Our 2019 Christmas Gift Guide: The friends & family edition

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be compiling a host of gift guides to help you with your Christmas shopping.

Here are gift ideas for your friends and family – for those who love to entertain, explore, read by the beach, and more. And you can find plenty more recommendations in our Summer Reading Guide.

For someone who hosts amazing dinner parties

  • Popular New York Times food columnist Alison Roman demonstrates how to entertain with minimum fuss in Nothing Fancy, which features 150 all-new recipes and lots of time-saving tips.

  • Pasta Grannies is a gorgeously cosy and mouthwatering. Inspired by the YouTube channel of the same name, this cookbook reveals how to make great-tasting Italian food with easy-to-follow recipes and heartwarming stories.

  • Perhaps your friend has a secret hankering to learn how to make Mexican street food from scratch? Their dream can come true with Jonas Cramby’s Taco Loco. And we can guarantee you’ll enjoy eating it so it’s kind of like the gift that gives twice?

  • They key to a perfect gathering can be the music. Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen’s first solo recording for Deutsche Grammophon’s Mari, was described as an exhilarating recording by our reviewer, and is ideal for fans of contemporary classical music albums like Olafur Arnalds (also: dinner parties).

  • Does your friend like to have games at their parties? Super Slow Sloths Game is an ingeniously backwards board game for two to six players. Find more games on offer here.

For someone who’s fascinated by true stories

  • For one of the most talked-about true crime reads of the year consider Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing. This is an intricate narrative of a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions.

  • Your Own Kind of Girl is the memoir of award-winning singer-songwriter Clare Bowditch and its a frank and inspiring read. Bowditch looks back to her childhood, and describes how she confronted her own inner critic to achieve her dreams.

  • Oscar winner Dame Helen Mirren stars as one of the greatest rulers in history in the compelling mini-series, Catherine the Great. Loosely based on Empress Catherine’s later life, this show is a sumptuous insight into the founding days of modern-day Russia.

  • Letters from Tove brings together a collection of 160 letters Tove Jansson wrote to her family and friends throughout her life. These letters, penned with characteristic insight and wit, provide an almost seamless commentary on Jansson’s life within Helsinki’s bohemian circles and on her island home.

  • Legendary singer-songwriter and storyteller Archie Roach was named Victorian Australian of the Year for 2019, and its fitting that this is the same year he’s released his memoir, Tell Me Why, which explores creativity, resilience and the power of music. You can find the companion album here.

For someone who you’d like to help relax this year

  • How to Do Nothing is obviously the perfect title for a book to gift your friend you want to help relax… And it’s well worth a read. Jenny Odell presents an exciting manifesto for resisting the attention economy, and for thinking beyond capitalist narratives of efficiency and value.

  • Originally handcrafted in 1971 as a gift for friends, Morning Glory on the Vine presents a collection of Joni Mitchell’s best-loved poems, illustrations, watercolours and hand-lettered song lyrics. It’s a beautiful gift book for dreamers.

  • If your friend needs a mental break from work, then distract them with The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: the first in a unique new series, in which the reader is trapped in the pages and must find their way out by solving the puzzles!

  • A Short Philosophy of Birds is a charming book for lovers of nature. Having spent a lifetime watching birds, French ornithologist Philippe J. Dubois and philosopher Élise Rousseau share 22 lessons that birds can teach us about how to live to the fullest.

  • From astronomer and ex-Zen monk Mark Westmoquette, Mindful Thoughts for Stargazers is part of a cute book series that sees interesting people explore ways to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life and activities.

  • Perhaps your friend’s favourite way to relax is by binging a new television series. May we recommend the complete collection of Poldark? Ross Poldark returns home after American Revolutionary War and rebuilds his life with a new business venture, making new enemies and finding a new love where he least expects it.

For an avid explorer

  • Free Solo is a portrait of free solo climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: scaling the face of the worlds most famous rock the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park – without a rope! Renowned filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin capture the death-defying climb with exquisite artistry and masterful, vertigo-inducing camerawork.

  • Lonely Planet’s Atlas of Adventure is an encyclopedia for thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, featuring the best outdoor experiences, country-by-country, across the world.

