By Black Balloon Publishing

December means two things: end-of-the-year best-of lists and crippling migraines induced by frantic shopping for the holidays. But there's no need to worry — this year we've got your back. Here at The Airship and Black Balloon Publishing, if there’s one thing we believe in beyond celebrating great literature, it’s efficiency. So in an effort to streamline the inevitable holiday madness, we’ve compiled a mutant list — a two-headed hydra that not only catalogs our favorite books of 2013, but also lets you know who you should be gifting each to.

Simply peruse the list below, keeping an eye out for the kinds of people you’re trying to pick a gift for (e.g. that cousin you see once a year who always wears an ascot — what’s up with that?), and we’ll suggest the perfect read for them. Plus, you can always borrow the books after your family and friends are done reading them — making them the gifts that keep on giving!

For Your Significant Other


For your girlfriend who absolutely loved Frances Ha, an incredibly poignant collection of short stories filled with uncertainty and all-too-human flaws: This Close by Jessica Francis Kane


For your art-history-obsessed girlfriend, a 700-plus-page novel about an orphan-turned-art-thief for her to read on the morning commute: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Read a Q&A with Donna Tartt here.)


For your girlfriend who has a subscription to Psychology Today, and takes pride in slacking off every now and then, a cutting-edge collection on the science of being idle: Autopilot by Andrew Smart


For your boyfriend in law school who owns one pan, two plates and three coffee mugs, a simple cookbook that thankfully isn’t titled “for dummies”: The Can’t Cook Book by Jessica Seinfeld


For your boyfriend who just won’t stop playing Grand Theft Auto, a collection of interviews with real drug dealers in New York City: Dealers by Peter Madsen (Read our interview with the author here.)


For your reckless boyfriend whose dream itinerary looks like the State Department’s list of Travel Warnings, a collection of short stories from young Afghans: The Gifts of the State, Edited by Adam Klein


For your wife who has always been a total theater nerd, a novel about a guy who gets a role starring as his hero Henry Nunez, in a revival of The Idiot President: At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon


For your wife who prefers The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Girls, an inside look at how two men turned a show about a divorced woman with a career into a cult classic: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

For your husband who loves to read but hardly has a chance, a collection of short stories from a highbrow writer to pack in a lot of lit into a little time: Tenth of December by George Saunders


For your husband who had a Che Guevara poster up in his dorm room, an imagined history of a real revolution in the Caribbean: The Night of the Rambler by Montague Kobbe

For Your Family


For your mother who still cries at the New Year’s Eve scene in When Harry Met Sally, a compilation of Nora Ephron’s best work: The Most of Nora Ephron by Nora Ephron


For your mother who still watches classic film noir, a set of novels that ask the only question more important than “Who dun it?” — that is, “Who am I?”: Day/Night by Paul Auster


For your mother who digs literary journals, a book of poems edgy enough to include the word “kudos”: The Inside of an Apple by Joshua Beckman

For your father who treats his smartphone like an appendage, a tale about the horrors behind our technological age: The Circle by Dave Eggers


For your dad who never let you watch anything but P.B.S. and considered “Talk of the Town” solid bedtime story material, a collection of essays from The New Yorker's number one book critic: The Fun Stuff by James Wood


For your little sister who is already smarter and cooler than you could ever dream of being, 350 pages of interviews, photo editorials, collages and illustrations from the Rookie staff: Rookie Yearbook Two, edited by Tavi Gevinson


For your little sister who just finished Freshman Comp, a collection of essays that illustrate how to really write: Among the Bloodpeople by Thomas Glave

For your sister who returned from her first semester at college more political than ever, a powerful novel with a solid role model: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner


For your sister who considers Fashion Week the event of the year, a collection of drawings, illustrations, photographs and musings from a fashion industry favorite: It by Alexa Chung


For your sister who scorned all the people who came down to Occupy Wall Street hoping to see Thom Yorke, a pocket-sized guide for revolution: Beautiful Trouble, edited by Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell



For your little brother who is just beginning to adopt good taste and become a real human being, a comprehensive look at the life and creations of Wes Anderson: The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz (Read a Q&A with the author here.)

For the brother you love unconditionally (even though you’re secretly convinced that the two of you would never be friends if you met at a party), an homage to a late brother: My Brother’s Book by Maurice Sendak


For the older brother you used to bicker with, but who has since grown up to be surprisingly sensitive, compassionate and politically aware, a tale of two brothers from India bound by tragedy: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Read a Q&A with the author about the book here.)


For your brother who is — let's face it — sort of an asshole but also a really good person, the last piece of work from a snarky-yet-poignant writer: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff (Check out our coverage of the live reading of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish here.)


