One pleasure we’re not giving up this pandemic Christmas season is the joy of reading. Here are 32 of the most luxurious, fascinating, funny and mouthwatering hardbacks released this year that will make the perfect gift for the readers on your list …
“Killing Crazy Horse: The Merciless Indian Wars in America”
By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (Holt), $30
In the latest installment of their popular “Killing” series, O’Reilly and Dugard recount various bloody clashes between Native Americans and settlers, from Andrew Jackson’s war with the Creek Nation to the Trail of Tears. Vivid writing, short chapters, maps, and drawings make for a compelling, fast-moving history lesson.
“The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War — A Tragedy in Three Acts”
By Scott Anderson (Doubleday), $30
Anderson’s complex, nuanced examination of early Cold War espionage looks at the intertwined efforts of four men battling communism and trying to outwit the KGB. But their efforts to defend their country go awry in the midst of political corruption, incompetence and ideology.
“Gods at Play: An Eyewitness Account of Great Moments in American Sports”
By Tom Callahan (W.W. Norton), $26.95
Callahan, a former Time columnist, had a front-row seat to some of the most exciting moments in athletics. In this comprehensive book, he portrays some of the most well-known events in sports history — Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit in Pittsburgh, Arthur Ashe revealing he was HIV-positive — and the quieter moments, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar saying he cared more about being a good man than the greatest basketball player of all time.
“How Baseball Happened: Outrageous Lies Exposed! The True Story Revealed”
by Thomas W. Gilbert (David R Godine), $27.95
Gilbert digs deep into baseball history to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the origins of the American pastime. He contends that neither Abner Doubleday, Alexander Cartwright nor Henry Chadwick fathered the game but rather it was originated by a group of amateurs in New York City.
“A Life Well Played: My Stories”
by Arnold Palmer (St. Martin’s Press), $24.99
Originally published in 2016, Palmer’s final memoir is filled with amusing anecdotes and insightful wisdom from the golf great. This handsome, commemorative rerelease features a new forward by Jack Nicklaus, who writes of his late friend: “He was a champion at each turn, and it was an honor not just knowing him and competing against him for nearly 60 years, but also being his friend.”
“Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other”
by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish (Quercus), $26.99
The “Oulander” co-stars and offscreen buddies take readers with them on their travels around Scotland. History lessons and hijinks ensue, as the duo cover everything from the Massacre of Glencoe to their attempt to ride a tandem bike. A TV show-offshoot, “Men in Kilts,” is set to premiere early next year.
“The Art of NASA: The Illustrations That Sold the Missions”
By Piers Bizony (Motorbooks),$50
This gorgeous volume spans six decades of space travel with 200 dazzling illustrations accompanied by fascinating anecdotes. Early Apollo renderings showing how the mission would have looked without the landing module are especially intriguing, but the entire book is filled with unique moments in NASA history and visions of American ingenuity and ambition.
“Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker”
by David Mikics (Yale University Press), $26
Part of the “Jewish Lives” collection of short biographies, this concise examination of the divisive director and his films is full of sharp insights. “Inner torment is never glamorous or sexy in a Kubrick movie,” Mikics writes. “Instead it feels like a malfunction.”
“The Home Edit Life: The No-Guilt Guide to Owning What You Want and Organizing Everything”
By Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin (Clarkson Potter), $28.50
The dynamic duo offer up an approach to organizing that’s less stringent than Marie Kondo’s — and often involves arranging items in rainbow order. Even if you never ROYGBIV the contents of your refrigerator, it’s pretty to look inside the appliance of someone who has.
“The Rainbow Atlas: A Guide to the World’s 500 Most Colorful Places”
By Taylor Fuller (Chronicle), $30
This bright, bold collection of travel photos just might be the perfect anecdote to 2020. Grounded globetrotters can delight in images from destinations ranging from Cape Town to the Yucatan.
