Literary Traveler Gift Guide: Great New Books for Everyone on Your List

luminariesby Katy Kelleher

Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means one thing in American consumer culture: it’s time to start holiday shopping. But instead of running out to the nearest mall, I’m spending the day in bed with a big book (The Goldfinch by Donna Tart) and a cup of tea. Why? Because I already know what I’ll be buying this year. Books, books, and more books.

A well-chosen book is a wonderful gift. Not only do you support authors and publishers, but for the low price of a paperback, you can give someone a trip through time, a voyage around the world. You can send them to the wilds of Alaska or the coasts of New Zealand. So this year, instead of giving stale chocolates, give the gift of the written word. Here are six new books to get you started.

The History Buff
The Luminaries: A Novel by Eleanor Catton

This book has it all: murder, intrigue, gold, opium. Set in New Zealand in the year 1866, this winding, twisting tale follows twelve men as they try to make sense of strange happenings in the gold mining town of Hokitika. This intricate and clever novel is fast paced enough that you don’t even notice the 800-plus pages sliding by.

The Visual Artist
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Proving that graphic novels aren’t just playgrounds for superheroes, this funny and touching memoir explores the aging process through one writer’s relationship with her parents during the last years of their lives. But it’s not all sad—there are plenty of witty observations and sweet idiosyncrasies to keep you laughing through the tears.

The Home Chef
A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus: Menus and Stories by Renee Erickson

The much-lauded Seattle chef reveals more than just her kitchen secrets in this tome, which is an interesting combination of cookbook and memoir. Erickson’s simple and classic cooking style focuses on local ingredients and clean flavors, and her writing style is funny, personal, and warm. Together, these elements create the sense that you’ve just come home from the world’s best dinner party, complete with good conversation and all the edible bounty of the Pacific Northwest.

The World Traveler
The Best American Travel Writing 2014

Every year, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt releases their Best American series, which gather together notable and interesting writings from a diverse range of publications. Through pieces by authors like David Sedaris, Thomas Swick, and Harrison Scott Key, this book will take readers to every corner of the globe. Know someone with perpetually itchy feet? This book will doubtless inspire their next adventure.

The Naturalist
Hold the Dark by William Giraldi

Set on the Alaskan tundra, this novel weaves a thrilling tale of death, love, and nature. Part meditation on man’s place in the wild, part genre-bending mystery, this is a beautifully written story about tough people living in a cold, hard place. Some have compared Giraldi’s style to Cormac McCarthy, but I think fans of Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer will also enjoy this book and its wolves.

The Writer
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

What is good writing? How do we define it? How do we replicate it? Linguist Steven Pinker takes on the classic (but possibly outdated) Elements of Style in this close look at contemporary language. Instead of following the pre-established rules of writing, Pinker argues that modern authors should perhaps turn to cognitive science to answer questions on punctuation and grammar, rather than a somewhat archaic set of guidelines.

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