2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Books make excellent Christmas gifts. There is so much variety that you are bound to find something to gift anyone in your life, and the cold months after the holidays are an excellent time to curl up inside with a book. The people of Iceland even have a word for the tradition of gifting and celebrating books during the holidays: Jolabokaflod, which roughly translates to “Christmas Book Flood.” So go forth and flood your loved ones with books – and I hope this guide makes doing so as easy as possible.

If you can’t find any books that stand out, or if you just don’t know what your gift recipient would be into, we offer gift cards to our online store and gift subscriptions to our audiobook store.

For People Who Want to Make Better Choices:

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

Steven Pinker, 2021

In his latest book, Pinker argues that humans are a rational species – a bold claim, he admits, given constant examples of the contrary. With logic and humor, this book is a guide on how to use the critical thinking tools that are so often left out of our educational curricula.

For People Who Like a Mystery:

The Maidens

Alex Michaelides, 2021

Alex Michaelides made waves among fans of the mystery thriller genre with his debut novel “The Silent Patient,” and he returns with another twisted plot in his latest work, which takes place among the academic elite of Cambridge University. After a murder on campus, an alumna and group therapist becomes obsessed with proving the guilt of a charismatic professor.

For People Interested in the History of Human Development:

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Jared Diamond, 1997

In this modern classic book of history and anthropology, Diamond sets out to answer the question: “Why did some groups of people grow to thrive while others remained undeveloped?” From warfare to agriculture to pathology, this book examines the variations of human development in a way that I found truly fascinating.

For Science Fiction Fans Who Like to Question Reality:

Dark Matter

Blake Crouch, 2016

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife and son — when his reality shatters. This book kept me guessing what’s real for Jason, what’s only his perception, and what the difference between those two things might be to begin with.

For People Interested in Narrative Journalism:

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Patrick Radden Keefe, 2021

Empire of Pain is the compelling and extensively researched story of the Sackler family: one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and sciences. The source of the family fortune was kept a secret until recently, when it was discovered that the family empire was responsible for making and marketing OxyContin, which they pushed into becoming a catalyst for the opioid crisis.

For People Who Think They Know Everything:

The Book of Eels

Patrik Svensson, 2019

I’m going to let you in on a fact that I didn’t know until I found this book, and if this information is new to you like it was to me, you’re not going to believe me. We don’t know where eels come from. It’s a mystery that has flustered biologists for centuries, and while we have come closer to solving it, we still don’t have many of the answers in the 21st century. This book explores what has become known as “the eel problem,” and the even more perplexing, philosophical enigma that it presents: how have we still not figured this out, and what other scientific discoveries are still hiding right under our noses?

For People Who Can’t Choose Between Wizards and Spaceships:

Gideon the Ninth

Tamsyn Muir, 2019

Gideon the Ninth is one of the most original works of science fiction that I have read in recent years, so much so that I find its plot and themes difficult to explain, but I will do my best. It is set in a distant future in which some people control wizard-like powers over biology and death. Its plot is a labyrinthine mystery filled with intrigue, but it is told from the perspective of a character whose solution to most problems is to hit them really hard with a sword. This book is heartfelt, funny, and wonderful, and you too will find yourself struggling to explain it to your friends after you read it.

For Science and Nature Nerds:

Lab Girl

Hope Jahren, 2016

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

For People Who Like Fantasy But Don’t Want to Commit to a Twelve-Book Series:


Brandon Sanderson, 2009

Most works of fantasy are told across a sprawling series of books, and that makes sense – on top of a story to tell, the author has an entire world to build. But starting a new fantasy series can be intimidating, and it’s not always best to give something intimidating as a gift. Enter Warbreaker – an entirely-realized fantasy epic with compelling characters, a colorful world, and truly unique magic, all packed into one reasonably-sized book. Better yet, if a reader loves this book, they can then transition to one of Sanderson’s other fantasy series, which are part of a shared universe called the Cosmere.

For Fans of Historical Americana:

The Lincoln Highway

Amor Towles, 2021

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

For Fans of Creepy Thrillers:

Home Before Dark

Riley Sager, 2020

Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her parents moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. Three weeks later they fled in the dead of night, an ordeal her father recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. As with any haunted house story, Maggie inherits Baneberry later in life and returns to its halls, where unsettling whispers of the past lurk around every corner. And as Maggie starts to experience strange occurrences ripped from the pages of her father’s book, the truth she uncovers about the house’s dark history will challenge everything she believes.

For Young Adult Crime Thriller Fans:

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Holly Jackson, 2019

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden.

For Young Readers Who Want a Page-Turning Adventure:


R.J. Palacio, 2021

Palacio, author of the best-selling Wonder, returns with an entirely new tale of mystery and adventure. Twelve-year-old Silas is awoken in the dead of night by three menacing horsemen who take his father away. When a pony shows up at his door, Silas makes the courageous decision to leave his home and embark on a perilous journey to find his father.

For Kids Who Want a Story and an Activity at the Same Time:

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter

Jamie Michalak, 2021

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is both a rollicking story with a dash of danger and, in its final eye-popping spreads, a seek-and-find challenge. As the clock in the great museum tick-tocks past midnight, a little mouse with a sack and a treasure map scurries past the guards. Plucky and intrepid Dakota Crumb scours the museum for artifacts, and invites readers to join in with colorful illustrations.

For Kids Who Just Like to Look at the Artwork:

The Wanderer

Peter Van Den Ende, 2019

While wordless, The Wanderer allows readers to create their own stories along with its wonderfully-illustrated, hand-inked pages. The author presents one little paper boat’s journey across the ocean, past reefs and between icebergs, through schools of fish, swaying water plants, and terrifying sea monsters. The little boat is all alone, and while its aloneness gives it the chance to wonder at the fairy-tale world above and below the waves uninterrupted, that also means it must save itself when it storms.

For the Discerning Toddler:

Jane Eyre: A BabyLit Counting Primer

Jennifer Adams, 2012

The books in the BabyLit series make perfect gifts for literary geeks with babies to teach and entertain. All entries in the series use a classic work of literature as a colorful backdrop for a lesson more relevant to its audience – things like numbers, colors, and shapes. Search for BabyLit on our online store to find many more options from the series!

Still can’t find what you’re looking for?

No problem! Don’t hesitate to contact us for help finding the perfect book. We also offer gift cards to our online store and gift subscriptions to our audiobook store.