Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Gift Recommendations

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Photo by Nonki Azariah. See more of Nonki's work at nonkiazariah.com.

If you need some inspiration for last minute Christmas presents, a hostess gift, or you would just like to treat someone to a great book, here are some recommendations from the team at Literary Mama.

Susan Rowe, Literary Reflections Editorial Assistant, kicks off our suggestions with this festive tale: "What kind of book makes the perfect gift at Christmastime? One that puts the reader firmly in the holiday spirit and provides a good dose of escapism from visiting relatives, kids home on school break, and that pile of Christmas cards you haven't managed to send. Samantha Silva's Mr. Dickens and His Carol is such a book. Silva, who loves London as much as she loves Dickens, immerses the reader in Victorian London mere weeks before Christmas, describing the clubs, theaters, hidden squares, church towers, cemeteries, and open markets of the city with the detail of someone who has lived there. She wrote the plot for Mr. Dickens and His Carol as a screenplay originally, and it came close to showing on the big screen several times. Lucky for readers everywhere it became her first novel instead. As the story opens, Mr. Dickens, generally a genial family man loved by all for his generosity at Christmastime, is in a state. His latest book isn't selling despite the big advance he was paid. Its lackluster performance has put not only his reputation as England's brightest literary light in peril, but also his bank account. Dickens's publishers insist he write an entire book before Christmas—about Christmas—as his only hope to restore fame and financial solvency. As Dickens finally resigns himself to the task of writing the book, we meet the characters who inspire him to write his most famous story of all. And the person who inspires Scrooge himself? Well, you'll have to take a visit to Victorian England with its cravats and plum puddings, mutton chop sideburns and threadbare urchins, fog-filled alleys, and cobblestone markets to find out."  

Juli Anna Herndon, Poetry Editor, shares a practical gift idea that will delight your foodie friends and family: "Cookbooks are one of my favorite gifts to give (and receive!). Choosing the right cookbook for the cook can be daunting though. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat is the rare cookbook that transcends boundaries of cooking experience, background, and taste preferences. I would just as easily gift this book to a picky eater who's just starting out cooking as to a voracious and kitchen-experienced foodie. Nosrat has created a solid system for teaching people how to really taste their food and use four simple elements to balance flavors and textures. While she gives solid scientific reasons for the lessons in this book, she is not dogmatic about recipes or precise directions. Instead, she encourages cooks to use their own senses as guides toward their own perfect cuisine. There are recipes here, but Nosrat is insistent that they are not to be followed by rote. I love how each basic recipe gives way to a myriad of variations, showing how they function as a part of a meal (adding acid or crunch or richness, for example), rather than simply showing off a combination of fancy ingredients. This book is much more of a textbook than a traditional cookbook: in fact, right off the bat, Nosrat suggests that her readers read it cover-to-cover, rather than picking their way back and forth through the pages. Her recipes are purposefully classic (corn chowder, tuna confit, fried chicken, etc.) and invite personalization. In addition to being a stellar cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat has recently been developed into a cooking show on Netflix, so curious cooks can continue exploring with Nosrat. There are quite a few people on my list who will be receiving a copy of this cookbook this year!"

Editor-in-chief Amanda Jaros has found the perfect gift for a tween or teenage girl: "I often struggle with what to get my now eleven-year-old niece for Christmas. This year, I found the perfect gift for her: The Daring Book for Girls, by Miriam Peskowitz and founding Literary Mama Editor Andrea Buchanan. The Daring Book was devised to join The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn and Hal Iggulden, on the shelf for adventurous tweens and teens. The book includes dozens of how-tos and information, rules and stories about topics that every girl who’s growing up ought to know. Things like the rules of basketball and bowling, how to put your hair up with a pencil, campfire songs, stories about real-life princesses, and math tricks. My favorite pages feature how to run a club and use Robert’s Rules of Order, a description of long-distance hiking trails in the US and how to be a hiker, and a short history of women inventors and scientists. Yes, there is a page on boys. One page. This book is not a stereotypical book for girls which focuses on makeup and winning a boy’s attention. The authors suggest that, well, boys are people too. And probably well worth having as friends, and if or when you want to, as boyfriends. Neither does it focus on the increasingly technological world we now live in. The Daring Book crosses boundaries of gender and modernity and encourages fun, adventure, and above all, connecting with friends, family, and oneself. I'm grateful to our Literary Mama founder for creating this book, and I think my daring niece will be too."  

And we have a gift suggestion for younger girls too from Abigail Lalonde, Social Media Editor: "When I think of gifts for children, specifically young girls, I always try to err on the side of books or experiences. Now that I'm a mother, I have doubled-down on this philosophy. My current go-to gift for a first birthday, holiday gift, or just because, is Dear Girl by mother-daughter duo Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal. An empowering, self-esteem boosting book, Dear Girl, teaches the reader (both young and old) to love themselves. Each page offers an affirmation to remind the reader that feelings are okay, that you should love yourself, and that you can express yourself in many ways (pink is cool, but so is getting dirty!). Holly Hatam's illustrations are both adorable and whimsical, the perfect addition to The Rosenthals' words. While the book is labeled for readers four to eight, I think it's great gift for any age. I currently read it to my two-year-old and will for many years to come. It's never too early to teach a girl to love herself for who she is. And, as a mother, it's a wonderful reminder to cut myself some slack and set an example for my daughter."

We'd love to hear which books you'll be gifting this holiday season. Tell us in the comments, or tweet us @LiteraryMama. You can also follow us on Instagram @Literary_Mama and Goodreads for more recommendations.


Nerys Copelovitz is a British born marketing writer and mother of three who now lives in Israel. Her writing on parenting and living in a hot spot can be found in the Times of Israel, Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy and Kveller. When not sweating over a hot keyboard, or stove, she likes to read and swim, though not in tandem.


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