The holidays are a great time to relax with the perfect book and some hot cocoa by a roaring fire. Books are a perfect holiday gift, easy to wrap, easy to send and they can be opened time and again. Here are some of this season’s best books for gift-giving:
"Our America: A Photographic History," by Ken Burns (Knopf, $75)
After four decades of award-winning documentaries, Ken Burns has learned well how to capture the inclusive spirit of America. This new volume of photographs in a hefty coffee-table book is both breathtaking and inspiring as it tells the story of the American experience.
“The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times,” by Michelle Obama (Crown, $32.50)
In her fourth book, former first lady Michelle Obama, as she enters the post-White House phase of her life, urges readers to be bold in their actions, using experience and personal victories to discover deeper truths and new pathways.
“The Passenger,” by Cormac McCarthy (Knopf, $30)
“Stella Maris,” by Cormac McCarthy (Knopf, $26)
Perhaps the literary highlight of the year was the publication of not one but two new novels from Cormac McCarthy, the first new fiction from the 89-year-old author in 16 years. As usual, McCarthy dazzles with the story of Bobby and Alicia Western, two star-crossed siblings haunted by their past and seemingly destined for lives that can only end badly. McCarthy, in what could be his final dispatches, is still at the top of his game.
For those new to McCarthy’s unique and rich prose, check out “Books are Made out of Books” by Michael Lynn Crews, “Cormac McCarthy’s House” by Peter Josyph, “Cormac McCarthy and Performance” by Stacey Peebles (all by University of Texas Press) and “Understanding Cormac McCarthy” by Steven Frye (The University of South Carolina Press).
“Surrender,” by Bono (Knopf, $34)
In a deeply personal memoir filled with stories from his incredibly interesting life, the Irish rocker and leader of the band U2 bares his soul about family, love and his many efforts at trying to make the world a better place. From encounters with presidents and celebrities and memories of the band’s beginnings, this tome is a must for any fan of the band or Bono.
“Springsteen: Liberty Hall,” photographs by Nicki Germaine (www.springsteenlibertyhall.com, $65)
In this awe-inspiring and gorgeously assembled art photo book, we travel back in time to a series of live shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Texas in 1974 with dozens of never-before-seen photos, both black and white and color, by Nicki Germaine, who was on hand to document the four nights, on and off the stage. A true treat for any rock ‘n’ roll fan.
“A Book of Days,” by Patti Smith (Random House, $28.99)
Singer-poet-artist (and former Detroiter) Patti Smith shares her photography project that first appeared on Instagram in 2018 and now has more than a million followers. This book is “offered in gratitude, as a place to be heartened even in the basest of times.”
“The Philosophy of Modern Song,” by Bob Dylan (Simon & Schuster, $45)
In his first collection of nonfiction essays since 2004’s “Chronicles: Volume I,” the always enigmatic Bob Dylan offers 60 essays focusing on songs by everyone from Hank Williams to Elvis Costello. Dylan is typically outrageous and at times infuriating as he muses in this gorgeously illustrated coffee-table book. A songwriter’s songbook.
“Bob Dylan: All The Songs,” by Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon (Black Dog and Leventhal, $55)
Spanning almost 60 years and featuring 500 tracks, this beautifully illustrated encyclopedia is a must-have for die-hard Dylan fans.
“Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs,” by Greil Markus (Yale University Press, $27.50)
Acclaimed music and culture critic Greil Markus defines Bob Dylan’s story through seven essential songs. It’s a Dylan fest that celebrates his essence.
“Jimi,” by Janie Hendrix & John McDermott (Chronicle Chroma, $50)
Jimi Hendrix, who would have turned 80 last month, is widely considered one of the greatest guitar players in music history. This visual celebration features never-been-seen photos, memorabilia from Jimi’s career and the story of his life.
