Our 2020 Christmas Gift Guide: The hard-to-buy-for grown-ups edition

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

Here is a list of suggestions for the tricky grown-ups in your life.


The friend who has everything…

  • How about a gorgeous design book to adorn their well-stocked home? We love the newly updated editions of Phaidon’s The Design Book and The Art Book that both landed on our shelves this year. These beautiful volumes are incredible visual sourcebooks. You can find more art and design book highlights from the past year here.

  • Keen gourmands will relish Lonely Planet Gourmet Trails: Australia & New Zealand, which shares 40 of the best food and drink experiences across the two countries. With an emphasis on local foodie culture, specialities and traditions, this is the quintessential guide to wining and dining throughout Oceania.

  • If your friend is someone with a serious skincare routine or a dermatologist listed in their contacts, they will be intrigued by The Scandinavian Skincare Bible. This science-based Swedish bestseller teaches about the ingredients of skincare products and examines the link between gut health and skin – and will revolutionise the way we all think about what we’re putting on our faces.

  • For something really special – we have a couple of Readings exclusive hampers on offer this year which pair a range of books with locally produced wine and olive oil. Please note – you must place your order for our hampers by 5pm, Monday 30 November, to receive one. They will be delivered in early-to-mid December.

  • Have everything huh? Does this sometimes make you feel like throwing things at them (in love of course)? Throw Throw Burrito is what you get when you cross a card game with dodgeball and its as much fun for the grown-ups as the kids.

The friend who’s read everything…

  • Shirley Hazzard is one of Australia’s most renowned writers so chances are your friend has read something of hers before. The Collected Stories of Shirley Hazzard brings together both volumes of her published story collections, alongside uncollected works and two previously unpublished stories, and makes for a treasured keepsake.

  • Elizabeth Tan’s Smart Ovens for Lonely People is a collection of deeply funny, incredibly clever and wonderfully weird stories and the winner of our 2020 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. Published by a small press and from a emerging writer, it’s also one that very possibly slipped past your friend’s notice. It’s especially perfect if you know your friend likes the books of Carmen Maria Machado, Margo Lanagan and Kelly Link.

  • For almost 140 years, the author of Australia’s first book for children was a mystery. Known only by the description ‘a Lady Long Resident in New South Wales’, bibliographer Marcie Muir finally revealed her name in 1980: Charlotte Waring Atkinson. In Searching for Charlotte authors – and descendants of Atkinson! – Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell tell Charlotte’s story together.

  • Is your friend obsessed with Sally Rooney? We absolutely get it and we feel confident that this attractively packaged collection of scripts from the televised adaptation of Rooney’s Normal People would be eagerly devoured by such a Rooney devotee.

  • Still think a book is too much of a risk for your extremely well-read friend? A book-adjacent gift might work instead. We have a couple of one-off items on offer including our limited-run Readings Jigsaw Puzzle and a handsome mug featuring a design from Melbourne illustrator Anna Blandford.

The friend who isn’t a big reader (but you can’t resist trying to make into one)…

  • Since his first performance as a 21-year-old student in autumn of 1975, Jerry Seinfeld has written his own material and saved everything. Is This Anything? is a selection of his favourite material, organised decade by decade. An excellent pick for any live comedy lover.

  • Crime novels can be an excellent way to entice unwilling readers into picking up a book in the first place – and then not being able to put it down again… Our staff have compiled a list of their top five crime books of the year including gripping psychological thriller The Safe Place and four other highly recommended reads.

  • Is your friend more easily swayed by non-fiction? A fascinating true adventure story – Stalin’s Wine Cellar is a wild ride in the glamorous world of high-end wine that transports readers from Double Bay Sydney to Tbilisi Georgia, via the streets of Paris, the vineyards of Bordeaux and iconic Château d'Yquem.

  • For something uplifting, My Tidda, My Sister is a collection of true stories of the experiences of Indigenous women and girls, brought together by author and host of the Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast, Marlee Silva. Featuring colourful artwork by Rachael Sarra and a foreword by Leah Purcell, this book is a celebration of the Indigenous female experience through truth-telling.

  • If your friend if feeling as concerned about climate crisis you could do worse than gifting them Fight For Planet A, from comedian and broadcaster Craig Reucassel. This practical guide to tackling climate change will empower anyone who feels overwhelmed by the scope of the environmental crisis and unsure how to most effectively take action in their daily lives.

Your older relative…

  • The 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government remains one of the most significant events in Australia’s political history. In The Palace Letters, Professor Jenny Hocking describes her years-long legal battle to uncover previously secret letters between the Queen and Governor General Sir John Kerr in which the two discussed the dismissal. A gripping true court drama that will fascinate anyone with a passing interest in the Royal family or Australian politics.

  • A visually exciting book may be what you need for a relative who’s struggling with reading small font. Swainston’s Fishes of Australia features breathtaking artwork from the brilliant Roger Swainston and provides a fascinating overview of the extraordinary diversity of Australia’s marine and freshwater fishes – from the bizarre to the gorgeous.

