printable bookplates for gifts & book donations

I hope you’re surviving these last few crazy days before the holidays. I just finished my Christmas shopping yesterday, and it felt great to get it done.

Except that as soon as I thought I’d finished, I realized I needed to buy one last thing. And then I remembered I also have to wrap that giant stack of packages that’s going to show up on my doorstep tomorrow. And I hate wrapping. Hate it really deep.

I’m not good at it; it takes forever; it never comes out right; it seems like a big waste of paper. (Says the girl who pulps trees into books for a living.)

But you know what’s really, really easy to wrap? Books. They are always rectangular. Let’s just take a moment to reflect on how magical that is. A rectangular item is a glorious reprieve when we’re elbow-deep in tape and trying to figure out how on earth we’re supposed to wrap a burlap bag of Virginia peanuts (tip: make Jarrett do it).

free printable bookplates donate

The other wonderful thing about books is that you can still get them in time for Christmas without having to even leave your house. Yes, right now! Even on the Thursday before Christmas! If you have 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime, you can drop a few books in your cart, check-out, and still get them Saturday morning, in time for some panic-wrapping. Or go for that next-day shipping, if you’re not into the adrenaline-chasing high of leaving things to the absolute last minute.

Photo credit: Chronicle Books
Photo credit: Chronicle Books

Of course, if you can buy a few minutes off today or Friday, you could hop over to your local bookstore and pick out a book for each person on your list. No shipping wait time there! Even better, you’re supporting a local business. Even, even better, they might have little elves at the store who’ll wrap up the books for you. Ahhh, heaven.

In my dream world, I’d have an unlimited budget to buy a giant stack of books, and I’d sprinkle them over everyone I know like fairy dust. A book for you, and a book for you, and a book for you. (I hope you can hear me doing that Oprah thing!)

But of course, people need “practical” things like socks and kitchenware and vacuums and alcohol. Even so, it never hurts to check off someone’s list and then add a little book in there for fun. Books make especially fantastic stocking stuffers, and they’re the perfect little something extra for that person you want to completely delight.

Another life hack? Buy a few extra copies of that one book you know that everyone would love, wrap it up, and have it in your back-pocket for that person or two who got you something unexpectedly. You’ll be giving them the gift of an afternoon spent in one of your favorite worlds, and it’ll give you two lots to talk about next you see each other. What’s better than that?

Here are the books I’ll be gifting this year:

Laurie Colwin Home Cooking book cover       more home cooking laurie colwin book cover

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

For: A friend
Because: She hasn’t read any Laurie Colwin yet! I can’t think of a better treat to give anyone who loves food & writing.


how to relax thich nhat hanh book cover

How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh

For: My dad
Because: He needs it—haha!


anthony bourdain appetites cookbook book cover

Appetites by Anthony Bourdain

For: A family friend
Because: He loved Bourdain’s first book and mentioned this one in passing.

kindle paperwhite image

Kindle Paperwhite

For: My sister
Because: She misplaced her old Kindle, and no one should have to live without a good e-reader.


buck buck moose hank shaw book cover

Buck, Buck Moose by Hank Shaw

For: A family friend
Because: He’s one of the most skilled hunters and cooks we know. Perfect match.


john grisham the whistler book cover

The Whistler by John Grisham

For: My mom
Because: Tradition.

As I wrote about here, every year I give my mom the newest John Grisham book, and every year I write a short little inscription inside—usually just the date and a few notes.

Do you add inscriptions to books you give as gifts? If not, you should! It’s a wonderful way to track the history of your library and to turn simple books into cherished family mementos. Usually it’s the notes and scribbles and inscriptions in our books that make them meaningful to us (read the comment thread on this article if you don’t believe me!), and they’re what help us remember the time and place in our lives that was marked by that reading experience.

This year, I finally decided it was time to level up and add more character to my inscriptions, so I created these printable bookplate gift tags to put in all the books I’m gifting.

free printable bookplates donate

free printable book plates donate

I especially love that these bookplates remind me to jot down why I picked a book for a certain person. A book is such a personal gift, and it’s important to take a moment or two to tell someone why you thought this one was just right for them.

