2021 Gift Guide for Book Lovers

It’s gift-giving season, and we’re making it easier. Here are 23 Stanford-connected titles for the bibliophiles in your life.

The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another book cover

For the innovator.

The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, Ainissa Ramirez, MS ’92, PhD ’98; MIT Press. Eight inventions that radically changed our lives, and the materials that made them possible.

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Book with wrapped gift package on a table

For the pitmaster.

Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue, Adrian Miller, ’91; University of North Carolina Press. Miller explores one of the most celebrated soul foods and asks why Black barbecuers—who created barbecue as we know it today and still practice their culinary art across America—have been overshadowed by white barbecuers since the 1990s.

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I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye: A Memoir of Loss, Grief, and Love book cover

For someone looking for a light in the darkness.

I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye: A Memoir of Loss, Grief, and Love, Ivan Maisel, ’81; Hachette Books. In the midst of family tragedy, a father decides that the best path is candor.

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The Role I Played: Canada’s Greatest Olympic Hockey Team book cover

For the athlete.

The Role I Played: Canada’s Greatest Olympic Hockey Team, Sami Jo Small, ’98; ECW Press. Small offers a fascinating insider’s account of the intensity, competition and camaraderie of elite women’s hockey.

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Your Turn: How to Be an Adult book cover

For, well, pretty much anyone.

Your Turn: How to Be an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, ’89; Henry Holt and Co. The author of the bestselling How to Raise an Adult pivots to advise young people directly. “I am not smarter than you. I am not wiser than you. I’m just going to tell you what I know,” she says.

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Tiny Imperfections book cover

For rock star parents.

Tiny Imperfections, Alli Frank, MA ’99, and Asha Youmans; G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Make a great escape with this novel of ambition, family and the absurdities of private-school admissions in San Francisco.

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Girls at the Edge of the World book with wrapped gift box

For dystopia-loving teens.

Girls at the Edge of the World, Laura Robson, ’18; Dial Books. Fantasy, love, murder, aerial skills. Oh, and the potential end of the human race.

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While I Was Away book cover

For the fish out of water.

While I Was Away, by Waka Takahashi Brown, ’94, MA ’95; Quill Tree Books. Pitch-perfect memoir for tweens, teens and anyone who has ever felt out of place.

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Advise and Consent book cover

For the Capitol Hill curious.

Advise and Consent, Allen Drury, ’39; Doubleday. The 1959 bestseller depicted the nomination of a controversial liberal to the office of secretary of state and the deadly struggle within the Senate to confirm him. What started out as a political page-turner became a cultural phenomenon.

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Gitty and Kvetch book cover

For any kiddo having a tough time.

Gitty and Kvetch, Caroline Kusin Pritchard, ’10, MA ’14; Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Everyone needs a friend like Kvetch, whose Yiddishisms add levity to a dreary day in this gorgeously illustrated children’s book.

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The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation book cover

For an amazing woman.

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, Anna Malaika Tubbs, ’14; Flatiron Books. A closer look at these moms of extraordinary sons is also a celebration of Black motherhood.

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Thirty-Three Ways of Looking at an Elephant book cover

For the animal lover.

Thirty-Three Ways of Looking at an Elephant, Dale Peterson (ed.), MA ’69, PhD ’77; Trinity University Press. What we do and don’t know about this ambling, astute wonder of the world.

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Eva and Otto: Resistance, Refugees, and Love in the Time of Hitler book cover

For history buffs and incurable romantics.

Eva and Otto: Resistance, Refugees, and Love in the Time of Hitler, Tom Pfister, ’70, Kathy Pfister and Peter Pfister; Purdue University Press. Letter by love letter, the correspondence of a young German couple builds a story of their work to undermine fascism and support the Allied war effort.

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The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection and Courage book cover

For the aspiring fitness buff

The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection and Courage, Kelly McGonigal, PhD ’04; Avery. Shake your tail feather—it can give your blues a break and boost feelings of belonging.

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Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization book cover

For the home brewer.

Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, Edward Slingerland, ’91, PhD ’98; Little, Brown Spark. Even in the best outcomes, drinking often exacts a heavy toll, from hazy heads to cringe-worthy karaoke memories. And at its worst, the consequences can be truly catastrophic. So why do humans keep bellying up to the bar thousands of years after the first hangover? The question is at the center of this erudite, entertaining and edgy defense of (mostly) moderate drinking.

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The Puzzle Solver: A Scientist’s Desperate Quest to Cure the Illness That Stole His Son book cover

For the family diagnostician.

The Puzzle Solver: A Scientist’s Desperate Quest to Cure the Illness That Stole His Son, Tracie White with Ronald W. Davis, director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center and a professor of biochemistry and of genetics; Hachette Books. It’s the story of a young man’s battle with chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). And it’s a portrait of Davis as father and scientist as he divides his time between caring for his son and doing the research he hopes will save Whitney’s life.

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United We Eat: 50 Great American Dishes to Bring Us All Together book cover

For the foodie.

United We Eat: 50 Great American Dishes to Bring Us All Together, Capri S. Cafaro, ’96; Story Farm. Reach across the table, reach across the aisle. We (really!) recommend Pepsi Salad, page 118.

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Beyond the Sand and Sea: One Family’s Quest for a Country to Call Home book cover

For someone in need of perspective.

Beyond the Sand and Sea: One Family’s Quest for a Country to Call Home, Ty McCormick, ’10; Macmillan. “Kept alive but prevented from living. . . .” In these few words, Ty McCormick, an editor at Foreign Affairs, introduces the plight of Dadaab, Kenya, once the world’s largest refugee complex, housing hundreds of thousands of Somalis after civil war overwhelmed their country in 1991.

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Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History book cover

For the sartorial savant.

Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History, Richard Thompson Ford, ’88; Simon & Schuster. Ford dissects dress codes with the eloquence and argumentative precision you’d expect of a law professor, deftly drawing ideological lines from the sprezzatura (studied nonchalance) Castiglione recommended in The Book of the Courtier to The Official Preppy Handbook, from the Zoot Suit Riots to the sagging pants of urban Black teens, and from Louis XIV’s red heels to Christian Louboutin’s red soles.

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Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life book cover

For someone who’s all business.

Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life, Jennifer Aaker, PhD ’95, and Naomi Bagdonas, MBA ’15; Crown. Funny but true: Wit works magic in the workplace.

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Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life book cover

For the juggler.

Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life, Joann S. Lublin, MA ’71; Harper Collins. Comparing Boomer and Gen X moms’ experiences to assess whether we’ve made progress.

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Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land book cover

For anyone seeking to feel more grounded.

Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land, N. Scott Momaday, MA ’60, PhD ’63; Harper. Sharp, powerful storytelling brings spiritual drought relief.

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Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways book cover

For someone whose imagination could use a jump-start.

Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways, Sarah Stein Greenberg, MBA ’06; Ten Speed Press. Rev up your ingenuity with this treasure map of the mind from the executive director of Stanford’s d.school.

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