Looking for even more gift ideas? Check out Atlas Obscura’s recommendations from past years.
You don’t need to read between the lines here—we’ll come right out and say that books are the best gift to give. They never spoil, they won’t shatter if dropped, and hey, they’re easy to wrap. Best of all, between those two covers are infinite new worlds to explore, fresh concepts to stoke curiosity, and plenty of ways to escape the sometimes-stressful holiday season.
We wholeheartedly endorse the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóðið, literally “Christmas book flood,” when much of the country curls up somewhere cozy to read the books they’ve received as gifts. Whichever seasonal holiday you celebrate, we’ve found page-turners and other paraphernalia for every palate. Let the deluge begin.
Because your bookcase deserves to have an adventure, too.
Books can whisk us back in time and across continents, but now, so can this brilliantly detailed miniature, which recreates a scene from the golden, glamorous days of rail travel. The kit arrives with everything needed to get crafty. The finished product fits easily on a bookshelf, but we recommend displaying this mini-marvel where no guest can miss it.
The Madman’s Gallery: The Strangest Paintings, Sculptures and Other Curiosities from the History of Art
The latest tome from an acclaimed historian of eccentricities.
From satire and the Surrealists to ancient art made to be destroyed, the history of creative human expression can be a bizarre place. Author Edward Brooke-Hitching’s compendium of odd and sometimes outrageous art covers everything from the Nebra Sky Disc, an archaeological mystery, to the rapidly-evolving abilities of generative AI.
Curious communiqués delivered to your door.
New Orleans artist Lady Delaney reimagines postcards, documents, and other archival records as “case files” set in the Crescent City of the late 1920s. Subscribers receive these elegant, mysterious missives and other material on a monthly basis (other options available) and must sleuth out the truth.
Putting the universe into perspective.
Warning: This may look like a book, but it’s actually a wild ride down a rabbit hole of wonder. Expect anyone who receives it to disappear into their favorite reading room for a while. Authors David Tanguy and Mike Fairbrass use colorful graphics to shock and delight. Consider this: Data does have modest mass, so “the entire internet weighs as much as an egg.”
These gods and monsters may seem eerily familiar.
Vampires, werewolves, fearsome witches waiting in the woods—these are some of the most recognizable weirdlings in Western culture. But these characters were born in the forbidding mountains and dark forests that stretch from the Adriatic to the Baltic, and deep into the Eurasian steppe. Frequent Atlas Obscura tour guide and course instructor Noah Charney and coauthor Svetlana Slapšak, a renown Balkan scholar, lead you into this enchanting folklore tradition.
Like the “Sword in the Stone,” only easier to remove.
Don’t let your loved one morph into an orc when it’s time to set a book aside for a bit. No random scraps of paper shoved between pages or—gasp!—dog-ear folds allowed. Let them take their leave in epic fashion with these heroic bookmarks, available in a variety of pointy placekeeping styles. No judging if they make a schwiiing! sound when returning to their read.
Wander in wonder through our beloved guides.
Two of our bestselling books, Atlas Obscura and Gastro Obscura, provide a fascinating and delicious road trip around the world, introducing readers to surprising cultural treats and obsession-worthy destinations. Open to any page and be intrigued.
Understand whatever hand you’ve been dealt.
For decades, T. Susan Chang has been reading tarot and sharing her knowledge with students, including as the instructor of Atlas Obscura’s popular online course. While the tradition has come to mean many things to many people, Chang teaches tarot with a distinctly modern approach, showing people how to use their own experiences to interpret the cards.
Make a stand against censorship—literally.
If the tragically topical trend of banning books disturbs you from head to toe, here’s a way to bare your soul without, you know, baring your sole. The socks list classic reads that famously found their way onto hit lists: The titles on one sock are redacted, reminding us of the importance of stomping out threats to free speech.
You’ll never look at the night sky the same way again.
Astrophysicist and folklorist Moiya McTier’s areas of expertise make her uniquely qualified to take readers on this thrilling journey (and to teach Atlas Obscura’s course on facts-based worldbuilding). Now available in paperback, this riveting “autobiography” tells the 13-billion-year-old story of our galaxy with both scientific accuracy and unexpected sass. It’s a joyous romp through deep time, cosmology, and myth, showcasing “the greatest galaxy who has ever lived.”