Holiday Guide: Books

In my mind, books make the perfect gift. They provide hours of entertainment, which reminds the recipient of how awesome you, the gift-giver, are; they can be reused; and for the parents, it’s one fun gift you don’t have to feel guilty about giving. Plus, there are few things more fun than introducing someone to a wonderful new world that you already know and love.

For the Fantasy lover on your list

A Dance with Dragons, by George RR Martin

The fifth book in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, Dance with Dragons continues the epic story with all of the main characters that you know and love from the series. And of course it comes with the standard GRRM twists and turns that we’ve all come to love. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it makes the great gift for any GRRM fan who has not yet picked up the latest in the series.

The Inheritance Trilogy, by N. K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, $7.99
The Broken Kingdoms, $7.99
The Kingdom of the Gods, $10.98

I really don’t understand why the first book in this series, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, didn’t win any awards this year–it was one of the most imaginative books I have read in a long time. The mythology was interesting, the characters were well-defined, and the writing was tight. The second book was just as good, and I can’t wait to read the final installment.

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

Winner of this year’s World Fantasy Award, this book is set in Africa in a post-apocalyptic future, and it features a magic system that is very different from the wizardry you see in a lot of fantasy books. The setting and plot are fairly grim, but the characters are so strong and well-realized that the book doesn’t feel totally desolate. It is powerful and ultimately hopeful, and Okorafor is a strong writer that I look forward to reading for many years to come.

For the Science Fiction Fan

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois

I’ve said it before, short stories are a great way to find new science fiction writers, and this annual collection is the best of the best. Dozois consistently puts out a high quality group of stories, with authors that go on to write great books and do great things for the field. Not that Dozois reads their books–he spends all of his time searching out those great stories for upcoming collections. This book is also great because you don’t have to read it straight through and keep all of the characters straight, so it makes a great gift for a busy reader, despite its 704 pages.

The Ship Who Sang, by Anne McCaffrey

Since reading the terrible news that McCaffrey died this week, I have been looking over my collection of her works and remembering how much I loved discovering her as a teenager and young adult. Of course I read her Dragonriders of Pern books first, and loved them, but The Ship Who Sang is probably my favorite book of hers. It is the story of Helva, who was born with a sharp mind, but a body that can’t survive without support.  She and others like her are given a high quality education and eventually become cyborgs with high level functions like city manager or space station. Helva has a knack for starflight mechanics, so she becomes a brainship, with her body being the ship itself. This books is a collection of short stories that combine to tell a tale of Helva’s life.

Maul, by Tricia Sullivan

This is the story of girl gangs fighting a fashion battle at the mall with real bullets, and a boy guinea pig, being infected with designer viruses for research purposes. There is a shortage of men in this world as a result of y-plagues, and they need to do more work to understand what they are up against. The story takes the micro-violence of disease in one person and translates it to macro-violence between people, and explores what it means to be free.

For Fans of Historical Fiction, Classic Literature or Mysteries

The White Queen / The Red Queen, Phillippa Gregory
$7.99 / $17.15

Gregory is one of my favorite historical fiction authors, and she really captures the world and facts of history and molds them into one fantastic story. The White Queen and The Red Queen are both novels set in the era of The Cousins War in England and deal with two important queens during this time: Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort. These novels also discuss one of the great mysteries from this time: the two princes who went missing in the Tower of London. These books would make great gifts for that historial fiction fan in your life.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

The subtitle says it all here: why Jane Austen is so wonderful and how she inspired future writers with her careful observations of the drama beneath the surface of the peaceful English countryside. The stories are set in Austen’s time and the present and times in between, with the beloved characters of an Austen novel, or different versions of Jane herself.

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James

Austen is one of my favorite classic authors, and James is one of my favorite modern mystery writers, so this is bound to be amazing. If it were anyone else writing this book, I would be much more afraid that this would be a failure, but I can’t imagine James writing anything less than brilliantly. Reading her own words on why and how she took on this project makes me feel even better. This isn’t quite available, but the release date is December 2, plenty early for gift giving!

For Teens or Adults who love YA books

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty

I have long been a fan of Moriarty’s adult books, and I wish I was recommending the third book in her Spin Series in the science fiction section above, but alas, that doesn’t come out until next year. In the meantime, she has started a YA series that promises to be just as good in a different way. The main character, 13 year old Sacha Kessler, has a talent for seeing magic and becomes an apprentice to the NYPD Inquisitors–an apprenticeship he isn’t exactly thrilled to have. Moriarty wrote this book to celebrate her love for New York City, and to have a book her son could read that was about a Jewish wizard with a rich immigrant history. Moriarty has a fun website with more information as well.

Liar, by Justine Larbalestier

I stayed up too late reading this the other night, because I just couldn’t put it down, and then I spent the following day trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t in this book. I chose this book originally because I thought of Larbalestier as a spec fic writer after reading Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, which I highly recommend as well, and I was confused when this book seemed to be straight YA, no speculative elements at all. But then, there was a fantastic element–or was there? Where do the lies start and stop? This is definitely for a sophisticated teen, and there is plenty for an adult to enjoy.

Ash / Huntress, by Malinda Lo
$8.99 / $12.23

I am a bit of a sucker for fairy tale re-tellings. Lo, one of the founders of the great Diversity in YA website and book tour, does a wonderful job with the Cinderella story here. The major twist in the tale is that this is a lesbian retelling, with the titular character falling for the King’s Huntress rather than the prince. The fairies are also darker and more like the old versions of the fairy world, with selfish motives that don’t mix well with humans. Ash is a classic tale of a girl who has to choose between a seductive death to hide from her problems and embracing life in all its uncertainty. I haven’t been able to read the prequel, Huntress, yet, but I am hoping to get to it soon.



I agree books make great gifts, but I also find it hard choosing them because every reader has such different tastes. It's hard to find good sci-fi or fantasy that someone who normally doesn't read those genres would like. I just bought Terry Brook's Landover series as a gift because I believe it is one of those rare series.


@allisonb Yes, that is a good point--and I have given books before only to find that the recipient already got that book for themselves. At least I know I picked well, right?