Our Book Gift Guide: Because Reading Isn’t Dead

So your friend is a reader or a writer. Easy gift. A new notebook and a Pilot G-2 pen for the writer and a book for the one that likes to read. With all the books out there though, finding the perfect one could end up being a search process that leaves you celebrating Christmas next July. Not to worry. No Kill has you covered with our top must-reads now.

Please note: most of our links will send you to Bookshop, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. If you can, please consider shopping through them or another independent seller before Amazon. All products featured on No Kill Mag are independently selected by our writers or editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Art & Nature & eco-friendly

The Language of Trees: A Rewilding of Literature and Landscape

Katie Holten
Inspired by forests, trees, leaves, roots, and seeds, The Language of Trees: A Rewilding of Literature and Landscape invites readers to discover an unexpected and imaginative language to better read and write the natural world around us and reclaim our relationship with it. In this gorgeously illustrated collection, Katie Holten gifts readers her tree alphabet and uses it to masterfully translate and illuminate beloved lost and new, original writing in praise of the natural world.

It is an astonishing fusion of storytelling and art and a deeply beautiful celebration of trees through the ages.

Unraveling: What I learned about life while shearing sheep, dyeing wool and making the world’s ugliest sweater

Peggy Orenstein
The COVID pandemic propelled many people to change their lives. Some adopted puppies. Others stress-baked. Peggy Orenstein, a lifelong knitter, went just a little further. To keep herself engaged and cope with a series of seismic shifts in family life, she set out to make a garment from the ground up: learning to shear sheep, spin and dye yarn, then knitting herself a sweater.

Orenstein hoped the project would help her process not just wool but her grief over the recent death of her mother and the decline of her dad, the impending departure of her college-bound daughter, and other thorny issues of aging as a woman in a culture that by turns ignores and disdains them.
What she didn’t expect was a journey into some of the major issues of our time: climate anxiety, racial justice, women’s rights, the impact of technology, sustainability, and, ultimately, the meaning of home.

The Living City: Why Cities Don’t Need to Be Green to Be Great

Des Fitzgerald
The greening of cities is all the rage. From London to New York and beyond, governments are investing billions in planting trees, installing green roofs, and building micro-parks. While not opposed to green spaces, Fitzgerald argues that they aren’t the ultimate panacea: can a line of trees, or an intrusive app designed to show you where those trees are located, truly improve physical and psychological health on a massive scale? Instead of using greening cities, Fitzgerald asks that we examine and fix the root issues, like labor rights and work conditions. He argues for celebrating them in all “their noisy, constructed, artificial glory.”

Affinities: On Art and Fascination

Brian Dillon
In Affinities, Brian Dillon, who Joyce Carol Oates has said writes “fascinating prose . . . on virtually any subject,” explores images and artists he is drawn to and analyzes the attraction. What does it mean to claim affinity with a picture? What do feelings of affinity imply about the experience of art and of the world? Affinities is a critical and personal study of a sensation that is not exactly taste, desire, or solidarity, but has aspects of all three. Approaching this subject via discrete examples, Dillon examines works by artists such as Dora Maar and Andy Warhol, Rinko Kawauchi and Susan Hiller, as well as scientific or vernacular images of sea creatures and migraine auras. Written as a series of linked essays, Affinities completes a trilogy, with Essayism and Suppose a Sentence, about the intimate and abstract pleasures of reading and looking.



Is your friend interested in living a sustainable lifestyle, but doesn’t know where to start? This book covers the basics of sustainability from plastic to application in every area of life including recycling, fashion, and food. Your friend will be an expert in zero waste.

History & Culture

Seventy Times Seven: A True Story of Murder and Mercy

A masterful, revelatory work of literary non-fiction about a teenage girl’s shocking crime–and its extraordinary aftermath

On a spring afternoon in 1985 in Gary, Indiana, a fifteen-year-old girl kills an elderly woman in a violent home invasion. In a city with a history of racial tensions and white flight, the girl, Paula Cooper, is Black, and her victim, Ruth Pelke, is white and a beloved Bible teacher. The press swoops in.

When Paula is sentenced to death, no one decries the impending execution of a tenth grader. But the tide begins to shift when the victim’s grandson Bill forgives the girl, against the wishes of his family, and campaigns to spare her life.

As Paula waits on death row, her fate sparks a debate that raises vital questions about the value of human life: What are we demanding when we call for justice? Is forgiveness an act of desperation or of profound bravery? As Bill and Paula’s friendship deepens, their story asks what radical acts of empathy we might be capable of.



Feminist author adrienne maree brown shares her views about harm reduction, drugs, and sex work. She looks at how our current model criminalizing pleasure is harming communities, and how decriminalizing pleasure can be helpful. She also looks at how the legalized cannabis industry has been run predominantly by white people instead of giving back to the communities that were most affected by criminalization. This is an eye-opening read and will definitely lead to some interesting discussions between you and your friends if you choose to get them all a copy. A book club worthy read.



Marcus details the history of the 90’s punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl. This book follows the influence that bands like Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsey, and Bratmobile had on the punk scene as well as in feminism. She also focuses on the ways it fell short, namely that this was a movement led and predominately followed by white cis bisexual women.

racism untaught: Revealing and Unlearning Racialized Design


Anti-racist design interventions can be difficult. Well-intentioned conversations can fuel tensions, activate racialized trauma, and lead to misunderstandings, especially in spaces not typically focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Even when progress is made, white supremacy culture can resurface. We need anti-racist guidelines and approaches that lay bare racialized systems of oppression and fundamentally disrupt their replication. In Racism Untaught, Lisa E. Mercer and Terresa Moses, two veteran anti-racist educators, deliver this exact approach.


DapperQ Style: Ungendering Fashion

Anita Dolce Vita

For too long, mainstream Western fashion has promoted unattainable beauty standards and restrictive binaries as a means of social control. As editor-in-chief of leading queer style magazine dapperQ, Anita Dolce Vita has provided a platform that transcends these rigid, exclusionary, and oppressive fashion rules.

This book will inspire people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender presentations to think differently about both queer fashion and beauty as art and visual activism. In this refreshing style book, she shows that, no matter your gender identity, race, body size, ability, age, or style, queer fashion is for everyone.

Pockets: An Intimate History of How We Keep Things Close

Hannah Carlson
Throughout the medieval era in Europe, the purse was an almost universal dress feature. But when tailors stitched the first pockets into men’s trousers five hundred years ago, it ignited controversy and introduced a range of social issues that we continue to wrestle with today, from concealed pistols to gender inequality.

So…who gets pockets, and why?

It’s a subject that stirs up plenty of passion: Why do men’s clothes have so many pockets and women’s so few? And why are the pockets on women’s clothes often too small to fit phones, if they even open at all?

Pockets is for the legions of people obsessed with pockets and their absence, and for anyone interested in how our clothes influence the way we navigate the world.

Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook

Debbie Stoller

It’s the essential guide for chicks with sticks–because knit happens.

From the tools of the trade to the knitty-gritty of techniques and patterns, all with easy-to-follow step-by-step illustrated techniques. Stockinette stitch, rib stitch, seed stitch. Increasing and decreasing. All the bells and whistles: fringes, tassels, cables, intarsia, crab stitch, and Fair Isle. Plus the stitch doctor’s own special bag of tricks and how to hook up with other knitters. After the how-tos come the why-to: forty hop, stylish patterns, as good for beginners as they are for purely pros.



Hyland explores fashion and social status since Y2K. She explores the concept of the “It Girl” versus dressing for the self, and whether fashion will continue to be sectioned by gender or expanded beyond. She also discusses how fashion influences culture. Hyland’s fashion commentary has affected culture far before this book. She was the writer who first coined the term millennial pink in a 2016 essay for The Cut.