“Like a Rolling Stone,” by Jann Wenner (Little Brown, $35)
A long-awaited memoir that traces the arc of the rock ‘n’ roll generation from the Beatles to Burning Man. An intimate and deeply personal journey highlights Wenner’s interactions with such luminaries as Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe and Annie Leibovitz, along with musical greats John Lennon, Aretha Franklin and Mick Jagger and former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
“Liberation Day,” by George Saunders (Random House, $28)
The finest short story writer of his time and author of the award-winning “Tenth of December,” presents a new collection of short stories that will astound and surprise you on every page. It’s wickedly funny, often dark and always surprising.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas: Book and Tree Kit,” by Charles M. Schulz (Running Press, $14.95)
If you’ve ever been accused of having a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, now you really can have one. This miniature book and tree set comes complete with a 5-inch mini tree, along with a tiny red ornament and plays “Christmastime Is Here.” It also has a 72-page illustrated mini book version of the Christmas classic featuring Snoopy and he gang. The perfect stocking stuffer.
“An Alternative History of Photography,” by Phillip Prodger (Prestel, $55)
Based on the principles of diversity and democracy, this exquisite collection of photographs spans two centuries and includes well-known photographers, along with lesser-known artists. In short, it allows the reader to see the art of photography with fresh eyes and new perspectives.
“Ernst Haas: The American West,” by Paul Lowe (Prestel, $55)
One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Haas captures the essence and feel of the American West in this collection of rich images that documents both the people and the landscape.
“The Writers: Portraits,” by Laura Wilson (Yale University Press, $45)
This phenomenal photo book captures 38 internationally acclaimed writers from Margaret Atwood in her garden to the late Jim Harrison at work and play. It’s perfect for fans of literature and photography alike.
“The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book,” by Jerry Seinfeld (Simon & Schuster, $35)
Anyone familiar with Jerry Seinfeld’s groundbreaking streaming series will love this book of snippets of hilarious conversations and behind-the-scenes images and photos. This caffeine-injected book also features a visit to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
“Number One Is Walking,” by Steve Martin, drawings by Harry Bliss (Celadon Books, $30)
Fans of Steve Martin’s acting career will revel at this gorgeously illustrated graphic journey from “The Jerk” to “Father of the Bride.” It details Martin’s four decades in the movie biz and will leave you in stitches.
“Hollywood: The Oral History,” by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson (Harper, $37.50)
Based on almost 3,000 interviews in the American Film Institute’s archives, this inside story of Hollywood is told by Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Jordan Peele and nearly 400 others. It reveals a new history of the American film industry never before assembled.
“Cinema Speculation,” by Quintin Tarantino (Harper Collins, $35)
This first work of nonfiction from one of our most gifted directors is a love letter to cinema. These essays reveal Tarantino’s lifelong obsession with the movies. It would be any film fan’s delight to receive this.
“Life’s Work: A Memoir,” by David Milch (Random House, $28)
Some books tug at your heart while others break it. This memoir does the latter as a brilliant television writer and producer who is battling Alzheimer’s disease recounts his life and accomplishments on-screen and off.
“Scenes from My Life: A Memoir,” by Michael K. Williams (Crown, $28.99)
The tragic overdose death of actor Michael K. Williams in September 2021 left in its wake terrible sadness and plenty of questions. This memoir, nearly finished at the time of his death, tracks Williams’ life from childhood in East Flatbush, New York, to his battles with addiction and his acting career, including playing Omar Little in “The Wire” and Chalky White in “Boardwalk Empire.”
“Peter Asher: A Life in Music,” by David Jacks (Backbeat Books, $39.95)
While the name might not ring a bell, you’re probably familiar with the musicians he has produced over the last 50 years. Asher was one-half of the 1960s duo Peter and Gordon, and he went on to win Grammys while producing artists like James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt.
“Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” by Matthew Perry (Flatiron Books, $29.99)
If you, like many of us, made an appointment on Thursday nights during the ‘90s to watch “Friends” on TV, this book will offer insight into one of the actors. Matthew Perry details his decades-long battle with alcohol and drugs in this stunning story of a rise to stardom and a fall to near death and back.
“The Revolutionary Samuel Adams,” by Stacy Schiff (Little Brown, $35)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer re-establishes this founding father’s status as a shrewd, eloquent and intensely disciplined rebel. This highly entertaining biography draws Adams out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
“Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization,” by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Henry Holt, $28.99)
No matter how divided we are on this planet, we all share the same starry sky. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson illuminates the things human beings have in common and how we need to work together to solve global conflict and appreciate the fragility of life.
