LITERARY GEEK GIFTGUIDE (By Genre) – #1 Gifts for The New Weird Woman

I have a shameful addiction to gift guides.  I am also a book junkie, to such a desperate extent that no one can buy me books anymore.  No one knows what my shelves contain, because I’m a criminal cross-genre reader of everything. Think I don’t have a book of Madeleine Vionnet’s patterns adapted by Issey Miyake? I do. Biography of Cicero? Yep. Complete works of Angela Carter? Yes, though I’d love them leatherbound. (Anyone?)

That said, one of my happiest Christmas morning memories involves a bookgift from my mom. I was maybe eight years old, and the gift was a tall stack of books, each one wrapped individually. We didn’t have much money, and so a gift of even one book was a treat.  My mom hit it WAY out of the park that year.  She gave me a dozen.  Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Elizabeth Enright, Noel Streatfeild.  I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that those books are a huge part of what made me a writer. They took my mind and shook it – all of them are about young girls having fierce and amazing adventures – and because the books were all written by women, they gave me an idea I’d never had before, that I might one day become a writer too. Sidenote: Noel Streatfeild’s books also caused me me speak with a British accent, and using WWII-era expressions (“blackout shades!” “kippers!” “rusk!”), much to the bemusement of my peers in rural Idaho.

Giving someone a book is more than just giving them a present.  It’s giving them a possibility.  I’m not saying everyone is destined to become a writer, but that’s not the only thing a gift of a book can inspire.  Reading is not just entertainment, it’s also inspiration.  Stories make us, and it’s never too late to be blown away by something new.

Included here are many of my favorite books, and a lot of them were written by my favorite people. This is a series of posts, to avoid utter overwhelm.  I categorized the gifts by Type Of Lit Geek, because that’s my favorite kind of guide. It enables me to imagine people actually GETTING these presents, which is the best part. And, you know, they are categorized by genre. Because I’m like, a writer and stuff. So herewith, the first post. Gifts for….


Her tattoos (she has tattoos. Maybe you haven’t seen them yet, but she has them) are bits taken from Pompeiian murals, and poems in dead languages.  She probably owns a bat skeleton.  She wears antique cocktail rings on all her fingers, along with a tailcoat, a 30’s sequined gown, and a pair of turquoise cowboy boots she bought in Marfa. She’s very likely cooler than you are.
The photo above is from Atelier Abigail Ahern. The girl on the couch is gorgeous, but she’s not the best part. No. The best part is that the walls are covered with BOOKCASE PRINTED WALLPAPER.  Which you can find here, if that is your thing. It is my thing. It would also be a perfect present for someone like the person we’re talking about here. Provided you know her pretty well, and can therefore reasonably buy her a roll or two of wallpaper.  If not, though…
This is what she wants.

Encyclopedia of  the Exquisite:

An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights 

by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins

This is a fabulous compendium of lovely things. If your giftee is anything like me, (as in, she’s kind of irritatingly encyclopedic herself when it comes to awesome weird things, but she loves surprises) there will be a bunch of wonderful details here she’s never heard of.  Plus, it’s just basically charming, illustrated, and enticing. Each entry has a small essay. Topics range from Ambrosia to Whistling.


by Nicolas Christopher

This book is a stunning oddity, part noir, part magical city narrative. It reminds me a little of Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale (one of my favorites) crossed with Tim Power’s Anubis Gates. This book’s narrator is Leo, a photographer, who falls in with the title character, an unforgettable femme fatale. Veronica is the daughter of an illusionist who has, through an assistant’s sabotage, disappeared, doomed to wander through time. She enlists Leo’s help to bring him back. The book is also an eloquent love letter to a New York City that should – and sometimes does – exist.


By Kathryn Davis

This is an extraordinary novel dealing with the weird friendship between an elderly Danish opera composer and her neighbor. It’s part fairy tale, part invented opera, part realistic story of adultery and murder. It reminds me a bit of Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales, and it contains some totally incredible descriptions of invented operas, of their sets and stagings. This is a good bet for the girl who has read everything, because Davis – being a distinctly hybrid genre writer , part speculative and part literary, but marketed largely as lit- is not as known as I’d like her to be. I happened upon her completely accidentally.  I can’t recommend Kathyrn Davis enough. I read all her novels this year.


by Daniel Abadie

A gorgeous and lavish biography of French husband and wife surrealists Francois-Xavier and Claude Lalanne. The book is full of the most stunning photographs of the duo’s work, ranging from a giant metal desk in the shape of a rhinoceros to Salvador Dali’s escargot-shaped silverware.
While you’re at it, you might also get her this gorgeous limited edition Cabinet of Curiousities print of a squid inside a jar by Suzanne Norris.


What else? How about this? Catbird NYC has a bunch of cool weird doodads, and it turns out that I (or you know, the woman mentioned above) want all of them.  Especially this fighting bears ring.

Wrap these books individually in handprinted paper. Tie the whole thing with velvet ribbon. (PS: These gifts are great for dudes too. Even the ring would look good on the finger of a confident guy, in my humble opinion.)
ADDENDUM:  I thought of a few other books which fit beautifully into this list, and could easily be swapped in for satisfaction to your giftee. I’ll probably just keep adding. In brief.
Rikki Ducornet’s THE JADE CABINET – One part Alice in Wonderland, one part memory palace love story, sister story, trouble tale – “Let’s suppose the memory is a cabinet of chameleons and the mind as unstable as the moon.”  Amazing.
THE HEARING TRUMPET.  A surrealist oddity written by the firebrand painter Leonora Carrington.  A 92 year old woman is packed off to an old folk’s home – but the home is not as expected. It contains a gate to the underworld, as well as skillions of other oddities. It’s hilarious and fantastical and rebellious.

4 thoughts on “LITERARY GEEK GIFTGUIDE (By Genre) – #1 Gifts for The New Weird Woman

  1. I love this! Great gift ideas. I’m taking it upon myself to add the book Her Fearful Symmetry to the list. It fits right along with your sort of goth/booklovin’/romantic/couch-lounger gift package.

  2. Pingback: A Few Good Gift Guides | BOOK RIOT

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