Photo credit: Scarlett Freund
Deborah Harkness, author of the New York Times and internationally best-selling All Souls Trilogy, shares a holiday gift guide with the Penguin Hotline:
Books+: A Hands-On Gift Guide
Books really are the perfect gifts.
I know, I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes, but it’s true. Still, there are some people who claim that they don’t like to read (gasp!). On the other hand, there are also book lovers who have so many titles on their shelves that you might struggle to give them a title they don’t already own.
Here is a list of five titles that can be your go-to gifts no matter if you are giving to a book avoider or a book lover. Even better, I’ve combined each title with a small item that will encourage the recipient to dive in and start making and doing.
Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure & Coloring Book by Johanna Basford + a box of PrismaColor Premier Colored Pencils
Coloring is a soothing, addictive activity that isn’t just for children any more. Adults of all ages are turning to coloring as a way to relax, unwind, and express their creative side. On my recent family vacation, everyone between the ages of 13 and 80 was coloring. I love Johanna Basford’s coloring books. Her latest title, Lost Ocean, celebrates nature and captures the magic that is all around us, just as her earlier books did. Exquisitely detailed images of underwater life, mermaids, sailing ships, and sea creatures will keep you entertained for many hours. Because the images are so precise, you can’t use crayons but must instead use fine-tip markers or colored pencils. My favorite pencils are the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils. They come in boxes containing anywhere from 12 to 150 different shades, blend beautifully, and can be layered to produce new colors.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert + a Moleskine Classic Unlined Notebook
You don’t have to be a writer, artist, or musician to live a creative life. Gilbert encourages all of us to move beyond the doubts and fears that might be holding us back and live life fully and completely. Written with Gilbert’s characteristic warmth and humor, you will feel at the end of it that you’ve received an insightful and inspiring pep talk from an old friend. To encourage your recipient to tap into their creativity, why not give them my favorite Moleskine notebook so they have a place to doodle, journal, and otherwise capture their thoughts? I heartily recommend the unlined version as the most flexible in terms of format, and the bright turquoise soft-cover never gets lost in my bag or on a table in a sea of black notebooks. It harmonizes beautifully with Big Magic’s cover, too.
Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan + a Kuhn Rikon 4th Burner Pot
Who doesn’t love a jar of homemade jam, pickles, or chutney? It turns out that you don’t need to own a fruit orchard or feed an army to enjoy home canning. Most of McClellan’s recipes use between 1-2 pounds of fruit and yield three ½ pint jars, so they are perfect for small kitchens, small families, and small batches. Her clear instructions will take you from your CSA box or grocery store to jewel-colored jars of Honey Lemon Pear Butter, Orange Curd with Cardamom, and Pickled Hot Pepper Rings. One of my favorite things about this book is that McClellan recommends a Kuhn Rikon 4th Burner Pot to process your jars of goodness, not a kettle the size of a bathtub. It’s a lot less intimidating, and takes up a lot less storage space.
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi + a jar of Sumac
I own all of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, but this is the one that I cook from most often. Packed with beautiful pictures and stories from the cosmopolitan city where many cultures and traditions come together to produce delicious, healthy food like Clementine Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad. Some of the spices in the book, like Sumac, are not exactly pantry staples in most cupboards—yet. So get some Sumac from an online spice retailer like Penzey’s or check a Middle Eastern or larger supermarket near you for some of this essential Jerusalem spice. Decant it into a clean mason jar or other container, tie a bow around it, and give it to your loved one with this wonderful book. If you are lucky, they will invite you over for a meal in the New Year.
Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack + Vacu Vin Wine Saver Pump with Stoppers
This is the perfect book for anyone who would like to explore wine or who has struggled to pick out a nice bottle for a special dinner. Written for beginners, Puckette and Hammack have drawn together a lot of information and presented it in an easily navigable format that relies on graphics rather than paragraphs of dense text. With hints on how to taste wine, coverage of grapes grown around the world, and tips on pairing wine with food to bring out its best side, this gift will get a budding oenophile off on the right foot. Since your loved one might have the occasional wine leftovers, give them a set of Vacu Vin stoppers and pump. This gadget will allow your recipient to preserve bottles of wine for a few days without turning to vinegar, encouraging them to keep tasting and exploring.
Wow — thanks, Deborah Harkness! We are bowing down to a gift-giving master. The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend another go-to holiday gift: the All Souls Trilogy boxed set.
And for more custom book recommendations, head to the Penguin Hotline!