Holiday book gift guide includes memoirs, novels and art books


One of the silver linings during this dark cloud of living with the COVID-19 pandemic has been that we’ve had more time at home to read. Books are wonderful companions during painful and uncertain times and perfect gifts that can be easily shipped if you can’t present them in person. Books provide comfort and joy and help make us feel less alone in the world.

From heartfelt memoirs and novels to giant photo and art books, here are some holiday gift ideas for the readers in your life to savor and hold on tight to.

Barack Obama “A Promised Land” (Photo: book cover)

“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (Crown, $35)

The hottest book of this holiday season, this first volume of former President Obama’s memoirs is characteristically clear, insightful, riveting and deeply personal. The 44th president pulls back the curtain on his upbringing and meteoric ascent to the highest office in the free world and takes us inside the White House. This unflinchingly honest and frank book is a detailed look at how and why Obama strove to become a leader, in a nation which he still believes has the capacity to be “a promised land” for all Americans.

Book cover for “Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now” (Photo:

“Joe Biden: The Life, the Run and What Matters Now” by Evan Osnos (Scribner, $23)

The President-elect’s half century in politics is an incredible tale of strength and hope despite great personal loss. Evan Osnos reveals how Biden’s trials and tribulations have forged in him an uncommon empathy. The President-elect emerges as a man uniquely qualified to lead America through the next four challenging years.

Book cover for “Van Gogh. The Complete Paintings” (Photo:

“Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Paintings” (Taschen, $50)

This 19th century Dutch post-impressionist is today among the most beloved and well-known painters in history. Yet his life was marred by mental illness and shortened by suicide at the age of 37. This gigantic, awe-inspiring volume contains all of his paintings brilliantly displayed alongside essays and commentary. A masterpiece of a book and perfect gift for the art lover in your life.

Book cover for “America The Beautiful: A Story in Photographs” (Photo:

“America The Beautiful: A Story in Photographs” (National Geographic, $40)

The stunning beauty and vast sweep of all 50 states and six territories is captured in this phenomenal photo collection. A true treasure that will both stir and inspire you along with stories and commentary from 50 historians, politicians, celebrities and well-known names. This coffee table book is a visual odyssey and sensory delight that celebrates all that makes America sparkle “from sea to shining sea.”

Book cover for “World War II Map by Map” (Photo:

“World War II Map by Map” (DK, $40)

Every imaginable aspect of the deadliest war in history is brought to life and comes leaping off the page in this massive collection of custom maps and photographs. It’s a visual history that charts the full course of World War II from its root causes and rise of the Axis powers to the devastating destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Featuring more than 100 maps, timelines, photos and a comprehensive overview of this devastating war.

Book cover for “Man-Made Wonders of the World” (DK, $50) (Photo:

“Man-Made Wonders of the World” (DK, $50)

Travel the world and marvel at the most impressive and fascinating structures ever built by human hands. This breathtaking catalogue of buildings, monuments, temples, castles and other human creations is staggeringly impressive. It not only shows these edifices, but also explains how they were built with informative graphics and detailed narrative.

Book cover for “Queen: The Neal Preston Photographs” (Photo:

“Queen: The Neal Preston Photographs” (Reel Art Press, $59,99)

Acclaimed rock photographer Neal Preston became this rock and roll band’s official photographer in the mid-‘70s. This collection of intimate photos and jaw-dropping shots of the band on tour will astound you with iconic images of the four bandmates both onstage and off; at work and play. Featuring essays and insights by Preston and a list of all tour dates.  A rock and roll fantasia and fitting tribute to Queen.

Book cover for “Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty” (Photo:

“Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty” by Kahran and Regis Bethencourt (St. Martin’s Press, $39)

A fabulous collection of photographs that shatters the conventional standards of beauty for black children. It features more than a hundred vivid photos mixed with powerful essays about the young people from Bryson in Arkansas to Zaela in California. This coffee table-size book reframes how we think about the beauty and power of African Americans in modern day America.

Book cover for Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks (Photo:

“Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks” by Adam Nayman (Abrams, $40)

If you’re a fan of films like “Magnolia,” “There Will Be Blood” and “Boogie Nights,” you will love this deep dive into the life of writer and director P.T. Anderson at mid-career. This book is complemented by hundreds of still shots and candid photos from Anderson’s films as the director works alongside actors like Joaquin Phoenix, Julianne Moore and Daniel Day-Lewis. A film lover’s treasure chest of photos and essays.

