Holiday Gift Guide: 9 Books for Your Narrow-Minded Relative

by  | December 19

Have a racist uncle in your family? Maybe a grandma with some weird things to say about gendered bathrooms? A second cousin who thinks women should stay in the kitchen? Whatever prejudice you have to face in your family this holiday season, be sure to go in fully armed with this gift guide full of mind-opening, acceptance-expanding books. Keep your uneducated enemies close! (And your woke enemies closer!)

(Related: 7 Gifts Under $30 To Delight The Book Lover In Your Life)

h21. You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

One-half of 2 Dope Queens, one of the absolute best things to emerge victorious from this poop fire of a year, Phoebe Robinson’s essay collection will spell out the things that black women shouldn’t have to explain to white people anymore, including but not limited to: tokenism, racist casting calls, the myth of the Angry Black Woman, and, of course, the titular statement.

Whether you buy this for a white person who’s trying to do better as an ally, or for an out-of-touch grandparent who hasn’t seen a black person since he accidentally clicked past Different World on TV, Phoebe’s incredible manifesto will make anyone a better person for reading it.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

2. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelsonh3

Everyone in the world should read anything Maggie Nelson as a requirement for earth citizenship, but The Argonauts is one of her most intimate and searing works. The book has been billed as “auto-theory,” an academically-inclined self-portrait of Nelson’s relationship with her partner, artist Harry Dodge, how they met, and their children.

Dodge does not identify as trans, but is fluidly gendered, which may seem hard to grasp for some people beyond the millennial generation. Drawing on quotations from theorists in the fields of sociology, psychology, and philosophy, Nelson reflects on her role as mother and partner in a deeply affecting way that perfectly fuses her elegant poetic voice with keen erudition.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

h43. Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

This groundbreaking book on the evolution of sex is highly touted by Dan Savage, grand dame of advice for the lovelorn. Why not pair it with a Magnum subscription to the Savage Lovecast? That way, you can school the skeptical about slutty bonobo monkeys, open relationships, the structure of monogamy, and the genetically-ingrained biology at play when we choose our mates.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound


h54. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

What can be said about this painfully beautiful book that hasn’t already been said? This is the story of an American teacher, rather reserved and highly self-conscious, who meets the mysterious gigolo Mitko in western Bulgaria. A stranger in a strange land, coming to terms with who and how he loves, our protagonist becomes somewhat obsessed with the reticent object of his affection, and so unravels a history of hidden desire, a virus of want.

The narrator’s inner monologue of second-guessing, of shame, and of desire from the core, is a web of emotions that any one who’s been in love would be able to relate to.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

h65. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, whose goal is to accumulate the varieties of sexism that women face on a day to day basis. Not inclusive enough for you? Don’t worry: the book also includes a chapter about sexism towards men, in a surprising and insightful turn.

From slights in the workplace to catcalls at construction sites, this book runs the gamut on sexism, from micro-aggressions to institutionalized prejudice, and offers ways in which we can better understand how to level the playing field between the sexes.

And it is not too early for me to tell you to keep an eye out for her incredible follow-up, Girl Up, (already named one of Bustle’s most important books of 2016) coming to the U.S. in July.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

h76. Shrill by Lindy West

The best cure for a troll made manifest? Miss Lindy Damn West. Hers is a voice that demands to be heard, and boy howdy do I love listening.

Got a fat-shaming misogynist around the dinner table? Or God forbid, someone trying to defend a rape joke, or engaging in some of that charming “locker room talk” that the alt right is such a fan of? Maybe some sound, stern talking-to from Lindy West will turn their minds around, and make them realize who they’re hurting when they think their words are harmless.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

h87. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs

This incredible story of the life of Robert Peace, told from the perspective of the author, who was his college roommate, is a story told with such heart that it makes the reader feel she knew Peace herself. Jeff Hobbs details Peace’s life, from his crime-riddled childhood in Newark to his acceptance to Yale, and the prejudices and injustices he endured as he tried doggedly and fearlessly to rise above his circumstances.

This book opens one’s eyes to the reality of racial bias that is a heartbreaking fact for so many in our country, but offers some hope for how things may change.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

h98. Anything Toni Morrison, but especially The Bluest Eye 

The Bluest Eye might be my favorite Toni Morrison novel, and it also happens to be her first. Morrison was working as an editor at Random House before she came out with her phenomenal, earth-shaking debut, about a young girl, Pecola Breedlove, who wishes so desperately to have blonde hair and blue eyes that in the end, with some nefarious assistance from a “spiritual” advisor, she almost believes she gets her wish.

All the characters in this almost-surreally heartbreaking world are as real to me as they were the first time I read The Bluest Eye. Sometimes it’s a toss up for me between this and Beloved, but Morrison’s debut shows just how the landscape of literature would change with her commanding, vital voice.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

h19. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit gets down to the nitty gritty about misogyny without any frills or fripperies—in seven short, to-the-point essays, she dissects the basic differences between man and woman, in communication, in ways of seeing the world, in gaslighting, in the very core of our DNA, and how men can get better, and do better.

Solnit wastes no words, and her points are made all the more salient and necessary because of it. It would behoove any man to read a copy of this book, and it would behoove any person to read every single thing Solnit does.

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound