Let Longreads help you with your holiday shopping! We’ve made a catalog of books we featured in 2019 that we think would make great gifts for everyone on your list.
Books of friendships & feuds.
Yuval Taylor’s Zora & Langston is a lavishly detailed account of the friendship, literary collaboration, and epic falling out of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes; Dylan Jones’ Wichita Lineman tells the parallel life stories of Jim Webb and Glen Campbell in the years after they came together to create the enigmatic eponymous song; and Andrew Curran’s Diderot: The Art of Thinking Freely chronicles Diderot’s intellectual sparring with Rousseau, Voltaire, and Catherine the Great.
Books of conspiracies, coincidences, & cover-ups.
Tim O’Neill’s Chaos lays out the evidence he collected during his 20-year investigation of the Manson family murders; Anna Merlan’s Republic of Lies takes a tour of some of the major conspiracy theories haunting the American psyche today; Evan Ratliff’s Mastermind pieces together a vast criminal network that is astonishingly controlled by just one man; Kate Brown’s Manual for Survival examines the extent to which the aftereffects of Chernobyl were covered up by world governments; Brian J. Boeck’s Stalin’s Scribe hypothesizes that one of Russia’s most beloved classic novels was plagiarized; and Erik Davis’ High Weirdness is a study of the symbolic “synchronicities” that seem to have recurred during three famous psychedelic experiences of the 1970s.
Books about family.
The bonds of family bend and break across vast distances in Ocean Vuong’s novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Nicole Dennis-Benn’s novel Patsy; Mira Jacobs’ graphic memoir Good Talk meditates on mothering in a mixed-race family in America; Grace Talusan’s The Body Papers and T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls are memoirs that celebrate family while also reckoning with legacies of neglect and abuse; and Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House is a 100-year history of her family’s New Orleans home, which was lost during Hurricane Katrina.
Books of investigations & revelations.
Nicole Weisensee Egan’s Chasing Cosby details how the case against Bill Cosby unfolded and why the story took so long to gain traction in the media; Arthur Holland Michel’s Eyes in the Sky reveals that drone surveillance has become widespread in American cities without much public awareness; Ronnie Citron-Fink’s True Roots investigates the real cost of hair dye to humans and the environment; Reniqua Allen’s It Was All a Dream chronicles black millennials’ experiences of income and racial inequality in the 21st century, and explores how this black generation is persevering in transformative new ways; Emily Bazelon’s Charged explores how the power of prosecutors has grown out of control in many American cities; and Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women provides an almost painfully intimate window into the romantic lives of three women who have recently been deeply, obsessively in love with a man.
Frightening books for your fearless friends.
Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall is a nailbiting novella of iron-age reenactors and parental abuse; Japanese Ghost Stories is a reissue of Lafcadio Hearn’s foundational collection of ghastly tales; and Mona Awad’s Bunny is a delightfully terrifying novel of sex, magic, and MFAs.
Histories that challenge our understanding of the past.
Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments reconstructs the free and experimental lives that black young women and girls were living in the second and third generations born after slavery; Amanda Kolson Hurley’s Radical Suburbs revises what the role of the suburb has been in American history, showing that they were sometimes havens for radicals; Robert MacFarlane’s Underland investigates the human underground world, revealing us to be a surprisingly subterranean species; Daniel Immerwahr’s How To Hide an Empire rewrites the history of the United States from the perspective of its imperial territories; Amir Alexander’s Proof! argues that the discovery of Euclidean geometry profoundly influenced social and political thought; and David Teuer’s The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee tells the history of Native America since the Wounded Knee Massacre, reclaiming Native history after the point of its so-called demise.
Compulsively readable fiction.
Bryan Washington’s Lot, by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, is a collection of interlocking short stories named after cities and streets in Houston; Mark Doten’s Trump Sky Alpha is a too-real satire of the world after Trump’s coming apocalypse; Mary HK Choi’s Permanent Record explores how modern lives and romances are mediated by technology; Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s Sabrina & Corina is a collection of interlocking short stories set in Denver, and in each one a woman has suffered violence at the hands of a man; Susan Choi’s novel Trust Exercise is a straightforward story of teenage romance that becomes more complicated with every twist of the narrative; and Téa Obreht’s Inland is a sprawling Western based on the true story of the U.S. Camel Corps.
Essays & Criticism.
Shapes of Native Nonfiction, an anthology edited by Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton, showcases the craftsmanship of contemporary Native storytelling; Luke O’Neil’s Welcome To Hell World is a vital and despairing collection of essays on modern American life; T Fleischmann’s Time Is a Thing the Body Moves Through uses the artworks of Felix Gonzáles-Torres to reflect on how the bodies we inhabit affect our relationship with art; Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing is a manifesto that calls for a radical winding down the attention economy; Hanif Abdurraqib’s Go Ahead in the Rain is a love letter to A Tribe Called Quest; and Jess Row’s White Flights is a literary dissection of whiteness in literature.
Minds & bodies.
Bassey Ikpi’s I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying reconstructs her experience of living with Bipolar II; Darcey Steinke’s Flash Count Diary is a philosophical meditation on menopause; Anne Boyer’s The Undying is a lyrical manifesto against the cancer industrial complex; Keah Brown’s The Pretty One is a lighthearted collection of personal essays that challenge the idea the idea that disability precludes self-love, romance, and happiness; Cameron Dezen Hammon’s memoir This Is My Body reflects on the painful contradictions of harboring deep Evangelical faith in a female body; and Andrea J. Buchanan’s The Beginning of Everything is a memoir of her marriage and mind falling apart.
Ahmet Altan’s I Will Never See the World Again was clandestinely written in the Turkish prison where he is being held as a political dissident; Marc Hamer’s How To Catch a Mole chronicles his rediscovery of the lost art of molecatching; Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House is the inventively told tale of how she survived domestic abuse at the hands of her partner; Carolyn Forché’s What You Have Heard Is True is the story of her experiences in El Salvador as during the civil war, which she famously recorded at the time in verse; Delphine Minou’s I’m Writing You From Tehran is her account of falling in love with the city from which her family had fled; and Matt and Ted Lee’s Hot Box is a whirlwind look at the fast-paced world of high-end catering in New York City.
Book about just one thing.
Semicolons, wind, and beef.