Illinois Humanities 2022 Holiday Gift Guide

Illinois Humanities

Read Time 9 minutes
December 12, 2022

Still looking for the perfect gift? Our staff has curated a selection of books, experiences, treats, and more for the humanities fan in your life or anyone who wants to celebrate the richness of Illinois.

If you’re still stuck, a gift of the humanities is perfect for everyone on your list! Make a tax-deductible donation to Illinois Humanities in honor of your loved one, and we’ll send you a printable card to gift… it would be great tucked into one of the titles recommended below.

Coffee, coffee, coffee!

Illinois is known for having excellent local, specialty coffee roasters across the state, with 38 in Chicago alone. Here are some of our staff’s faves:


Mary Daniels, Senior Director of Programs
Who doesn’t love an artisanal coffee roaster with its own manifesto? Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee sources its beans directly from a select group of farmers in Latin America and Mexico, anchored by principles of fair trade and sustainability. I love their Starry Eyes blend so much that I gifted it to family in Portland, OR, where you might get asked your coffee flavor profile before anyone ever gets around to what you do. You can gift Dark Matter Coffee subscriptions, and check out the funkadelic packaging designs.


Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director
I am a BIG fan of Goshen Coffee Roasters based in Edwardsville, Illinois. I found them online and love the subscription option and fun packaging.


Madeline Cruz, Administrative Coordinator 
Give the gift of an afternoon caffeine pick-me-up to your favorite coffee lover this winter. The stainless-steel travel design of the Drink Responsibly Travel Thermo from The Back of the Yards Coffee Co. will keep your café de olla hot and horchata cold brew cold while supporting one of the only Latinx and woman-owned coffee companies in the nation. Back of the Yards Coffee reimagines the coffee experience while honoring the immigrant working class traditions of Chicago’s South Side. Whether a gift for yourself or a loved one, it’s encouraged to help reduce waste by bringing the thermo back to the coffeehouse and you get a $1 discount on any drink.


Fairouz AbuGhazaleh, Director of Statewide Programs 
If tea is your preferred drink, head to Urbana for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at Japan House and enjoy the surrounding gardens, which are especially spectacular when the cherry blossoms begin to bloom and usher in the spring.

We love books!

No gift list from Illinois Humanities could be complete without a long list of our favorite books of the year, including titles by close friends and partners of Illinois Humanities!


Alyssa Bierce, Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications 
Pilsen Community Books in Chicago offers an easy way to give the gift of reading to a young person in your life, and to a young person incarcerated in Illinois. They’ve partnered with Liberation Library, an organization that provides books to youth in prison to “encourage imagination, self-determination, and connection to outside worlds of their choosing.” Browse their selection of young adult titles and find a book they’ll love. Check out books like A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger, a work of Indigenous futurism and Newbery Honor winner. Then, choose a Liberation Library gift amount here to help put books in the hands of young people experiencing the isolation of incarceration this holiday.


Tia K. Williams, Digital Communications and Technology Systems Manager 
One of my favorite books that I’ve read this year is a novel written by one of our frequent program attendees, Glodean Champion, titled Salmon Croquettes.

It’s a coming-of-age story about a young black girl set in 1965 Los Angeles who is struggling with her identity, family, and the world around her, set against the backdrop of the Watts Riots. I highly recommend this great read!


Morven Higgins, Director of Development and Communications 
Nora Brooks Blakely is an amazing partner of Illinois Humanities and the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards as well as a playwright, author, and teacher. Nora’s new book, Moyenda and The Golden Heart, is a friendly original folktale that tells the story of Kwanzaa through the journey of a young boy on his way to making things better for his friends and family. Nora’s goal with this beautifully illustrated children’s book is to expand the visibility of Kwanzaa and promote its values and principles.

Moyenda and the golden heart 150x150

Jane Beachy, Artistic Director 
Tara Betts is a longtime collaborator with Illinois Humanities. To get a sense of her work, visit our Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION site and look up the project she created with David Weathersby, entitled Unbarred Poetics. Then, purchase a copy of her newest book of poetry, Refuse to Disappear. In it, “Tara Betts writes histories and lineages into lines, pleating language into reunion, tucking it into the page’s pocket for another to find across time—gris-gris, amulet, ‘my slingshot and my stone.’ These poems shimmer with Betts’s fierce, devoted attention to Black Life.” (Aracelis Girmay, author of Kingdom Animalia and The Black Maria)


Joanne Hsu, Grants Programs Manager 
Are you looking for a unique, thought-provoking gift for someone who appreciates art and the environment? Since 2011, artist Libby Reuter and photographer Joshua Rowan, Illinois Humanities grantee partners, have traveled to over 400 locations across the Mississippi-Missouri basin, placing Reuter’s glass cairns in watersheds and photographing them for the book Watershed Cairns: The Mississippi River North. Every glass cairn is strategically placed in a specifically scouted scene of some of the most beautiful and unexpected sites along the upper Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers. The large-scale, color photographs in this book vividly bring to life the locale and intimately reveal the connections of the people and communities to their local watershed.


