John’s Book Giving Guide for the Holidays!

John’s Book Giving Guide for the Holidays!


Good morning, Hank. It’s Tuesday. So, I realize I am a smidge biased here; but I really do think books make the best gifts because they last! I mean, obviously the stories last in your mind. But, the books themselves often do too. I mean, I still have the copy of Tom Sawyer my Mom gave to me when I was ten! But, which books to give? Well, it’s hard to go wrong, (although not impossible); but, I have some recommendations for you this holiday season First, my favorite book of the year: “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates; a short, relentless and brilliant meditation on race and history in the United States. Also in the “Recommended to everyone on Earth” category: “The White Boy Shuffle” by Paul Beatty This book is almost 20 years old, but it’s still as hilarious and frenetic and heartbreaking as ever; and I really think it should be a classic. I’ve never recommended it to anyone who didn’t love it! Okay, moving on. For the person in your life who loves reading, but thinks they hate classics: “Death Comes For The Archbishop” by Willa Cather and “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker Both these books are captivating and and page-turney and intensely moving, despite being read in schools. For graphic novel fans: Alison Bechdel’s “Are You My Mother?” is the perfect gift for your mother provided that you and your mother have a very, very dysfunctional relationship. I also recommend “City of Clowns”, illustrated by Sheila Alvarado and written by Daniel Alarcón; who beat me in 1994 in our high school’s creative writing contest! He’s since gone on to even greater things; including this brilliant story about a young journalist in Peru grieving his father. Then, we have Eugenia Price’s book, “Beauty From Ashes”; which I highly recommend, because it is the place where I store my whiskey flask. If you have a giftee who likes quote-on-quote “literary-fiction” for quote-on-quote “adults”; I have several recommendations beginning with Hanya Yanagihara. Her first novel was a very strange book with a deeply unreliable narrarator, who discovers the secret to eternal life is drinking the blood of a certain kind of turtle. It’s excellent, but her new book, “A Little Life” is even better. I mean, if you thought “The Fault in Our Stars” was sad ; this is sad!! An older book I always like to recommend is “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson; which is both an excellent novel and kind of a religious one, which is a very rare combination in my experience. And then, there’s “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James; which is just a brilliant novel which uses an oral history format to tell this massive, sprawling story that all revolves around the shooting of Bob Marley in Jamaica in 1976. For science fiction fans, or also fans of “A Brief History of Seven Killings”; I recommend Nalo Hopkinson’s “Midnight Robber” which is set in a world colonized by Caribbean people. It’s really stuck with me and I’ve just started her book of stories called “Falling in Love with Hominids”, which is a great title; and, so far, also a great book! Okay, books about art and being an artist. Sarah and I both really love “The Flame Throwers” by Rachel Kushner. And, we also love “Just Kids” by Patti Smith; which I can’t find my copy of, because ever since we moved my home library has been very poorly catalogued. Religion! Anyone who wants to understand Islamic history or contemporary Islamic thought and practice should really read “No god but God” by Reza Aslan. Over the years, I’ve read and reviewed dozens of introductions to Islamic history. This is my favorite! History! I loved Mary Beard’s recent “A History of Ancient Rome: SPQR”; although, sadly, it is also lost somewhere in our home library. For poetry fans, this year I read two books of poetry I absolutely loved: “A Thousand Mornings: by Mary Oliver and “Faithful and Virtuous Night” by Louise Glock. Glick? Glook? I don’t know. Both of these books are full of precise and profound poems that are moving, without ever being pretentious. Young adult novels. I haven’t read enough YA this year, but two recent books I really enjoyed: “First and Then” by Emma Mills, a.k.a. elmify on Youtube which is funny and my kind of romance-y; and “The Boy in the Black Suit” by Jason Reynolds which is about a young man who has worn a black suit every day since his mother died. Also, it occurs to me they may be a new generation of YA readers who haven’t read a bunch of books published ten or more years ago. So, I have some recommendations on that front: “Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie” by Holly Black, “Ball Don’t Lie” by Matt de la Peña “The Truth About Forever” by Sarah Dessen and “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. Those are each very different books. They’d probably be called, respectively: a fantasy, a sports book, a romance and a contemporary-realistic book. But, they all make great gifts. And with book gifts, I’m a big fan of bundling different kinds of things together. For younger kids, say 10 to 14: I really love Jacqueline Woodson’s “Miracle’s Boys”. And lastly, Henry’s two favorite books this year were: “Last Stop on Market Street” by Christian Robinson and the aforementioned Matt de la Peña; and the adorable “Boot and Shoe” by Marla Frazee. You can find links to all these books in the doobly doo. Hank! Full disclosure; you’re getting some of these for Christmas. So, get excited! I’ll see you on Friday.

