Gift Guide: The Best Books to Gift People You Know Well—and People You Don’t

November 16, 2019, 12:00 PM UTC
The table of contents to "Garçon Style."
Laurence King Publishing

It’s not quite make-or-break time for holiday shopping, but the clock is already ticking. There are few categories that seem to have something for everyone and are easy to drop in the mail.

One of those categories would be books. Now certainly, it’s an overwhelming one. Where to start? If you know your gift receivers well, then you could likely narrow it down to at least a favorite genre and maybe even cross out books you know they’ve read. But books are also a great option for people you don’t know well, especially those touching on food, wine, art, pop culture, entertainment—you get the idea.

Here’s a list of new releases this year that could delight readers on your gift list this season:

Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy
Chronicle Books

Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy by Amy Ratcliffe

For years, it seemed as though there was only one woman in space. And she was incredible, inspiring, memorable, and heroic in her own right and every right. Thankfully, the Star Wars canon has since expanded to feature more female characters in a galaxy far, far away. This includes not just a pair of incredible young women who have led a combined three of the last four major motion pictures that have been released in the Disney/Lucasfilm era, but also many others who are just as nuanced, complex, and intriguing as the princess who made us fall in love with this series to begin with. Amy Ratcliffe profiles 75 female characters across the franchise’s films, novels, comics, animated series, and video games. Devoted fans will likely recognize most (if not all) of the rogues, rebels, and imperials in the full-page illustrations, but the visually rich Women of the Galaxy also serves as an excellent introduction to the series for any interested reader—of any age or gender identity.

Tartine Bakery
Chronicle Books

Tartine: A Classic Revisited 68 All-New Recipes + 55 Updated Favorites by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

Technically an update of a cookbook that wowed home bakers (and general pastry lovers) nearly a decade ago, the updated guide from San Francisco’s beloved Tartine Bakery debuted to rave reviews as one of the best “new” cookbooks of 2019. While we might not all be able to craft the perfect Morning Bun (or even have the patience to wait in line for a Morning Bun at the bakery’s locations in the Bay Area, which have since expanded to outposts in Los Angeles and Seoul), the eye candy on these pages is once again just as sweet, fluffy, and mouthwatering as ever.

Supreme Models
Abrams Books

Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion by Marcellas Reynolds

From pioneers such as Iman and Beverly Johnson to the ’90s supermodel era of Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks to today’s generation led by Joan Smalls and Jourdan Dunn, celebrity stylist and journalist Marcellas Reynolds shines the spotlight on more than 70 black women over the past 60 years who have made their marks on the fashion industry and changed it for the better. Supreme Models is a tribute to these models’ careers through a dazzling compilation of magazine covers, ad campaigns, runway shows, and editorial shoots.

Come for the wine, stay for the gorgeous illustrations and infographics.
Chronicle Books

Wine for Normal People by Elizabeth Schneider

As the title implies, yes, this is a book for people who like wine, but might not fancy themselves as an expert. It’s not quite light reading either, as this could serve as an entry-level encyclopedia for wine lovers who want to indulge more in knowledge about from where their favorite varietals are sourced while also picking up some pro tips and recommendations about where else to look for great wine. (And for the truly studious, Schneider hosts an accompanying podcast of the same title.) Essentially, to borrow from the subtitle, this is a gift for “real people who like wine, but not the snobbery that goes with it.”

Architectural Digest at 100
Abrams Books

Architectural Digest at 100: A Century of Style (Introduction by EIC Amy Astley; Forward by Vogue’s Anna Wintour)

For nearly a century, Architectural Digest has been The Authority in design—especially home and interior design. Its future target demographic might be in question, but right now it’s still something of a status marker—even honor—for a celebrity of any background (from entertainment to politics) to have their apartment, loft, studio, beach house, and so on featured in the pages of AD. Some of the spaces featured in this special compilation are the homes (past and present) of David Bowie, Truman Capote, and Barack and Michelle Obama. So even if you can’t live in one of these abodes, at least you can have a small piece of it on your coffee table.

