Book recommendations 2020
October 18, 2020 9:06 PM   Subscribe

It's (going to be) that time of year again, where I find gifts for people who already have everything. Recommend me some good nonfiction books from this year or last (but not too good, or they'd already own them). *or something else I can give them; clever solutions welcome
posted by queen anne's remorse to Writing & Language (23 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: space settlements

Book on the wild constructs we almost made in the 1970’s, and a treatise on the nature of human habitation in a shapeless void.
posted by nickggully at 9:19 PM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Alex Trebek's new autobiography is bound to be interesting.
posted by hydra77 at 10:25 PM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Does it have to be a physical gift? How about donations to a cause the recipient would support - a foodbank, a literacy organization or local library, SPCA, wildlife or forests, feeding the homeless, a local shelter, etc.
posted by lulu68 at 10:47 PM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I get to be the person to recommend Allie Brosh's latest book, Solutions and Other Problems. It is as hilarious as her previous work, Hyperbole and a Half, but also dips into serious meditations on grief and some honest looks from inside at mental illness. All with her trademark crude/genius illustrations which I absolutely adore.
posted by seasparrow at 11:23 PM on October 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Becoming Wild:
How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace
by Carl Safina was one of my favorite reads this year.
posted by diamondsky at 12:02 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: And Other Questions About Dead Bodies by Caitlin Doughty. This is a good option for anyone who has enjoyed Mary Roach's books. Doughty's previous books are also great.

Also, these books are a little older, but if you have anyone who's into exploration/adventuring type books, I recommend David Roberts' Limits of the Known and Brian Castner's Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage.
posted by neushoorn at 3:18 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Animals: The Book of Eels, by Patrick Svensson; Owls of the Eastern Ice, by Jonathan C. Slaght; What It's Like to Be a Bird, by David Sibley.
posted by box at 5:11 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: Not a book, but I find that people who already have everything often appreciate fancy foodstuffs--chocolates, baked goods, truffle oils, spices--maybe special cocktail ingredients if they drink. If they don't live near you, you can make a lovely basket of local delicacies from your area and support small businesses at the same time.
posted by pangolin party at 5:13 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We just solved a constant problem of small gifting by laying in a huge supply of handmade soaps. It seems like we are all going through soap these days and a nice soap is always a treat.
posted by InkaLomax at 6:02 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: I'd like to recommend an older book that almost no one has ever read, and it's fascinating. It's called Color - A Natural History by Victoria Finlay. According to Amazon, I've bought it 7 times, and I bought my own copy somewhere else. It's great essays about the origin and use of different colors, arranged roughly in the chronological order in which they were used/discovered/popular. Fabulous.
posted by ersatzkat at 6:09 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: Mark Kurlansky has a new book out that looks great - both physically and in terms of content.

Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate
posted by Vhanudux at 6:22 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer:
  • "World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (link)
  • Skeleton Keys: The Secret Life of Bone by Riley Black (link)
  • All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth (link)
  • How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones (link)

posted by wicked_sassy at 6:23 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager.
It just came out in Sept so it’s very possible your recipients haven’t read it yet—and it is simply wonderful.
posted by bookmammal at 6:36 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane

They've certainly gotten some (well-earned) press, but I think a lot of people who would enjoy these books still haven't heard of them.
posted by wintersweet at 7:07 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've recently enjoyed The 99% Invisible City. (Also, with caveats, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, and the two year old A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived.)
posted by eotvos at 7:09 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Secondhand: Travels in the Global Garage Sale is sooo interesting, especially if you love vintage or secondhand shopping.

How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking is a great book about how things work and explaining the world through some math, but not like too much math.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:35 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Anatomica is a super beautiful book of historical anatomical images that came out this year. Probably only for a very specific type of person, but people of that type will love it.

Probably also for that person: I enjoyed Be Scared of Everything, a book of essays about horror culture that very deftly zings around other types of pop culture as well. Bonus as a gift book: it has a very beautiful cover.
posted by babelfish at 7:37 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson (2009) is probably my favorite read of the year so far. Seriously, I woke up early several days in a row to read about lobsters before starting my day. It covers 50 years of the lives of lobstermen on a small island in Maine, intertwined with scientists studying lobsters and what they learn about lobster life.
posted by esoterrica at 8:42 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Kent State graphic novel by Derf Backderf. Narrative non-fiction about the Kent State shootings in 1970; great historical context and setting. If that is too heavy, Derf also has Trashed, a graphic novel history of garbage mixed with the semi-autobiographical travails of a suburban Ohio garbage truck worker.
posted by JDC8 at 10:06 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. Winner of the UK Science prize for its revelations of how the world is designed for and by men, and the data gaps that make it difficult to change things. The chapters on medicine are especially interesting in a time of plague.
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: A Unified Theory of Cats on the Internet, the first history of how cats became the internet’s best friend
posted by a sourceless light at 12:11 PM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why Fish Don't Exist
posted by knile at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

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