Six Books to Buy for Loved Ones this Holiday Season

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Support our independent bookshops by gifting these good reads recommended by store employees and owners

recommended books – Golden Fig Bookstore
Golden Fig Books founder David Bradley at his bookstore on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard.

By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by Cornell Watson

Golden Fig Books opened in May 2019 and specializes in gently used books of all genres, but also features a small, curated selection of new books. The store, located at 2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., is currently open for browsing from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; appointments are recommended, as only one group is allowed in at a time. To book an appointment or search its used and new inventory from home (online orders are eligible for $1 flat-rate shipping or curbside pickup), visit goldenfigbooks.com.

For the mystery lover: “The Aosawa Murders” by Riku Onda

Looking for an imaginative page-turner that will have you glued to every syllable? “The Aosawa Murders” is the tantalizing masterpiece of a mystery you’re looking for, according to Golden Fig Books founder David Bradley.  “Years after a brutal poisoning claims the entire Aosawa clan, the supposedly solved case is reanimated through interwoven fragments of forgotten moments and missed clues,” David explains. The first of Japanese author Riku Onda’s works to be translated into English, David says all readers will enjoy this tale, which will leave them questioning every turn and pondering how our own experiences with mysteries can interfere with our judgment. 

For the sci-fi fanatic: “Tell the Machine Goodnight” by Katie Williams

This novel is both a critique of modern life and a message of hope for our future. A cast full of interesting characters with very different views on the world help tell the story, but its central plot follows Pearl, a technician for a “happiness machine,” as she tries to connect with her teenage son. “[Her son’s] only happiness seems to come from eschewing happiness itself,” David says. “Honest and tender, this book is a perfect antidote to the quarantine reading blues.”


The Regulator Bookshop on Ninth Street has fed Durham readers’ minds for 44 years and offers a selection of books for everyone, curated with the nearby Duke University community in mind. While not currently open to in-store shopping, The Regulator offers curbside pickup, USPS shipping and delivery in Durham, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Anyone can order books at regulatorbookshop.com or call 919-286-2700 for same-day pickup availability; check the website for updates on holiday hours.  

For the music aficionado: “Step It Up & Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk” by David Menconi 

“We love how many amazing writers surround us in the Triangle, and as music lovers, we also feel lucky to live here,” says Sara Schwartz of The Regulator Bookshop. This is why she says her recommendation is one of the most exciting books to be released this year: It offers the best of both worlds. Author David Menconi, known for his recurring music column in The News & Observer, tells the comprehensive story of our state’s musical history with love. “There’s no one more perfect to put our region’s musical heritage between two covers,” Sara says. “Step it Up & Go” makes a great gift for both music lovers and those interested in the evolution of society and culture in North Carolina. 

For the vegetarian: “Ottolenghi Flavor” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage

“A great book on its own or paired with others in the Ottolenghi collection, this one emphasizes ‘process, pairing and produce’ in taking simple vegetable dishes up a level,” Sara says. The book also proves that vegetables don’t need to be relegated to side dishes; main courses, desserts and even homemade condiments (which the authors refer to as “flavor bombs”) fill the pages with rich inspiration for vegetarians and carnivores alike. “Ottolenghi Flavor” nods to a range of cuisines that will suit a variety of tastes, from stuffed eggplant curry to romano pepper schnitzels to spicy mushroom lasagna.


Letters Bookshop opened on Main Street in December 2013 and carries new and used books in all genres. Letters is currently open on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 7 p.m. for an open-air pop-up bookshop on the sidewalk in front of the shop (weather permitting). The store will offer expanded pop-up and in-store shopping appointment hours during the holiday season. For more information or to shop online for contactless pickup, free local delivery or USPS Media Mail, visit lettersbookshop.com.

For the home chef: “This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking” by Vivian Howard

Letters owner Land Arnold’s first pick is by chef Vivian Howard of Kinston’s Chef & the Farmer restaurant and the TV show “A Chef’s Life.” The PBS star’s second cookbook features delicious recipes in an accessible, engaging format. In fact, the author specifically wrote each recipe based on ingredients she could find at her local Walmart. “During a holiday season that will force more of us into the kitchen than allow us out to restaurants, it’s a great cookbook addition for both novices and experts alike,” Land says.

For the political junkie: “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama

The first volume of former President Barack Obama’s memoir was released Nov. 17. A powerful account of Obama’s journey as a politician, father and leader, the book delves into his personal and professional challenges, from his early life to his presidency. “This will be the book sensation of the year,” Land predicts, and it will make a fitting gift for anyone interested in reading a story of hope this holiday season. 

Letters will be offering both books at 20% off the cover price.

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Morgan Weston

Morgan Weston

Durham Magazine freelancer Morgan Weston is a North Carolina native who loves exploring the Triangle's diverse food, arts and craft beer offerings.

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