It’s that time of year when we’re bombarded with best of, must read and top-ten/top-hundred/top-million book lists of the year. While it’s lovely to scroll through and dream of all the books we’ll give, receive and hunker down with this holiday season, it can also be overwhelming to sort through.
So in keeping with our stereotypical Austinites gift guides theme for this holiday season, we put together a different kind of book gift guide. Here’s what to buy for every type of Austin bookworm on your list. Some are new books, some are old, some aren’t even books at all. Happy holidays, Happy reading and you’re welcome for giving you an excuse to spend a bunch of time and money at one of our fine local bookstores.
For the classic Austin lit-nerd/writer:
They’re always reading, and they’re often writing. They’re probably 20-something, and they probably Instagram a lot of “rainy Sunday, look at my tea and open book” shots from Quack's or other book-nerd hangout spots. (We can say that because, you know, we are those people.) Here’s some picks for your literary friends who are obsessed with finding new stories:
Indie-lit darling Chloe Caldwell’s collection of personal essays pull you into her world of being a 20-something writer trying to get it together while bouncing around Austin-like scenes in Brooklyn and Portland, painting equally compelling and honest portraits of her time spent babysitting and partying with Strand booksellers. Her writing is honest, often hilarious, and hits anyone who’s young, artistic — and wondering what the hell they’re doing with their life — hard in the face.
Cartwheel by Jenifer DuBois
A totally gripping novel by Austin transplant DuBois (who currently teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University), this intense and impressively crafted story will definitely ignite inspiration in young writers. Based very loosely on the Amanda Knox trials, Cartwheel challenges perceptions of truth, reality and the way we consume language and narrative. It’s also the kind of book you pick up and don’t even stop to pee — or, you know, even Instagram a reading selfie — until you’ve finished.
Inspired by the must-read essay on how to write by unconventional advice columnist Dear Sugar (aka Cheryl Strayed, author of best-selling book Wild), give your friend suffering from writer's block the gift of motivational profanity every morning with this mug. Also available? This travel mug for $15, 'cause we Austinites are into being green and stuff.
For your service industry friend (or 20—it is Austin, after all):
There are plenty of restaurant/foodie industry insider books to choose from these days for people who are reading before, after (or during) their late-night shifts. Here are a few of our favorites, for every type of industry book-lover:
For your favorite dive bar door guy who is always tearing his nose out of a book to check your ID ...
Drinking with Men, Rosie Schaap
Book People, $26.95
The New York Times Magazine’s drink columnist writes an ode to American bar culture in her memoir that chronicles her time spent sitting around neighborhood bars, drinking, chatting and telling raunchy jokes. Schaap’s storytelling captures that special kind of community a neighborhood bar cultivates, in a way that will definitely resonate with the dude who watches you and all your friends file in — and out — of your favorite Austin watering hole night after night.
For the acclaimed—or aspiring—mixologist …
Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons & Ed Anderson
Book People, $24.99
Of all the craft cocktail books out there (and in this town, it’s a lot), Bitters is the best part-history, part-instructional, crazy informative cocktail book. In it, Parsons paints a fascinating, thirst-inducing narrative of cocktails in America, focusing on bitters. It’s a perfect gift anyone who appreciates a great story and a great drink. Bonus: add a local touch to your boozy bookworms stocking and throw in some specialty bitters from Austin-based company Bad Dog Bar Crafts.
For the Superwoman chef …
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
… Or any of your lady friends kicking ass in the kitchen — or just kicking ass in general. They’ll all relate to and be completely consumed with Hamilton’s lyrical, funny and poignant memoir that tells the journey of a self-made woman. The chef at New York’s Prune, Hamilton takes us through years of dysfunctional kitchens and bad relationships, into the flavors and smells of cooking in France, Greece and Turkey, and how her sense of family — and life — was unconventionally shaped by her time spent with food.
Although we’re sure the “vintage” quality of a good old-fashioned book still appeals to plenty of Austin hipster-types, we know our town is also full of its fair share of techies, who probably prefer to read on their kindles/iPads/whatevers. Here are some reading picks for them, in digital form:
Written by Austin dweller and Michener fellow Kelly Luce, the debut collection from the newly founded Austin-based small press A Strange Object, is a collection of beautifully bizarre, subtlety fantastical tales that seep in and stick with you. The lovely book design — and its contents — have been garnering praise across the country, and it’s now available in all its digital glory.
The Weekly Rumpus Year Long
The Rumpus, $26
Any book lover knows — or should know — about the hip and feisty literary website The Rumpus which puts out a lot of lust-worthy content for lit nerds. They’ve recently launched a new app that gives subscribers a weekly, curated collection of content from the site, plus stuff exclusive to the app (like brand new, original short fiction).
Unstuck Issues (Kindle/e-book editions)
The Austin-based annual literary journal Unstuck focuses on the surreal, totally strange and fantastical. With fiction, poetry and nonfiction by a mix of upcoming and established writers, each issue transports you out of the realm of daily life and typical realities. While the back issues of the magazine are sold out in print editions, they’re still available for digital purchase. Buy your techie friend Issues 1 and 2 for his or her Kindle now and pre-order Issue 3 — it won’t arrive until February, but it will be worth it, we promise.
And lastly, for the Austinite who has read absolutely everything …
Various Austin indie bookstores (see below)
To avoid inevitably buying them something they’ve already read, let your know-it-all book-worm pick their own damn book! A gift card to one of the following Austin indie bookstores gives the gift of literary community, inspiration and un-burdened browsing. Because for a literature lover, there are few things better than an afternoon wandering around a great bookstore.
For the biggest selection, throw them some dough at Austin’s huge and beloved indie bookstore mecca, BookPeople. Gift cards available in-store and online. Bonus: BookPeople also offers hand-picked "gift-sets" chosen by staff: exclusive packages thoughtfully prepared for specific people in your life (teachers, nature-lovers, etc). They're gift-wrapped free of charge and only offered online.
For the art-minded, give them an excuse to wander in the lovely, sunny space that is Farewell Books, a progressive new and used book store and gallery space on the East Side. Gift cards available in-store only.
And for the counterculture types, introduce them to Malvern Books, the newest addition to Austin’s literary community, a space filled with independent poetry, journals and zines you might not come across elsewhere. Gift cards available in-store only.
Packaged specially for the holidays in an archival documented box which includes the book From Gutenberg to Gone With the Wind: Treasures From the Ransom Center, a year-long membership is a unique way to give literature, art, film and photography to your favorite book-ish Austinite.
Membership includes a personalized member card, invites to exclusive events, complimentary admission to several upcoming exhibits and two free visitor passes, so you can even tag along with them.
Make a donation of a $100 or more in your friend's name to the Texas Book Festival, and snag him or her a TBF fast pass for next year's festival. The pass allows your giftee and one guest (that could be you!) priority line access at all headliner sessions and signings. It’s pretty much like VIP access for Austin’s biggest literary event, plus the added bonus of a warm and fuzzy feeling of helping keep our towns literary community and traditions going.