Krishna is a food writer who contributes to the New York Times, The New Yorker, Bon Appétit, and more.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Indian-ish by Priya Krishna

When she was starting out in food writing, Priya Krishna would often pitch stories about “restaurant dishes, interesting people, and Indian food—because that’s what I knew.” Nevertheless, Krishna “didn’t want to just write about dosas,” as she recalled to the audience at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee summit for women in food earlier this year. Krishna was originally uneasy about the title of her book, concerned it would only “end up in ethnic bookstores” and wouldn’t be placed next to a cookbook from the likes of Nigella Lawson and Martha Stewart. But her publishers disagreed, and they settled upon a final title: Indian-ish. As Krishna noted, this book has “both paneer and pizza,” and the true heart of the book might reside in the subtitle: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family.

Atwood has a design studio in Manhattan’s SoHo district.
Clarkson Potter

Living With Color: Inspiration and How-Tos to Brighten Up Your Home by Rebecca Atwood

In these dreary times, it’s critical to add color to our lives where we can. That can start at home, and in her second book, New York textile designer Rebecca Atwood pulls together brightly hued, precisely decorated interiors that never clash but don’t overwhelm the reader with the same color palette either. Pinterest-worthy, yes, but Atwood’s layouts are attainable and realistic in their construction, inspiring readers to mix and match colors they might not have considered but might ultimately (to borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo) spark some joy in one’s home.

A fine arts photographer, Malin’s previous books include Beaches and Escape.
Abrams Books

Gray Malin: Italy by Gray Malin

Before the hoards of Instagram influencers started flooding our feeds with wanderlust-inducing square snapshots, there was the master of the inspiring travel photograph: Gray Malin. Bringing a true touch of class but somehow always keeping the mood light and airy and fun, Malin’s photographs aren’t just postcards but fine art. Even the sample shots from his latest subject, Italy, will have you wanting to book a plane ticket to the Amalfi Coast before the book can even arrive on your doorstep via Prime shipping.

Garçon Style
Laurence King Publishing

Garçon Style: New York, London, Milano, Paris by Jonathan Daniel Pryce

New York, London, Milan, and Paris are home to the four biggest Fashion Weeks of the industry—each one distinctly different not only in the labels calling each city home but also the sartorial choices made by the editors, industry professionals, and fashion aficionados. Jonathan Daniel Pryce’s demonstrates street style is distinct not only to the wearer but the environment, depicting the most current takes on tailoring, styling, and attitude in men’s fashion.

A decade of Chanel’s most influential fashion shows shot by the renowned English photographer.

Lagerfeld: The Chanel Shows by Simon Procter

Karl Lagerfeld, the German fashion designer who helped set the industry standard for five decades, died early on in 2019, sending shockwaves throughout the fashion industry. But even as news of his passing hit the wires, industry insiders already started making guesses as to would succeed him at the helm of the fashion label founded by Coco Chanel. The Parisian brand made a safe bet in choosing Virginie Viard, who had worked at Lagerfeld’s side for more than three decades and joined Chanel as an intern in the 1980s. Viard’s first collection (Resort 2020) hit the runway in May, but it’s worth glimpsing back at Lagerfeld’s legacy and influence on women’s fashion through Simon Procter’s dreamy photographs of some of Chanel’s most memorable, luxurious, and extravagant shows from the past decade.

Both authors have worked on projects for BBC’s Natural History Unit.
Rodale Books

Life From Above: Epic Stories of the Natural World by Michael Bright and Chloe Sarosh

Satellite imagery is more breathtaking and magnificent than ever. Drones, too, are capturing images never before thought possible. Writers Michael Bright and Chloe Sarosh—who each have extensive backgrounds in covering wildlife and natural history—have compiled some of the most astonishing images ever captured of remote landscapes, showcasing locales like the currents on the Strait of Gibraltar, sand dunes of Brazil’s northern coast, and the aurora borealis in their stunning natural beauty. And yet while perusing these incredibly high-resolution photos, there’s a somber undercurrent knowing how many of these environments are at stake under the current climate crisis.

