A Bookish Christmas Gift Guide: Titles for Various Ages Worthy of Making It Under the Tree This Year
Last-Minute Gift Guide 2021
Check out this festive book list of new releases, classics and backlist favorites ideal for gifting to family and friends this season (or for putting on your own wish list), including my personal insights into the good reads. The categories are merely suggestions and meant to provide organization to the list; feel free to read across gender and age recommendations! Catholic publishers are noted.
However, for ease of reference, and for simple, one-stop access to reviews and book descriptions, I also created a comprehensive Amazon.com list of all the books mentioned via https://amzn.to/3oo9upQ.
For EWTN Religious Catalogue items, order via EWTNRC.com or (800) 854-6316.
When you don’t have a lot of time to read and want just a few pages to pack a punch, try: Letters to Myself from the End of the World by Emily Stimpson Chapman, or Letters to Women by Chloe Langr. Both are perfect books to pick up and read in short spurts and make you feel like you’re having coffee with a friend and getting a much-needed boost of encouragement on the journey. Worthy of Wearing by Nicole Caruso is also an edifying read, a delightful blend of fashion and the feminine genius.
Speaking of encouragement, The Plans God Has for You: Hopeful Lessons for Young Women by Register associate editor Amy Smith is one of my favorite titles to pass along to my younger girlfriends who feel like they are in a waiting place, trying to discern God’s will and find their place and purpose in life. It’s an uplifting read, bolstered by Scripture, quotes from the saints, the Catechism and wisdom learned from cultural icons. (Use code SMITH20 at StPaulCenter.com for a discounted price.)
Do you have a loved one in search of healing and health? Gift them with an approach to wellness inspired by the Catholic faith found in Melody Lyons’ The Sunshine Principle: A Radically Simple Guide to Natural Catholic Healing. Lyons has a powerful story of healing and communicates the profound truth that God designed us to thrive, outlining the path to healing in a hopeful-yet-practical way.
Prayer guides make beautiful gifts for busy-but-faith-filled women. Check out the newly released Ave Maria Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers edited by Heidi Saxton (use code KATIE for a discounted price) or Gaze Upon Jesus: Experiencing Christ’s Childhood Through the Eyes of Women, ideal for the Advent and Christmas season, edited by WINE’s Kelly Wahlquist.
Looking for a message that all women need to hear? You Are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You About Your Mission and Worth by Danielle Bean clarifies timeless, biblical truths through the powerful stories of women throughout salvation history.
Spiritual writing is supremely giftable, like any of Father Jacques Philippe’s writings (if I had to pick, maybe I’d go with Searching for and Maintaining Peace), or opt for classic works of the saints, including True Devotion to Mary, by St. Louis de Montfort, or St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross/Edith Stein’s Essays on Woman.
Thinking fiction? How about prompting a plunge into the massive-but-beautiful Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset? Or inspire delight with The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Fenollera. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden has been on my to-read list forever, but has been recommended by so many Catholic friends I have thoughts to either gift that to myself or to another this year.
The Monk Manual: 90-Day Planner is still one of my favorite gift choices for men. It’s not so much of a reading experience, but it is a bookish gift, and a unique and purposeful one at that. For another creative, useful gift, consider the new Insight Journal by Jeff Cavins, beautifully bound and meaningfully practical.
My husband loves any title by theologian Edward Sri for its easy-to-read and engaging style. His new book, The Art of Living: The Cardinal Virtues and the Freedom to Love, follows suit, full of vibrant examples and practical application.
I haven’t yet finished the phenomenal book He Leadeth Me by Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek (I know I am years late to the game in reading it), but this is on the short list of my favorite giftable books this year, and the title couldn’t be more timely in our tense and anti-religious culture, calling the reader to introspection and courage and evoking a deeper appreciation for faith and freedom.
A consecration-themed book always makes a thoughtful gift, and I love gifting the men in my life resources related to St. Joseph. Marian Father Donald Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father (deeply enjoyed by both my husband and me, as well as our parish community) and Custos: Total Consecration through St. Joseph by Devin Schadt (this one made even better by its striking, masculine cover, as featured in the Register’s first 2021 gift guide) are two great picks for men.
