2020 Gift Guide for Book Lovers

Ready or not, holiday gift-giving season is here. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you by looking back at Stanford-connected titles that crossed our desks this year, and we’ve got one for each of the book lovers in your life. Treat yourself, too—’tis the season to stockpile reading material for your winter staycation.

Elway: A Relentless Life book with two presents on a white background

For your dad, a legend in his own right, who lights up at any chance to talk about “the Play.”

Elway: A Relentless Life, Jason Cole, ’84; Hachette. This well-sourced biography of former Cardinal and Denver Broncos great John Elway, ’83, is a playbook for leaders in the making. (If you’ve never heard of the Play, beef up on your Stanford history here.)

Two books and three presents on a white backdrop

For your wise-cracking sister-in-law, the only woman on the data science team.

Toxic Femininity in the Workplace: Office Gender Politics Are a Battlefield, Ginny Hogan, ’13; Morrow Gift. The best humor touches on the truth; this snarky gem, whose chapters include “I’m Not a Sexist; I Also Ask My Male Colleagues if They’re Menstruating” and “How Silicon Valley Created the Perfect Meritocracy if You Specifically Happen to Be a Young, Straight, Well-Educated White Man,” is a full-on embrace.

For your pre-pandemic running buddy, who’s patiently awaiting the delivery of his Peleton.

The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, Kelly McGonigal, PhD ’04; Avery. Humans were born to move. Using a mix of science and stories, the author of The Willpower Instinct explains how exercise affects not only your body but also your brain and your emotional health.

Two books and three presents on a white backdrop

For Nana and Pop-Pop, to read to your toddler on Zoom.

I Love You When You’re Close and When You’re Far Away, Benjamin Lindquist; self-published. Lindquist, a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine, wrote this book for his 2-year-old daughter, Kiley, to explain why the threat of COVID-19 meant she couldn’t hug her grandparents or do her usual activities with them. “I Love You When You’re Close and When You’re Far Away uses Lindquist’s rhymes along with depictions of his own family doing everyday activities to show very young children that though our interactions might have changed to stop germs from spreading, there is still a lot of love going around,” wrote Summer Moore Batte, ’99, in STANFORD.

For your moms-group friend, who runs a business while supervising distance learning and is understandably a little burned out.

Dare to Inspire: Sustain the Fire of Inspiration in Work and Life, Allison Holzer, Sandra Spataro, ’88, MA ’88, and Jen Grace Baron; Da Capo Lifelong Books. Moments of insight need not be fleeting; the energy they spark can keep the motivation going.

The Resisters book and four presents on a white background

For your dystopian fiction–loving brother, the smartest and most insightful reader you know.

The Resisters, Gish Jen, Gr. ’80; Knopf. Welcome to AutoAmerica, an unsettlingly plausible dystopia in the not-too-far future, where the “Surplus” are born with three strikes against them and the game of baseball offers hope.

Two books and three presents on a white backdrop

For your niece, who handwrote letters to voters in swing states while studying for midterms and paid for the stamps with her babysitting money.

Break the Good Girl Myth: How to Dismantle Outdated Rules, Unleash Your Power, and Design a More Purposeful Life, Majo Molfino, MA ’13; HarperOne. Yes girl no more: Use design thinking to summon your suppressed inner badass.

For the woman on your list who had a tough 2020. (So, every woman on your list.)

Take Two: A Journal for New Beginnings, Kate Simpson, MA ’98, Ellen Watson and Kari Herer; Chronicle Books. This guided journal is filled with inspirational quotes and photos that evoke the serenity found in nature, and offers prompts that gently nudge the writer toward a mindset of resilience.

Three books and two presents on a white background

For your grad student nephew, who can convince anyone that these aren’t the droids they’re looking for.

The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, Jonah Berger, ’02, PhD ’07; Simon & Schuster. The trick is in convincing the “five horsemen of inertia” that they want to dismount.

For your mom, who taught you to look for beauty in obstacles.

Places I’ve Taken My Body, Molly McCully Brown, ’12; Persea Books. It’s tempting to finish the book in one go, but don’t. This poet’s essays on moving through life with cerebral palsy are worth savoring.

For your news junkie boss, who hasn’t looked up from his text alerts since March.

In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better than You and You Are Better than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book, Joel Stein, ’93, MA ’94; Grand Central Publishing. “After the mainstream media incorrectly predicted the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a number of mostly coastal journalists set forth to figure out why they’d been so off base,” wrote Kathy Zonana, ’93, JD ’96, in STANFORD. “Generally, this involved going into the heartland to interview white working-class voters, then writing anecdotal stories that humanized a handful of individual subjects without shedding much light on why certain groups of voters—and not just the white working class—defied expectations. This journalistic voyage became known, pejoratively, as a Cletus safari. Is a Cletus safari more tolerable when it’s undertaken by Joel Stein, the journalist-humorist whose penchant for self-deprecation is his stock in trade? Yes, yes it is.”

Two books and three presents on a white backdrop

For your singer-songwriter housemate, who loves a story of heartbreak and redemption.

Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett, ’96; Celadon Books. Child of the Synanon cult, Stanford alum, journalist and lead singer of the Airborne Toxic Event, Jollett proffers the antidote to boredom.

For your resilience-embodying older sister, who knows great fiction can show us how to live.

Transcendent Kingdom: A Novel, Yaa Gyasi, ’11, Knopf. After her athlete brother dies from an overdose and her mother spirals into depression, a Stanford neuroscientist is driven to find the science behind what makes humans so fragile and fallible.