Alright, y’all, Hanukkah is only five short days away, and we’ve hit the two-week Christmas countdown. If you haven’t finished your holiday gift shopping, it’s time to get cracking.
Stressed out about what to get all of your literate friends? Stress no more! Here is your 2014 holiday gift guide:
THE ABSOLUTELY FREE AND UTTERLY DELIGHTFUL GIFT TO GIVE TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS WHO ADORE HARRY POTTER:
This year, Christmas is coming early for Harry Potter fans. J.K. Rowling has announced that, in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, she will release a new Harry Potter story each day on pottermore.com. The announcement came out on Facebook, and you can read the details here.
In order to access these new stories, you have to answer a rhyming riddle. So, do the legwork for your Harry Potter-fan friends. Send a link each day to the new story with the answer to the rhyming riddle (unless your friends would prefer to answer the riddle themselves—in which case, just send the link!).
Then, you can cap off the twelve days of Harry Potter story links with a “real” gift on Christmas Day! How about a replica of Tom Riddle’s diary? Or some butterbeer lip balm? Or “I love you like Dobby loves socks” note cards? Or a Quidditch hoodie showing support for your friend’s favorite house? All of these and more (much, much, MUCH more) are available on Etsy.
Act quickly! The first story comes out TOMORROW!!
THE BOOK TO GIVE TO KIDS (OR TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS WHO ACT LIKE KIDS):
Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been
By Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp
Marcel the Shell is a YouTube sensation and the brainchild of SNL alum (and star of Obvious Child) Jenny Slate and her husband, filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp. Marcel is adorable and hilarious and says ridiculously cute things like, “Guess what I wear as a hat? A lentil!”
This fall, after a long hiatus, Marcel the Shell returned with his third video masterpiece:
Oh, Marcel, it had been far, far too long!!!
The timing of the release of the latest Marcel video was not coincidental. It was timed perfectly to create appropriate buzz for Marcel’s second book, Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been (Marcel the Shell With Shoes On: Things About Me is the first). If you like the Marcel videos, then you’ll love the Marcel books. They are quirky and fun and beautifully illustrated.
Give this book to all of the adorable children of your adorable friends (and your own adorable children, for that matter). Or just give it to all of your adorable friends who act like adorable children.
And if you’re super craftsy: How could you possibly resist making and giving this ridiculously amazing crocheted Marcel (created by Kari at “The Hook Brings You Back”) as an accompaniment to the book?
THE KIDS’ BOOK TO GIVE TO PARENTS:
You Have to F*****g Eat
By Adam Mansbach
Illustrated by Owen Brozman
A few years ago, Adam Mansbach hit upon a glorious idea: why not write a kids’ book targeted toward parents? And, thus, Go the F**k to Sleep was born. The book masquerades as a children’s book, complete with beautiful illustrations by Ricardo Cortés. But the poetic text isn’t as quaint and kid-appropriate as it seems at first glance. An example:
The windows are dark in town, child.
The whales huddle down in the deep.
I’ll read you one very last book if you’ll swear
You’ll go the fuck to sleep.
Last month, Adam Manbach returned with his follow-up, You Have to F*****g Eat with lines like these:
Your cute little tummy is rumbling
And pancakes are your favorite treat.
I’m kind of surprised that you suddenly hate them.
That’s bullshit. Stop lying and eat.
If you are like me, then you know dozens of exhausted parents with at least one kid under the age of three running around their homes. Those kids alternate (sometimes remarkably quickly) between being irresistibly cute and unbelievably obnoxious. These books will bring humor to those obnoxious moments and tough situations . . . and remind parents that they’re not alone.
THE BOOK TO GIVE TO YOUR MOM:
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street
By Susan Jane Gilman
As I mentioned in my review (here), when I saw the cover of this book, I did not have high expectations for it. But I was pleasantly surprised! This book features a strong, smart, and sassy protagonist named Lillian Dunkle (the titular Ice Cream Queen). Born Malka Treynovsky in Russia, she and her family travel to New York in 1913, when she is six. In this 500-page first-person narrative, Lillian explains how she went from Malka Treynovsky to Malka Bialystoker to Lillian Dinello to Lillian Dunkle. She documents the highs and lows of her life (being trampled by a horse as a little girl, getting high with her grandson, marrying the best-looking man she had ever met, building her ice cream empire to over 300 franchises around the country, assaulting a small child on national television, getting drunk with a clown . . .). It’s a great book that your mom could recommend to her book club when she finishes reading it.
The perfect accompaniment: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street will definitely make its reader crave delicious ice cream treats. So, pair it with a gift of this delightful ice cream book: Ample Hills Creamery: Secrets and Stories from Brooklyn’s Favorite Ice Cream Shop by Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna ($18.27). I have tried many, many, many ice cream recipes, and this book’s ice cream base is incredible. It is creamy (never watery/icy as many homemade ice cream bases tend to be), rich, and positively delicious. The book has a variety of unique flavors—everything from Drunken Thanksgiving (a pumpkin-bourbon ice cream with chewy molasses-ginger cookies mixed in) to Breakfast Trash (a cereal-flavored ice cream concocted from Corn Pops, Cap’n Crunch and Frosted Flakes with “fruity breakfast mix-in” made with Froot Loops and Fruity Pebbles).