Book cover for “Accidentally Wes Anderson” (Photo:

“Accidentally Wes Anderson” by Wally Koval (Voracious, $35)

The front façade of the Detroit Institute of Arts is among more than 200 images included in this love letter to the iconic film director. Visually striking and historical destinations that seem inspired or straight out of Wes Anderson’s movies are featured in this adventurous journey covering every continent. Authorized by the director himself, this is a cinematic journey that will amaze and captivate.

Book cover for “The Human Planet” by George Steinmetz (Photo:

“The Human Planet” by George Steinmetz (Abrams, $50)

A visual chronicle that investigates some of the most pressing issues of our time, including climate change and the ever-widening human footprint. The author has circled the globe to show in colorful photos how human behavior is leaving its mark on the environment. The result is a powerful and moving wake-up call for all of us.

Book cover for “The Life and Love of the Forest” (Photo:

“The Life and Love of the Forest” by Lewis Blackwell (Abrams, $50)

The latest in a series of “Life and Love” photograph books showcasing forests around the world and the creatures who inhabit them, plus essays by Blackwell and revealing images from some of the world’s leading nature photographers. An up-close and personal tour of life deep inside the most spectacular forests. If a tree falls in these forests, you’ll know and care.

Book cover for “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food” (Photo:

“The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food” by Marcus Samuelsson (Voracious, $38)

A magnificent and delectable cookbook that finally gives credit to the role of African American, Caribbean and other influences in the kitchen and on the table. The author shares his own tasty journey along with over 150 diverse and sumptuous recipes. A celebration of the cooks and their delicious creations showing in vivid detail that Black food matters.

Book cover for “This Thing Called Life: Prince’s Odyssey On and Off the Record” (Photo:

“This Thing Called Life: Prince’s Odyssey On and Off the Record” by Neal Karlan (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99)

A new and intimate biography of the late artist by a man who had exclusive access to his private and public life. This book will alter your perception of the musical genius at the height of his success. Karlan provides an examination and contemplation of Prince’s life like none before. A tremendous inside look at a musical genius.

Book cover for “When Lions Were Kings: The Detroit Lions and the Fabulous Fifties” (Photo:

“When Lions Were Kings: The Detroit Lions and the Fabulous Fifties” by Richard Bak (Painted Turtle, $39.99) 

In the 1950s, the Detroit Lions were at their most successful and glamorous peak, winning three championships in five years. Journalist and sports historian Richard Bak revisits the prosperous post-war period and recalls many of the heroes of the gridiron for the Lions. It’s a nostalgic look at the first days of watching football on television on Sunday afternoons and Thanksgiving Day. A story of pigskin passion for sports fans of all ages.

Book cover for “Attacking the Rim” (Photo:

“Attacking the Rim” by Dave Bing (Triumph Books, $28)

The remarkable arc of the former Detroit mayor and professional basketball star’s life and times is captured in this book’s title: that innate instinct to aggressively move toward goals in the face of racial, economic and other obstacles. Bing takes us with him from his rise to fame as a former Detroit Piston “rookie of the year” to his position as owner of a multimillion-dollar steel corporation to mayor of a struggling city and the mentoring foundation he created. Bing eloquently explains how he won at the game of life.

Book cover for “Humans” by Brandon Stanton (Photo:

“Humans” by Brandon Stanton (St. Martin’s Press, $35.00) 

“Humans of New York” was a photo project that Stanton began online last year and was both an instant hit and a bestselling book. Now Stanton expands his photographic canvas to include men and women from all over the world. This coffee table book vividly captures the spirit of individuals from more than 40 different countries from Paris to Tokyo and includes with each portrait brief but fascinating interviews

Book cover for “Walking with the Wind” (Photo:

“Walking with the Wind” by John Lewis (Simon & Schuster, $18,99 paperback) 

When John Lewis passed away in July, we lost a true national treasure. Written before his passing, this memoir celebrates an epic and fascinating journey from his days as a boy on a cotton farm in Alabama to his years on the front lines of the civil rights movement and activism as one of the leading voices in Congress. Lewis details how he became one of America’s greatest and most inspirational leaders, whose vision literally changed America.

