Recently, I have realised that a lot of people I know all have their birthdays around the same time, which means for a few months of the year I spend a large amount of effort sourcing gifts. Not that I want easy hacks for thoughtful birthday gifts, but I have found that books are not only always a winner, but they can be very personal items.
Here I’ve created a short list of books that can make great birthday (or non-birthday) gifts, and also the reasons why. I often find it difficult because of the overwhelming choice, so hopefully this helps!
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
Synopsis: A charged and necessary wake-up call to pervasive, institutionalised racism, Eddo-Lodge’s searing polemic reconstitutes the frame of the argument around race, removing it from the hands of those with little experience of its resonances.
The author for this book became the first Black British author to take the overall top spot in the book charts recently, as the Black Lives Matter made lots of people seek out race education very quickly. Eddo-Lodge reacted with this, but it is still a massive achievement and also very telling of the changing times we are in. Crushing systematic racism exists – especially towards black people – and this book is a good gift to anyone because of that. We can all always learn more.
Plus, the author has a fab podcast series of the same name to listen to afterwards.
I Know This Much is True – Wally Lamb
Synopsis: Dominick Birdsey’s whole existence is coloured by the knowledge that his twin brother can never be fully responsible for his frightening behaviour, while he himself has beaten the biochemical odds to remain sane. But at what cost?
For a book that is about mental illness and grief and survival, this novel is quite easy to read. There is a strong narrative voice and characters that stay with you, and a clear plotline. It is pretty long, but that just means whoever you gift it to will remember you for longer… I do think this is a good gift largely because it’s a book that will suit a wide range of readers.
There was also a recent TV adaptation (starring Mark Ruffalo in a double role which is always lol), which means there’s further enjoyment to be had out of it.
Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
Synopsis: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say.
Sometimes purchasing a recent bestseller is a great gift to give. They get to read a novel everyone’s going on about, and there’s a high chance they’ll enjoy it – books are bestsellers for a reason after all, right? (I’m waiting for someone to gift me this, is what this item says…)
Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Synopsis: In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a cafe which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
This book hits a lot of points: it’s short and easy to read, meaning no fuss if your gift recipient isn’t a huge reader. It is also translated Japanese fiction that isn’t from Murakami – no hate but there are more authors than just one per country – meaning we can expand our reading horizons a bit through reading. But also? This book is incredibly charming, and there is an undercurrent of hope that runs throughout it, because the story is centred entirely on human connection.
The Wolf Hall Trilogy – Hilary Mantel
Synopsis: It begins with a Blacksmith’s boy: Thomas Cromwell. It is the 1520’s, Henry VIII rules England with his queen, Katherine of Aragon but he has no heir. His chief advisor Cardinal Wolsey, an astute and adept politician, is charged with the task of freeing Henry from the encumbrance of his marriage but Henry is subject to commands of the pope and Katherine is a devout and loyal catholic.
I feel like this is the kind of book I would like to receive as a gift because I’m probably never going to read it otherwise! It’s a critically-acclaimed series from a star writer, intense and long form historical fiction about a curious period in English history. I think books and writers that have won awards are always nice to give as a gift, usually because they’re so hit and miss for everyday readers anyway! But hey, good to see what all the fuss is about.
If they enjoy it, that makes their next gift easier — just give them the sequels!
Emma – Jane Austen
Synopsis: Clever, rich and beautiful, Emma Woodhouse sees no need for marriage, but loves interfering in the romantic lives of others, until her matchmaking plans unravel, with consequences that she never expected.
The most well-loved Austen book? It seems so, whoever you ask! Give it in a fancy form and it becomes such an easy book to love, too. (Even someone who is not a total bookworm can appreciate a well made book.)
There you have it! Hopefully this has been helpful if you’re looking for a birthday (or indeed, any) gift. Or you’re just treating yourself? *insert Donna Meagle treat yo self! gif*