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Boswell Book Company's top titles to gift in 2023

Christmas gift box and pile of books with fairy lights on background
Masson - stock.adobe.com
Christmas gift box and pile of books with fairy lights on background

As the holidays draw closer, you might be looking for an idea of what to give the readers off all ages in your life. Every year, we check in with Boswell Book Company to get their recommendations for the best books to gift. Book buyers, Jason Kennedy and Jen Steele provide this year's suggestions.

Jason Kennedy's picks

Bloomsbury Publishing

The Globemakers by Peter Bellerby

Part history, part memoir, The Globemakers follows Peter Bellerby's journey to becoming a globe maker, sparked by trying to find his hard-to-please dad the best gift. After searching far and wide for the perfect globe and not being satisfied with his options, Bellerby decided to learn how to make globes for himself and this book highlights his journey into globes craftsmanship and now running his own business: Bellerby & Co. Globemakers.

This book takes you through the journey of how to build a globe, and includes insights into the history, art history, astronomy and physics, and the day-to-day craftsmanship at the workshop itself.

"I mean, [globes] are literally a gorgeous piece of art," says Kennedy. "It's absolutely one of my favorite books of the season. It is a treat to read, [Bellerby is] funny and very knowledgeable. You will leave this understanding globe making, map making, what the differences are and have a really good time."

Girlfriend on Mars by Deborah Willis

This fiction work follows a couple - a boyfriend who's searching for his role in life while selling marijuana out of their apartment, and his girlfriend Amber who is not happy. She decides to join a reality TV show to be one of the first of two people on Mars, sponsored by a billionaire.

Penguin Random House

Amber leaves her boyfriend Kevin with little explanation and he pines for her while watching the reality TV show she stars in believing she'll come back to Earth. "He watches the reality TV show, he becomes a part of of the reality TV show when she's talking about him on the show about not being 'the one.' And no spoilers here, but it's pretty much hinted at from the beginning [that] she does get to be one of two people to go to Mars. And that, you know, is probably not a good thing just sending two people," notes Kennedy. "It's funny, it's interesting, the relationships get complicated and it's a lot of fun."

A City on Mars by Kelly & Zach Weinersmith

This non-fiction book examines what would the logistics of living on Mars actually involve and is it feasible? Kelly and Zach Weinersmith set out to write the essential guide to space settlements, but balance that with research showing the hurdles we would have to overcome without creating conflict back on Earth.

"This is funny and enlightening and they create this random character at the end of each section. They basically put him through all the stuff they just talked about for that chapter and you realize that would be real bad. As they say, space just wants to kill you," says Kennedy.

The World by Simon Sebag Montifiore

Around 1200 pages, Kennedy does admit it's "a doorstopper" of a book, but the good thing about The World is that you can read it sections at a time.

"[Montifiore] has a very conversational tone when he's writing paired with the exhaustive research that he does, and what this book does that I find fascinating is he starts off at the beginning of written human history and looks at the family unit. And usually the family unit that is in power, because they're the ones that are going to leave the most writing behind," Kennedy explains.

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

From bloody to weird, it starts from the Syrians all the way up through the Twentieth Century. "It really will open your eyes to where the power lies in the world and how these families can shape the world and the direction that humanity goes. It's a really good book," he adds.

Start Here: Instructions for Becoming a Better Cook by Sohla El-Waylly

"This is absolutely one of my favorite cookbooks of this season," notes Kennedy. "Outside of the recipes, the writing in it is humorous ... You can go from beginners all the way through more experienced cooks in the kitchen. [El-Waylly] explains all the necessary things you need... her goal is, I think, to get you to the point where you're comfortable winging your own recipes," Kennedy explains.

"I would say that she's setting you up to succeed, to learn, to enjoy really good food. It's a fun cookbook. I think this is good for anybody in your family who has either been cooking for years, or is just picking up a spatula now," he adds.

Jen Steele's picks

The classic story of the night before Christmas gets a twist in this engaging holiday picture book filled with die-cuts from the acclaimed and beloved picture book creator, Lois Ehlert.
Simon & Schuster
"Red & Green" is a retelling of the classic story of the night before Christmas with a Lois Ehlert twist — full of bold colors and fun cut outs. This was Elhert's final project before she passed, and her editor and publisher finished the project in tribute to Elhert.

Red & Green by Lois Ehlert

"This is [Lois Ehlert's] final project. She had assembled everything before passing and her editor & the publisher finished the project and I think it's a lovely tribute to her. It has her style, she's just all over on each page [with] little cut outs. It's a great little Christmas book, a retelling of 'The Night Before Christmas' - it's a lot of fun [for] ages up to three," says Steele.

Something, Someday by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Christian Robinson

A picture book for ages four and up, it shows readers that they have the power to make change in their community.

"This shows a boy, he's walking down the street and he sees trash, and he's told it's not our problem - somebody else will take it up. And he just keeps noticing all the litter and he makes a change. He just takes one step and he plants a little garden in the neighborhood and then people see what he's doing and they come and they help him create this beautiful garden," Steele explains.

"It's beautiful and it's [Gorman's] style. It has a lovely verse to it, it's a great read-aloud storybook."

The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris

Steele's "Buyer's Pick of the Year," The Eyes and the Impossible comes in a special edition that's wood bound with gold edges.

"What is really cool about this [book] is they're all classical paintings and what the illustrator did was put the main character in each one ... it's gorgeous. This is a middle grade novel, but really it's for all ages and I recommend everyone to read this. It definitely is one of my favorites and it's told from the point of view of Johannes, a free dog in a huge public park," says Steele.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Chinese Menuby Grace Lin

Chinese Menu is not a cookbook, but a history and folklore book on Chinese foods for ages eight and up.

"The book is set up like a menu, so you have different courses and you can read it in any order ... [Grace Lin] does include one recipe, her favorite dish her mother would make at the end of the book, which is very sweet. It's a great history for anyone who's interested in American Chinese food," says Steele.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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