From the creators of the Instagram sensation “Every Outfit on SATC.”
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

We Should All Be Mirandas: Life Lessons From Sex and the City’s Most Underrated Character by Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni

For longtime viewers of the HBO series Sex and the City, many fans will often discuss among themselves about which of the characters with whom they most closely identify. So many of them will say they’re a “Carrie” or a “Charlotte.” But it’s arguable that for many years, a lot of people would have scoffed at being called a “Miranda.” But why? Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni—a pair of former fashion editors who launched the Instagram sensation “Every Outfit on SATC” (including a hilariously revisionist, in jest, woke version of Charlotte)—make the case as to why we should all at least try to identify with Miranda Hobbes, quite possibly the unsung, quick-witted, independent heroine of the program. Describing the character portrayed by Cynthia Nixon as “the ultimate girl boss and icon for today’s empowered woman,” Fairless and Garroni highlight specific instances from the series in a witty, satiric, yet socially conscious guide to navigating life’s ups and downs.

Not your typical tell-all.

Inside Out by Demi Moore

There is a new gold standard for the celebrity memoir. This isn’t a tell-all, but it is unexpectedly revealing, as actress Demi Moore—at one point the highest-paid actress in Hollywood—is not only vulnerable about her personal life. But she is also so candid about her career—from treatment over salary negotiations to pressures over her body image—that it is simultaneously refreshing and heartbreaking. Moore so perfectly articulates the internal battles so many of us face with self-doubt, eating disorders, and addiction (of all kinds). But Moore never plays the victim. Unlike so many narrators, especially in the movie industry, Moore takes responsibility—to the point where it’s questionable if she should be so hard on herself, but that is so often the case as women are often conditioned to react that way. This would be a prime example of opting for the audiobook—only a little over six hours and it flies by fast—as Moore’s delivery is emphatic, entertaining, and at certain points so crushing that you need to hear her voice to truly understand the pain she is conveying versus just reading it on a page.

A frank but riotous examination of the career of one of comedy’s (and Netflix’s) fastest-rising stars.
Penguin Random House

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

Nothing is off the table and nothing is Too Much Information as far as comedienne Ali Wong is concerned. Written as an open book to her two young daughters, Wong doesn’t hold back on discussing anything adult children might feel squeamish about when hearing about or reading about their parents when they were young. That includes dating histories, sex (sometimes graphic), and certain gross-out situations that are best saved for the book. But Wong challenges other topics that have been regarded as squeamish in society, such as miscarriage and the hard, uphill battle for women in comedy. (Also another fine example of selecting the audiobook version, narrated by Wong herself—especially for fans of her standup shows Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife on Netflix.)

History’s most loyal heroes.
Abrams Books

The History of the World in 50 Dogs by Mackenzi Lee

History is written by the victors. It’s also written by humans, meaning the true heroes don’t often get their due. That is no longer the case for at least these 50 Very Good Boys and Girls—including the first dog in recorded history (a breed similar to a greyhound in ancient Egypt); some of the First Dogs of the United States (belonging to George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt); a Skye terrier belonging to Alexander Graham Bell that might have helped invent the telephone (a precursor way down the road to #dogsofinstagram); and a pug belonging to Napoleon’s first wife, Empress Joséphine, with the inspirational name Fortune.

Much like the Pacific Ocean, Karl the Fog is a bit salty.
Chronicle Books

Karl the Fog, San Francisco’s Most Mysterious Resident by…Karl the Fog

No, Mark Twain did not actually say the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. Chalk that one up to misattributed quotes—admittedly one that would line up nicely with a famous Bay Area figure while also a very accurate and succinct sentiment about the microclimates of San Francisco. Longtime residents know that the fog all but swallows up the city on a near-daily basis, and as social media swallowed up humanity over the past decade, the fog made his way there too. Thus, Karl the Fog was born, immediately becoming a popular—and anonymous—Internet personality with plenty of hot (or, rather) cool takes on Twitter and Instagram. And since it is 2019, he now has a book deal.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—12 books on business and journalism to add to your fall reading list
—Meet the New Yorker selling signed copies of Philip Roth books on a street corner
—9 nonfiction page-turners to bring to the beach this summer
—Scribd’s “Netflix for books” subscription model is proving to be fruitful
—Listen to our audio briefing, Fortune 500 Daily
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