Book cover for “My Own Words” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Photo:

“My Own Words” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Simon & Schuster, $30)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life has been chronicled before in print and onscreen, but this enlightening and engaging collection of writings and speeches will inspire fans of RBG in a wide array of new ways. It features the late Supreme Court justice expounding on topics from the law to gender equality and even the role of lawyers in opera! A fun and fascinating read.

Book cover for “Lincoln On the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington” (Photo:

“Lincoln On the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington” by Ted Widmer (Simon & Schuster, $35)

On Feb. 11, 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln boarded a train that would take him on a 1,900-mile journey from Illinois to Washington D.C.; a train ride that was fraught with danger and uncertainty. This riveting story tracks Lincoln’s path through the heart of a country deeply divided and headed into war. Widmer masterfully portrays Lincoln discovering his power and improvising as he went along.

Book cover for “JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956” (Photo:

“JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956” by Frederik Logevall (Random House, $40)

Harvard history professor Logevall paints a portrait of a president as a young man in this massive first part of a two-volume biography. The author shows JFK’s ascendency in new and revealing ways with a fresh palette of colors and in new shades that reflect his early life and times. A magnificent portrayal.

Book cover for “The Answer is…: Reflections on My Life” (Photo:

“The Answer is … Reflections on My Life” by Alex Trebek (Simon & Schuster, $26)

If you feel like Alex Trebek was a family member, you are not alone. Since Trebek debuted as host of “Jeopardy!” in 1984, he was a welcome guest in millions of homes every weeknight at 7:30. Written just before his recent death, this poignant memoir answers all the questions you might have about Trebek’s life, including his early days working for the Canadian network CBC, his marriage and family and even why he decided to shave his moustache.

Book cover for “Greenlights” (Photo:

“Greenlights” by Mathew McConaughey (Crown, $30) 

The Academy Award-winning actor has mined his diaries and journals from the last 35 years and now shares the life lessons he learned, often the hard way. This is the story of the green lights, along with the red and yellow ones, that McConaughey has encountered; an incredibly honest and courageous “playbook” for finding personal happiness. A true treat and inspiring memoir.

Book cover for “Is This Anything” (Photo:

“Is This Anything” by Jerry Seinfeld (Simon & Schuster, $35)  

“Is This Anything” is a question that comedians often ask each other about new material and Jerry Seinfeld includes the good, the bad and the hilarious. He traces his own incredible path from his first days as a stand-up comedian as a 20-year-old to his most recent work. An extremely funny look at a man who, admittedly, raves about mostly nothing.

Book cover for “Chasing the Light” (Photo:

“Chasing the Light” by Oliver Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28)

Oliver Stone’s career as a director has been an arduous and controversial one, marked by struggles to make some of the most remarkable films of our time. In this engrossing and entertaining memoir, Stone details his battles and ultimate successes. He writes about growing up on New York’s Upper East Side, his service as a grunt in Vietnam and the making of movies like “Platoon,” “Midnight Express” and “JFK.”

Book cover for “The Cold Millions” (Photo:

“The Cold Millions” by Jess Walter (Harper, $28,99)

Set in the Pacific Northwest in the early part of the 20th century during a time of haves and have-nots, Walter’s novel is about two brothers trying to forge a life and living by their wits. This is a story of brotherhood, love and betrayal set amid union-busting bullies and a wild cast of eccentric personalities. Lovingly imagined and beautifully written by one of our finest living novelists.

Book cover for “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” (Photo:

“A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” (Random House, $28)

School’s in session for this master class on writing, reading and life. Modeled after a class that acclaimed author George Saunders has taught at Syracuse University for 25 years, it uses four Russian short story writers (Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Googol) to explain what and how short stories are constructed, as well as what they tell us about ourselves. It’s an extremely informative and entertaining read.

Book cover for “Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity and Change” (Photo:

“Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity and Change” by Maggie Smith (Atria Books, $24) 

This collection of deeply moving and inspiring observations, meditations and essays is a perfect stocking stuffer and panacea for anyone who is hurting during these difficult days. Smith celebrates new beginnings as opportunities for transformation. During a time of massive and unthinkable loss due to the pandemic, this book is essential reading.

