The Loft's 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Blog banner that reads "Holiday Gift Guide"


Everybody is expecting presents soon. Pressure mounts. With each passing day, more and more Maria Carey songs are added to store playlists. Soon it will be an all-encompassing mission; what to get for who?

If you are a writer and reader, or your loved one is a writer and reader, the answers to this great question can be narrowed down. In this informal Loft Literary Center gift guide, I’ll give you some suggestions.

Chances are you know someone with an unpublished manuscript. One of the weirdest stages of book production is when an author has finished a complete draft of their novel but has no one to share it with.

The Loft offers manuscript critique services! Our center’s teaching artists are available to give valuable notes and close readings of projects of all genres, forms, and technical levels. This is a fantastic and unique gift to give a working writer. Another set of eyes (especially ones with professional skill) is a fast-track toward a much-improved manuscript.

In a similar vein, there are still spots open for the Loft’s Year Long Writing Projects. Writers who register will be paired with a professional writer, who will mentor and edit their student’s work over the course of a year.

This is a unique opportunity to have your writing workshopped for a sustained period of time and will familiarize writers with the long process of writing, re-writing, and realizing the shape of a piece of writing over time.

It’s also fine if you don’t know what gift to get! Leave it up to them with a Loft gift certificate. Put as much money on as you like; the credit can be used for any and all events and classes at the Loft.

Beyond the walls of our dear literary center, there are still a myriad of good gifts for people who love words. There are so many interesting reads out there right now, it’s hard to pick any just one. 

Michelle Zauner’s memoir about her mother’s death, Crying at H Mart, was one of this year’s bestselling books. For good reason! Zauner’s prose is vulnerable and surprising, and the stories she tells about her family are sincere and honest to a fault. 

Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance is the latest of the author’s many brilliant books. I could not help but devour his previous Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest. Either and any of his books are brilliant.

One of the best new fiction books I read this year was Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney. The Irish novelist’s latest is about the friendship between two women, both of whom are going through their own existential ennui, and looking for contentment on acceptable terms. I recommend this book because it depicts the modern life of a young person quite well; Tinder, weed and drinks, weddings, work meetings and wondering how it will all be undone.

For readers with a taste for darker stuff, consider Agota Kristof’s The Notebook. It takes place in Hungary, during WWII. A pair of twins are sent to the countryside to live with their grandmother, who teaches them the harsh logics of war. The novel is narrated by the twins, who share one voice, and is told in a ghostly, non-specific way. Kristof’s prose is unnerving, suffused with an understanding of violence and the ugly necessities of survival. Not to worry, this Hungarian writing isn’t all drudge. It is attractive and poisonous.

  Another place to check for books is in the state of Minnesota! Minneapolis is host to a range of independent book publishers that showcase left-field, groundswell writing.

Coffee House Press has a careful catalogue of weird, experimental and ground-breaking novels, poetry, and long-form essays. Milkweed Books specializes in selling books from independent presses. Uncivilized Books is the best place to find high quality indie comics and books on comics. Graywolf Press is an established non-profit publisher and bookseller. One of my favorite releases of theirs was Danez Smith’s collection Homie.

Okay, now let’s talk gear. Most writing goes to a digital place one way or another, but getting your thoughts out on paper can be vital. Check out the Rocketbook Smart Notebook, a reusable notepad that allows you to draw and write down ideas on the page, then transfer them to your other devices via cloud storage.

Consider Scrivener, an app chock full of features and tools that allow writers to approach their writing, editing, and drafting in any arrangement they see fit. Scrivener’s outlines and functions make it one of the most comprehensive writing software tools available!

If you’re still really struggling with figuring out what to buy, trust your instincts. Does that book in your hand remind you of them? Don’t worry if you’re not sure. A lot of the times, the best gifts to receive are the ones we didn’t know we wanted.