Though bookish-themed gifts are always great, sometimes you just want to give a loved one an actual book. So with that in mind, here are our picks for the best books to give to everyone on your list this year. For this year’s guide, we stuck mostly with books released in the last year or so — but you can peruse past gift guides for additional ideas.
Need more ideas? Comment below with who you’re shopping for and what other kinds of books they like, and we’ll offer up custom gift suggestions!
For a Teacher
Ms. Bixby’s Day Off by John David Anderson is the perfect gift for any teacher in your life. Whether it’s your own teacher, a child’s teacher, or just a friend who happens to be a teacher. This heartfelt story (which will both warm and break your heart) explores the deeply profound impact a teacher can have on our lives, and pays tributes to those most memorable educators.
For History Buffs
There is no shortage of historical fiction to satisfy any lover of history. It felt like a lot of the historical fiction I read this year took place during World War II, and there were two books in particular in 2016 that stood out. The first is The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story that features a young orphan who ends up being raised at Adolf Hitler’s mansion. The second is Ruta Septys’s Salt to the Sea, which follows a group of people trying to escape East Prussia and chronicles one of the littlest-known but biggest tragedies of World War II.
For a history buff with a love of intrigue, try These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, a lush mystery set in 1890 New York City and layered with incredible characters, dangerous twists, and a seductive romance.
For the Crafty Christmas Lover
Anyone who loves adult coloring books will surely adore The Coloring Book of Cards & Envelopes Christmas by Rebecca Jones — which lets you color your own holiday greeting cards and matching envelopes. A little bit of assembly is required for the envelopes, so this is best for someone who is at least a little bit crafty and will relish DIY-ing their greeting cards. The designs are super cute, and it even comes with stickers for sealing the envelopes, once your custom-colored card is tucked away inside.
For That Friend Who “Doesn’t Read YA”
Oh, you don’t read YA? That’s adorable. Here are some of my new favorite YA books to give to those who claim they don’t read the genre:
- Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is funny, heartwarming, and ultimately uplifting, despite the protagonist facing a crippling mental illness. This one will have you laughing, crying, and rooting for the hero.
- The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is one of my favorite books of 2016. This literary debut follows three teens in their senior year of high school, including the son of a disgraced Pentecostal minister.
- The Game of Love & Death by Martha Brockenbrough is one of the most stunning books I’ve ever read. It’s thoughtful, thought-provoking, and gorgeously written. This story about love and death will help you find new meaning in your own life. I want everyone to read this book!
- A stunning example of magic realism, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma is a cleverly plotted exploration about the good and evil in all of us.
For the Book-to-Screen Addict
There is plenty to love for any Harry Potter fan excited about the Fantastic Beasts franchise, but don’t let the hype allow you to overlook another major book-to-film adaptation hitting theaters in December. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read (it’s in my top 5 all-time favorites list), and the movie looks absolutely breathtaking. With a screenplay adapted by Ness himself and an all-star cast, the film adaptation of A Monster Calls is sure to be a truly amazing movie. The new special collector’s edition of A Monster Calls features the original text and illustrations from the book, plus interviews, stories, photos, and more from the movie adaptation. This is a beautiful gift book and is perfect both for fans who have already read the book, and for those who are completely new to the story.
For the Kid Who Loves Storytime
Do you know a kid who loves storytime? Who wants to read just one more story before going to bed? Then the new anthology Oregon Reads Aloud is the perfect gift for them, regardless of where you live. The book features 25 original read-aloud stories written by Oregon authors and illustrated by 25 Oregon artists, and was published by the nonprofit SMART (Start Making A Reader Today), which promotes early childhood literacy in the state of Oregon and is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary. The book is gorgeous, and the stories themselves range from sweet to cute to funny to new classics, and are all easily read out loud in a short amount of time, helping to foster a love of reading and get your kid to bed without too much fuss. It’s available anywhere books are sold.
For a Lover of Christmas Classics
Niroot Puttapipat’s newly illustrated edition of The Nutcracker will make a beautiful addition to any collection of Christmas stories. This shortened adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s beloved story condenses The Nutcracker down for younger readers (or listeners), and comes to life with Puttapipat’s illustrations, which were inspired by the sets from the original 1892 production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet. The whole thing comes to a stunning climax, with gorgeous pop-up of the penultimate scene.
