Editors’ Favorite Books To Give as Gifts

December 12, 2017

Still looking for the perfect gift for your various in-laws, your significant other, your best friend, your niece—anyone, really? Well, we asked the editors of some of our favorite literary magazines to share some of their favorite books to give as gifts. We ended up with an eclectic and awesome list. We are tempted to go out and get these all for ourselves, but that wouldn’t quite be in the spirit of the season. Enjoy this list and thanks to all the awesome editors who contributed.

Emma Komlos-Hrobsky, Tin House: My Life in France by Julia Child & The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Julia Child’s My Life in France is both my most re-read and most gifted book. From its opening pages, as Child narrates her 1948 arrival at the port of Le Havre—her beloved station wagon the Blue Flash dangles from her ship’s freight crane—and her first tastes of sole meuniereMy Life in France is pure pleasure. It’s impossible to read the book without Child’s warbly falsetto in one’s head, cooing and trilling her descriptions of her surly French ladyladies, her early culinary forays, and most of all her beloved Paul. Their marriage is one for the ages, one of devotion and mutual support that radiates through Child’s account. (It’s also interesting to get Julia’s side of the story on the erosion of her relationship with her Mastering the Art of French Cooking co-authors; one senses more ego on her part than I might’ve otherwise thought.) Perfect reading for those who love cooking or love Julia, but just as much for anyone in search of a dose of joie de vivre. And for grade- or middle- school-aged readers, I can’t recommend Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s under-read classic The Egypt Game highly enough; it’s got compelling mystery, a savvy (and diverse) cast of kid protagonists, and a darkness and complexity that takes its young audience seriously. Perfect for Harriet the Spy fans searching for their next fix.

Laura Spence-Ash, CRAFT: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón. I love Ada Limón’s poems. There’s something so honest, so fresh, and so alive about her work. Each poem tells a story, usually with an unexpected turn towards the end. This is a book of poetry that’s a wonderful gift for those who love poetry but also for those who aren’t so sure. By the time they’ve read this book, they’ll be hooked.

Tara Laskowski, SmokeLong Quarterly: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

This is an odd one, but the first thing that came to mind is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I first read this book in college and it has stuck with me for many years. His advice about trusting your instincts and learning how to take care of yourself is spot-on. This book discusses how to fend off creepy advances, break off ties with exes, deal with stalkers, and how to act in scary or vulnerable situations. I’ve given this book to many friends over the years. Sadly, it’s especially timely now—but then again, it’s always been especially timely.

Ashley Farmer, Juked: Fever Dogs by Kim O’Neil

Right now, Fever Dogs, the debut collection by Kim O’Neil, is at the top of my list. This stunning, evocative book about three generations of women will appeal to a wide audience (and writer-friends will admire the wholly unique voice and the dazzling sentence-level dynamics).

Lena Valencia, One Story: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat opens with Lise, the slightly unhinged protagonist, berating a salesgirl in a dress shop for attempting to sell her a dress with stainless fabric (“Do you think I spill things on my clothes?”). From there, we follow Lise on her doomed vacation, which we learn, early on in the book, will be where she spends the last days of her life. This slim little thriller isn’t for everyone, but those with a flair for the morbid will appreciate Muriel Spark’s black humor, sharp dialogue, and the clever way she uses Lise’s character to explore ideas of victimhood and agency.

Josh Roark, Frontier Poetry: Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar

People have an easy conception of poetry as overly-dense, opaque, elite—but Akbar blows that up. His fresh body imagery in Calling a Wolf a Wolf abuts a raw commentary on addiction and self-loss that anyone can connect to, especially younger people. If I were to give poetry to any of my friends who don’t care about poetry, I’d give them Calling.

Sadye Teiser, The Masters Review: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

I love to give this thick, magical anthology as a gift. Kate Bernheimer has collected and edited forty contemporary takes on the classic fairy tale form. There is just about no grownup who doesn’t appreciate a good fairy tale, be it whimsical, gruesome, or both. This anthology features stories by authors such as Aimee Bender, Kevin Brockmeier, and Kelly Link. Plus, it makes an excellent coffee table book.


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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