For the younger sibling who just had their first long-term relationship come to an end (and they’ve told everyone, including the cashier at the grocery store, about it), an intimate novel that chronicles five years of a troubled romance: This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell


For your bratty teen niece who takes everything for granted, a memoir about how difficult even whining could be: Out With It by Katherine Preston


For your nephew who stares at his iPhone during a conversation and who once showed up to Christmas dinner (ironically?) wearing a One Direction T-shirt, a novel from the king of alt lit: Taipei by Tao Lin


For your 14-year-old cousin who loves to read — just so long as it’s not, like, too serious or, you know, super sad — a Y.A. love story that doesn’t skimp on pithy dialogue or realistic depictions of relationships: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Read our review of Rainbow Rowell’s other novel, Fangirl, here.)


For your idealistic cousin majoring in poli-sci, an investigation into American war crimes in Vietnam to teach him about realpolitik: Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse

For your cousin who just had a baby and subsists on nothing but coffee, a picture book on everyday vices: A Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola by Ricardo Cortes

For your aunt who equates first-degree murder with plastic water bottles, the haunting conclusion to a Dystopian trilogy: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood


For your uncle who could use a swear jar, a whole new set of ways to tell people off: Super Smutty Sign Language by Kristin Henson

For Your Friends


For anyone who thinks growing up in the suburbs is all shopping malls and soccer practice, a photo-illustrated novel about the kind of fantasies, sex and drugs at home in the ‘burbs: And Every Day Was Overcast by Paul Kwiatkowski (Read an excerpt of the novel here.)


For your oldest friend who loved you even when you had food stuck in your braces, an honest and heartbreaking account of how friendships change through the years: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer


For your best friend since childhood who grew up loving magic, kaleidoscopes and Nancy Drew, a collection of bewitching short stories: The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg

For the friend who’s like a sister, a collection of candid short stories from female narrators about the kind of things you can only discuss with your very best friend: Spectacle by Susan Steinberg


For that friend who’s always inviting you to poetry readings that “Ugh, I just wish I could go to …” the latest from one of the best modern poets, Red Doc> by Anne Carson


For your friend who just had a bad breakup, an illustrated account of the complexities of heartbreak: This Is How You Lose Her, written by Junot Diaz and illustrated Jaime Hernandez


For your friend who’s always looking for the new "it" thing, a highly praised collection of short stories from a new author: Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee


For your most cerebral friend, a collection of cultural criticism essays that covers race and gender in a surprisingly digestible and poetic way: White Girls by Hilton Als


For your friend who has high hopes of publishing the next great novel, an inside look at one of the most influential publishing houses of the modern era: Hothouse by Boris Kachka



For your friend who has their life so together that they not only have a coffee table but they have stunning coffee table books, a photo book that explores confrontations between the world's various indigenous groups: Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson


For your friend who is adamant that she doesn’t care about her recent breakup (yet Spotify tells you she’s listened to nothing but Taylor Swift for the past month), a pithy and poignant take on the apathetic post-breakup attitude: Even Though I Don’t Miss You by Chelsea Martin


For your friend whose copy of Ariel is torn, tattered and annotated, a Sylvia Plath biography that provides a startling and expansive look at the writer’s life: American Isis by Carl Rollyson


For your friend who spends his lunch break tweeting about all the things he hates (which just so happens to be everything), a book that confirms all of his grievances: The Kraus Project, written by Karl Kraus, translated by Jonathan Franzen


For the ex-boyfriend you’ve somehow managed to stay friends with, an all-too-honest portrait of the “creative man-child”: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman


For your friend with the darkest humor, a book about one boy’s shift working at his dad’s drive-through urinal: Flushboy by Stephen Graham Jones


For your friends who swear they’re huge fans of Julio Cortazar, but haven’t read anything besides Hopscotch, an illustrated version of his most unconventional work: From the Observatory by Julio Cortazar


For your friend who slept through English class, an illustrated version of a classic: Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad and illustrated by Matt Kish


For your frenemy who can’t decide between whether he loves Hemingway or Fitzgerald, a mesmerizing novel about the trials and tribulations of becoming a writer: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma (Read our interview with the author here.)

The perfect gift is as unique as each recipient, and this year saw the release of an array of great books, so the list above — as long as it may be — can only be too short. But you can help us improve it! Had a favorite title from 2013 that we failed to mention? Know of a book that would make the perfect gift for anyone’s second cousin who’s weirdly into reptiles? Let us know all about it in the comments below!

Black Balloon Publishing is an independent press with both print and digital distribution channels, headquartered in New York, NY. We've published literary fiction, nonfiction and memoir, and we're willing to grow our reach in any direction that suits: Our books evolve, rotate, get mapped onto cities and light up your screen. We champion the weird, the unwieldy, and the unclassifiable.