Hopefully, each time they page open that book, they’ll think of your friendship and be reminded of how much you love ‘em.

free printable bookplates

Click here to access the archive and download these free printable bookplate gift tags!

By the way, these would also work fabulously as printable bookplates for donated books if you plan to donate some new or used books to your local library this year. I know many people love to add a little bookplate to donated books, and this one allows you the space to jot down why you love your library and choose to donate to it.

And if you’re still not sure what book to give those last people on your list, try these lists:

What I’m reading this week:

7 Reasons to Give Books This Holiday Season (Chronicle Books blog): In case I didn’t give you enough reasons above, here are a few more!

What Is a Hybrid Publisher? (Jane Friedman): It’s extremely important for aspiring authors to understand that hybrid publishers can vary wildly in their practices. Here’s a good primer on how to evaluate a hybrid publisher.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About How the New York Times Book Review Works (Emily Temple for Literary Hub): A nice little look into how the review process works to land on one of those coveted best-of-the-year lists.

Free Printable Bookish Holiday Cards (Bookish): In case you want a printable book gift card to match your bookplate!

32 of the Most Beautiful Book Covers of 2016 (Buzzfeed Books): So much pretty. Even if these books aren’t the kind of thing you’d normally read, you’ll be impressed by how much can be done within those little rectangles we call book covers.

What we’re eating this week:

Well, between Thanksgiving and my birthday, I am officially in hibernating-bear mode. To try to counteract all those cookies, I planned us a light but hearty week of food, all from the Clean Slate cookbook. Yes, I know that’s the prototypical post-new-year’s cleanse cookbook, but I think that if I’m detoxing for the sole purpose of retoxing over Christmas, I should be forgiven.

Monday: Poached chicken with bok choy in ginger broth. This broth was divine. Make extra and freeze it, and add a fried egg to the soup when serving if you’re a hungry person like me.

Tuesday: Spaghetti with collard greens and lemon. I fell in love with this recipe! It was immediately filed into my mental cabinet of keepers. It’s super simple, requires just a few pantry ingredients, and it has plenty of healthy greens. Win, win, win.

Wednesday: Cook’s day off = Chinese takeout.

Thursday: Red lentil soup with turnip and parsley. Soup can be just as healthy as salad but 1,000,000,000 times better.

Friday: Enough with the healthy already–let’s have some beef stroganoff. This one is from the Comfort Food Makeovers cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. Yes, it’s made-over, but it’s still delightfully rich and old school.

I’ll be off next week to sleep off my hibernation pudge and spend a quiet week with Jarrett, but I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year!


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free printable bookplates for donated books

(By the way, I only share books I’ve read or that I’m genuinely excited about sharing with the people I love. Life’s too short to read mediocre books. But if you do feel like picking up one of these books as a gift, it’d be great if you bought them through one of the Amazon Associate links above. It supports the many hours of work this team of two [me and Jarrett] put into this little corner of the web!)

6 books to cozy up with after dinner

My favorite part of Thanksgiving? Stretching out on the carpet, in the middle of the living room floor, bemoaning the amount of food I just ate.

Growing up, we’d stack our plates, usually with an odd mix of traditional Thanksgiving food and Brazilian food (because you just can’t have a meal without white rice!), then eat and talk and eat and talk. At some point, one or two people would give up all hope of sitting upright and just beach themselves right there in the middle of the living room, belly-up, blissed-out, maybe asleep, hopefully drooling.

I loved how casual and comfy and homey this always felt—we were all family, and so why wouldn’t we take a nice little nap on the living room floor to ride out the turkey torpor? It’s the very opposite of fine dining, where people are continually telling me that I cannot put my head down on the table and take a little snooze next to the artisanal bread basket. (Very unfair.)

But Brazilians believe in naps. An afternoon nap on the weekend was a given in my house growing up, and I remember feeling mild culture shock that my all-American friends in college “weren’t nappers.” To me, that’s like saying you’re “not an eater,” or showers “aren’t your thing.”

A nap costs nothing, has no calories, doesn’t require any preparation, and is really enjoyable. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a nice dinner, especially one eaten at home in the vicinity of a soft surface. A nap is one of life’s simplest and most pure treasures, like pillow-y mashed potatoes and a hot cup of coffee. Naps are a way of life, and I’d bet good money the pilgrims took one after that first Thanksgiving. Thus, they are a sacred part of our tradition.