If your friend is a fashion enthusiast, be sure to pick up a copy.

Graphic Novel



This graphic memoir is near the top of the banned books list this year for discussing gender exploration and LGBT content. As always, No Kill finds banned books list as an excellent reading guide to see what is seen as forbidden in this modern world. Kobabe uses e/em/eir pronouns and e guides the reader through their journey of exploring their gender and sexuality to discover that em identify as asexual and non-binary.




Vuong’s poetry provides tender and intimate insights into his process of grieving the loss of his mother. He also reflects on love and his queerness. If you are looking for beautiful poetry to help your friend through a challenging time, this is the book for them.



Did you know that poetry can be funny, witty, and sarcastic? Do you have a friend who loves witchcraft and Latina singer Selena? Melissa Lozada-Oliva has a mixture of all of this in her latest novel in verse. The speaker grapples with her identity as she brings Selena back from the dead to talk with her. Everything soon goes awry and she struggles to bring the spirits back to rest.



If you are looking to seduce your poet friend or lover, look no further than Ada Limón’s poetry. She is the current (24th) Poet Laureate of the United States as decided upon by the Library of Congress. This book is a heartfelt journey of self exploration and overcoming unfamiliarity and loss.



Justin Torres

Out in the desert in a place called the Palace, a young man tends to a dying soul, someone he once knew briefly but who has haunted the edges of his life: Juan Gay. Playful raconteur, child lost and found and lost, guardian of the institutionalized, Juan has a project to pass along, one built around a true artifact of a book–Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns–and its devastating history. This book contains accounts collected in the early twentieth century from queer subjects by a queer researcher, Jan Gay, whose groundbreaking work was then co-opted by a committee, her name buried. The voices of these subjects have been filtered, muted, but it is possible to hear them from within and beyond the text, which, in Juan’s tattered volumes, has been redacted with black marker on nearly every page. As Juan waits for his end, he and the narrator recount for each other moments of joy and oblivion; they resurrect loves, lives, mothers, fathers, minor heroes. In telling their own stories and the story of the book, they resist the ravages of memory and time. The past is with us, beside us, ahead of us; what are we to create from its gaps and erasures?

Drawing on testimony, photographs, illustrations, and a range of influences, Blackouts mines the stories that have been kept from us and brings them into the light.

Cursed Bunny: Stories

Bora Chung (Author) Anton Hur (Translator)

A stunning, wildly original debut from a rising star of Korean literature–surreal, chilling fables that take on the patriarchy, capitalism, and the reign of big tech with absurdist humor and a (sometimes literal) bite

From an author never before published in the United States, Cursed Bunny is unique and imaginative, blending horror, sci-fi, fairy tales, and speculative fiction into stories that defy categorization. By turns thought-provoking and stomach-turning, here monsters take the shapes of furry woodland creatures and danger lurks in unexpected corners of everyday apartment buildings. But in this unforgettable collection, translated by the acclaimed Anton Hur, Chung’s absurd, haunting universe could be our own.

No two stories are alike, and readers will be torn whether to race through them or savor Chung’s wit and frenetic energy on every page. Cursed Bunny is a book that screams to be read late into the night and passed on to the nearest set of hands the very next day.



If your friend has or is currently struggling with an eating disorder, this might not be the right read for them.

This is a queer romance novel about a Jewish woman who struggles with her body image falling in love with an Orthodox Jewish frozen yogurt lady. Their star-crossed story explores the forbidden with queerness and indulging in deliciously greasy foods.



This book grapples with complex issues of identity, family, and queerness. The main character Morgan was raised by her father because her mother left when she was young. Just as Morgan goes through a breakup with her girlfriend, her mother comes back into her life fresh from her own queer breakup.

Whether you decide to purchase one of these books for a friend, or read them for yourself these are sure to entertain and delight. Remember to support local independent bookstores, secondhand bookstores, and libraries.

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