Welcome to the first annual Tao of J.T. holiday gift guide! It’s a bit unfair to call it a full-blown gift guide, since it’s most books, but there are some other suggestions for your favorite bookworm/nerd, too. So let’s jump right in, shall we?
These are my hands down favorite of the year. I read more than 70 pleasure books this year, and these are the cream of the crop.
Frighteningly accurate modern thrillers are Silva’s specialty, and this latest installment in his acclaimed Gabriel Allon series doesn’t disappoint. It’s the most topical novel I’ve read in a long time, which Silva addresses in his author’s note. It goes to show that well-researched authors truly do have their finger on the pulse of the world. This is a can’t-miss read and my #1 for the year. In my humble opinion, Silva is the finest thriller writer working today.
Perfect for: Thriller junkies and current events enthusiasts
What a brilliant book. A masterful, slow-burn suspense novel, Mackintosh’s debut is clever, misleading, and beautifully written. I found myself wishing for the seclusion of a small Wales beach, and then very happy I didn’t have that. You won’t see the twist coming, I promise.
Perfect for: Your friend who hated GONE GIRL and GIRL ON THE TRAIN but loves a great psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator, and Gothic lovers
What a fabulous romp this book is. I forced myself not to read it in one sitting because I couldn’t wait to see where Cline’s brain took me. An elegy to the 80s and 90s pop culture, this dystopian reality game inside a reality game is wonderfully visual and entertaining—plus, it will be in theaters under Spielberg’s guidance in 2018. An astounding debut.
Perfect for: Anyone from Generation X, fans of video games, John Hughes, and science fiction fans, plus young writers looking for their path.
Every year I reread a favorite series, and this year, when I hit a reading slump, I dove back in to Diana and Matthew’s magical world. It took me several tries to get into A Discover of Witches, but once I did, the book became an obsession, one I heartily recommend to everyone. These books are so different, so unique, that even though there are some wink and nods to the vampire/witch/urban fantasy tropes, it never falls prey to them due to the exceptionally high level of scientific knowledge throughout.
Perfect for: Your fantasy, romance, or science lover
This book. This hideously scary, depraved, frightening book. I couldn’t put it down, but I couldn’t handle more than a few chapters at a time. Slaughter lives up to her name, and absolutely turns the genre on its ear with her willingness to “go there.” She never flinches, and as such manages to put together novels that plumb the darkest depths of humanity. This isn’t a light read, nor appropriate for readers who can’t handle gore. But it is a masterpiece of fear, perfectly constructed and ingeniously plotted.
Perfect for: Your dark thriller lover
A spooky end to the Bliss House trilogy, Benedict’s latest creation is dark, scary, and utterly Gothic. Happily, it’s freaky story is accompanied by gorgeous prose and impeccable research. It’s a must read.
Perfect for: Those who love haunted houses and spooky stories, history, and southern Gothic tales
A heartbreaking and gorgeous novel about the last doomed flight of the Hindenburg, Lawhon creates the never-before-seen interior life of the airship as it crosses the Atlantic. Seeing the people who were on the ship, and knowing that they might not all survive, gives this book a verisimilitude lacking in others of the Hindenburg canon.
Perfect for: Your literary history lover
Another incredible debut, this Bright Lights, Big City for millennials is a behind-the-doors peek into the restaurant industry. Funny and irreverent, with evocative prose and an accessible style. If Danler can write books at this level consistently, she’s a serious name to watch. A true talent.
Perfect for: Your young culinary friends who love restaurants, food, and wine
Gosh, I am debut central, it seems. Knoll’s creepy, haunting mystery is wonderful, and, like Macintosh, you won’t see the twist coming. Knoll’s personal life informs a lot of the character, and makes the story that much grittier. I couldn’t put it down.
Perfect for: Fans of psychological thrillers and well-constructed mysteries with unreliable narrators
Ellis is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, Eating the Cheshire Cat, so when I heard she was putting out a short story collection, I leaped on board. As The Kerr says, these are some of the creepiest bedtime stories ever, all masquerading in the homely skin of the American housewife. With this truly subversive collection, Ellis cements herself as one of my favorites.
Perfect for: A short story lover, a Gothic fan, or that friend who's just a little bit off
I’ve never been a huge WWII fan, but this book changed all that for me. Furst’s multi-novel oeuvre is set in the war era, with an incredible eye for detail and truly human characters. This installment is about a leader of the French Resistance, and it’s stunning how well the conceit of “history as plot” works. This is a series, but loosely so, which means you can start anywhere.
Perfect for: History buffs, World War II fanatics, and francophiles
Probably the most impactful book I read this year, Newport has single-handedly saved many of us from the demonic lure of social media. Deep Work talks at length about how important it is to turn off the internet and truly create — whether painting, writing, computer coding, whatever. I credit this book with helping me find a real, sustainable balance between my creative work and online world. As important to the creative life as On Writing, Bird by Bird, and The War of Art, so don’t miss it.
Perfect for: Your friend who bemoans their time on Facebook and Twitter, plus people who are interested in neuroscience, social media’s impact on society, productivity, and all creatives
Blackwing Long Point Pencil Sharpener - A necessity for your new Blackwing Pencils.
"I do what I want" Mug - A visual way to inform your loved ones and colleagues of your badassery
Clairefontaine Notebooks - The loveliest paper in all the land will make your note-taking joyful
Midori Travelers Notebook - A gorgeous, rustic idea notebook. People will stop and ask where you got this every time you pull it out.
Gryffindor Pajama Pants - Remember, this is the Nerd Gifts category.
Freedom - Say goodbye to online distractions and hello to quality, uninterrupted work time.
Zen and the Art of Work - This online course helps you find calm and productivity in your work and play. A new favorite of mine!
Scrivener - My go-to writing program, and hands down the world's best writing software. Only $45!
Vellum - Transform a Word doc into a beautiful ebook in ten minutes. Perfect for indie authors.
Shipt - Grocery delivery is such a HUGE time (and headache) saver!
Svenja Gosen word trackers - A free but awesome gift for the writer/CPA in your life
And, finally, a free gift! 🙌🏻
Why not give the gift of my newsletter, perfect for your favorite reader or chef.
A - It costs nothing
B - It’s a free ebook for your friends
C - There’s a treasure trove of delicious, healthy recipes
D - More book recommendations!
Just sayin’ — it’s the best free gift ever!
Do y'all have any gift suggestions? Let me know if you find something cool!