Books are some of the best last-minute gifts. You don’t have to second guess your spontaneous selection, because everyone can use more books, right?! If not, well thank you for filling the Half-Priced Books shelves for me. Books are a staple in our home. They fill every nook and cranny. They also fill a lot of giftbags around the holiday season. You could never possibly gift (or receive) too many books, in my book. I may be punny, but I was not always the best reader. I’m still not the best or fastest reader, but by increasing our library visits since our kids were born, we’ve birthed three early and excellent readers. My husband always says you can get a free world-class education… with a library card. Setting the example for our kids has been a game-changer, inspiring our little readers to work their way through the juvenile sections at our local branch at an astounding pace.
What’s my favorite section in the library, you ask? The new books, of course. Think of it as a free preview. The original try-before-you-buy program. A handful of my favorite books recently have been so good, I had a hard time returning them on time (many thanks to SAPL for your new “no fines” policy). But when I get that feeling, I add them to my list to look for at my local bibliophile storefront. Lucky for all you bookworms out there, there seems to have been an overwhelming global response during the pandemic—lots of new books! It makes sense, really. What better time to start that novel you’ve been putting off? Personally, I keep putting off the writing… for more reading, of course. One of the few positive changes that came out of the ‘rona: my reading habits improved. And while there are many incredible new fiction books, I gravitated toward nonfiction of all kinds. Dark times can often lead to brighter renaissance. I have to say that many of the following selections were quite entertaining, as well as informative. So, while I work on a more fiction-focused list soon (Did you know pandemic fiction is a thing now?!) check out one last-minute shopper’s recommendations for the best new page-turners.
Because we all find ourselves on repeat in the kitchen as we raise hungry humans, I’ll start with my favorite reading appetizer—cookbooks! Our family has found peace and togetherness watching The Great British Baking Show recently, so let’s return stateside for some baking inspo with Vallery Lomas in:
LIFE IS WHAT YOU BAKE IT (2021)
Another Netflix special may be for more mature audiences—potty mouth alert—but definitely made me grab the corresponding cookbook. My favorite bit of the preview for David Chang’s Ugly Delicious is the part about our youngins being the most vulnerable to malnutrition, yet we feed them the worst. Check out his less-is-more approach to the family kitchen in:
COOKING AT HOME: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (2021)
And I have not yet read this last wildcard, but it’s on my list. Who doesn’t love and trust the incomparable Rachel Ray?! I can remember coming home summer afternoons and watching 30-Minute Meals like my life depended on it. I’m sure Rachel’s done it again in:
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE: Dispatches and Food from the Home Front (2021)
With those three on your shelf, you can enjoy anything you’d like with that glass of wine—even if your pantry and fridge are empty, again! But what about those quiet mornings after the kids leave for school? You may not want to read the newspaper with your coffee, but how about venturing into the great outdoors? Nature and nonfiction go hand-in-hand as we all raise the next generation of earth’s superheroes. For your favorite outdoorsy mum, why not build her a new collection of how-to-save-the-planet guidebooks? She, and her grandchildren, will thank you one day! We will start with a nice Judith D. Schwartz set:
THE REINDEER CHRONICLES (2020)
And this incredible anthology of 60 super women, including Judith:
For another great nature set to add to your favorite tree hugger’s library, anything by Peter Wohlleben is excellent. He has written for adults and children alike:
THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES (2015)
THE INNER LIFE OF ANIMALS (2016)
CAN YOU HEAR THE TREES TALKING? (2019)
PETER AND THE TREE CHILDREN (2020)
And the piece that sustained me through the pandemic, inspiring my journey into all things nature, is by Gary Ferguson:
THE EIGHT MASTER LESSONS OF NATURE (2019)
For a great collaboration with Gary Ferguson, Mary M. Clare adds a lot to Gary’s writing in:
FULL ECOLOGY: REPAIRING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE NATURAL WORLD (2021)
What about that artsy mama you know?! For some poetry inspiration, we will turn to another Mary. And our nature theme continues in:
DEVOTIONS: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (2017)
Motherhood and poetry really go together like juice boxes and Goldfish. For the exhausted mother in your life, try some Kate Baer. Both her recent pieces are perfect for the 20 seconds you have before another spill, tantrum, or nap pulls you off the couch.
WHAT KIND OF WOMAN: POEMS (2020)
I HOPE THIS FINDS YOU WELL (2021)
Poetry—the amuse-bouche of words. I’ve always wanted to write that! Which leads me to a writer that makes me feel like such an amateur. Because she writes both fiction and nonfiction, it is difficult to file Isabel Allende’s works in a single category. She writes prose like a poet and reminds all mothers we were women first in her latest:
So, there you have it, a dozen and a half excuses to gift yourself or your favorite person with a few books this holiday season. Already finished Santa’s list? Check out these new reads at your local library. The gift of reading to yourself—and your family—might be the best gift of all. Want to raise great readers? Make sure your children catch you with a book in your hand more often than a device this holiday season. You might find your family curled up together with their favorite new gifts—reading.
All links provided by bookshop.org—where you can support local bookstores by shopping as local and last minute as motherhood allows.