100 thoughts on “John’s Book Giving Guide for the Holidays!

  1. I highly recommend Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson, a story about two friends living in Belfast, one being a Catholic and the other a Protestant, and their search for happiness and hope through the political troubles of Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Funny, gripping, tragic and beautifully written IMHO.

  2. So many things to read! We used No God but God as a textbook in my Islam class this semester, and I really enjoyed it!

  3. I have been working at a bookstore (something of a lifelong dream) for half a year now and it has introduced me to SO MANY great books. Definitely check out Lauren Groff's latest novel, Fates and Furies, as well as Dan Jones' Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty for a portrait of history that really breathes. There are also a lot of amazing picture books that you really should check out because they're beautiful. I've become an enormous fan of Mo Willems since moving to the children's section.

  4. John, I have no doubt about the idea of giving books and reading many books often. But how do I find time to read my school texts, the books I want to read and news to keep me informed.

  5. Hello!
    I'm a French girl and I discover this by your book Will & Will (which I loved!!!! 😍😍). I understand some things but you speak really REALLY fast x') and it's a little hard to follow you.

    Good continuation!

    One of your fan

    Noémie

  6. I read Speak in my 9th grade English class. It was fantastic! The author actually went to my high school, but considering what the book is about, I'm not sure if that's a fact to be proud about… (but I def recommend it)

  7. If you want to learn about Islamic History and Islam itself, the best thing to do is to actually read the Qur'an. Try to get a good translation with lots of footnotes, too.

  8. Yes! I highly recommend Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson to anyone and everyone. I'm not usually into these kind of books (contemporary realistic fiction) but I absolutely loved Speak. This is that rare book that will have you flipping through each page, cover to cover. I love it SO MUCH. I have never met someone who has read it and disliked it and everyone I recommend it to. always tells me how much they love it. Most of them love the story and read it in a day because it's that good.

  9. I just finished No God but God, absolutely fantastic, and was wondering if there were similar books about Christianity and Judaism? I have almost no knowledge of either and would love to learn more!

  10. this title needs a comma i genuinly thought that the title was johns book, giving guide for the holiday instead of johns, book giving guide for the holidays

  11. I went to amazon today because I have a literary person on my gift giving list. All of the books had a Frequently Bought Together. John has EPIC reach.

  12. Thank you! totally used (parts of) that for my Christmas wish list. Which makes me way more excited about presents this year than previously 😉

  13. Check out 'Intentional Dissonance' by Ian S Thomas. It is an utterly fascinating story that deserves a lot more attention than it gets.

  14. John my sister said that you should write a version of "Paper Towns" from Margo's point of view, and I happen to agree.

  15. I've read Death Comes for The Arcbishop a year ago precisely 'cause John recommended it. I think the book is totally unknown in Europe, but darn is it a good read. I'm agnostic (or atheist if you will) but this book really defined, changed and redefined kinda everything I knew about american culture and religion and maybe religion in general as well. Read it people, especially if you are NOT american! 🙂

  16. Anyone know any good books with plots along the lines of hunting man for sport and or MURDER ! with a kind of " dark and stormy " ominous vibe , even better if its 1800s or early 1900s

  17. Unfortunately no one got me a book (other than TABINOF and The Guiness World records) this year but my dad got A brief history of seven killings and my brother got East of Eden
    I did borrow a book from my school library which is brilliant.  It's called 'The Bunker Diary' and is a very dark but incredibly well written young adult novel

  18. +vlogbrothers John, what do you think about books that were translated to English? The authors you listed are mostly USA residents. Are foreign books underexposed? Are translated books underexposed? Is the translation quality sub-par? Is there a cultural barrier?

  19. I am currently reading "A Little Life," and god… is it sad… I only heard about this book because of this video recommendation, and it is simultaneously the most wonderful gift and the most gut-wrenching horrible curse. I somehow feel obligated to get through even though the book is tearing me apart at every turn in the most awful way. No fiction has ever had such a strong emotional impact on me. It is the most depressing and most meaningful reading experience I've had in a very long time, and whenever I open it up again, I become so completely immersed in the story that it's hard to do or think about anything else. John, for all of these reasons, your recommendation has not steered me wrong, but I will also curse you forever for this particular recommendation.

  20. The fact that some Americans would be against Islam but then there's John Green who is so for it that he recommends books about it and that makes me so happy because I am one.