The leatherbound Bible in a Year from the Augustine Institute is a homerun book gift, featuring three readings a day and reflections from leading theologians (many of whom are my favorite modern Scripture commentators). It is a perfect way to make one’s way through sacred Scripture in a year, spending about 20 minutes a day in the pages of this beautiful book. If you are gifting to an avid podcast listener, check out The Bible in a Year Companion or The Bible in a Year Notebook, unique and useful resources to accompany the top-rated The Bible in a Year podcast by Father Mike Schmitz and Ascension Press. Father Schmitz’s podcast is also available at the Hallow app, Hallow.com.
Do great works need any explanation? Put classic collections on your radar for Christmas gifting this year, like G.K. Chesterton’s Spiritual Classics Collection or Warren Carroll’s History of Christendom series.
Want to gift a work of fiction? Consider C.S. Lewis’ classic Space Trilogy, Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh, or, for a more modern read, many of Catholic author Michael O’Brien’s titles are captivating, including the apocalyptic tale Father Elijah or his sci-fi/fantasy novel Voyage to Alpha Centauri.
Marriage and Family Life
I can’t wait to get my hands on Cardinal Sarah’s new title, Couples, Awaken Your Love! The book presents the essential teachings the cardinal gave on a retreat for married couples in France. I still frequently recommend his book The Power of Silence, and I expect this new one to be equally rife with his usual wisdom and thought-provoking style.
A Spouse Who Prays: A Journal to Guide You in Praying for Your Spouse* is always on my nightstand or desk, as I open it weekly and pray for my husband in a meaningful and intentional way, through its simple and helpful format. Buy it this season and pray through it over the next year, then gift it to your spouse for an upcoming Christmas, birthday or anniversary — a truly unique, spiritual gift.
Leila Miller is doing incredible work for Catholic families these days, aiding parents in their battle to raise holy kids in a secular culture with titles like Raising Chaste Catholic Men and Made This Way: How to Prepare Kids to Face Today’s Tough Moral Issues (co-authored by Trent Horn). For a collection of motivating stories of Christlike fidelity to marriage and the road to redemption out of brokenness, check out Impossible Marriages Redeemed: They Didn’t End the Story in the Middle.
And while you’re considering giftable titles that focus on the eternal goals of marriage and family life, check out Conor Gallagher’s newest release, Parenting for Eternity.
Young, independent readers will love the engaging, adventurous and sometimes humorous storylines in virtue- and faith-based series books like The Prince Martin Epic by Brandon Hale, The Chime Travelers by Lisa Hendey and Sisters of the Last Straw by Karen Kelly Boyce. For the age 10-14 crowd, check out The Virtue Chronicles series by Paul McCusker.
Catechist and teacher Katherine Bogner’s Through the Year with Jesus and Through the Year with Mary are such unique resources for Catholic families, bringing the Scriptures and Catholic prayer to life through reflection, discussion, lectio and visio divina, and beautiful art. Also on a Marian note, I love Colleen Pressprich’s Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children; Amazon. Journals make special gifts for middle-grade children, like Made for Greatness: A Growth Mindset Journal for Courageous Catholic Youth by Ginny Kochis or Be Yourself! A Journal for Catholic Girls and Be Yourself: A Journal for Catholic Boys by Amy Brooks.
For young children, our go-to gifts are always board books or picture books from First Faith Treasury*.
Can you ever go wrong gifting truly great books to kids of various ages at Christmas? The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings will always top the list for me because they look so enticing as boxed sets and are some of the best read-alouds (or read alones) of all time. Consider making the Narnia adventure really fun with the dramatized audio version produced by Focus on the Family’s Radio Theater. The fancy tin with original artwork and Narnia map put it over the top.
Both Father William Saunders’ Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas and Ryan Topping’s Christmas Around the Fire: Stories, Essays & Poems for the Season of Christ’s Birth are warm, edifying reads during Advent and Christmastime. I also love gifting books that help one dive deeper into Scripture and the profound meaning of the Christmas season with titles like Michael Barber’s The True Meaning of Christmas or Scott Hahn’s Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (And Still Does). For goodness, truth and beauty, consider Advent and Christmas With Fulton J. Sheen, edited by Judy Bauer.
Also, families, enjoy reading and gifting the Jesse Tree tradition. Sara Estabrooks has a lovely daily reflection book and mosaic-style cardstock ornaments. Or check out Kortnee Senn’s sweetly illustrated Tree of Jesse paperback book.
For seasonal picture books, Catholic author Claudia McAdam has some great Christmas titles, including Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree and The Christmas Light.
*denotes products by guide’s author; guide author also endorsed
The Plans God Has for You.