Book recommendations 2022
November 8, 2022 9:07 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 (17 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This might be an example of me connecting with a book because I read it at the right time for me but I really liked Burn the Page by Danica Roem. I listened to it as an audio book and hearing it in her voice likely made a difference but I think I would have really enjoyed it regardless.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Everything is Fucked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson were both good. I would reread the latter because I might have missed something but part of the premise is that hope is about the future when we should live in the moment and make this moment good. Both books are a few years old, btw.

I did not know what to expect from Go Back to Where You Came From by Wajahat Ali but it was interesting and entertaining. How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith is brilliant but it’s a lot.

If you’re looking for a book someone may have missed but is generally appealing, I’d consider The Residence by Kate Anderson Brower. It’s about the staff at the White House - the butlers, florists, ushers, chefs, housekeepers, etc. who keep it running. A part I thought was especially fascinating was about Mary Prince, Amy Carter’s nanny who was literally a convicted murderer.
posted by kat518 at 10:02 PM on November 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Check out the MetaFilter fundraiser and the MeFi Mall for some gift ideas, including services and art!

Funny and cerebral graphic memoir about exercise and the body: The Secret To Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel.

Searing memoir of the first year of the pandemic: Year of the Nurse: A 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic Memoir by Cassie Alexander.

All the Young Men is a memoir by Ruth Coker Burks with Kevin Carr O'Leary. In just a few years, in 1980s and 1990s Hot Springs, Arkansas, a young single mother became the hub of a mutual aid network to help gay men dying of AIDS. You may have read a 2015 article in the Arkansas Times about her work. The book is about carework, love, witty retorts, raising a daughter with a found family of drag queens as her uncles, battling stigma and prejudice, and Burks calling on her huge network of neighbors and friends to get things done.
posted by brainwane at 10:32 PM on November 8, 2022

Best answer: I found "The Premonition", released in May 2021, to be a fascinating read
posted by TimHare at 10:37 PM on November 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I only give consumable gifts now. I order a lot of baked goods from Etsy, or send from Zabars or a nice coffee roaster.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:42 AM on November 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nonfiction I have read and liked this year:

How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question: Fun and readable overview of moral philosophy from the creator of The Good Place. If they liked The Good Place, they'll probably enjoy the writing of this.

Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts: This should have been a frothy retrospective on a 25-year-old show but ended up being an incredible set of candid and revealing interviews with the cast about the Joss Whedon Situation, including rather a lot from Sarah Michelle Gellar, who has heretofore kept very quiet about it. Probably not interesting to someone not a Buffy fan, but if they are, they will love this.

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism: not especially deep or heavy, but a very readable look at how cults work and why people talk about things like Crossfit as a "cult." Probably my least favorite of these, but I'm still happy to recommend it.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex: This is as much a personal memoir as it is an exploration of asexuality. It had a lot of thought-provoking ideas and some great interviews, and was an interesting read for me as an allosexual. It's a little unfocused but well worth reading, especially if you're interested in sexuality in general and aren't Extremely Online in the sort of spaces that talk about this stuff all the time. (And even if you are, it's a good collection.)

Nonfiction I have not yet read but want to:

The Book of Boundaries: I like Melissa Urban - she's an instagram influencer who is super aware of things like privilege, systemic racism and sexism, and, due to recent personal experience, chronic illness and ableism. And she does things about it - like reissuing, at her own expense, one of her early cookbooks that used exoticising language around Asian dishes, getting (and paying) an Asian chef to rewrite those sections. She talks a lot about setting boundaries, and I suspect that putting it all in book form will be extremely solid.

You've Been Played: How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us All: From Mefi's Own adrianhon. The FPP about the book should cover it better than I could.

That is hopefully an eclectic enough collection to give you something to work with!
posted by restless_nomad at 5:46 AM on November 9, 2022

Best answer: The book A Game of Birds and Wolves describes the very young women in the U.K. who staffed the program that taught anti-submarine warfare through an early wargame.

