23 Last-Minute Holiday Book Recommendations: Something for Every Reader

December 21, 2021

For those of us who put off holiday gift shopping, it can be hard to figure out what to get our loved ones in a pinch. This list offers twenty-three of the best books of 2021—with a couple of guest appearances from 2020—categorized to fit the needs of almost anyone.

The Foodie

Cal Peternell, Burnt Toast and Other Disasters (HarperCollins)





The Activist

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, My Monticello (Henry Holt)





The Traveler

Emily Henry, People We Meet on Vacation (Berkley)





The Ghost Story Lover

Louise Erdrich, The Sentence: A Novel (HarperCollins)





The Observer

Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (Knopf)





The Astronomer

Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary (Ballantine)





The Historian

Neal Gabler, Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932–1975 (Crown)





The True-Crime Buff

Amanda Montell, Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism (HarperCollins)





The Linguist

Amanda Montrell, Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language (Harper Wave)





The Memoirist

Michelle Zauner, Crying in H Mart (Knopf)





The Philosopher

Richard Powers, Bewilderment (W. W. Norton)





The Psychologist

Annie Murphy Paul, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking outside the Brain (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)





The Scientist

Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World, trans. Adrian Nathan West (Pushkin Press)





The Writer

Jean Hanff Korelitz, The Plot: A Novel (Celadon)





The Poet

Rita Dove, Playlist for the Apocalypse (W. W. Norton)





The New Yorker

Thomas Dyja, New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation (Simon & Schuster)





The Musical Theater Nerd

James Lapine, Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)




The Feminist

Audrey Clare Farley, The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt (Grand Central)





The Essayist

John Green, The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet (Dutton)





The Archaeologist

Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art (Bloomsbury Sigma)





The Former Athlete

Alison Bechdel, The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)





The Actor

Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle: A Novel (Knopf)





The Existentialist

Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking about This (Riverhead Books)

Rachel Hubbard is a senior at the University of Oklahoma pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English literary and cultural analysis. In addition to working with World Literature Today, she works with the OU Daily and Oklahoma Watch. She is also a student and performer at OKC Improv and has two cats, Spice and Griffin.