“Escapology: Modern Cabins, Cottages and Retreats”
By Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan (Figure 1 Publishing), $34.99
Scottish interior designers McAllister and Ryan spotlight stunning structures in a variety of styles — log cabin, shabby chic, mid-century modern, Scandinavian — and various natural environments. Whether you’re looking to build your own place on a remote lake or prefer to Airbnb, this book is filled with inspiration and possibility.
“The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire”
By Ultan Guilfoyle and Charles M. Falco (Phaidon), $59.95
Even those who would never dare hop on a motorcycle can appreciate the beauty in this collection, which highlights 100 different beasts, from a turn-of-the century motorized tricycle to a Harley Davidson from the 1920s.
“Battle of the Brothers: William & Harry — The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult”
by Robert Lacey (Harper Collins), $28.99
When Season 4 of “The Crown” isn’t enough, there’s this dishy tome. Lacey, a historical consultant on the Netflix series, writes that William has a fiery temper that initially stunned Camilla, Kate may have connived to go to school with William, and the infamous tiara fight before Meghan and Harry’s wedding really happened.
“Xi’an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of West China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop”
By Jason Wang, with Jessica K. Chou (Harry N. Abrams), $35
In 2005, David Shi opened a tiny stall in Flushing selling tongue-tingling delights from his hometown of Xi’an, China. It quickly attracted acclaim from food bloggers and became a favorite of Anthony Bourdain. Wang, Shi’s 20-something son and the CEO of what is now a mini-empire of 10 restaurants, shares his family’s story and recipes for favorites like spicy cumin lamb.
“Il Buco: Stories & Recipes”
By Donna Lennard with Joshua David Stein (Harper Design), $60
Lennard shares recipes and stories from her beloved NoHo Italian restaurant, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. The book spotlights dishes from various chefs — Ignacio Mattos’ Black Kale Salad, Sara Jenkins’ Porchetta alla Romana — who got their starts at Il Buco and have gone on to open their own places to much acclaim.
“Pie for Everyone: Recipes and Stories from Petee’s Pie, New York’s Best Pie Shop”
By Petra Paredez (Harry N. Abrams), $29.99
A perfectly buttery, flaky crust made with high-quality ingredients is key according to Paredez, the founder of the cultishly-loved Lower East Side bakery. Among the beautifully photographed pages are recipes for key lime meringue and sour cherry pies.
“Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook”
By Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter), $35
The food world’s favorite Hamptons resident returns with another book of delicious, approachable recipes. This time, she’s focused on putting unique twists on hearty classics, adding lobster to BLTs and livening up beef stew with a lot of red wine and a splash of cognac.
“New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads, With recipes for Birote, Bagels, Pan de Coco, Beignets, and More”
By Bryan Ford (Quarry Books), $27.99
For those who are still on the quarantine baking train, Ford has some fresh ideas — including pecan praline monkey bread and whole-grain pitas — for putting those sourdough starters to good use.
“The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food”
By Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn (Voracious), $38
The Red Rooster chef and television personality celebrates black cooking with more than 100 recipes for dishes ranging from gumbo to Lagos plantains and spotlights on chefs such as Melba Wilson, J.J. Johnson, and Leah Chase.
by Matthew McConaughey (Crown), $30
Alright, alright, alright. The 51-year-old Oscar-winning actor’s chart-topping memoir is full of surprising — if sometimes corny and unrelatable — wisdom and not-so-surprising memories of hot-dude hijinks, like that time he took ecstasy, hiked the rainforest, and floated naked down the Amazon. A Pulitzer prize seems highly unlikely for this one, but for a good time, it’s a pretty sure bet.
“A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir”
By Colin Jost (Crown), $27
The “Saturday Night Live” star dishes on his awkward, chubby childhood in Staten Island; his funny days at Harvard; and 15 years writing jokes at Rock Center — but not his relationship with new wife Scarlett Johansson.
“Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics”
By Dolly Parton and Robert K. Oermann (Chronicle Books), $50
The nation may be polarized and divided, but we can all agree on one thing: Dolly is a national treasure. Here, she walks through her life and music by sharing the stories behind 175 of her songs, from “Backwoods Barbie” to “Coat of Many Colors.”
“A Promised Land”
By Barack Obama (Crown), $45
In the first of two planned volumes of presidential memoirs, the former Commander-in-Chief recounts and reflects upon his early days in Chicago politics, his meteoric rise, and the major events of his first term in office — from tackling the Great Recession to the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill to killing Osama bin Laden.
“Eat a Peach: A Memoir”
By David Chang and Gabe Ulla (Clarkson Potter), $28
The Momofuku founder details his rise from answering phones at Craft to being a celebrated chef and media personality, candidly discussing his struggles with depression, bipolar disorder and his own success. Chang recalls years of sleepless nights, prescription drugs, and abusing his employees as he built his restaurant empire. “Recovering alcoholics talk about needing to hit rock bottom before they are able to climb out,” he writes. “The paradox for the workaholic is that rock bottom is the top of whatever profession they’re in.”
“Is This Anything”
By Jerry Seinfeld (Simon & Schuster), $35
In his first adult book in more than 25 years, Seinfeld shares the best observations from his five decades in comedy, riffing on everything from monkey astronauts and Swiss Army knives to Hallmark greeting cards and the tiny hangers socks come on.
“Let Love Rule”
By Lenny Kravitz, with David Ritz, (Henry Holt and Co.), $29.99
The soulful Grammy-winning rocker says “Catcher in the Rye” influenced his approach to writing his memoir, which chronicles his growing up as a biracial kid in 1960s New York, his struggle to find his musical voice, and his artistic breakthrough thanks to ex-wife Lisa Bonet.
“The Meaning of Mariah Carey”
By Mariah Carey, with Michaela Angela Davis, (Andy Cohen Books), $29.99
The singer/songwriter hits both high and low notes, candidly detailing the violence she suffered in childhood, marrying and supposedly being abused and manipulated by first husband Tommy Mottola, Derek Jeter inspiring her to leave that unhappy marriage, her diva moments, and much, much more.
“If It Bleeds”
by Steven King (Scribner), $30
America’s reigning master of suspense and the supernatural offers up a collection of four distinct novellas with his latest release. The titular story features Holly Gibney, the private investigator at the center of King’s last novel, 2018’s “The Outsider” — now an HBO show — and picks up where that book ended, with Gibney home after a deadly bomb explodes at a nearby school.
By Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron Books), $27.99
This bestseller about a young mother and son fleeing drug violence in Mexico after a family massacre moves at a brisk clip and gives a human face to the immigration crisis. At once compelling and controversial — the book has been criticized because the author is not a Latina herself — this is one of the year’s most talked about novels.
“The Lying Life of Adults”
By Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions), $26
The pseudonymous Italian author of the beloved Neapolitan Novels returns to form with another insightful female coming-of-age tale. Instead of poor girls in post-World-War-II Naples, this time Ferrante trains her sharp lens on an upper-middle-class girl growing up in the Southern Italian city in the 1990s. Naturally, a Netflix series is in the works.
“A Time for Mercy”
By John Grisham (Doubleday), $29.95
Jake Brigance, the down-and-out Mississippi lawyer who first appeared in Grisham’s debut novel, “A Time to Kill” — and was immortalized on the big screen by Matthew McConaughey in a great pair of khakis — is back in court in this nuanced, deftly plotted bestseller. This time, Brigance is defending 16-year-old boy who killed his mother’s boyfriend, an abusive cop who beat her unconscious.
“Cobble Hill: A Novel”
by Cecily von Ziegesar (Atria Books), $27
With this witty portrayal of four quirky liberal families, the “Gossip Girl” author has traded the Upper East Side for the Kings County neighborhood in which she lives. Expect infidelity, drugs, aging hipsters, a hot school nurse, and amusing insider references to gentrifying brownstone Brooklyn — if you’re in on the joke.