To me, there’s nothing quite like the gift of a book. And at a time when many of us could use an escape, a good cry or a good laugh or something to inspire us – books can provide that. So without further ado – A Very Bookish Gift Guide for 2020. There are mistletoe-filled romances and challenging literary novels, books for parents, partners and friends – and yourself of course. Nearly 50 of them in total!
Disclosure: If you’re able to purchase these from your local bookstores please do so! I’ve also linked everything on Bookshop.org which is an awesome resource that supports indie stores across the country. However, in the product carousels below the images link to Amazon – as it was the best way for me to show all the covers.
Click to the next page for all of my recommendations!
Strand Bookstore – While I have a solid handful of bookstores in this city that I truly love, the Strand will always feel like my home base bookstore. They’ve been around since 1927 and I’ve been visiting for over 13 years, since I first interned in the city. Like most indie bookstores this year, they need more support than ever this holiday season. Right now if you buy $100 in gift cards you’ll get an extra $20 gift card.
Margaux NY – If Audrey Hepburn needed a modern-day source for the perfect ballet flat, she would come to Margaux. I was kindly gifted the pointe ballet flats and I feel approximately 25x more chic every time I wear them. Their shoes come in wide, narrow and regular or custom options and the Italian leather continues to mold to your feet over time. Like I said.. perfect. They’re 20% off sitewide this weekend, but if you miss the sale – code: STEELE10 will get you 10% off your first pair.
The Koop New York – A Black, female owned business out of Brooklyn that makes some of the best selling candles I’ve tried. They’re offering 30% off right now and while things tend to sell out quickly, if you sign up for their newsletter you’ll be the first to find out about restocks.
East Olivia – I’ve followed Olivia on Instagram for a few years now and am always blown away by her incredible floral installations around the city. She’s since opened her own shop and also sells dried arrangements online that are so, so pretty. A thoughtful gift for a flower loving friend spending lots of time at home right now.
Madame Matovu – My favorite vintage store in the West Village. Go for the beautifully curated clothing, accessories and artwork – stay for the conversations with Rosemary, the owner and a longtime New Yorker.
CW Pencil Enterprise – This female-owned specialty pencil shop on the Lower East Side is a writer’s dream with pencils from around the world plus stationary and other bits and bobs to outfit your desk. The kind of niche place that makes me love this city so much.
McNally Jackson – If the Strand is the original NY bookstore, McNally Jackson is her slightly more literary older sister. They’ve got 4 locations including a new spot in South Street Seaport with a beautiful cafe, but also take online orders – and with sales down 70% this year, every order counts.
Dobbin St Co-Op – An expertly curated Brooklyn-based vintage store with two locations. I’m partial to the one in Greenpoint), where I’ve had good luck finding cool, mid-century homegoods.
Gigi New York/Graphic Image – a Long Island based company that carries beautiful handbags and leather accessories. I’ve been carrying this black leather crossbody bag for 5 years now and I swear it still looks as good as new. They were also kind enough to send me a leather 2021 planner which would make a beautiful gift this season to those of us looking forward to a fresh page in the new year (ahem.. everyone).
Fishs Eddy – Nearly 12 years ago when I first moved to New York I remember reading about this quirky Union Square home goods store and taking the 6 train down to visit. Now I’m just a short walk away and still love stopping in to find unique dishes and gifts.
First, a few disclosures. If you’re not in a position to shop this holiday season, please skip ahead. I hate the way that Black Friday sales can feel like they pressure you to buy all the things. It’s perfectly okay to tune it out. That being said – I’ve still got a small handful of gifts to buy and I’m also using this weekend as a chance to buy myself some basics that I need and have been setting aside money for – knowing that they’d go on sale right now. So that’s my approach.
And lastly, I’m going to be sharing 10 great NYC-based small businesses tomorrow to consider. I encourage you to try and come up with a shopping strategy this holiday season that includes small businesses – here in New York or in your own local community. They truly need the support more than ever right now.
Okay – on with the show. Here are the online sales I’m shopping this weekend and what I plan on picking up:
Sandro Paris (40% Off Sitewide): I have swooned over pieces from this French brand for ages and this sale finally has things in a somewhat attainable price range for me. It’s still a bit of a splurge compared to my usual purchases but this dress is a forever piece to me and between the classic fit and the ‘S’ (for Sandro.. but also Steele!) embroidery – I think I may finally finally treat myself to it.
Is it selfish to kick off my holiday content with a personal gift wishlist? Don’t answer that. To be fair, I’m only planning to share two gift guides this year. The first is this one – a ‘just for fun’ round-up of things that I’d love to see under the tree this year, but in all reality will probably purchase for myself at some point because that’s adulthood for you. Ha. And secondly (and the one I’m most excited about) a big gift guide for books which will be coming soon. I personally find myself wanting to buy less and less each holiday season, but I do think a couple of well-chosen items that feel unique to the person you’re gifting are always appreciated.
