20 Giftable Books for 2020
In a year full of Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts, e-Learning and “virtual happy hours”, the last thing I want to do with my free time these days is stare at another screen.
Enter the book. I’m not talking about the kind you download onto your iPad or smartphone and read in the dark. No, I’m talking about the kind you hold in your hands, flip through with your fingers. The kind you can turn to when your eyes and your brain both need a break from the digital world we’re living in.
Books offer an escape, and what better gift is there than that right now? Here are some of the best gift-able titles for the 2020 holiday season.
Best Travel Book
Accidentally Wes Anderson ($35) looks, well, straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. Based on the super popular Instagram account of the same name, this quirky travel/photography book explores real-life places that have the same distinctive aesthetic as his films, and tells the stories behind them. Includes a forward written by Wes Anderson himself.
Best Coffee Table Book
Humans ($35) is author/photographer Brandon Stanton’s 2020 follow-up to the mega bestseller Humans of New York. In Humans, Stanton shares photographs and stories of every day people from around the world. Over 40 countries are represented in this 448 page book that the Washington Post calls, “one of the most influential art projects of the decade.”
At a time when the world seems divided as ever, this book looks like a great reminder of the shared humanity that ties us all together.
Best Cookbook for a Global Pandemic
Because going to watch sporting events in-person isn’t really a thing right now, Tailgreat: How to Crush It at Tailgating ($28) might seem like a weird pick. But even if you won’t be actually tailgating anytime soon, outdoor gatherings will likely be the “new normal” for awhile. Tailgreat includes 120 recipes from James Beard Award winner John Currence that will bring your socially distanced outdoor get togethers to a new level.
Best Kids’ Baking Cookbook
When I saw that Christina Tosi had come out with a kids’ cookbook, Milk Bar: Kids Only ($23), I immediately bought it. I’m not even a big desert person, but her Momofuku Milk Bar Corn Cookies are one of the best things I have ever eaten in my entire life. Her new cookbook is absolutely delightful, too–great writing, great pictures, super fun recipes that appeal to both kids and kids at heart. So far my family has made the Rocky Road Cereal Squares and the Dreamsicle Blondies and both were delicious!
Best Humor Book
God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx ($26) is the writing debut from Desus & Mero of the hilarious Bodega Boys podcast. They describe their new self-help book as “a sequel to the Bible, or maybe to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, depending on how big a nerd you are.” If that doesn’t convince you to pick this one up, I don’t know what will!
Best Comic Book Collection
One of these days Wonder Woman 1984 will be released (maybe?). In the meantime, Wonder Woman: The Cheetah Comic Book Collection ($20) will get you acquainted with Cheetah, the villain played by Kristen Wiig in the new movie (that will hopefully, someday, actually come out). This 2020 release includes all of Cheetah’s appearances in various DC comics from 1943 to 2016.
Best Pop-Up Book
Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Diagon Alley and Beyond ($75) is Matthew Reinhart’s newest pop-up book, but literally everything he’s done is awesome. Simply calling these books seems wrong–they are true works of art! The coolest things about this new Harry Potter pop-up is that it can be opened up into a displayable 3D diorama of all the pages!
Best Book That’s Not Really a Book
Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie Postcard Book ($25) is an incredible value. For $25 you get 100(!) panoramic postcards plus storage box that doubles as a display frame. The postcards feature really beautiful concept art by Ralph McQuarrie, the artist who worked with George Lucas to establish the saga’s visual aesthetic in pre-production.
I was given this set for my birthday last year and totally thought someone spent a lot more money on me than they really did!
Best Book Gift Set
The Umbrella Academy Volume 1: Apocalypse Suite Deluxe Edition ($80) is a cool gift idea for fans of the popular Umbrella Academy Netflix show (just renewed for a third season yesterday!). Includes a 216-page leatherette hardcover with the entire Umbrella Academy comic series, a 50-page “sketchbook”, plus lithograph and slipcase designed by illustrator Gabriel Bà.
If you don’t need the fancy details, the Umbrella Academy Library Edition Volume 1: Apocalypse Suite (Hardcover) on its own is much cheaper ($40).
Best Read-Aloud Picture Book
Ironically enough, the best read-aloud book goes to No Reading Allowed: The WORST Read-Aloud Book Ever ($18). This kids’ book plays around with homophones, homonyms, and tricky punctuation, like “Man, a tea sounds great” vs “Manatee sounds great!”
Hopefully this November 2020 release will be as hilarious and awesome as its predecessor, P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever ($18). Seriously, it’s so good.
Best Kids’ Fiction Series
The obvious choices here would be Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Man or Captain Underpants (all good!), but my kids and I recently discovered a hidden gem of a series: The Unicorn Rescue Society. Before you roll your eyes, they’re not really about unicorns! And they are really well written! Mostly, I’m just stoked to have found a series that both my boys (8 and 4) and girl (6) all enjoy.
The Unicorn Rescue Society Series Set ($33) includes the first four books: The Creature of the Pines, The Basque Dragon, Sasquatch and the Muckleshoot, and The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow ($22) is not a new release (2005), but it’s seeing a surge in popularity since Hamilton the musical debuted on Disney+ this summer. It’s said that Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda read Chernow’s Hamilton biography on vacation, was super inspired by the story of America’s lesser known founding father…and the rest is well, history.
Don’t let the length scare you–even at over 800 pages it’s a super fast read! Great gift for a Hamilton musical fan, or really anyone who enjoys a good story.
Best Cocktail Book
Drink What You Want: The Subjective Guide to Making Objectively Delicious Cocktails ($25) goes beyond providing drink recipes. In this 2020 release, New York City bartender John deBary focuses more on the “science of mixology” and teaches you how to tweak any drink to your preferences and moods. Pair this with a nice shaker and you’ve got an awesome gift for just about anyone (over the age of 21 of course!).
Best New Anthology
The Best of Me ($30) is a collection of writer David Sedaris’s favorite stories and essays over the last 25 years. If you want to introduce someone you love to the brilliance that is David Sedaris, he’s given you a great place to start.
Best Book for Math Nerds
Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World ($27) is described as ‘The book-length answer to anyone who ever put their hand up in math class and asked, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?”’ This 2020 bestseller includes math mishaps involving the internet, big data, elections, street signs, lotteries, the Roman Empire and more.
Best Sports Book
Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty ($30) would have been an interesting read either way, but the fact that Kobe Bryant died this year brings a new level of fascination to this story. Written by Sports Journalist Jeff Pearlman and covers the Lakers “dynasty” from 1996 through 2004.
Most Highly Anticipated Memoir
The first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs, A Promised Land ($45) comes out today (11/17). No matter what political side you’re on, you have to admit Obama has always had a way with words. His historic rise to become the first Black president is a story I think a lot of people are looking forward to diving into this holiday season.
Most Highly Anticipated Sequel
Ready Player Two: A Novel ($29) comes out on 11/24, right in time for holiday gifting. Fans of the first book, Ready Player One have been waiting for this one for nine years! Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation in 2018 only upped the level of anticipation. Let’s hope it was worth the wait!
Best Book to Give Your Wife/Daughter/Niece
What Would Frida Do?: A Guide to Living Boldly ($25) is described as a “vibrant herstory-meets-self-help book”. Author Arianna Davis is getting a lot of praise for telling Frida Kahlo’s story in a fresh new way. Looks like an inspiring read for girls and women of all ages.
Best Book for Car Lovers
A Man & His Car: Iconic Cars and Stories from the Men Who Love Them ($40) is a collection of 80 stories of men and their beloved cars. Includes Ed Burns talking about his 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Jay Leno telling the story of his 1955 Buick Roadmaster, and Shaquille O’Neal nerding out over his love of trucks.
This is a follow up to 2017’s A Man & His Watch: Iconic Watches and Stories from the Men Who Wore Them (also a fun gift idea, especially paired with a watch!)