When I was little, my mom would take me to a bookstore for my birthday each year. I’d walk the aisles of books and pick out a few with colorful covers and good words. I’d selfishly break their spines and open them up to read the first few sentences. I’d squeeze them when I closed their fluffy pages for someone else. I love how books feel. When we visited the bookstore on days that weren’t my birthday, my mom always bought me a book. “I’ll never say ‘no’ to a story,” she’d tell me. And I don’t think I’ve told her to thank you for that enough. So, thank you, mom.
That said, I think books make the best gifts. We all have different tastes in storytelling. So, these books have to be specific, peculiar books that fit every heart. Case A: the universal telltale everyone falls in love with and the mecca-novel every person should read at least once. For your sister, mother, spiritual confidant, gal pal, book club buddy, or creative friend. Even if the person claims they don’t like to read at all these books will surely impress.
That’s why I put together a list of fifteen books that you can gift any kind of friend on your list.
For the 20-Something (But Really, Any-Something): I gave this book to my sister when she was going through some hard things, and it softened both of us. The book is unexpectedly powerful. It’s packed with sentences that are begging to be underlined and remembered. I recall vividly reading this on a treadmill in college, hating myself carefully and crying tears of joy through the words. This book stops you and changes you. I am forever indebted to it as a gift.
Notable Quote: “There is no cure except to live the hell out of our lives, to take it apart, to put it back together, to dig it all up, and then fill the hole. To help ourselves and one another to the best of our abilities. To believe everything entirely, while also calling bullshit for what it is.”
For the Spiritual Marveler: This book will open anybody’s eyes to so much potential. In our world, in our history, in the way we love. I gave this book to my mother, a spiritual and very religious person. I, questioning things, loved it just as deeply as she did, and it sprouted multiple conversations about God. It feels silly even to type, but I can’t recommend this book enough for a mother/daughter gift.
Notable Quote: “It seemed I was seeing my old life die before me in a splurge of color and a faint new life rising up. It was a thing of wonder, and the anguish I’d felt over having the child left me.”
For the Stop-to-Smell-the-Flowers Adventurer: This book stunned me out of my MIND. Mary Oliver writes about nature like she’s within its stitching, its makings. Her poetry is a beautiful gift for a friend or grandmother that loves nature; the simple nuance of relationships. Please note, any Mary Oliver poetry book will do for a stocking stuffer. Honorable additional mention: Devotions.
Notable Quote: “I read my books with diligence, and mounting skill, and gathering certainty. I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.”
For the Mother and Mother Who Doesn’t Want to Be a Mother and Non-Mothers Who Have No Idea What to Do at All: This perfect collection of poetry paints a stunning picture of what it’s like to be a woman, or scuffle throughout a marriage, or experience motherhood. Ideal for any new mothers/people thinking about being a mother/grandmother. Ugh, this book is simply a work of art, and I have nothing else to write beyond that tasteful fact.
Notable Quote: “When I look at you as a husband, I did not know the deaths our love would suffer. I did not know the graves of loneliness. Last week when you asked if I ever thought of leaving, I said no, even though what I meant was that I love the feel of your hands in the morning. That even in our darkest hours, I still wait for the sound of your feet at the door.”
For the Cheerleader in All of Us or (Let’s Be Honest) the Bitchy Niece Who Needs a Reality Check: I know this is a popular one, but Glennon Doyle is my love language. She writes urgently and colorfully about being human. This book, for so many, stands as an anthem. And I want every woman to own it.
Notable Quote: “When women lose themselves, the world loses its way. We do not need more selfless women. What we need right now is more women who have detoxed themselves so completely from the world’s expectations that they are full of nothing but themselves. What we need are women who are full of themselves. A woman who is full of herself knows and trusts herself enough to say and do what must be done. She lets the rest burn.”
For the Ravishing Creative Soul: Honestly, I’m not the BIGGEST fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. And I write that with softness in my heart because I am not one to bash authors, and I know everyone has their preferred flavors. Anyway, I loved Big Magic so much I had to put it on this list for any creative person in your life (and that’s all of us, folks). I used to blare the audiobook in my car on my way to work, and it took such care of me.
Notable Quote: “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything.”