  • The co-founder of the Lonely Planet guidebook company, Tony Wheeler is surely one of the most knowledgeable people on travel in the world. Tony Wheeler’s Islands of Australia traverses the stunning natural features, unique wildlife and chequered histories of the nation’s remarkable islets, cays, atolls and archipelagos.

  • Brilliant Maps: An Atlas for Curious Minds, is a unique atlas of culture, history, politics and much more. It’s perfect for armchair travellers, as well as for giving a new perspective on the world.

  • A booklight can be a handy gift for a travelling booklover. We’re fans of the ones offered by Moleskine. Available in blue or black, they are rechargeable, lightweight and flexible, with a sleek design and bright LED illumination.

For someone who’s a bit of a homebody

  • In Green, Jason Chongue explains how to curate and look after plants in small urban spaces alongside breathtaking photographs. His advice is practical and easily accessible, and the book covers a wide range of environments and climates, inside and out.

  • Does your friend have kids? Let’s Get Gardening shares a collection of eco-gardening projects suitable for ages 8 and up. Projects include growing staple ingredients, planting a bee-friendly garden, providing homes for native wildlife, and more.

  • We have plenty of books for the bee enthusiast including Hilary Kearney’s QueenSpotting, which features 48 fold-out photo puzzles alongside stories. Find even

  • For Small Creatures Such as We is a thoughtful examination of how to live meaningful lives outside of a religious frame. Part memoir, part handbook and part social history, this book is perfect for figuring out how to create your own rituals and traditions.

  • Cabin Porn became an international sensation following the publication of the first volume of photographs of hand-made homes in natural landscapes around the world. Now Cabin Porn: Inside brings fresh inspiration for your quiet place somewhere.

For someone who likes to engage with the world

  • In Don’t Be Evil, Financial Times global business columnist Rana Foroohar makes a case against Big Tech, revealing how the tech industry now dominates our world so completely, and offering a plan for how we can resist.

  • In White Tears, Brown Scars, Ruby Hamad interrogates what happens when racism and sexism collide, demonstrating how white tears have a potency that silences racial minorities.

  • Australia could be the natural home for an increasing proportion of global industry, but how do we make it happen? In Superpower, economist Ross Garnaut offers a road map for progress, covering energy, transport, agriculture, the international scene and more.

  • Tim Flannery is one of our most important contributors to current cultural, political and environmental debate. Life brings together a collection of his writings from the past years, including speeches, essays and his other short pieces of nonfiction. This is a book to make readers think harder about the world, and especially about their place within it.

  • Aboriginal Australians are the longest-surviving human culture on earth, and at the heart of Aboriginal culture is song. Songspirals is an opportunity to connect with the living tradition of women’s songlines, as recounted by Yolngu women from far north Australia.

For someone in need of beach reading

  • A finalist for America’s prestigious National Book Awards, The Memory Police is a eerie and immersive speculative mystery from one of Japan’s greatest writers, Yōko Ogawa, that explores memory, grief and state surveillance.

  • Heather Rose’s second novel, Bruny, is an explosive political thriller that’s certain to have readers on the edge of their seat. The story opens a bomb detonating in Bruny, a remote island in south-east Tasmania, and things only get more twisted from there.

  • For something more light-hearted than state surveillance or terrorism, there’s City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert’s outrageously fun historical romp that transports readers into the glitzy, glamorous world of showgirls in New York in the 1940s.

  • In Olive, Again, Elizabeth Strout returns to the familiar territory of Olive Kitteridge, the titular character of her 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. This book was one a favourite among Readings booksellers this year and its novel-in-stories format make it perfect for leisurely dipping in and out of.

  • Emma Viskic’s crime novels are beloved by Readings staff and her third outing with the unforgettable Caleb Zelic comes highly recommended. Darkness for Light is an action-packed, gritty page-turner set in Melbourne and its surrounds.

  • Find even more picks for beach reading by browsing our collection of best smart, summer reads of 2019.

Still stumped? We also sell gift vouchers which can be used in-store and online.

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Heather Rose

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