12 Smart Book Ideas for Everyone in Your Life

iStock
iStock

Books make the perfect gift: they're durable, transportable, and they promise some (hopefully) quality alone time. But what do you get the aunt who loves mystery novels if you're not familiar with the genre? Or the nephew who devours travelogues and goes backpacking around the world? Look no further—we've got them covered, plus 10 other very specific categories.

1. FOR THE VINTAGE COOKBOOK LOVER: LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES: THE LIFE, ART, AND COOKBOOK OF CIPE PINELES, EDITED BY SARAH RICH,‎ WENDY MACNAUGHTON, DEBBIE MILLMAN, AND MARIA POPOVA; $27

Book cover for Leave Me Alone With the Recipes
Amazon

Author Sarah Rich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton fell in love with the work of Cipe Pineles, the first female art director at Condé Nast, after discovering her recipes at a San Francisco antiquarian book fair. Filled with vibrantly colored illustrations, Leave Me Alone With the Recipes shows the joyful spirit and homespun flair that made Pineles’s work so influential. Alongside the recipes, the book includes contributions from luminaries in the worlds of food and illustration, including artist Maira Kalman and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings renown.

Find It: Amazon

2. FOR ANYONE HAVING SURGERY THIS YEAR: THE BUTCHERING ART: JOSEPH LISTER’S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE BY LINDSEY FITZHARRIS; $27

Cover of The Butchering Art
Amazon

Back in the bad old days of medicine, a consistently blood-soaked apron was a sign of pride. Surgeons rarely washed them—or their hands, or their operating tools. Joseph Lister, the somewhat reluctant hero of Lindsey Fitzharris's new book The Butchering Art, was the genius who convinced the medical world that germs were not only real but a major cause of mortality in their hospitals. With an eye for vivid details and the colorful characters of 19th century medicine, Fitzharris has crafted a book that will make you thank Lister for his foresight—and make you glad you weren't alive back then.

Find It: Amazon

3. FOR THE GENEALOGY OBSESSIVE: IT’S ALL RELATIVE: ADVENTURES UP AND DOWN THE WORLD’S FAMILY TREE BY A.J. JACOBS; $27

Cover of Its All Relative
Simon & Schuster

What constitutes a "family"? In his latest book, A.J. Jacobs (famed for lifestyle experiments like trying to live an entire year in accordance with the Bible) delves into the world of genetics and genealogy to try and orchestrate the world's largest family reunion. With his trademark humor and insight, he ends up exploring the interconnectedness of all of humankind.

Find It: Amazon

4. FOR THE SOCIALLY AWARE YOUNG ADULT: THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS; $18

Cover of The Hate U Give
Amazon

Already caught between the conflicting worlds of the poor neighborhood where she lives and her fancy prep school, 16-year-old Starr Carter finds herself in the middle of a tragedy when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. As his death becomes a national flashpoint, it becomes clear that she may be the only person alive who can explain what really happened that night. Angie Thomas's writing has earned praise for being gut-wrenching, searing, and deftly crafted; Publishers Weekly called the book "heartbreakingly topical."

Find It: Amazon

5. FOR FANS OF PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY THAT READS LIKE A NOVEL: THE WARS OF THE ROOSEVELTS: THE RUTHLESS RISE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST POLITICAL FAMILY BY WILLIAM J. MANN; $35

You might think you know the Roosevelts, but historian William J. Mann looks beyond the well-worn stories to expose the bitter rivalries that drove its most famous members' quest for power. Along the way, he examines the Roosevelts who were kept away from the limelight, and the secrets they hold—all told in dramatic style.

Find It: Amazon

6. FOR THE INTREPID TRAVELER: ATLAS OBSCURA: AN EXPLORER'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S HIDDEN WONDERS, BY JOSHIA FOER, DYLAN THURAS, AND ELLA MORTON; $35

The book cover for Atlas Obscura's book
Amazon.com

An amusement park in a salt mine? Check. A tree so big it has its own pub? Check. A giant hole that's been spouting flames for 40 years? Check. This guidebook is a compendium of the world's strangest and most wonderful places, and it's guaranteed to inspire some serious wanderlust, especially in more adventurous travelers. For the complete experience, you can also get an awesome wall calendar featuring destinations from the book designed as vintage travel posters; there's a page-a-day desk calendar and explorers' journal too.

Find it: Amazon

7. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES WEIRD HISTORY: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW SELECTED ESSAYS; $20

The Public Domain Review is one of the premier online destination for fans of curious history. If you know someone who enjoys stories about weird medieval medicine treaties, ancient automata, deranged 18th century scientists, and other odd subjects well off the beaten historical path, look no further than this book of essays (the site's fourth).

