Books make the best gifts. And giving books is good reading for the receiver, good business for the industry, and good karma for the giver. I need all the good karma I can get, so I give people a lot of books. So many that when my kids inspect the presents under the tree every year at Christmas, they put aside all the solid rectangle packages and say, “These are the books from Mom.”

I give all kinds of people all kinds of books, but here are the ones I find myself giving over and over again. It’s an eclectic list, but then like most writers I have eclectic tastes—in friends as well as interests. Which books do you give over and over again? Why?


  1. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott (my favorite book for writers, and I know a lot of writers)
  2. Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (for history buffs)
  3. How to Tie a Scarf, by Potter Style (for fashionistas)
  4. The Ice Queen, by Alice Hoffman (people who love fairy tales will love this modern one)
  5. The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (for anyone who likes fairy tales true and terrible)
  6. Emma, by Jane Austen (my personal favorite among favorites)
  7. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett (for tough guys and crime writers/readers)
  8. Dog Songs, by Mary Oliver (poetry for dog lovers)
  9. Bright Wingsby Billy Collins (a beautifully illustrated book for birdwatchers)
  10. Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley (a wonderful novel for people who love horses)
  11. I Could Pee on This, by Francesco Marciuliano (for cat people)
  12. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (my favorite picture book, ever)
  13. Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch (my second favorite picture book, ever)
  14. Holesby Louis Sachar (a very funny novel boys will actually read)
  15. Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (the first in the beloved series for girls)
  16. A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook, by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer (for Game of Thrones fans)
  17. Chaosby James Gleick (for chaos theorists everywhere)
  18. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho (for people at a crossroads)
  19. The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo (for people in need of solace, which is, basically, everyone)
  20. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron (the classic invitation to make art)
  21. One Hundred Love Sonnets, by Pablo Neruda (just because)

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