you’re looking for the humor in the mundane happenings of everyday life, pick up Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby, a collection of essays that explore the author’s misadventures as she moves to an idyllic house in small-town Michigan with her wife. It’s self-depreciation at its most hilarious.
Anyone who has binge-watched every season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race will positively lose it for Trixie and Katya's Guide to Modern Womanhood, in which the two veteran drag queens advise readers on beauty, money, and friendship in this parody of an old-school etiquette guide for ladies.
After disappearing from the internet for seven years, Hyperbole and a Half author Allie Brosh is back with Solutions and Other Problems, a collection of illustrated essays that delve into difficult topics with her signature writing style that will make you laugh out loud while quietly sobbing, all at the same time. Life is about balance after all, right? (Read an interview with Allie here.)
For anyone with strong dad vibes (also, dads).
Oh, you know, just a little-known book called A Promised Land by Barack Obama —you might have heard of him? But seriously, if you know anyone who has shelves and shelves of political memoirs or history books at home, you can’t go wrong with the most buzzed-about memoir of this year.
Speaking of history books, WWII buffs will be delighted by Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile, an exploration of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz.
And if you have any new dads on your list this year, they’re sure to appreciate comedian Mike Birbiglia’s The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad, a poignant and hilarious look at fatherhood and the challenges of starting a family.
For the besties who've helped you survive 2020 through Zoom happy hours, Google hangouts, and socially distant check-ins.
Raise a glass for the people who kept us sane in the most unprecedented of times. Honor the bond you’ve kept sacred by sending them bonafide BFFs Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman’s Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, which examines the often under-appreciated effort it takes to maintain tight bonds with the friends we love the most.