Find It: The Public Domain Review

8. FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY: THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS, EDITED BY OTTO PENZLER; $25

Cover of the Big Book of Rogues and Villains
Amazon

At the heart of every good mystery is a (usually dastardly) perpetrator, whether it's a Count Dracula or a Jimmy Valentine. With this anthology, Edgar Award winner Otto Penzler has combed through 150 years of literary history to find 72 stories featuring the most famous and entertaining antiheroes authors have ever been able to dream up.

Find It: Amazon

9. FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE BORSCHT BELT IS: JEWISH COMEDY: A SERIOUS HISTORY BY JEREMY DAUBER; $28.95

Jews and humor go together like challah and Manischewitz (after all, as my bubbie says, if you don't laugh, you'll cry). In this "serious history," Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber considers the origins of Jewish humor in Biblical times through its life on Twitter today; how it's reflected—and even influenced—Jewish history; the production of major archetypes like the Jewish mother; and the prominence of Jewish comedians like Sarah Silverman and Larry David. You don't have to be Jewish to love it, but it may help you understand the in-jokes.

Find It: Amazon

10. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES DARK SHORT STORIES: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO; $16

Book cover for Her Body and Other Parties
Amazon

A story told in the form of Law & Order episode summaries. A strange plague that makes girls go invisible, as narrated by a mall worker. A recollection of romantic encounters with the last of humanity’s survivors. In this collection, Carmen Maria Machado fuses urban legends, dystopian tropes, and heavy helpings of sexuality to create a new kind of magical realism strangely appropriate to our era. The images will haunt you long after you put the book down, if you let them.

Find It: Amazon

11. FOR THE PERSON WHO LOVES BIG-DEAL LITERARY NOVELS AND ALSO ABRAHAM LINCOLN: LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, BY GEORGE SAUNDERS; $18

A meditation on sorrow and the Civil War populated by a rag-tag group of ghosts, Lincoln in the Bardo starts with the real-life death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, Abraham's son. In the book, Willie has entered the Bardo—a Tibetan Buddhist term for a transitional limbo—where there's a fierce struggle underway for his soul.

Find It: Amazon

12. FOR THE GENERALIST: A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION; $45 FOR THREE MONTHS

A book of the month club subscription box with gift trappings nearby
Book of the Month Club

Can’t decide what to get, but feeling generous? Give your friend who loves to read a new hardcover book of their choice every month. Literary fans who are short on time will love having someone else do the legwork to find the best new novels; plus, there’s early access to new releases. Prices vary depending on the length of the subscription, and there’s a deal right now where you can get a month free when you give a subscription as a gift.

Find It: Book of the Month

This Automated Tea Machine Brews Tea Bags and Loose Leaves With the Convenience of a Keurig

BRÜ
BRÜ

The convenience of Keurigs has changed the way people get their morning coffee, but for tea drinkers, the options have been far more limited. Though companies have released their teas in K-cup pods, you’re usually beholden to a more limited selection in terms of flavor variety and leaf type. The BRÜ is looking to change that by giving tea drinkers an automated brewing machine that allows for full customization, like temperature control, cup size, and the option to actually choose from your favorite loose-leaf teas and bags. With more than $180,000 in pledges raised already, the BRÜ has shattered its $30,000 goal on Kickstarter. But you can still get your own machine for just $95 by heading here before the campaign ends on November 1.

The BRÜ looks just like a Keurig in many ways—there’s the water tank, the familiar spout, and the drip tray. But with this machine, you're in control of far more. If you want a small cup of strong, bagged green tea, it's just a few button presses away. If your friend then wants a weaker glass of loose-leaf white tea that's not too hot, it can be ready in minutes, all without the hassle of dealing with a traditional kettle. With its stretch goals already reached, the company is even working on a setting for cold tea, which will brew a small but concentrated cup of hot tea, then dispense chilled water on top of it.

If you act fast (like fast, fast) you can still score the $95 BRÜ package, along with a glass mug. The next tier starts at $115 and includes a similar haul, but this time it’s for the BRÜ+ machine, which the company says dispenses the water in a way that actually cleans the tea chamber after each cup.

The BRÜ won’t be available for the holidays, so if you’re looking to give it as a gift this Christmas, you’ll receive a gift card voucher. Orders are expected to start going out for delivery in April 2020. For more information, head to the BRÜ Kickstarter page, where you can become a backer until November 1.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

11 Amazing Gifts for the Beer Geek in Your Life

ValentynVolkov/iStock via Getty Images
ValentynVolkov/iStock via Getty Images

Whether you're picking out a gift for the beer lover in your life or just want to grab something for yourself, you're going to want to do better than the same old “Will Work for Beer” T-shirt that you've seen a million times before. That's exactly why we compiled a list of the best beer-related artwork, books, and accessories to complement your love of suds.

1. The Very Many Varieties of Beer; $40

PopChart Labs's Very, Very Many Varieties of Beer Poster.
Pop Chart Lab/Amazon

It can be hard to find tasteful home décor that reflects a love of beer. Luckily, Pop Chart Lab has you covered. The design outfit has created a number of beer-themed posters over the years (sadly, the scratch-off beer poster is no longer available), and The Very Many Varieties of Beer is their most awe-inspiring. The 24-inch-by-36-inch poster maps every type of beer style available, along with its suggested glassware, so you'll never again confuse a porter with a stout.