“Thermal: Saunas, Hot Springs & Baths, Healing with Heat,” by Lindsey Bro (Chronicle Books, $29.95)
This coffee-table book is a tour de force featuring healing locations around the world. An excellent gift to help recipients immerse themselves in the restorative and invigorating power of nature.
“Demon Copperhead,” by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper, $32.50)
Riffing on Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” Kingsolver tells the story of an American teen born into poverty in Appalachia and braving the modern-day hazards of foster care, poor public education and addiction. Told in the first person, it speaks for a new generation of lost boys.
“The Last Chairlift,” by John Irving (Simon & Schuster, $38)
From the acclaimed author of “The World According to Garp,” and “The Cider House Rules,” comes this nearly 900-page novel that traces a family’s evolution over seven decades. It’s an epic ghost story full of unconventional and memorable characters and situations. A must-read for John Irving fans.
“The Waste Land: A Facsimile & Transcript of the Original Drafts,” by T.S. Eliot (W.W. Norton, $40)
“The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem,” by Matthew Hollis (W.W. Norton, $40)
“The Hyacinth Girl: T.S. Eliot’s Hidden Muse,” by Lyndall Gordon (W.W. Norton, $35)
Marking the centennial of arguably the most influential poem in modern literature are three new books illustrating and outlining the creation of "The Waste Land." Once thought lost, the facsimile is presented in full color, along with two companion books packed with insight into the poem’s creation story.
“From Crook to Cook,” by Snoop Dogg (Chronicle Books, $24.95)
Hip-hop legend and Martha Stewart BFF Snoop Dogg offers up a tasty group of recipes for everything from breakfast to dessert, He also includes full menus for events like Thanksgiving, Game Day, Game Night, a beach feast and more, with music suggestions to go with each event. And there are recipes for drinks and even ranked lists of best snacks and best candy as well as what Snoop keeps at all times in his pantry and his refrigerator. He has plenty of kitchen street cred from his shows with Stewart, and the recipes are clear and easy to follow.
“The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100,” by Dan Buettner (National Geographic, $35)
Buettner has spent more than two decades studying the so-called Blue Zones, areas around the world where people live the longest. In this book, he reveals the four American food traditions that match the Blue Zones’ diet of longevity and brings them to life with 100 recipes, along with stunning photographs by David McLain. The book offers ways to improve your health and extend your life with America’s bounty.
“The Perfect Loaf: The Craft and Science of Sourdough Breads, Sweets and More,” by Maurizio Leo (Clarkson Potter, $40)
During the pandemic, many people discovered the art of baking of sourdough bread and other delights. Whether you are a serious home baker or just learning the ropes of mixing and kneading, this encyclopedic book is there to teach you.
“Booze & Vinyl, Volume 2,” by Andre Darlington and Tenaya Darlington (Running Press, $26)
A delightful follow-up to their first “Booze & Vinyl” collection, this book offers up a party guide of music paired with mood-setting cocktails. There’s rock, jazz, easy listening, hip-hop and more, each aligned with drinks and eats for a sizzling house party.
“Ted Kennedy: A Life,” by John A. Farrell (Penguin Press, $40)
The late Lion of the Senate comes alive on the pages of this magnificent biography. Farrell brings an insider’s perspective and was given great access to new sources. Finally, the epic and turbulent life of this man from one of America’s great political dynasties is given its due.
“And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle,” by Jon Meacham (Random House, $40)
Meacham chronicles Lincoln’s life with a special focus on how he healed a nation split in two. Lincoln’s light burns brightly in this one.
“Confidence Man,” by Maggie Haberman (Penguin Press, $32)
“The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser (Doubleday, $32)
Out of the plethora of books about Donald Trump, these two investigative biographies stand at the top. Both are written by veteran journalists and detail the rise of the former president and his time in the White House. It’s vital information as Trump eyes another run for the presidency.
“The Destructionists,” by Dana Milbank (Doubleday, $30)
Award-winning political columnist Dana Milbank traces the Republican Party over the past 25 years and its struggle for power.
“1972-THE SUMMIT SERIES: Canada vs. U.S.S.R, Stats, Lies and Videotape,” by Richard Bendell ($42.45)
“1972: The Series That Changed Hockey Forever,” by Scott Morrison (Simon & Schuster, $25.99)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous Summit Series. Both books capture the intensity and complexity of the eight games between Canada and the U.S.S.R. with detailed accounts, colorful photography and an updated version of the facts.