  21. Got A Thousand Mornings for my mom and City of Clowns for myself. Very good recommendations. Thanks John!

  22. My personal recomendations:
    Dune: the grandaddy of sci fi. It´s a very smart, exciting storry and it still holds up. And unlike the david lynch movie, which i still kinda like cause i´m a huge fan of his, it´s not confusing.
    Las batallas en el desierto: it´s a very tender, funny and sad story of a kid who falls in love with his friends mother, and it also serves as a very nice time capsule of what mexican life was like in the 40s.
    Cloud atlas, a masterpiece imo. The book takes on so many styles and succeeds in every single one of them. Also, don´t let the movie change your opinion on this book. It´s a Wachowski movie, they always tend to screw things up.

  23. I love these videos because I love new book recommendations! I just wish that I had the time to read them all… I wish time was infinite and I didn't have hours of schoolwork everyday that ends in me sleeping from mental exhaustion :/

  24. Thank you for including Mary Oliver. She is such a beautiful poet, and I think everyone should try reading her works at least once. "Wild Geese" is a gorgeous poem that I think everyone can appreciate.

  25. Book of the Year: Tales By Vision
    /Follow Mr. Bronco in his journey in Valentine's Day: Pleasure and Pain/
    /Follow the little boy in The Golden Bracelet as he journeys through the land of the unknown/
    /Lion Milk tells the story of a King with an unusual mother/
    /There are more mind twisting tales/
    /Get your own copy of Tales By Vision and discover the world you never knew existed/
    /Buy it on Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo/

  26. HELP
    I used to love reading but then I stopped and I want to start reading again but I can't find a good book that keeps my interest. Any suggestions??

  27. John and Hank, you should do videos on a list of the books you would choose for your children, to give them as teenagers to help prepare them for the complex weirdness of life?

  28. I'd recommend the perks of being a wallflower by Stephen chbosky. It's very similar to some of john green's books. Especially looking for Alaska. Anyway, perks of being a wallflower is awesome. READ IT. YOU WONT REGRET IT.

  29. I just finished "A Little Life" and that book straight-up makes TFIOS seem like a cheerful little tale. I really enjoyed reading it but I'm going to need like a month to recover.

  30. " A Little Life " is the most heart wrenching book I have ever read. My mum recommended it to me after she read it. She's a fast reader, who can finish a book in under an hour (seriously), but this book… This book took her months. It's not that long, it's just that painful.

    If you are dealing with trauma (PTSD, anxiety, depression etc..) I recommend this book. It's a tough read, Yanigihara glosses over nothing, but… It could help. At least, it helped me.

  31. I’m currently reading A Little Life and it’s utterly tearing me apart inside.

    Thanks, John.

    (It’s actually really good – check it out).

  32. I read 'A Little Life' last month after rewatching this video. Man oh man that book got me WRECKED! It was so good, but also so heartbreaking. I have never before been so emotionally traumatized at the hands of a paperback! The characters were so well-crafted, they felt real. I still can't stop thinking about them almost a month later.
    Major trigger warnings for just about every kind of heavy subject matter you can think of. If you are an abuse survivor or if you are a self-harmer who isn't really far into recovery I would say maybe don't read this yet. I am far enough in my self-harm recovery that I managed okay, but it does have graphic descriptions of such events.

  33. Usually people think, "Young, female" and then proceed to get me things I'm either indifferent to or even insulted by. But one funny story is when this one family claimed to have read everything they own and I could borrow whatever I wanted with no due date. Lined up on the counter with my house sitting instructions were books on romance that happened to have horses in them (I'm an equestrian). I'm practiced in taking these things in stride, and since I had permission to take anything in the house, I took large stacks of classics I've yet to read (War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged, Diary of Anne Frank, A Tale of Two Cities, etc.), some modern (Bonesetter's Daughter, some Michael Crichton scifi, Into The Wild, Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy), social sciences (Why Geography is Important; Naked Economics; What Went Wrong; Guns, Germs and Steel), hard sciences (some books on gemstones [the house owner was once a gemologist], Origin). I went all nerd. See? I like all sorts of books…just not "young, female" stereotypical preferences, lol.

  34. Sci-Fi: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury! Love. One of those set-in-the-future stories that was written in the past, so they think of, like, 2002 as pretty far away. I LOVE this book, and several of his others (his most famous is Fahrenheit 451, which I also HIGHLY recommend.)

  35. I pretty late to this video for which I am very sorry because all of these look like amazing reads, (I've been missing out!) but I was just curious if you had interests in Hinduism or Indian culture/folklore in general and if you have any recommendations. Or if any of the nerdfighters had some. 🙂 Thank you!! Love your channel!

  36. If you like fantasy, definitely read Ranger’s Apprentice series. It’s a really different fantasy series with very little fantastical elements

  37. I read The People In The Trees from this recommendation and I loved it. I thought it was a little slow getting started and I could have done without the section that was "edited out" and stapled onto the end (who knew so few pages could change a character so much).

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