For the Avid Sentence Underliner: This book is cake. It’s frosting, and it’s a slow bite on a cold fork, and I want its words draping on curtains all over my house. Ocean Vuong is a stunning writer, and this book is ideal for anyone, but it’s a book I would particularly like to gift my writer/avid reader friends. I went beyond my comfort zone to read it in the first place, and I’m so glad I did. It’s luminous and will break your soul all at once.
Notable Quote: “Do you remember the happiest day of your life? What about the saddest? Do you ever wonder if sadness and happiness can be combined, to make a deep purple feeling, not good, not bad, but remarkable simply because you didn’t have to live on one side or the other?”
For the Reader Who Loves the Classics: I asked my Instagram followers which book makes the best gift, and this was by far the top pick. Honestly, Oprah stands by this book as if the book is her mother (and I’m going to trust that metaphor). A quote from Oprah herself: “I was trying earlier today to describe it [The Alchemist] to someone—and the word I used was a talisman. It has become a talisman for a lot of people. It doesn’t matter how many times I read it; I always get something else from it.”
Notable Quote: “This is what we call love. When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you.”
For the Poet Adorer: The best stocking stuffer book there ever was. Amanda Gorman writes poetry like it’s pouring out of her fingertips, and everyone should own a copy. I want to buy one for every single one of my gal pals.
Notable Quote: “When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
For the Sally Rooney Obsessed: Try on Ephron. One year, my best friend bought me a whole a$$ bible of Nora Ephron stories (The Most of Nora Ephron). It’s one of the most cherished items I own. If you don’t want to buy the whole platter, Heartburn is one of the most universal, tasty stories she has written. PSA: also a delectable gift for your foodie friend!
Notable Quote: “I have friends who begin with pasta, and friends who begin with rice, but whenever I fall in love, I begin with potatoes. Sometimes meat and potatoes and sometimes fish and potatoes, but always potatoes. I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”
For the Slow Simmer Reader: If there were one book left on an island, I would ask for this one. Alice Walker is one of my favorite writers, and I think it could teach you everything you need to know about the world.
Notable Quote: “I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”
For the Empathy Carrier: I had to bring Joan Didion into the mix. I love everything she writes, but this book makes the perfect gift for any extreme empath friend (like me). Joan’s words carry you through the pain and, hopefully, the paradox.
Notable Quote: “We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
For the Explorative Reader: This book is for your friend that likes to experiment with art and language. A stunning collection of meditations on race, its workings will captivate any reader in a unique, powerful grasp. I read this in a prose class and fell in love with its creative use of words and images. The provocative words are out of this world.
Notable Quote: “The world is wrong. You can’t put the past behind you. It’s buried in you; it’s turned your flesh into its own cupboard. Not everything remembered is useful but it all comes from the world to be stored in you.”
For the Sci-Fi Buff: I read the rest of this book standing up completely naked in my bathroom after a bath because I, quite literally, could not put it down. And I think about the story a lot. When someone asks for a book rec, I instantly tell them about Rumaan’s incredible magnetic novel. It’s about as “sci-fi” as I will go, and now I’m wondering if I should go a little harder.
Notable Quote: “People weren’t that connected to one another. Terrible things happened constantly and never prevented you from going out for ice cream or celebrating birthdays or going to the movies or paying your taxes or fucking your wife or worrying about the mortgage.”
For the Rom-Com Tickled: And if you need a good laugh. I turn to this book always when someone asks me for a good “beach read” that also feels like you’re swirling around inside an old-school Reese Witherspoon rom-com. Honorable mention for the historical-fiction buff: Maggie Shipstead’s latest novel, Great Circle. I have heard incredible things about that as well.
Notable Quote: “An airplane crossed the sky, and she imagined its interior-people packed in rows like eggs in a carton, the chemical smell of the toilets, pretzels in foil pouches, cans hiss-popping open, black oval of night sky embedded in the rattling walls. How strange that something so drab, so confined, so stifling with sour exhalations and the fumes of indifferent machinery might be mistaken for a star.”
I also asked my Instagram followers for their favorite book gifts and provided some honorable mentions below:
If you have any more bookie gift ideas please share them below!
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Brittany Chaffee is an avid storyteller, professional empath, and author. On the daily, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Off work hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her baby brother cats, Rami and Monkey. Follow her on Instagram, read more about her latest book, Borderline, and (most importantly) go hug your mother.
BY Brittany Chaffee - December 8, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.