The Best Gifts for Readers



“How Far the Light Reaches” by Sabrina Imbler

In expansive essays, a conservation journalist explores their own identity through the lens of deep ocean life. (Little, Brown)

“A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré” edited by Tim Cornwell

Correspondence of the beloved novelist and former member of both MI5 and MI6. (Viking)


“A Heart That Works” by Rob Delaney

The comedian’s memoir confronts the most devastating of all parental experiences, the grief of losing a child. (Spiegel & Grau)

“Piet Mondrian: A Life” by Hans Janssen

A rich study of the Dutch De Stijl founder’s work and legacy. (Ridinghouse)


“Ms. Demeanor” by Elinor Lipman

After getting frisky on her roof, lawyer Jane Morgan is put under house arrest—but so is one of her neighbors. (Harper)

“They’re Going to Love You” by Meg Howrey

For the daughter of ballet dancers, the saga of a familial rift and a Greenwich home inheritance come together in an elegant assemblée. (Doubleday)

“Scatterlings” by Rešoketšwe Martha Manenzhe

In South Africa, tragedy strikes a young family—the mother Black, the father white—in this family history told on an epic scale. (HarperVia)

“A Dangerous Business” by Jane Smiley

Edgar Allan Poe meets California gold country, as a sex worker turned amateur detective tries to solve the mystery of a string of dead women. (Knopf)

Poems and More

“Pathetic Literature” edited by Eileen Myles

Bits and bobs to make you feel, excerpted from poems, plays, and prose, from Franz Kafka to Porochista Khakpour. (Grove Press)

“Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light” by Joy Harjo

From the former poet laureate of the US, a collection brimming with imagery of Oklahoma, horses, hope. (W.W. Norton)

All Lit Up

For the reader for whom books are life, literary paraphernalia is a boon.

Books: Courtesy of the publishers. Paper dolls: Courtesy of Cecilia Lanahan Ross. All others: Courtesy of the brands.


Send the gift of brilliantly curated books, plus a bookish gift, courtesy of Boxwalla’s partnership with the author Alexander Chee; this round’s selections comprise Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You, Jean Chen Ho’s Fiona and Jane, and a deck of tarot cards. “Escoffery’s and Ho’s books both make use of the interconnected short story collection masterfully to explore the lives of friends (Ho) and family (Escoffery) in ways a more linear novel won’t,” Chee tells VF. The story collection, he says, is a form “increasingly inspiring a new generation of American writers who see in it the opportunity for extended meditations on a subject or a community, liberated from the idea of subjugating everything inside of a book to a single climactic story. I think of the way a lifelong friendship likely has no plot in telling the story of it, but a net of interludes could describe it. Or the way the life of a family, with many stories, cannot be described by just one.” The addition of the Star Spinner Tarot will come as no surprise to readers of Chee, who has written about the nuance and lure of the cards. He chose this deck in particular, he says, “because the artist, Trung Le Nguyen, is a favorite, and his deck has a delightful mix of references for me, ranging from Sailor Moon to Victorian fairy tales to erotic comics, and together the effect of these references is an uncanny pastiche of something I haven’t seen before and something I know. Which is, for me, just like a tarot reading. If you are using the cards to learn archetypes, and you can, then what archetypes are you learning from? I like how he spins that around.” The American Fiction Series from Boxwalla, curated by Alexander Chee, $39.95/every two months. (theboxwalla.com)

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Made-to-order slippers, cut from velvet and leather, in which to pace the stacks. Bookshop x Stubbs & Wootton Library Slippers, $575. (shopbookshop.com)


Zelda Fitzgerald’s watercolor figures are peak whimsy: a cherubic F. Scott ready to don a winged pink button-down alongside fairy-tale heroines and a topless Louis XIV. The Paper Dolls of Zelda Fitzgerald by Eleanor Lanahan, $26. (simonandschuster.com)


Jot down to-do lists, novel notes, cinema critiques, and everyday hopes and dreams. Aspinal 2023 Slim Pocket Leather Diary, $65. (aspinaloflondon.com)


How better to decorate the walls of a literary-loving home than with framed caricatures of a favorite author (head suitably oversized, the better to indicate a hefty brain)? Since 1963, David Levine has illustrated more than 3,500 portraits for articles published in The New York Review of Books, including Salman Rushdie, Herman Melville, Joan Didion, W.E.B. Du Bois, Vladimir Nabokov (the latter three pictured here), and more. The New York Review of Books Caricature Prints, $195. (shop.nybooks.com)

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