THE BOOK TO GIVE TO A TEENAGE KID WHOM YOU WISH WOULD LEAVE HIS/HER PHONE ALONE FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES AND JUST READ A BOOK ALREADY:
By Marisha Pessl
This is, hands-down, one of the best books I read this year (you can read my glowing review here). It is dark, creepy, fun, and super creative.
If you have or know a kid (I’m talking high school or college kid; this book is decidedly not appropriate for younger kids) who is obsessed with social media and likes horror movies (i.e., is a normal, run-of-the-mill teenager), then this would be a great book to give him/her.
The book’s format is non-traditional. The normal book text is interspersed with emails, photos, text messages, magazine articles, screen shots, and various other multi-media tidbits. This makes for fun, fast-paced reading that’s ideal for short-attention-spanned teenagers who enjoy the instant gratification and easy digestion of Buzzfeed “articles” (like this gem). It even has an accompanying interactive phone app that provides additional information through multi-media extra content like a movie trailer, a diary entry, and an Oscar-acceptance speech.
And, fun formatting-gimmicks aside, the book really is good. It’s about an investigator’s efforts to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of Ashley Cordova, daughter of the infamous (and fictional) cult horror-movie director Stanislas Cordova.
This book is suspenseful and exciting. If you insist on getting a book for your kid who prefers electronic devices to books, this is the one to get.
Alternatively, if you know a teenage kid who loves to read, give her this:
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is another one of the best books that I read this year (you can read my review of it here). Adichie is a great role model for young women. Unbeknownst to her, your teenage daughter has probably heard Adichie speak before. Beyoncé sampled Adichie’s TEDx Euston speech “We Should All Be Feminists” in her song “***Flawless.”
The book, set in Africa and America, is a love story, but it’s also a honest and real depiction of race relations in the United States. It is beautifully and frankly written.
THE BOOK TO GIVE YOUR FRIEND WHOSE KIDS’ BIRTHDAYS LOOK LIKE LEGIT PINTEREST PROJECTS:
Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make
by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson
If your friend has a modicum of artistic ability, this book will guarantee that his/her cupcakes will put everyone else’s cupcakes to shame. The focus of this book is not on flavor; it’s on making cupcakes that are post-worthy works of culinary art that will make all other cupcakes look miserable and amateurish.
The book features holiday cupcakes, animal cupcakes . . . there’s even one that looks like a TV dinner.
To get an idea of the difficulty level, you can check out the recipe for these Blow-Up Lawn Santa cupcakes (originally from What’s New, Cupcake?, the sequel to Hello, Cupcake!), which has been modified to use box cake and frosting by Duncan Hines:
And, here’s the thing: when you give someone a cupcake cookbook, that basically obligates him/her to make you cupcakes. It’s a win-win.
If you’re feeling especially generous: Get all four of the disgustingly adorable books in the series. In addition to Hello, Cupcake!, there’s: Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh, My! ($10.77) and What’s New, Cupcake?: Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion ($15.16). And you can pre-order their new book, Cake My Day!: Easy, Eye-Popping Designs for Stunning, Fanciful, and Funny Cakes ($13.58), which will be released in March.
Want a stylish accessory to accompany these adorable books? Get a fabulously convenient cupcake carrier. This one from Target is super affordable at $14.55 and works like a charm:
THE BOOK TO GET FOR YOUR GEEKY BOYFRIEND:
Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline
Do you have a boyfriend (or son or friend) who geeks out over video games? Does he like 80’s pop culture? How about tales of post-apocalyptic doom? If so, this is the perfect gift for him.
Ready Player One is set in 2044 in a dark and depressing post-apocalyptic America, where people escape reality by spending much of their time in a virtual reality known as OASIS. When OASIS’ creator dies, he leaves behind an elaborate and tri-leveled puzzle hidden deep within his virtual world. The riddles and tasks that comprise the puzzle are full of 80’s trivia and pop-culture references (everything from Pac-Man to Family Ties). Whoever solves the puzzle first wins all of the his money and a controlling share of the company that owns OASIS. The protagonist, Wade, is an orphaned teenager on a quest to solve the puzzle and win the prizes. (You can read more about the book in my review here.)
I loved this book. It’s super geeky in the best possible way.
THE GIFT TO GIVE TO YOUR FRIEND WHOSE FAVORITE BOOK IS A CLASSIC:
You know that friend who has read Pride and Prejudice seventy-five million times? She has entire passages memorized, and her favorite copy of the book is worn from being read so many times. She’s obsessed (and rightfully so, it is a delightful book).
Get her a gift from www.litographs.com! Litographs takes classic books (everything from Walden to the Kama Sutra) and makes t-shirts, posters, and tote bags out of them. And the amazing thing? The entire book is printed, word for word, in teeny-tiny print to create a beautiful design. The letters are printed so small that the effect is similar to pointillism. Here, for example, is one of their gorgeous The Great Gatsby posters:
Litographs’ products are super affordable, and you can choose from an array of lovely color options. If you order soon, they guarantee arrival in time for Christmas!
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Good luck in your quest to find the perfect gifts for all of your favorite people. And remember: a book-filled holiday is a happy holiday! Happy shopping!!