Expressie Nail Polish: I haven’t had a proper manicure since February, but I like to think in all this time I’ve gotten better at doing them myself. I’ve heard good thing about this fast dry Essie options and would love some new colors in my stocking.
The Koop New York Candles: I came across this Black-owned, NYC based small business earlier in the year and have basically had at least one of their candles lit ever since. Working from home feels calmer and cozier when I have a great scent to surround me.
Apple AirPods: I’m a decidedly late adopter of new technology and figured if my old headphones weren’t broke.. why replace them. But since I’ve been home so much or going on walks around town – it really would be nice to not have to deal with the ever present hassle of cords.
Party Puzzle: If 2020 has given us anything, it’s a far superior selection of jigsaw puzzles than ever before. I would save this champagne scene for staying in on NYE. Which in all likelihood is exactly what we’ll be doing.
Colorful Taper Candles: I’m usually fairly traditional when it comes to taper candles and stick to classic white but I love these olive green ones to put on the mantle in our bedroom as a subtle pop of color.
Holiday Tea Tins: I have been drinking more hot tea than ever this year at home and I have always coveted the fancy Harvey & Sons tea tins but never spring for them myself. This set of 4 holiday flavors would make an afternoon cup feel extra special.
Henley Pajama Set: My pajama drawer has seen better days. I like this cute and cozy striped set for lounging or sleeping on cold winter nights.
Diamond Signet Ring: I buy far less costume jewelry than I used to, instead wanting to carefully add pieces to my collection that I’ll keep for life. This 14k solid gold signet ring with a tiny diamond is just the thing.
‘The Best of Me’ by David Sedaris: A greatest hits collection of Sedaris’ essays throughout the years chosen by the author himself. I’m such a huge fan of his work and would love to get my hands on a signed copy.
Roman Pendant Necklace: Same sentiment as the ring above. I love this Roman coin style pendant necklace on it’s one or layered with some of my other favorite pieces.
Tortoiseshell Popsocket: When I got my new phone a few months ago I never replaced the popsocket on the back and sorely miss it now. A small thing, but it’s on the wishlist!
Shearling Snow Boots: I probably need these the least but they’re so pretty and just look incredibly cozy. And that’s all you need to sell me on something this winter when the furthest I’ll likely be going is to the corner store.
Trouser Socks: Call me boring but I always hope someone buys me socks for Christmas because I hate buying them myself. Adam and my Mom usually take care of me and make sure I’m not wearing hole-ridden pairs year after year. Bless them.
I was originally going to save this post for the last week of the year, but it occurred to me that some of you may be in need of an affordable or last minute gift idea or something to read while you’re on a plane during holiday travel or have days off work. So for that you’ll need a great book. Of which I’ve read many this year. Here – the 10 best books I read in 2019 (in no particular order). A few of these are going to be fully reviewed in my next Steele Maiden Book Club post before the end of the year, but in the meantime I wanted to include them here. Get yourself to a local bookstore (or express ship it through Amazon if you’re in a pinch) and happy reading!
1. Circe by Madeline Miller: An obvious choice for fans of greek mythology or fantasy fiction, but a surprising choice for those who don’t think they are (like myself) who still may end up loving this story (like I did).
2. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo: For your favorite feminist. Or honestly, for the man in your life that could use some perspective. This non-fiction is a striking read that speaks to human desire and emotion in a really raw way.
3. Becoming by Michelle Obama: From yourself to your mom to your boss, there’s something in this story that will likely speak to every woman in your life. An incredibly inspiring reflection from a humble and hard-working woman that just so happened to become the First Lady.
4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: For all your best girlfriends (especially the one who just moved to New York City). This story is a love letter to youth and freedom and the city that I love so much.
6. Blue Nights by Joan Didion: For anyone that considers themselves a Didion disciple – but would be particularly poignant for someone who has lived through loss this year. Her words on living through the loss of her husband and daughter are both relatable and also unfathomable.
7. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: Smart fiction at its best, Ann Patchett pulls you into a world so believable you’ll forget it doesn’t truly exist. For anyone who
8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: If you haven’t already read the beloved story, now is certainly the time before Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation comes out at Christmas. Perfect for a young girl just getting into reading on her own or a grown woman revisiting the classics.
9. Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs: Totally different than anything else on this list – Augusten Burroughs memoirs always get me. This one in particular about the next chapter of his life and staying true to his witch-y roots really spoke to me – and gave me a good laugh.
10. Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl: For the foodie in your life or the one nostalgic for the days when the publishing world lived large in New York – this easy read is such a fun romp through 90s-00s at Gourmet Magazine.