  • The indomitable Miss Phryne Fisher returns in Death in Daylesford. In this new tale, Phryne and her companion Dot must deal with multiple murders and – alas – an embarrassingly incompetent local policeman. Perfect for beachside or cosy bedside reading.

  • Stephen Fry continues his richly detailed and bracingly told series about the gods, goddesses and myths of Ancient Greece with Troy: Our Greatest Story Retold. Full of heroism, love, loss, revenge, desire, and despair, Fry demonstrates exactly why the story of Troy is one that still speaks to us today.

  • Are they classical music lovers? Check out our range of top 10 classical album releases for the year here including the second volume of ABC Classic’s series celebrating Australia’s female composers, a fabulous wide-ranging release from Australia’s premier guitar quartet, and more

The highly opinionated relative…

  • A surprisingly thoughtful read given its title – How Not To Be Wrong is a persuasive argument for examining and sometimes, changing your mind. Writer and broadcaster James O'Brien has built a loyal following om his radio show by dissecting the opinions of callers live on air, every day. In this deeply personal book, he turns the mirror on himself to reveal what he has changed his mind about and why.

  • A historian, speechwriter, social critic, humourist, biographer, nature enthusiast, sports writer – Don Watson is a master wordsmith and a bona fide raconteur. A kindred spirit for your relative perhaps? Watsonia brings together a collection of his own highly opinionated writings, including a lively introduction and several previously unpublished pieces.

  • If your relative has a habit of talking as though they know what animals are thinking – and especially if cats are in the mix – you might be tempted to cheekily gift them What Cats Want. From Japan’s leading cat doctor, this is a cutely illustrated guide to understanding your feline companion – including charts showing how to interpret their different meows, the direction of their whiskers and the way their tail is pointing.

  • If this relative relishes in correcting your grammar, they’ll likely enjoy Rebel without a Clause – an idiosyncratic romp through the world of words by lexicographer and former Macquarie Dictionary Editor Sue Butler.

  • Do you find yourself sometimes wishing you could use some bad language at this relative…? Say it with a book. In Rooted Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, takes readers on a fascinating journey through the history of Australia’s bad language

A complete stranger…

  • Humankind: A Hopeful History is a highly readable and genuinely hopeful read. Dutch historian and author Rutger Bregman looks back over thousands of years of history to offer a view of humanity’s innate capacity for kindness and, in doing so, demonstrates how this radical new perspective can act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society.

  • 2020 has been a tough year for so many people and authors are no exception. Why not pick a debut work of fiction from an Australian writer to gift a stranger this year? Our staff have particularly loved Lucky’s from Sydneysider Andrew Pippos. A sprawling, multi-generational story set around a chain of diner-style Greek restaurants in 20th century Australia, this is a big-hearted read with wide appeal.

  • An anthology can also be an excellent gift for a stranger, offering them a variety of voices to dip in and out of. Edited by Tanya Plibersek, Upturn: A better normal after COVID-19 sees a range of informed contributors discuss ways in which we can more fairly and sustainable rebuild Australian society and economy following Covid-19. You can find a whole host of other exciting anthologies (nonfiction and fiction) published this year here.

  • From culinary superstar Nigella Lawson, Cook, Eat, Repeat is a sparkling combination of recipes and narrative essays about food. Lawson’s approach to cooking and eating is marked by generosity and warmth, and this is a delicious, unusually structured cookbook which can appeal to many niches.

  • Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli is an eloquent writer with a broad range of interests. There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness is an attractively packaged new collection of his writings, voyaging through science, literature, philosophy and politics. Even if they don’t read it, it will look good on their shelves…

One gift for a whole family

  • For families looking to reduce their food waste in the kitchen, Use it All is a delicious and practical handbook to help achieve this goal. Alex Elliott-Howery and Jaimee Edwards (from iconic Sydney food community Cornersmith) share more than 230 recipes and plenty of handy tips taken from experiences with their own families.

  • Adventurous and outdoorsy families will delight in Lonely Planet’s Best Day Walks Australia. There’s a range of different kinds of walks to discover in its pages, from easy to hard, short to long, making it suitable for different ages.

  • And artsy families will likely love Truth Bomb which shares the stories of 22 women working in a variety of media. Curated by the artistic director and founder of Melbourne-based design studio Third Drawer Down, this book makes for inspiring reading.

  • Australia’s much loved satirical news website The Betoota Advocate has released their new annual anthology: Australia 2020. Looking back over the past year, this collection of news stories will delight lovers of dry wit, young and old.

  • An anthology to read together can make a lovely gift for families with young children, and we are very big fans of Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed The World, the third book in the blockbuster Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls. It includes 100 bedtime stories about the lives of 100 extraordinary immigrant women – women who leave their homelands to seek refuge, to realise dreams, and to contribute to the world.

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

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The Palace Letters

The Palace Letters

Professor Jenny Hocking

$32.99Buy now

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