Mary Daniels, Senior Director of Programs 
Head to Hyde Park before the holidays to hit up the folks at the 57th Street Bookstore for suggestions on what to get your kids, friends, or relatives who have fallen into the internet and forgotten the joy of opening a new book and falling into unexpected stories. The staff is expert in ALL THE BOOKS, and approach book suggestions like sleuths cracking a hard case. And, they wrap!


Becky Amato, Director of Teaching and Learning 
One of my favorite Chicago area bookstores, Semicolon, had its first “Lit Fest” this summer featuring writers and vendors from around the Chicagoland area. I recommend Semicolon for all of your book-buying needs (and they are the chief supplier for Odyssey classes, by the way!)

Even more picks…

Explore Illinois!

Let us plan your next getaway! Director of Statewide Programs Fairouz AbuGhazaleh and Program Manager, Statewide Engagement Matt Meacham have compiled some of their Prairie State highlights.

  • If you’ve always wanted to visit Havana, IL, but weren’t sure where to stay, check out these beautiful lofts in historic Havana that are owned by one of the team members of the organization that will be hosting a Museum on Main Street exhibition in 2024.
  • Have you heard of Bishop Hill, IL? Nicknamed “the Utopia on the Prairie,” this village is a national state and historic landmark. If you decide to go for a weekend gateway, check out this unique bed and breakfast run by one of our Road Scholars Brian “Fox” Ellis.
  • Another beautiful gateway can be found at Peace of Earth Lodge in Rushville, IL, which is home to several Foreground Rural Initiative grantee partners and one of the communities that will be hosting Museum on Main Street in October 2023. The owners have lived on their Peace of Earth, located on 30 acres in the country, for over 40 years. They designed and built their passive solar home, decks and cabins and incorporate many sustainable and energy saving components in their style of living. They treat their guests to breakfast made with ingredients grown in their organic garden, which they can enjoy in a treehouse!
  • Another beautiful treasure in our state is Allerton Park & Retreat Center in Monticello, IL. Spend a weekend, or a week there and you won’t regret it.
  • Did you know that the Illinois & Michigan Canal will be celebrating its 175th anniversary next year? Board the I & M Canal Boat and enjoy the historic canal and the simple pleasure of the surrounding natural beauty. You can now also take advantage of the new bike sharing program in the I & M Canal National Heritage Area with Grabe-a-Bike-and-Go locations in: Lemont, Lockport, Channahon, Midewin, Morris, Utica and LaSalle.

Peace of Earth Lodge in Rushville, Illinois.

Stocking Stuffers

The perfect little something extra to make your holiday complete.


Gabe Lyon, Executive Director
I’ve been giving Chronology as a gift. It is a new favorite board game in which players build timelines with historical event cards. The first person to build a timeline with 10 cards wins. What was invented first: mayonnaise or the invention of electricity? Which happened first: the Magna Carta or the painting of the Sistine Chapel?


Vicki Garza, Director of Finance
The holiday season is a wonderful time to connect with family and friends and it brings me great joy to pick out that perfect card to send each year. The Chicago Architecture Foundation store has a great selection for 2022 holiday cards depicting beautiful Chicago scenes. Whether it be the breath-taking skyline, Christkindlmarket, Maggie Daley Park or ice skating at Millennial Park these holiday cards will bring a smile to anyone receiving them this holiday season.


Jane Beachy, Artistic Director
International Anthem is a Chicago-born recording company that produces and promotes progressive media. Albums by wildly talented Chicago-based musicians like Black Monument Ensemble and Angel Bat Dawid, both collaborators with Illinois Humanities, will make for meaningful gifts this holiday season! The International Anthem Record Company’s mission is to make positive contributions to the changing state of the music industry, and to vitalize the demand for boundary-defying music by presenting unique sounds in appealing packages to untapped audiences.


Becky Amato, Director of Teaching and Learning 
I purchased a delightful candle at Semicolon’s recent Lit Fest festival from Lillie & Mae Luxe Goods, a Chicago-based self-care shop. The Quiet Storm candle has already created a bit of warmth and coziness for me as winter begins.

Still looking for the perfect gift for your favorite humanities fan? Consider making a tax-deductible donation to Illinois Humanities this holiday season to support our free statewide programs, and we’ll give you a printable gift card to share!