10 Great Books to Give as Gifts in 2020

Hachette/Chronicle Books/Amazon
Hachette/Chronicle Books/Amazon / Hachette/Chronicle Books/Amazon

We go through a lot of books here at Mental Floss, so it's no surprise that many of the gifts we give to friends and family every year are inspired by what we're reading. And if you're stumped on which books you should be leaving under the tree this holiday season, we're here to help. We've gathered 10 books that are perfect for a whole range of readers. Take a look at our staff picks below.

1. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses // Robin Wall Kimmerer; $17

Oregon State University Press/Amazon

With most people hunkering down at home thanks to COVID-19, it feels like everyone’s worlds have gotten a bit smaller in 2020. Learn to appreciate the finer details of your given surroundings with these essays on moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer. After reading this book, you’ll find yourself spotting moss on your socially distanced walks, whether you’re traipsing through the woods or wandering a city neighborhood. – Kerry Wolfe, Staff Editor

Buy it: Amazon

2. Parasite: A Graphic Novel in Storyboards // Bong Joon Ho; $21


Cinephiles looking to get a glimpse at the creative process will love this collection of storyboards from Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning 2019 film Parasite. Accompanied by dialogue, the storyboards tell the complete story in a new medium. It’s a perfect marriage of art and art tutorial. – Jake Rossen, Senior Staff Writer

Buy it: Amazon

3. The Kaufmann Mercantile Guide: How to Split Wood, Shuck an Oyster, and Master Other Simple Pleasures // Sebastian Kaufmann, Alexandra Redgrave, Jessica Hundley; $25

Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

Life is full of seemingly simple tasks that we realize we’ve never learned only when we’re confronted with having to do them. This elegant explainer takes the mystery out of everything from stargazing to fording a river. You may never need to do the latter, but you’ll be happy you can. – J.R.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real // The Imagineers; $46

Disney Editions/Amazon

If you couldn't take the Disney fanatic in your life to Disneyland this year, this is perfect the gift for them. Walt Disney Imagineering gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the engineering and artistry that goes into their parks and rides. And with full-color photographs and concept art, it's the next-best thing to visiting Anaheim. – Michele Debczak, Senior Staff Writer

Buy it: Amazon

5. Basketball (and Other Things) // Shea Serrano (Author) and Arturo Torres (Illustrator); $13

Harry N. Abrams/Amazon

Basketball (and Other Things) is evidence that nobody intersects sports, pop culture, and comedy better than The Ringer’s Shea Serrano. Featuring illustrations by Arturo Torres, this coffee-table-book-that-you’ll-actually-read is a perfect gift for anyone who’s up for debating which qualities make a great basketball villain—or which NBA player they’d want as an ally if The Purge happened in real life. There’s also Movies (and Other Things) ($13), if you’re buying for someone a little more interested in entertainment than basketball. ­– Ellen Gutoskey, Staff Writer

Buy it: Amazon

6. The Madman's Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History // Edward Brooke-Hitching; $30

Chronicle Books/Amazon

It wasn't easy to visit a library in person this year, but Edward Brooke-Hitching has you covered. He spent a decade on the trail of the world's oddest books, from tomes written in blood and indecipherable codes to those bound in human skin and everything in between. This sumptuously illustrated book about books will thrill any esoteric bibliophile in your life. – Kat Long, Science Editor

Pre-order it: Amazon

7 The Star Wars Archives. 1999–2005 // Paul Duncan; $190


Get a behind-the-scenes look at the most divisive time in Star Wars history with Star Wars Archives. 1999-2005. This expansive art book from TASCHEN features interviews with creator George Lucas and other members of the production team as they examine the process of bringing the Prequel Trilogy to life. From concept to end result, readers will get a detailed look at how characters like Jar Jar Binks came to be and what George Lucas's Episodes VII-IX might have looked like. Though it's on the pricier side, TASCHEN does world-class work, and this book is no exception. – Jay Serafino, Special Projects Editor

Buy it: Amazon and TASCHEN

8. At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing // John Schulian and George Kimball; $25

Library of Congress/Amazon

Whether you’re shopping for a longtime sports buff, a voracious reader of magazine/newspaper features, or someone looking for inspiration for their own writing, you’ll find it all in At the Fights. This 500-page tome collects some of the 20th century’s best articles on boxing and features the works of Jack London, George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Gay Talese, Budd Schulberg, and plenty more. From the rundown gyms of Jersey City to the glitzy façade of Las Vegas, pugilism is both romanticized and vilified in these works, and each story examines the sport through a different lens. – J.S.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The Western: Four Classic Novels of the 1940s & 50s // Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Alan Le May, Jack Schaefer, and Oakley Hall; $28

Library of Congress/Amazon

Personally, I’m a bit obsessed with the collections on offer from The Library of America, and The Western is one of their best. It collects four landmark novels of the genre—The Ox-Bow Incident, The Searchers, Shane, and Warlock—and wraps them all up in a beautifully painted cover by G. Russell Case. It’s a simple collection, but it’s hefty enough to give any reader on your list something new to jump into for a month or so. – J.S.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Leave It as It Is: A Journey Through Theodore Roosevelt's American Wilderness // David Gessner; $19

Simon & Schuster/Amazon

In Leave It as It Is, author David Gessner writes about many of the parks and natural wonders that President Theodore Roosevelt championed during his lifetime. While looking back at TR's conservationist legacy, Gessner also looks ahead at the challenges our environment faces today, from climate change to the current state of the Native American tribes still living on these lands. It's a book that should speak to anyone concerned with the current state of our environment and the potential for bettering our public lands. – J.S.

Buy it: Amazon

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