“Bobby: My Story in Pictures,” by Bobby Orr (Viking, $30)
Considered by many to be the greatest defenseman who ever played the game of hockey, Bobby Orr shares his journey from Parry Sound, Ontario, to the top ranks of the NHL with the Boston Bruins. It includes never-before-seen photos of Bobby as a towheaded toddler all the way to The Goal shot and his family life and introduces us to those who helped him along the way.
“Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube’s Chaotic Rise to World Domination,” by Mark Bergen (Viking, $30)
You know you watch it and so do billions of others around the world. This deep dive into the history of YouTube by leading tech journalist Bergen is the inside story of its amazing ascent and current status as an essential source of entertainment and education.
“The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Healing,” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner, $32.50)
“The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner, $22)
Everyone is in some way, shape or form touched by cancer. This new volume, along with Mukherjee's previous Pulitzer Prize-winning work, helps explain and explore the complex living organisms known as cells.
“The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World,” by Jonathan Freedland (Harper, $28.99)
The story of the first Jewish person to break out of Auschwitz and make his way to freedom is both compelling and astonishing. It’s especially timely given the recent rise of antisemitism.
“The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup,” by Evan Hughes (Doubleday, $28.95)
A heart-pounding thriller of an investigation about a group of entrepreneurs who made millions selling painkillers and were eventually caught and punished.
“The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America,” by H.W. Brands (Doubleday, $32.50)
Brands proves himself as a master storyteller once again as he reveals the story of the wars against Native Americans through the perspective of two great leaders.
“The Magic Kingdom,” by Russell Banks (Knopf, $30)
This is the story of one American’s migration into the swamplands of central Florida to join a community of Shakers. Banks brings his unique wit and expert eye to give us a portrait of Harley Mann as he navigates life and the passage of time.
“The Splendid Ticket,” by Bill Cotter (McSweeney’s, $26)
Everyone dreams of winning the lottery, but sometimes all those millions carry a curse. This darkly comic novel by acclaimed writer Bill Cotter depicts the chaos and corruption that newfound wealth can bring. If you’re not familiar with the folks at McSweeney’s, check out what they have to offer at mcsweeneys.net. Their quarterly magazine is brilliant and always surprising.
“G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” by Beverly Gage (Viking, $45)
Beverly Gage deconstructs the complex life and career of one of the most polarizing figures in American history. J. Edgar Hoover emerges as a multidimensional human being whose legacy continues to affect the modern political right.
“Novelist as a Vocation,” by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, $28)
The internationally known author has written about the place of the novel in modern society. He also delves into writing, creativity and his own groundbreaking works of prose.
“Revolutionary Women: 50 Women of Color Who Reinvented the Rules,” by Ann Shen (Chronicle Books, $24.95)
When they write the history books and the encyclopedias, women, and in particular, women of color, seem to get the short shrift. This book remedies that with carefully written entries for 50 women of color, listing a bit of their background, their accomplishments and their place in history. And it includes beautiful full-color portrait drawings. A great gift for women to give to other women.
“The Devil’s Calling,” by Michael Kelley (Greenleaf, $25.95)
A brilliant and heart-pounding epic of metaphysical science fiction. This novel is a journey of self-realization and a warning for generations to come.
“Bad Love Tigers,” by Kevin L. Schewe (Jan-Carol Publishing, $35.95)
A feel-good, action-packed adventure and sci-fi saga that reads like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” meets “Stand by Me.” The novel, which has now been turned into an award-winning screenplay, tells the story of time travel and a World War II-era secret mission.
“The Story of Humanity,” by Ishi Nobu ($8.99)
This cautionary tale explains and illustrates how humans’ laziness and inability to educate themselves and their communities could lead to their demise. A frightening story about the consequences of ignorance and human hubris.
“Mia’s Odyssey,” by Mia Odeh ($14.95)
This memoir charts one Palestinian woman’s life from age 16 and an abusive marriage to escape and freedom in America. It’s a testament to the human spirit and a triumph of the will.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Gift ideas for book lovers: Snoopy, Snoop Dogg and Cormac McCarthy