Families are weird. You love them, but they’re weird. And this time of year, you have to find presents for these strange people you’re somehow related to. If you’re looking for books (and PS, support your local indie bookstore!), here are recommendations for all the loveable weirdoes in your life.
Crazy Rich Auntie – She swans into the room in a cloud of some perfume called Glamo(u)(r) or Rächél and talks about how her personal resort shopper has changed her life. She deserves the best (your words, but also hers), so get her the mega-popular The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Not only is the cover chic, the titular Addie is beautiful, sophisticated, and desirable, and she traipses around several fabulous cities to attend the hottest events. (Yes there’s more to it. Will your aunt care? Gift this to find out!)
Sane-but-Frazzled Aunt – Meanwhile, your other aunt is making a seven-course meal and is quietly frantic that the potatoes are going to taste like Glamo(u)(r) if Rich Auntie keeps standing there not helping. Help her express those quiet, murderous impulses with a copy of Mexican Gothic, about a fabulous woman triumphing over a house and family that wants to consume her. Or, if you’re not ready to be quite so pointed, try Where the Wild Ladies Are, short stories your aunt can read between bouts of business.
Organic Aunt – She and her partner are really into making their own pickles and refer to their chickens as “the babies.” She’s woke but somehow cringey about it. But she’ll definitely embrace Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 and maybe expand her horizons even more. Also, maybe she’ll gift you some kimchi next time you see her.
Cousin You Wish You Were Closer With – It was super easy when you were ten and Pokémon were the beginning and end of your interests. Now that you’re adults you need something else to talk about. How about The Murderbot Diaries? You can break the ice with this fun series, and hopefully use it as a springboard beyond just chatting about murderous little fictional entities (although those are good too). Start with All Systems Red or with the four-book box set.
Bisexual Disaster™ Cousin – Their escapades are as legendary as they are inappropriate for the dinner table, but Disaster Cousin doesn’t care. They’re already sipping a vodka tonic when the rest of you are still on the eggnog. They need to read Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. It’s badass lesbians and bisexual disasters in space.
Weirdo Uncle – Sure he lives in the woods, and sure he builds a strangely large number of circuit boards, but he’s your uncle and you love him. Show your love with a copy of Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer, a futuristic bio-thriller featuring, among other things, a “messianic blue fox.” I am quoting the dust jacket, so you know that’s only the beginning.
Aggressively Normal Uncle – Sports, eh? How ’bout them sports. You know what’s very normal but also pretty cool? James Bond. Nobody Does It Better is an extensive oral history of every James Bond film, complete with amazing details about the cast, crew, and production.
Sibling You’re Still Secretly Mad At – Look, it’s fine. It’s fine! It’s the holidays. Let’s not ruin them like your sibling definitely ruined your car/outfit/flirting with the hot barista. If you want to scare them and make a point about their attitude, get them In the Shadows of Men. If you only want to snipe at them, try A Deadly Education, in which the main character continually insults and gets the last word on her nemesis Orion.
Sibling Who Took Your Side in the Last Argument – Clearly the best sibling deserves the best book with a not-so-subtle message about siblings being there for one another. The first two books of The Wells of Sorcery are out now, which will give them just enough time to read them before the third book comes out in January.
Parent Who Won’t Take COVID Seriously – Oh my god just stay home. Why do you even need to go to TGIFridays? Nobody needs to go there! To keep your parent home as long as possible, get them the latest—or entire—Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. These massive tomes are as engrossing as they are long, and hopefully your parent will stay inside longer and more often to read them. Also, no awkward sex scenes.
Nibling Who Is Probably a Tik Toker – Okay, you’re pretty sure you know what Tik Tok is, but like…why? Also, how? Maybe your nibling will explain if you get them a cool present like Black Flamingo, a novel in verse with some stunning visuals.
Younger Nibling You Want to Encourage – Middle school sucks. The Aru Shah series or the Anya books might help them feel like there are more exciting things out there than puberty and homework.
Youngest Nibling – Can they even read yet? What age do babies read? Well, at some point they’ll want a book, so get them Sugar in Milk, a short little story about acceptance that honestly made me tear up when I finished it. Or try From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, a gorgeous book they’ll love for the pictures and the message.
Friend Who’s Like Family – Somehow they’re the only person who can eat cookie dough from the bowl and not get yelled at, and that’s one of the many reasons you love them (also, they share). They’re badass, and so is The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, a modern take on the Chinese trickster god Monkey, and its recent follow-up, The Iron Will of Genie Lo.