I know some WWII history, and thought this one was wonderful, not least because it personalized the conflict.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:47 AM on November 9, 2022

Best answer: 2021:
* The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames, Justine Cowan
* Helgoland, Carlo Rovelli
* Tunnels, by Rutu Modan
* Sybil & Cyril, by Jenny Uglow
* Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588–1688, by Clare Jackson
* Tarkari: Vegetarian and Vegan Indian Dishes with Heart and Soul, by Rohit Ghai
* From Spare Oom to War Drobe: Travels in Narnia with my nine-year-old self, by Katherine Langrish
* Earthed: A Memoir, by Rebecca Schiller

* The World: A Family History, Simon Sebag Montefiore
* Boy in a China Shop, by Keith Brymer Jones
* Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, by Kate Beaton
* Red Sauce Brown Sauce: A British Breakfast Odyssey, by Felicity Cloake

There's also Terry Pratchett's biography, but I haven't read it yet.
posted by paduasoy at 6:15 AM on November 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (in the Not a Book column) good locally sourced honey or maple syrup is something I gift

it's useful, it lasts, it's the type of thing a person can use up in a month or take several months (e.g. baking)

honey is a royal gift, it enriches the receiver and it makes the giver feel rich (in my experience)
posted by elkevelvet at 7:13 AM on November 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a little outside your time window (2020), but I laughed so hard at Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother. Fair warning for choosing giftees, it gets really NSFW (mental-imagery, not actual imagery) for one chapter.
posted by Mchelly at 7:20 AM on November 9, 2022

Mod note: As a quick note: while OP is asking mainly about non-fiction books, they also say "*or something else I can give them; clever solutions welcome." (Mentioning because people are flagging not-book answers.)
posted by taz (staff) at 7:41 AM on November 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think I probably put my book Women and Other Monsters in the thread last year but listen, if I can't push it on Metafilter (Metafilter is in it), where can I push it? Paperback came out this year.

Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones is one of the best nonfiction books I've read in any year. Essays on beauty and disability, a perfect mix of the cerebral and visceral.

They may already have Ed Yong's An Immense Worldit was a Times bestseller—but Yong is simply one of the best to ever do it.

The United States of Cryptids by J.W. Ocker is really beautiful and a great gift book.
posted by babelfish at 8:10 AM on November 9, 2022

Best answer: Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran was wonderful.
posted by sockshaveholes at 10:01 AM on November 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Who knows if any of these will suit your giftees, but they suited me
Every Deep-Drawn Breath A Critical Care Doctor on Healing, Recovery, and Transforming Medicine in the ICU By Wes Ely [2022]. A more humane, engaged, empowering approach to very ill people gives better results and saves money.

Belonging Natural histories of place, identity and home by Amanda Thomson [2022]. A Scots POC [poet of colour] treads softly through wild-places reflecting on family, heimat and our future. Her previous pub A Scots Dictionary of Nature.

Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis by Annie "Accordion Crimes" Proulx [2022]. Wetlands are a minority interest to most people even if they are not actively repelled by the feel and smell of sucking mud and the creatures that lurk there. But they are also a vital carbon sink, breeding ground and promoter of biodiversity. Too many have been drained for 'development' because worthless wilderness filled with primitives.

The Edge of the Plain: How Borders Make and Break Our World by James Crawford [2022]. The first chapter reflects on a Mesopotamian stele currently in the British Museum that was erected 45 centuries ago to delimit the boundary between Umma and Lagash over a disputed, agriculturally valuable, territory called Gu’edina aka The Edge of the Plain. The rest of the book ranges over walls and fences, virtual and bloody real, in China, Hadrian's, Israel, Lapland, Lampedusa, Melilla, Sahel, Sonora . . .

And Finally by Henry Marsh [2022]. Britain's most literate and thoughful neurosurgeon deals with his own late-stage prostate cancer . . . and his legacy.
posted by BobTheScientist at 10:08 AM on November 9, 2022

Best answer: From this year, I loved Year of the Tiger: An Activist's Life by Alice Wong (2022) (previously) and The Future is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes, and Mourning Songs (2022) by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarashima, two tremendously insightful essay collections on the theme of surviving the pandemic as disabled activists of color. From 2020, I loved Golem Girl (2020) by Riva Lehrer, a gorgeous autobiography by a disabled queer artist and activist. Thematically speaking, it would be awesome to gift the three of these together.
posted by spiderbeforesunset at 1:51 PM on November 9, 2022

Best answer: These are some I have on my list for myself and for friends: I haven't read them yet but in most cases I've listened to their authors discuss the books.

Tudor England: A History

Tutankhamun's Trumpet: The story of Ancient Egypt in 100 objects

Winters in the World: A Journey through the Anglo-Saxon Year

The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World

I've also just gone to Hello Sweets Candy to buy some fun gummies and I'll probably head to Lofty Pursuits for some hard candy made with old machinery
posted by PussKillian at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I enjoyed Chuck Kloisterman’s The 90s, particularly as someone who was a young person during that time.
posted by jeoc at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2022

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