gift guides

The 11 Best Books to Give As Gifts

Photo: Amazon

With the holidays (and the prospect of a long winter spent stuck inside) around the corner, what better gift to give than a book? Below you’ll find recommendations from Cut staffers in every genre, from mystery to nonfiction. We have suggestions for everyone on your list, from parents and cooks to New Yorkers and best friends. (Need more help picking out gifts? Check out our gift guides for momsdadsco-workers, and literally any man.)

For just about anyone

The Searcher by Tana French

I genuinely think this book would work for any reader — sure, your mystery-loving dad will enjoy it, but even people who are snobbish about genre literature look forward to new Tana French releases (I know because I used to be one of them). Like her other books, The Searcher is absorbing, affecting, suspenseful, and vividly Irish. Each chapter is a tidy 20–25 pages, so every time I came to the end of one, I’d decide to read “just one more” until I’d plowed my way through the whole thing in two sittings. —Rachel Bashein, managing editor

For the mom who’s in a book club

The Vanishing Half is, to me, the perfect gift book this year. It’s a page-turner full of big ideas about race, gender, and identity, written by an author who already had one bona fide hit (so your giftee is likely to have heard of her). By Brit Bennett, author of the 2016 bestseller The Mothers, the book tells the story of twin sisters, light-skinned Black women from a small Southern town defined by colorism. When one leaves to forge a new life as a white woman, her disappearance kicks off a mystery that’s passed down to the next generation. Buy it for someone who likes family drama and wants to feel in-the-know — I’m not saying that’s all moms, but I do think it’s the ideal present for a certain kind of mom. —Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor

For the die-hard New Yorker

The Encyclopedia of New York

The must-have guide to pop culture, history, and world-changing ideas that started in New York City, from the magazine at the center of it all. —Lauren Starke, VP of communications

For the sibling who likes memoirs


Like everyone else, I’ve had a very hard time reading this year. I’ve been unable to focus on anything that contains an ounce of substance. I was nervous to dive into Chanel Miller’s memoir, especially the sections that detail what she went through. And while those parts are harrowing and painful, Miller’s memoir is ultimately so joyful and filled with life. More than anything, it’s a book about a woman who survives and comes out on the other side as a more whole version of herself. —Kerensa Cadenas, senior editor

For the friend who won’t stop talking about Joan Didion

If you said to me, “Hey, wanna read a book about life in Silicon Valley?” I’d be like, “absolutely not. Get out of here!” But this isn’t a high-and-mighty judgment of tech culture, or a dramatic tell-all, or a brainwashed insider whatever. Anna Wiener is both a skeptical witness and a willing participant in this strange (and familiar) new world, and her observational powers blew my mind.
Emilia Petrarca, fashion news writer

For the friend who loves comfort food


I only just purchased this cookbook, but I’m already in love. It has all the yummy comfort food you want to be eating right now. Plus, in classic Ina Garten style, the book includes some very tempting craft cocktails. —Emily Burns, editorial intern

For anyone who likes to read the book before watching the show

If you know someone who hasn’t gotten around to reading Philip Pullman’s incredible His Dark Materials trilogy (which is now an HBO series), now’s the time to change that. The great thing about the books, a retelling of Paradise Lost, is that they aren’t just for fantasy readers, and this Everyman’s Library edition dresses them up nicely. They changed my life when I was 12, and now that my younger sister is that age we’re planning on reading them together. —Jordan Larson, essays editor

For the home cook

In Bibi’s Kitchen

This cookbook takes you into the kitchen of grandmothers from eight eastern African countries. It’s a perfect gift for those interested in learning about a different culture and dishes that are rooted in family stories about war, loss, migration, refuge, and sanctuary. —Devine Blacksher, associate fashion editor

For the dad who prefers nonfiction

Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

I’ve never read anything quite like Fathoms, which can be described succinctly as an exploration of mankind’s relationship to whales. While it falls neatly into the category of narrative nonfiction — you’ll learn about whales as an extractive resource, how much carbon their bodies accumulate over a lifetime, the precise hue and viscosity of humpback whale breastmilk — Fathoms at times feel more like a work of poetry, as all of Rebecca Gigg’s observations and analyses are suffused with wonder. To emphasize how mesmerized I was by this book, at one point, I paused momentarily to appreciate what I thought to be a particularly evocative description of poop. —Amanda Arnold, writer

For the in-law who’s obsessed with fantasy

Looking to delve into an alternate reality? This is the book for you! This New York Times bestseller is perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Madeline Miller. —Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz, senior writer

For the friend who’s always the first to know about the next big, cool thing

Black Futures is a collection of work by Black creators, including images, essays, memes, tweets, recipes, poetry and more. It’s out on December 1, but you can pre-order now. —Emilia Petrarca, fashion news writer

The 11 Best Books to Give As Gifts