Holiday Gift Guide 2016: BOOKS!

Books. Books are the best gift always and forever books books books books. I love books.

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Wait, what were we talking about again?

Oh yes. Gifts for ye olde holidays. BOOKS, OBVIOUSLY, HOW MUCH CLEARER DO I NEED TO MAKE THIS?

I’m buying actual paper books because I love them and I want my kids to be able to pick them up when they’re ready and read them all. Also, now that I am officially a writer for a living and understand that making money from your writing or your art is AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA, I’m trying to do everything I can to help support other writers and artists. And buying their wares is the way to do it. I’m not entirely sure if ebooks make authors less money than print… but I DO know that if this is *really* the end of times as any viewing of the news would have me think… I’ll still have a print book when all the power goes out and I’m reading by candle light. ANYHOO. I’m stacking my deck with good stuff, and I think you should, too. Even better, I’m trying to focus on books I’ve loved AND books by people I know or have met. Because that’s meaningful, and I’m supporting writers I believe in. TWOFER, yo. You know how I love a twofer. I've narrowed it down to one book per category, which was DAMN HARD, but there are many, many, many more I'd like to include. What are your favorite books to gift? Share with us!


I love me some essays, and because I also write them, essay collections have become my new go-to. They are relevant, easy to consume, and personal, but still (generally) have a narrative voice. If you're not typically an essay reader, I'd encourage you to give it a shot.

Meaty by Samantha Irby – Read this book of essays STAT (and buy it for your peeps who have a proper sense of humor) before her second book comes out this spring and her show starts on FX! If you’re easily offended by frank discussion of bodies and their functions (she has Crohn’s disease and is not shy), it may not be for you, but I still encourage you to give it a try. It’s hilarious, smart, dirty, and poignant. I guarantee you will laugh out loud reading it, and we all need a laugh right about now. Start with her blog, bitches gotta eat, for a teaser. To top it off, my husband grew up with Sam so I'm lucky enough to know her in real life and I can tell you, for certain, that she is a wonderful human. But don’t tell her I told you or she’ll roll her eyes at me forever and ever.

Short Fiction

Short fiction is, I think, my first true love. I fell hard for it when I read O'Henry and Steinbeck in 6th grade, and I haven't looked back since. For the busy among us (OH WAIT THAT'S ALL OF US), short fiction is lovely because it's so much faster. You get the same satisfaction of finishing a story, but much more quickly. And, in my estimation, it's a lot harder to get complex storylines into short fiction, making it even more precious.

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Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr – This is a stunningly beautiful collection of stories by an incredible author (Doerr won the Pulitzer for All the Light We Cannot See). Memory is at the heart of each story in this collection, but the way memory manifests within each unique story is distinct. The stories take place all over the world, some with a hint at dystopian futures, some focused on the past. In each story, the characters are complex and fascinating, and the prose lends beauty and depth to to arresting narratives. Even better, Doerr happens to be a lovely human, to boot. Christina and I were lucky enough to meet him after a reading as he was signing our books, and he was just so lovely and kind and… for lack of a better term, *normal*. We talked about our kids and there was nothing pretentious or snooty about him at all, which I found thoroughly delightful.


Who doesn't enjoy fiction? Everyone needs a good story to disappear into from time to time (or all the time). Fiction is here for you.

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch – This is a beauty of a book, but not for the fainthearted. This novel covers some dark stuff and some explicit stuff, but as long as you’re not overly squeamish, you’ll find some of the most beautiful and unusual prose you’ve read in a good, long while. Or perhaps ever. When Christina and I went to see her speak, Yuknavitch spoke about writing this in order to make you *feel * it in your body. And indeed, you will. Once again, she is witty and kind and gracious with her readers. She even responded kindly to my blathering when she complimented my eyeliner and I couldn’t stop explaining how to do it INSTEAD OF JUST SAYING THANK YOU. (DORK.) My awkward is special.


Smarties. Satire is our jam. You know it is.

Just looking at this makes you want pizza, doesn't it. Me, too. Image source

The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady by Emilie Sandoz-Voyer – This book, Smarties. It is so good. If you, like most of us, have read The Very Hungry Caterpillar approximately 70 bajillion times, this book will make you snort with glee. (Here’s our post dedicated to the details and the awesome that is this book and this author.) Any pregnant person will enjoy the crap out of the book itself, but you should probably gift it with some snacks because they’re going to get hungry just reading it. Even better, Christina and I know Emilie and can tell you that she is just as funny and wonderful as you would expect reading this parody. Also, she enjoys a good snack. Bonus.


Here’s the great thing about poetry. It’s bite-sized, so even for the busiest, most exhausted parent without more than 3 seconds to herself… a poem is doable. When I was exhausted with my second baby (and right damn now while I’m exhausted with our country), I kept a book of poetry by my bed and read one poem every night before going to sleep. One. It made me feel like I kept in contact with my withered, tired brain, and it brought me the littlest bit of beauty when I needed it. It’s a practice I return to again and again when I’m spent, and it always brings me comfort. Try it. Even if poetry isn’t your thing… give it a shot.

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Fiddle is Flood by Lauren Gordon – Lauren’s poetry is always stunning, but this collection has my heart as it's based on the children’s book series Little House on the Prairie. (Another of my favorites is Keen, a chapbook of persona poems about Nancy Drew and her absent mother, but it is heartbreakingly out of print.) Fiddle is Flood is a collection of poems written with Laura Ingalls Wilder at the center, though other voices rise up, too. In this chapbook, Gordon uncovers all the things Laura doesn’t talk about in LHOTP. Sexuality, death, racism, sexism… they all come to light within the story in Gordon’s poetry, and this lends a wholeness to the characters that (in my estimation) is missing within the books themselves. This chapbook is biting and smart, and Gordon turns a necessary critical eye on a celebrated, but often problematic, character. You don’t have to know the LHOTP books to enjoy the complexity and beauty of these poems, though. Meanwhile, Lauren is a friend of Christina’s and mine, and she is among the more wonderful people on the planet. Her talent only contributes to her brilliance.

And that's it! Give the gift of reading, friends. It's the best gift you can give. May you all have the opportunity to read your way through the holidays. And don't forget to share your favorite books (to read or to gift) in the comments! Book on, Smarties. Book on. About Shannon