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Finding the Perfect Gift for your Book-Loving Friends

Cindy Burnett
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Books for holiday gifts

Need some holiday gift-giving inspiration? Consider these books. 

The end of 2019 is rapidly approaching, and the holidays are just around the corner. This time of year, I am frequently asked for bookish gift ideas. As a bibliophile, I love talking about books and trying to match a good book with the right person. Accordingly, I thought I would create a list of books that make great gifts.

For ease of browsing, I have categorized my suggestions to provide some guidance to anyone looking for the perfect book for a loved one, friend, coworker or even a gift exchange. Many of my selections were published in 2019 so the odds someone already owns them are lower, but some older titles make such great gifts that I have included them too.

Because I have written frequently this fall about various types of fiction, I focused mainly on nonfiction for this article. The one exception I made was to include a category for fiction books that are about books (book lovers can never resist books about books!).

For the foodie or wine lover in your life: 

  • Mixtape Potluck Cookbook by Questlove (for a description of this book, read more here.)
  • 99 Bottles: A Black Sheep’s Guide to Life-Changing Wines by Andre Hueston Mack
  • Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me about Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits by Reese Witherspoon
  • Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle (and the follow-up Are You There God? It’s Me Margarita: More Cocktails with a Literary Twist)
  • American Food: A Not-So-Serious History by Rachel Wharton
  • The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Mamma’s Table by Rick Bragg

For those who would enjoy entertaining or enlightening non-fiction (this list includes some true crime, several memoirs, a couple of books about famous buildings and Pulitzer-Prize winning Tony Horwitz’s last book): 

  • Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
  • The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family’s Search for the American Dream by Bryan Mealer
  • Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
  • The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
  • The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
  • The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel by Julie Satow
  • The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy
  • Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide by Tony Horwitz
  • Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcom Gladwell
  • The Secret Life of the Pencil: Great Creatives and Their Pencils by Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

For Houstonians (or former Houstonians) who love history or anything related to home: 

  • Secret Houston: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure by William Dylan Powell
  • Lost Houston by William Dylan Powell
  • Unique Eats and Eateries of Houston by Sam Brown 
  • Lost Restaurants of Houston by Paul Galvani
  • Cook Like a Local: Flavors That Can Change How You Cook and See the World by Chris Shepherd
  • Houston Cooks: Recipes from the City’s Favorite Restaurants and Chefs by Francine Spiering (see more on Houston Cooks here)

For bibliophiles who love books about books:


  • Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Life by John O’Connell
  • Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in her Life by Annie Spence
  • Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount (there is a companion planner too)
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  • Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books by Nina Freudenberger


  • The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Feret-Fleury
  • The Storied Life of A.J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

And before I close - shop local! Houston has some wonderful indie bookstores that always appreciate the business and can answer any and all questions about books. If a particular title is not in stock, then any of the local bookstores are more than happy to order it for you.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram or Cindy’s Reading Recs.

Editor’s Note: Be on the lookout for a story all about gifting cookbooks by Dai Huynh in our upcoming December 2019 issue.

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