Another thing I’m almost positive the pilgrims did? Pulled out books and had a bit of a read after dinner. Sadly, this is now very discouraged in public settings, but it would make our country a better place, I think.

That’s why Thanksgiving is, by far, the best meal of the year. It’s a big, comfy family meal in which our primary goals are to eat our weight in mashed potatoes and then recline our way through what’s left of the day. If that’s not the perfect day, I just don’t know how to live.

So if it’s not already a tradition in your family to have a vigorous lounging session after the meal, then this may be the very year to start. You’ll need:

  • a soft spot
  • a full belly
  • a glass of wine that you’re too full to even finish
  • a pillow, if you’re in it for the long haul

Oh, and a book!

Times when it should be considered appropriate to read a book: while chopping (the sole reason audiobooks were invented!), while cooking, while eating, after eating, in between short naps, before bed, first-thing in the morning.

In case you agree with me (please?), here are some books that are perfect post-prandial reads, are significantly better than any and all types of football (a claim I’ve researched heavily), and will whisk you off on an adventure, a nap, or even a trip back to the table (god help you).

 thanksgiving books for adults

(By the way, I only recommend books I’ve read or that I’m genuinely excited about reading myself. Life’s too short to read mediocre books. But if you do feel like picking up one of these, it’d be great if you bought them through one of the Amazon Associate links below. It supports the many hours of work this team of two [me and Jarrett] put into this little corner of the web!)


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

jodi picoult small great things book cover

Feeling up for a thought-provoking read? I applaud you, and I’ll step away and leave you with Jodi Picoult’s newest hit:

“Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.”

Get the book!

More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin

more home cooking laurie colwin book cover

You might think reading about food so soon after performing such shameful acts of gluttony is perverse, but actually, this book will make you feel much, much better about what you just did. You are part of a long and noble line of indulgers, and no one will make you feel quite so proud (well, at least a little less guilty) about this as Laurie Colwin. “Turkey Angst” in particular, is a must-have on your Thanksgiving reading menu:

“In my opinion the poor turkey is a mere scapegoat for the mire of conflicted feelings flooding our psyches at holiday time. It is hard to divorce the turkey from the expectations of the family table, the sibling rivalries, the unspoken resentments, the secret rages that occur even in the happiest families. Add to this the exhaustion of travel or the exhaustion of preparing to welcome traveling relatives, and even the juiciest, tenderest turkey may be as sawdust. Of course, it is possible in the most harmonious family to produce a turkey that may as well be sawdust, just as it is also possible to produce a magnificent turkey in the middle of a family psychodrama. Either way you slice it, it may be easier to blame the turkey.”

Get the book!

The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

thich nhat hanh the long road turns to joy book cover

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day we pick up that whole exercising thing again. But because we’re still moving a little slow and gravy-addled in the brain, let’s take it nice and easy with a beautiful fall walk:

“Touching the earth with our feet is an opportunity to live in the here and now. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to enjoy each step and each breath in order to regain peace in difficult moments. The simple practice of walking with attention and mindfulness can bring the spirit of prayer into our everyday life. This book will appeal to anyone who would like to get more out of walking, from long-time meditators to those who are just looking for a way to make their walk around the block more meaningful.”

Get the book!

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

the hidden life of trees peter wohlleben book cover

There are perpetually more books I want to read than I have time for, and there is perpetually more food I want to eat than I can find space for. Such is the cruelty of life. But for those of you who would still rather be humans than, say, trees, this is the book you’ve always wanted.

It’s also a great companion read to The Long Road Turns to Joy and will add even more depth to the simple art of walking in the woods.

“Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.”

Get the book!

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

commonwealth ann patchett book cover

And for a family saga of a different sort, Ann Patchett will make even your weird Uncle Willy look like a gem of a guy. If you like books-about-books of any kind, Commonwealth will delight you and keep you happily enthralled through the rest of the weekend:

“One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”

Get the book!

Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love by Terry Hope Romero

salad samurai book cover

You know why.

Get the book!

What I’m Reading This Week:

Make a Book Advent Calendar! (Danika Ellis for BookRiot): This is such a cute idea! I especially love the pretty wrapping on the books in this version.

The Cookbook as Spiritual Autobiography (Michael Brendan Dougherty for The Week): An interesting look at the newest cookbooks from Alton Brown and Anthony Bourdain and the life stories that run through them.

Marketing and Publishing Checklists for Writers (Jane Friedman): “When embarking on a process that is new or unfamiliar, often you don’t know what you don’t know. A checklist, at the very least, will help you recognize what you don’t know, so that many months later, you’re not beating yourself up for complete ignorance.”

A Free Printable Prioritizing To-Do List (Becky of Clean Mama): I love this simple checklist from one of my authors! As we turn the corner into the holidays, let’s make sure we don’t arrive at December 26th exhausted and full of regrets. You can make this season magical with simple little moments and time spent doing things you love, whether you perfectly wrap every gift or not. (By the way, Becky’s book Simply Clean is now available for preorder, and it is fantastic. If you’ve always dreamed of being a clean person, this is the book that will get you there!)

What We’re Eating This Week:

Monday: $6 burger night at Mason Social with friends! The best way to start the week.

Tuesday: My favorite pesto: Mario Batali’s Kale Pesto. Make it all year, make it in bulk, make it and freeze it–just make it! Find the recipe in America: Farm to Table or start with his base recipe and sub most of the basil for kale. Tonight we’ll pop it out of the freezer, toss it on some spaghetti, and boil a bit of broccoli on the side.

Wednesday: We’re packing up the car and driving to Ann Arbor for the weekend, so road food it is.

Thursday: The big day!! My mother-in-law is a phenomenal cook, and her Thanksgiving spread is legendary. I can’t wait.

Friday: Salad. You know why.


What to Read and Eat This Week: 25 Podcasts for Readers, Plus What to Do With Those Thanksgiving Leftovers

best book news and publishing news


Engaging Audiences Through Twitter in Just 15 Minutes a Day (Kirsten Oliphant at Kirsten writes about platform-building and the creative journey at Create If Writing, but here she is on one of my favorite sites, Jane Friedman’s blog, sharing tips for how writers and bloggers can get more out of Twitter in just 15 minutes a day. Kirsten and I will be chatting on her podcast in the next few weeks about publishing and platform-building, so keep an eye out for that interview!

Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch on the Future of Publishing: How an Invention From the 1400s Will Fare in the Years Ahead (Michael Pietsch, The Wall Street Journal): “Ever-larger retailers and wholesalers bring significant margin pressure, which will lead to continued conglomeration. Social media will continue to expand the writer’s ability to connect with readers; publishers will deepen their relationships with writers, but they’ll also create content of their own. As runaway books sell ever-larger numbers, publishers will earn more on their biggest sellers—which will keep driving up the advances they pay for potential hits. At the same time, publishers will need to innovate and challenge assumptions about every aspect of the business.”

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The 4 Platform Elements That Most Impress a Literary Agent or Editor

how to get a literary agent

Right about now you’re probably elbow-deep in pie crust, realizing you forgot to get thyme at the store, and wondering if you’ll ever get all your cooking done before hangriness sets in. If you still need recipe ideas, a few free Thanksgiving printables, and a plan for cleaning the wasteland that surrounds you, take a look at last week’s post.

And if you’re ready to transition into slothing on the couch and sipping a cocktail, here’s what to read and drink this Thanksgiving.


The 4 Platform Elements That Catch an Editor’s Attention (Maria Ribas on Scroll down to read this article, or you can also click above to read the full post on Carly’s blog! Carly and I first met when I was an editor and I acquired The Wellness Kitchen from her, and now it’s fun for both of us to be on the agenting side. Her blog is a seriously fabulous resource for writers–get it on your bookmark bar, or even easier, sign up to receive posts in your inbox. I consider it a must-read!

10 of Our Favorite Literary TED Talks from 2015 (Nikki Steele for BookRiot): If you’re too stuffed with turkey to pick up a book, turn on one of these TED Talks and collapse up on the couch. They’ll make you think, even through the haze of tryptophan.


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