Buying books as gifts this holiday season? Texas Standard is here to help

We talked to Texas booksellers about the big books of the season and brought you some recommendations.

By Sarah AschNovember 24, 2023 9:00 am,

What’s your go-to gift during the holiday season? For a lot of people, the answer to that question is simple: books. 

Like a lot of retailers, booksellers do good business in November and December. But why do so many turn to books as presents, and what should you buy this year for the bookworm in your life?

It turns out, the popularity of books as a holiday gift stems from the early 1800s, when Christmas became more family-oriented and commercial, according to reporting by the New York Times.

At the time, books were a luxury item and therefore made special presents for people who could afford to give them. 

Today, books are more commonplace — but booksellers still try to stock titles they think will be popular gifts during the winter months.

Morgan Moore, who co-owns Pantego Books just outside of Arlington, said her customer base tends to go for romance novels, sci-fi and fantasy. 

Courtesy HarperCollins

“One I think is going to be pretty big for us (this winter) is ‘The Mystery Guest,’ which is the follow up to ‘The Maid.’ I think that that’s going to sell pretty well,” she said. “Also ‘Holly Jolly Ever After,’ which is a Christmas Notch novel by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone. It’s a very spicy Christmas romance. The first one of this particular series was ‘A Merry Little Meet Cute,’ and I could not keep it in stock.”

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Moore said she also expects to sell plenty of copies of big memoirs that came out this fall — including one by Britney Spears and one by Barbara Streisand

At BookPeople in Austin, booksellers have a holiday shopping catalog to point customers to new titles. Consuelo Wilder, the buying director for BookPeople, recommended several books, including “Emperor of Rome by Mary Beard for history nerds.

Wilder also recommended “What You Are Looking for Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama. 

Courtesy Hanover Square Press

“It’s a really charming little book, a very simple story about a librarian and the books she recommends to her patrons. And so it’s simply about friendship,” Wilder said. “I think everybody who’s looking for an easy gift for the book lovers in their life, this would be the one for them.” 

Wilder also recommended a rom-com novel called “You, Again” by Kate Goldbeck that is being compared to “When Harry Met Sally,” and a book called “Falling Back in Love with Being Human” by Kai Cheng Thom.

“It’s a nonfiction book about transforming the negative thoughts in your life about the world and the kind of despair that you might have in the world that we live in and turning it into compassion and love for humanity,” she said. 

Megan Goel, who is in charge of buying children’s and young adult books for BookPeople, had some titles in mind for those shopping for the younger crowd. For those who need a picture book, Goel suggestedSearch for a Giant Squid by Amy Seto Forrester.

“It is a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure, pick your own path’ guide to finding a giant squid,” Goel said. “You’ve got to find your crew, choose a submersible, learn a little bit about their habits, then take a dive and see what you can find.” 

For middle grade readers, Goel recommended “The Mona Lisa Vanishes,” which tells the true story of the theft of the famous painting. For young adults, she recommended “Thieves’ Gambit by Kayvion Lewis. 

Courtesy Nancy Paulsen Books

“This is the story of Ross Quest. She is the scion of a legendary thief family and after a heist’s gone bad, she has to enter the Gambit to save her mother’s life,” she said. “The Gambit is a shadowy international theft competition, and it pulls together elite young thieves from around the world in a quest to win it all.”

More important than picking the “it” book of the season, though, is finding the right book for your loved one. That, Moore said, is at the heart of why we buy books as gifts.

“For me, it’s a really personal gift. It’s something that you have to go and really think about someone or try and find a specific title for someone… You took your time to go into a store or buy one online for somebody,” she said.

“I think just about everyone knows someone who is an avid reader. Maybe it’s one person or maybe it’s your entire group of friends because that’s who you surround yourself with… It is something that is, like I said, really personal.”

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