As we wind our way to the end of this most unusual year, we turn our minds toward the people we love and try to find gifts that show them how much we care. Books are always the perfect gift but perhaps especially this year, as we make our way in a winter more solitary than most. As always, we encourage you to seek out your local independent bookstore for your shopping needs; now more than ever, they appreciate our business.
For those who love their furry family members
A trio of books that put pets front and center caught our eye this year. For those who love dogs, there is the gorgeous and simply titled “Dogs,” a photography book by legendary pet photographer Walter Chandoha featuring canine subjects in the city, in the country, and in the photography studio. A coffee table book to delight the doggish.
If felines are more your recipient’s cup of tea, check out “A Cat’s Tale,” by Baba the Cat as told to Paul Koudounaris, an art historian and no slouch as an artist himself. Lavishly illustrated with truly astonishing photos of Baba in historical costume, this is a surprisingly hefty work of history as well as a visual delight.
When it comes to pure whimsy, what is better than a guinea pig? Check out “A Guinea Pig Night Before Christmas” — a perfect, petite volume for read-along with the rodent fans in your household.
For your friend with exquisite taste in tipples
Looking for a golden glow on a snowy night? No alcoholic spirit is as soulful as bourbon, that most American of liquors. Wright Thompson, best known for his long-form sports journalism, digs deep into the drink’s Southern roots in “Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last.” In tracing the story of Pappy Van Winkle, Thompson meditates on more than sour mash, unspooling a tale about history and nostalgia, myth and legend.
For the person who wants to unlock their thoughts
Any blank book or journal can be a place for aspiring writers to place their thoughts, but if you’re looking for a series of prompts about life, love, and self-discovery, you can’t do better than “Journey: Follow Your Dreams and Live Your Destiny,” by Paulo Coelho (“The Alchemist”). Peppered with quotes from Coelho’s beloved works, each page offers an opportunity for reflection and expression.
For the brave girls and women you love
One of the classic characters in children’s literature, Ramona Quimby has been with us since Beverly Cleary first published “Beezus and Ramona” in 1955. Ever since, books featuring Ramona and her family have been beloved by children and parents alike. Just as several generations of readers have fallen under their sway, so have several successive illustrators. In “The Art of Ramona Quimby” by Anna Katz, we can see — and read — the evolution of this iconic girl.
“Guerrilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly” will appeal to some of those grown-up Ramonas and Beezuses (Beezusi?). A sumptuous and in-your-face coffee table book, “Guerrilla Girls” chronicles the eponymous feminist art collective’s work from 1985 the present.
Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads, wondering, as a woman, an artist, a bold seeker, what was next for your life? “What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly” by Arianna Davis offers some ideas. A guidebook based on the life and work of pioneering Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, this beautiful volume is sure to inspire.
For the foodies
From chef Marcus Samuelsson comes “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food,” a cookbook that highlights the global reach and sophistication of Black cooking, from comfort food to celebratory menus. Dig in, and save room for seconds.
For the trivia nut
With the passing this fall of the great Alex Trebek, we find ourselves wondering what we will do without his presence on “Jeopardy!” One book sure to soothe is “Answers in the Form of Questions,” Claire McNear’s behind-the-scenes look at the show and its most fanatical adherents. A fun-but-serious look at the smartest game show in history.
And then there’s Trebek’s own memoir, “The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life,” published just this year and chronicling the Canadian host’s life and journey, even as he knew he was facing pancreatic cancer.
For your favorite millennial
What are the holidays for but nostalgia? Even if you can’t make it home to your childhood bedroom this year, you can still indulge some wallowing in the past — in this case, the butterfly-clipped, fanny pack-wearing glory that was the 1990s. Christina Haberkern’s “Totally ’90s Coloring Book” is just plain goofy fun for those whose pop cultural references include “Clueless” and jelly sandals. If you ever owned a Furby, this is for you.