Most of us see sitting down with a book as the pinnacle of leisure. We work all day, haul ourselves home, cook some dinner, eat, clean-up, and if we’re very lucky, have a few hours at the end of the day to do whatever we want. And what do most people wish they did? Read a book.
Yes, sometimes we get sucked into Netflix. Sometimes we fall down an Internet blackhole and end up watching two hours of 90s rap videos. (Ahem.) And sometimes there’s so much to-do detritus left from the day (like when will I ever order my save-the-date cards?!) that those last few hours are swallowed up by the busyness of life. But on good days? I read a book.
Call me Grandma Maria, but I still think there’s something special about curling up on the couch with a very nice blanket and an even better book. It’s a time to turn off the tech, let the silence take hold, and escape into another world.
That, to me, is a million times more relaxing than all the shiatsu massages, all the retail therapy, all the extra glasses of wine in the world. (Welllll, maybe not the wine part. No need to return that bottle you bought me.)
My favorite Christmas tradition is actually a weird one. I was never as focused on baking cookies (ugh to baking), or caroling (sparing eardrums is my gift to the world), or even opening presents (too fraught with expectations). But every year, I buy the newest John Grisham book, gift it to my mom, then read it before she does, usually over the course of one day spent on the couch.
I don’t know why, because I don’t think I even like John Grisham. But it’s oddly comforting to know I’ll get one day a year for a binge-reading session. It takes me back to being a kid and reading for 8 hours straight because the adults were doing all the work. (Ha! Better times.)
So you know where this is going….give someone a book this year! A book is the gift of time and relaxation to that person who’s always too busy, always working, or always taking care of others before themselves. It’s exactly what nearly everyone needs—a hall pass to take a break.
And here are exactly the books you should be giving to each person in your life:
The 14 Best Books to Buy for the Foodie, Geek, Creative, Nester, and Anyone Else in Your Life
For the weekday warrior cook:
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime: Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-Minute Meals, and Other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper! by Ree Drummond. Real-life solutions to the “What’s for dinner?” dilemma from the wildly popular blogger of The Pioneer Woman.
For the cook who likes weekend projects:
My Pantry by Alice Waters with Fanny Singer, her daughter. This is the book to inspire a weekend of making homemade cheese, red wine vinegar, chicken stock, and everything else that is so much better than store-bought.
For the baker ready to try something new:
Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread by Zachary Golper. Doesn’t that loaf look incredible? Golper uses a unique slow-and-low-heat fermentation process to amplify the flavors of his bread.
For the friend who had a rough year:
Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. by Brené Brown. From the cover copy: “Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.”
For the writer in need of inspiration:
642 Tiny Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. A journal full of writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing.
For the person starting a creative project:
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. From the back cover copy: “Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.”
For the photography buff:
Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton. This always reminds me of the Mary Lou Kownaki quote, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love, once you’ve heard their story.”
For the armchair scientist or geek:
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe. A hilarious collection of explanations of complex things (like how microwaves and cells work) using only the thousand most common words in the English language, from the cult favorite blogger behind XKCD.com. Perfect for anyone who hates incomprehensible jargon. And the word “incomprehensible.”
For the naturalist or outdoorsy type:
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf. From the cover copy: “With this brilliantly researched and compellingly written book, Andrea Wulf shows the myriad fundamental ways in which Humboldt created our understanding of the natural world, and she champions a renewed interest in this vital and lost player in environmental history and science.”
For anyone with fur babies or other pets:
Do Unto Animals by Tracey Stewart. From the cover copy: “The more we know about the animals in our world and the better we care for them, the better our lives will be. Former veterinary technician and animal advocate Tracey Stewart understands this better than most—and she’s on a mission to change how we interact with animals.”
For the person always redecorating and rearranging their home:
Styled by Emily Henderson. A gorgeous book to sit down with, plus it will inspire you to style beautiful little nooks and vignettes in your home using things you already own.
For that always-fashionable-and-beautiful friend:
For anyone taking a closer look at their health:
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. From the cover copy: “In his bestselling books, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures – in his own practices as well as others’ – as life draws to a close. And he discovers how we can do better. He follows a hospice nurse on her rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic, and reformers turning nursing homes upside down. He finds people who show us how to have the hard conversations and how to ensure we never sacrifice what people really care about.”
For the fiction reader: