Gina Vaynshteyn
Updated December 13, 2014 6:06 am
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Is there an app that decides for you what holiday presents to get your family and friends? Like, why can’t I just type in “Gina’s Mom” and get a list generated for me? Isn’t this how we envisioned the future? Every single year, without fail, I struggle to find the perfect, most fitting presents for my friends, my partner, and my family. Gift-giving is an innate skill some of us have, while others stick to gift cards.

And hey, that’s okay. However, a pretty good solution to holiday gift panic is books. Almost everyone loves books (if you don’t, FOR SHAME), and almost everyone, at some point or another, has asked to have a book recommended to them. So this year, instead of running to Bath and Body Works for a last-minute lotion and soap basket, why don’t you give the greatest gift of all? That’s right: BOOKS. You simply cannot go wrong. (Unless they have said book, and that’s why you always leave them a gift receipt!) Here are some amazing recently-released books that everyone is bound to infinitely love:

Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey, $8.86, Amazon

Perfect for: Your friend who is considering going back to get her Masters in Literature or Creative Writing, or is simply a literature buff.

Nobody is Ever Missing follows Elyria, who abandons her life, family, and husband in Manhattan and flies to New Zealand to take on a new life. Meeting new people, and encountering new places, she struggles with her inner-demons and what it means to truly live. Catherine Lacey’s aesthetic writing style is so gorgeous, and so dense with wonderful language.

Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen, $13.47, Amazon

Perfect for: Anyone who loves brainy, philosophical non-fiction that touches upon literature and culture, anyone who has also read The Corrections or Freedom.

I went on a mild Franzen-binge after I devoured The Corrections and Freedom in college. I read How to Be Alone and then shortly after, Farther Away, essays and speeches that deal with David Foster Wallace, technology and love, and a trip to China. It’s thorough, and thoughtful, and perfect for a Sunday morning with a couple of mugs of strong coffee.

McSweeney’s Issue 47, $18.45, Amazon

Perfect for: Introducing your friend or partner to all kinds of non-standard short fiction (sometimes poetry, non-fiction, and art!).

McSweeney’s quarterly collections of texts are amazing samplers of all sorts of literary works. In Issue 47, you’ll get to read some work by Shirley Jackson (remember “The Lottery”?), an excerpt from Bill Cotter’s most recent novel, Mona Simpson, and more. Plus, each book is devastatingly pretty! (NOT that you should judge a book on its cover. . .OK maybe a little.)

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak, $15.25, Amazon

Perfect for: Anyone who loved The Office and that kind of dry humor. A friend looking for a quick, hilarious, but meaningful read.

When I read One More Thing, I was surprised how poignant and insightful B.J. Novak’s prose is. I knew I would be dying from laughter, but I didn’t think some of the stories would hit me so hard. Bravo, B.J. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed, $10.98, Amazon

Perfect for: Besides literally everyone, Tiny Beautiful Things is an excellent present for any relatives or friends who just graduated from school, or maybe just went through a harsh existential-crisis inducing break-up.

Since our emotions are constantly on this weird, uncomfortable roller coaster, this guide on life can speak to anyone. Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild), used to write an anonymous column for The Rumpus, and it was fantastic. In it, she crafted heart-wrenchingly beautiful responses to Rumpus readers who needed her advice on their careers, their relationships, their families, their everything.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, $10.02, Amazon

Perfect for: Your friends who love blogs, illustrations, and funny-to-pieces stories by a very real girl.

Hyperbole and a Half started off as a blog (and still is one) by Allie Brosh, a neurotic, funny, nostalgic, self-deprecating woman who bears it all. In cartoon form that is. In Hyperbole and a Half, you’ll meet psycho dogs, Allie’s mom who warned her not to eat an entire cake when she was a kid, and many other quirky characters. There’s also a profound, gorgeous and unconventional depiction of surviving depression that everyone should read.

The Complete Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, $25.80, Amazon

Perfect for: Anyone who loves a gripping, complex crime novel

While Gillian Flynn’s books are generally really quick reads (it took me a week to read all three of them), she manages to introduce her readers to very complicated female protagonists who you’re never sure whether to hate or love. This kind of moral ambiguity makes for a super fun, addictive, and morbid reading journey into the lives of killers and journalists and twisted families.

Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg, $14.13, Amazon

Perfect for: Any literary buff who also loves technology and laughing!

If you’ve ever wondered what Jane Eyre would text Mr. Rochester, or the kind of trouble Daisy Buchanan would get into as soon as she starting dialing while driving, this is your book. Get ready for some Victorian saltiness, and some LOL-worthy assumptions about our wonderful female protagonists throughout the literary canon.

My Ideal Bookshelf by Thessaly La Force, $18.95, Amazon

Perfect for: Someone who has NO idea where to start and wants to see what other people are reading.

My Ideal Bookshelf is a collection of cultural, media and Hollywood figures who share the books that are most important to them. Contributors include: Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman (YAY!), Miranda July (double YAY!), Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Patti Smith, and more.

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