For the Adventurer
Any lover of adventure will be delighted by Barry Wolverton’s Chronicles of the Black Tulip series. The first two books of this planned trilogy are now available; marketed as middle grade, they are age-appropriate for most readers ages 8 and up, but adults will be delighted by the unexpected twists and turns, charming, rapscallion cast of characters, and unique, alternate history Wolverton offers up in this imaginative series. Look for both The Vanishing Island and The Dragon’s Gate to provide a thrilling escapade under the Christmas tree.
For Fans of Doctor Who & Sherlock
… or for ANYONE really. The Jackaby series by William Ritter is just a brilliant, entertaining series about the paranormal detective Jackaby and his plucky assistant Abigail Rook. Chronicling their investigations into supernatural happenings in 19th century New England, Jackaby certainly embodies personality traits reminiscent of both Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor. But this book will find fans amongst a diverse group of readers. Both of my parents are even avid fans! Check out the first three books in this planned four-book series now: Jackaby, Beastly Bones, and Ghostly Echoes.
For younger Sherlock fans, try The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg, which is a middle grade re-imagining of the classic story.
For the New(-ish) Parent
Know someone who recently became a parent, or has young kids at home? I discovered this little gem when I was at BEA this year, and had my entire group of blogger roommates in stitches as we took turns reading each page out loud. Can I Sit on Your Lap While You’re Pooping? by Matthew Carroll features real things the author’s young daughter has said to him. From the hilarious and wildly inappropriate, to the surprisingly insightful and thought-provoking, this book will provide lots of laughter to anyone who receives it. But I happen to think parents will especially appreciate it!
For Mystery Lovers
Any books from April Henry will surely satisfy the lover of mysteries and thrillers in your life. Try her newest, The Girl I Used to Be, or check out one of her most popular titles, Girl, Stolen. The sequel to that one comes out next year!
For a case of intrigue meets contemporary story about identity and self, Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig will satisfy lovers of both genres.
For the Fangirl (or Boy)
All the Feels by Danika Stone is a rom-com written for the fangirl (or boy) in all of us. If you’ve ever felt extraordinarily passionate about something others have called nerdy or weird, this book is for you. Throw in a sweet romance and mad-cap humor, this book will have you laughing and crying and cheering for geek love.
For Lovers of Love
For those who believe in true love, Beast by Brie Spangler is a Beauty and the Beast-inspired contemporary romance between big, hairy Dylan, and smart, confident, beautiful Jamie — who also happens to be transgender. Issues of body image, gender, and sexuality abound, but the end result is a sweet and triumphant story of love.
If your gift recipient is more of a star-crossed, Romeo & Juliet hopeless, then try out The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia, which is a like an adrenaline-filled crossover between R&J and The Fast & the Furious.
For the Fairy Tale-Inspired Laughs
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is a hilarious send-up of classic fairy tales, and even as an adult reader, I could not stop laughing over these fantastic books. But they’re written as middle grade, so they’d make an excellent gift to any reader as young as 8 — and frankly, younger kids would enjoy them, too, even if you need to read along with them. Give the complete trilogy by also nabbing book 2, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, and book 3, The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw.
For a Science Fiction, Double Feature
If Sci Fi is their game, then look no further than the game-changing Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, and its sequel, Gemina. These books are told through a series of “found” documents, like journal entries, emails, and video transcripts. The result is a super cool format, but more than that, the story itself is pretty freaking incredible!
For Super-Powered Superheroes
For teens, check out Margaret Stohl’s Black Widow: Forever Red and Black Widow: Red Vengeance, the first two books in her series about the beloved Marvel comic book character.
Younger readers can dive into the DC Universe with Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee, which follows the classic character and other famous faces from the DC world through their teen years.
For the New or Nervous Middle Schooler
No book captures the anxiety of starting a new school better than Frazzled by Booki Vivat, an hilarious and charming illustrated middle grade book about one girl and all her anxieties — about school, family, and life in general. The book is funny and relatable, and perfect for anyone waiting for the next Wimpy Kid book.
Need more ideas?
Comment below or use the contact form to let us know who you’re shopping for, and we’ll provide custom suggestions just for you!
What a FANtastic list. Thank you Sara!