Here are a few fun book ideas for the grownups on your list, along with some books I just think everybody should have. (The motto for the bookwormrrriot blog is “Inflicting books on people since 1981,” so be warned!)
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
The Tummy Trilogy, Calvin Trillin: This book is plain hilarious, interesting, and great for any foodie on your list. I mean, who doesn’t like to eat and/or laugh? (and why are you buying them a Christmas present?). I also like American Stories, a collection of (mostly) more serious pieces Trillin did back in the day, including a magnificent piece on the very young Penn and Teller. My post-Christmas present-to-self is going to be Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff. Yes, I love this guy.
Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin: Another great writer, here with essays on food.
There’ll Always Be An England
Your Downton-loving friends are already Janeites and probably have The Forsythe Saga, but they should read Trollope–lots and lots of Trollope. The Warden doesn’t count, for reasons I have explained elsewhere. Give them the Palliser novels as a set if you’re feeling generous, or start them off with The Eustace Diamonds if one book is quite enough, thank you.
Susan Howatch’s books about Church of England clergy are as much (or more) about church politics, sex and family secrets as they are about religion. Oh, and there are contemporary exorcists. There are six in the series,with reappearing characters. As in Trollope, the main character in one tends to turn up as a minor character in another, which I always love–it’s so much like real life. Absolute Truths, Scandalous Risks, Glamorous Powers, Mystical Paths, Ultimate Prizes, Glittering Images. Even the titles are great.
Lark Rise to Candleford, by Laura Thompson, is a gentle but unsparing look at one English village’s daily life in the late nineteenth century. I can’t recommend it enough.
City of Bells and or Pilgims Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge. Books with significant Christmas themes. As mentioned elsewhere, I highly recommend all Goudge’s books, but these are especially seasonal.
Okay, here’s the I-can’t-leave-them-out list: The Makioka Sisters, Junichiro Tanizaki; The Fountain Overflows, Rebecca West; The Lymond Chronicles (6 books) Dorothy Dunnett. Get these for the readers on your list, or put them aside to read yourself under a cozy throw come January. The snow falling, a fire in the fireplace, a nice glass or mug of something and…a new book. Bliss.