Buy It: Amazon

2. uKeg 64 oz Pressurized Growler for Craft Beer; $149


GrowlerWerks/Amazon

Growlers offer a great way to bring home a beer that doesn’t make its way into cans or bottles, but they’re not perfect. Unless you plan to drink all 64 ounces in a single sitting, you’re likely to end up with flat beer. Presenting, a solution: The uKeg 64 Pressurized Growler uses a CO2 cartridge to ensure that the last pour from this growler is as lively as the first, and its custom tap makes it easy to pour one out.

Buy It: Amazon

3. The Oxford Companion to Beer; $43


Oxford University Press/Amazon

Beer lovers can be a little obsessive about their passion, and if you’re shopping for someone who’s thirsty for knowledge, there’s no better place to start than this comprehensive reference. Edited by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, the Oxford Companion crams an incredible amount of information about beer culture, history, styles, brewing methodologies, and more into 900 pages. Even the most well-versed know-it-all will learn something from this text. And if you’re shopping for a beer-loving foodie, Oliver’s classic book The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food makes an excellent gift, too.

Buy It: Amazon

4. USA Beer Cap Map; $35

USA Beer Cap Map on Amazon.
Beer Cap Country/Amazon

Brewers keep making more intricate and beautiful bottle caps, and it’s a shame to just chuck that art into the trash each time you pop a bottle. If your giftee is trying to drink their way through all 50 states, this fun wooden map helps them keep track of progress while preserving standout caps.

Buy It: Amazon

5. Libbey Craft Brews Beer Glass Set; $30


Libbey/Amazon

Pouring a beer into a glass enhances the whole sensory experience each sip offers. By allowing the user to better see and smell what they're drinking, the glass is a valuable aid in fully enjoying each brew. And since different shapes of glasses suit different styles of beer, a beer geek’s glassware collection can never be too large. While there’s a dizzying variety of cool brewery-branded glassware on the market, this six-piece set from Libbey covers all the bases and enables your favorite beer geek to sip everything from dense Russian imperial stouts to refreshing German hefeweizens. Plus, at just $30, it's a steal.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit; $48

Beer Making Kit.
Brooklyn Brew Shop

With a little know-how and the right recipe, home brewers can make beers that rival the offerings of their commercial counterparts. If someone on your list wants to dip their toe into the home brewing waters, Brooklyn Brew Shop offers kits that come with almost everything they'll need to make a gallon of beer. With styles ranging from Everyday IPA to Chocolate Maple Porter to Jalapeño Saison, there’s something for everyone.

Buy It: Brooklyn Brew Shop

7. BEER SOAP VARIETY PACK; $35


Swag Brewery.

For a number of reasons, it can be hard to enjoy a delicious, hoppy IPA whenever you want one. Enter the next best thing: catching a pleasant whiff of brew. Swag Brewery crafts soaps made with real beer. Available in nine varieties—including oatmeal stout, IPA, and Belgian witbier—these soaps will finally give you even more reason to wash your hands.

Buy It: Amazon

8. The Comic Book Story of Beer; $15

The Comic Book Story of Beer.
Ten Speed Press/Amazon

There are centuries of history in every pint you drink. And in this punchy comic book by writers Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith, with art by Aaron McConnell, you can learn about the story behind beer, from its most primitive days as a curious drink fermented in clay pots to its impact on European culture and its rebirth as a booming industry after Prohibition.

Buy It: Amazon

9. Coasters with Built-In Bottle Openers; $18

Beer coasters with built-in bottle openers.
FuhlSpeed/Amazon

These stainless steel beer coasters don't just feature cool art that any hophead can enjoy, they also double as bottle openers to make your brew a bit more convenient. This is one of those ingenious products that makes you just sit back and wonder why you never thought of it.

Buy It: Amazon

10. Westmark German Hermetus Resealer Bottle Opener; $10


Westmark/Amazon

Downing an entire 22-ounce bomber of a boozy imperial stout or double IPA in a single sitting can be a delicious but questionable decision. With Westmark’s clever bottle opener, saving part of the bottle for the next day is a little easier. The Hermetus opener pops caps like normal, but once your giftee is ready to call it quits, it slides across the top of the bottle to form a tight, bubble-preserving seal.

Buy It: Amazon

11. Beer of the Month Club; $40 and up


BreakingTheWalls/iStock via Getty Images

Don’t overthink this. If you’re shopping for a beer lover, you can’t go wrong by simply getting them what you know they love—beer. Craft Beer Club takes the guesswork out of choosing the right brew by sending out 12 or 24 bottles of craft beer (in four different styles) with each shipment. You can choose from monthly, every-other-month, or quarterly packages.

Buy It: Craft Beer Club

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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