December is the month when academics and graduate students everywhere rejoice: no school! No grading, no cramming three books into one week, and no more crying at 4am while trying to put together a paper that you would’ve spent more time on if you didn’t have to spend all your time doing administrative tasks so you can keep your assistantships!
Perhaps you’ve got an academic-type person in your life and are struggling with gift ideas. I know, it’s hard: what do you get for the person who is perpetually tired, underpaid, and overworked? Probably some tea, maybe a new blanket or a more comfortable pillow for their back might also be nice. But the thing about grad students and other folks working in academia is this: we chose this life. We want it.
Now’s the perfect time to get that nerdy babe in your life all the books that they would never have time to read during the normal school semester! I’m typically in class or doing work for a class for almost 60 hours a week. But during the month of December, and a lot of January, I do nothing. I watch entire shows in 3 days or wander around parks being amazed at sunlight for hours. What I really love to be able to do, though, is to read. I spend most of my semester getting introduced to scholars doing work similar to the work I’m trying to do and never have time to read more than 20-30 pages of their work. The winter holidays are the time when I actually have time to read entire books for pleasure, and really get something from them. And there are so many good books being written! Buying books as gifts can be tricky, but the thing is, just like if you give a mouse a cookie they will eat it, if you give a queer academic a book, they will read it.
I’ve split up book suggestions by topic so that you can tailor your gift to your specific academic cutie. Any one of these fine pieces of scholarship is soon to put you in their good graces.
Let’s talk about race…
Thinking about race critically feels more important now than ever. So much of the theory written in the past five years or so about race has really applicable resonance now that we’re living in the era of Trump. These writers, many of whom are queer people of color ask important questions about sound and identity, bodies of color and death, surveillance, Black aesthetics, and space. Send one of these to an academic cutie over the holiday break to keep their brain whirring with ideas about how to bring social justice into their own research.
Feminism is for everybody!
You can never learn too much feminist theory, and the best part about feminist theory is that it doesn’t all have to be Michel Foucault! Send one of these books, all of which talk about feminism in nuanced and accessible ways to the academic in your life who gets drunk at the holiday party and starts talking about French theorists. While that has its place, these books may lead to a more inclusive and exciting dinner conversation.
Queering the Academy
I’m obsessed with queer theory. Like, I barely understand a lot of what I read the first time, but after about six or seven reads, things click and I get really excited about all of the possibilities the discipline offers. All of these books, some classic and some newer, are looking at communities that, even within the discipline, have not had as much attention paid to them. Gift one of these to someone who wants nothing more than to snuggle up with a hot toddy and read about butches, trans women, and queer brown voices. They’ll devour the books and then devour you with thanks for adding more to their bookshelf that they actually want to read again!
Hopefully at least one of these books will align with the personal or research interests of someone navigating academia that you know. If all else fails, you can always buy them a 30 oz coffee travel mug because coffee is the fuel of choice for grad students everywhere. Or you could just offer to clean their apartment and play with their pets while they take a 10-day-long nap. Because the only thing I want more than more books I don’t have time to read is sleep. Days and days of sleep.