Book cover for “Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good” (Photo:

“Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good” by Tina Turner (Atria Books, $25)

Part memoir and part self-help guide, the international superstar outlines how anyone can improve their lives and become a more authentic and complete person. Much of Turner’s philosophy is based on her long-standing Buddhist principles and practices. Using examples from her own struggles and hardships, Turner shows how all of us can overcome obstacles by empowering ourselves with spiritual tools and sage advice.

Book cover for “Let Us Dream: The Path To A Better Future” (Photo:

“Let Us Dream: The Path To A Better Future” by Pope Francis (Simon & Schuster, $26)

A spiritually uplifting treatise on why and how we can and must strive for a better world for all inhabitants. This is an especially urgent and cogent treatise during this COVID-19 pandemic; a concise guide to transformation and empowerment. A great stocking stuffer that will uplift and inspire.

Book cover for “The Noel Letters: A Novel” (Photo:

“The Noel Letters: A Novel” by Richard Paul Evans (Gallery Books, $21,99) 

Just in time for this year’s holiday season comes the story of a woman who returns home to see her estranged and dying father and inherits the bookstore her father fought to keep alive. Suffering from acute loneliness and despair, she begins receiving letters from an anonymous sender: letters that offer essential insights about her life and future, ending with a Christmas revelation that changes everything.

Book cover for “The Golfer’s Carol” (Photo:

“The Golfer’s Carol” by Robert Bailey (Putnam, $24)

“It’s A Wonderful Life” meets “Field of Dreams” in this inspiring and heartwarming novel. In deep depression, golfer Randy Clark is rescued when he is offered the chance to play four life-changing rounds of golf with four different golf heroes. An uplifting story in the spirit of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Book cover for “The Meaning of Mariah Carey” (Photo:

“The Meaning of Mariah Carey” (Andy Cohen Books, $29.00)

The beloved singer-songwriter tells her own story in this bravely honest memoir. Full of the stuff that dreams are made of: the international acclaim, tremendous highs and devastating lows, memories and mishaps. This is a book that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit.

Book cover for “Do You Feel Like I Do” (Photo:

“Do You Feel Like I Do” by Peter Frampton (Hachette Books, $28)

Known for his monumental album, “Frampton Comes Alive,” this memoir covers the British rocker’s entire life story and includes countless tales of his rise to fame, his substance abuse problems and his legendary use of the guitar voice box. It’s the story of both a career and a guitar that literally rose from the ashes.

Book cover for “She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs” (Photo:

“She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs” by Sarah Smarsh (Scribner, $22) 

A great stocking stuffer for fans of the country sensation. Smarsh portrays Parton as a voice for poor, working-class and undervalued women. This biography of the singer-songwriter is a testament to how she has been embraced by generations of women who see Dolly Parton, not just as a superstar, but also as a sister.

Book cover for “Solid Ground” (Photo:

“Solid Ground” by T.W. Lewis (T.W. Lewis Company, $29.95)

Every successful and satisfied life must be built upon a strong foundation. That’s the simple but powerful premise of this blueprint for happiness. This life-affirming and character-building primer gives readers the basic building blocks to constructing a truly meaningful life. A perfect gift for high school and college graduates or anyone who wants to reset their life journey and reach their true potential.

Book cover for “The Rugged Entrepreneur” (Photo:

“The Rugged Entrepreneur” by Carlton Andrew (Forefront Books, $27)

The perfect primer for the entrepreneur in your life; a road map to a journey of self-discovery. The author describes “Ruggeds,” as he calls them, as individuals who adopt a fervent work ethic, have a healthy but humble pride and mental toughness. A practical guide to taking your business acumen to another level of success.

Book cover for “This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire” (Photo:

“This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire” by Nick Flynn (Norton, $25.95)

When author and poet Nick Flynn was 7 years old, his mother set fire to his house. This searing and incendiary memoir describes how the traumatic event seeped from childhood to life as a parent and how it refuses to recede in the poet and author’s inner life. A meditation on life and a journey into darkness and light.

Book cover for “First Principles” (Photo:

“First Principles” by Thomas E. Ricks (Harper, 29.99)

An examination of our country’s founding fathers that focuses on how their devotion to the ancient Greek and Roman classics influenced their ideas and ideals and helped shaped America. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author offers a new interpretation of the individuals who shaped our constitution and government. You’ll find new insights into the past from the first page to the last.

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