Monday, December 14, 2020

Andrea's Holiday Gift Guide (mostly books)

For reasons beyond "we love to read!",  books make wonderful gifts.  If you've ever been gifted a book that you ended up loving, you know the feeling of remembering the gift giver every time you read, or even think about that book. Maybe the gift giver wrote a note to you in the front of the book?  Maybe they managed to purchase a signed copy, or a special edition. Maybe the gift-giver just took the time to really understand the kind of books you love reading. 

It is also wonderful to gift a wonderful book to yourself

By the time you read this post, it may be too late to get a book delivered by Christmas. I promise everyone will still love a surprise present in January.  You'll notice the majority of the books on this list aren't brand new,  which means they aren't currently out of stock everywhere. That makes these titles easier to find at your local bookstore, and easier to surprise someone with a book they maybe aren't familiar with.  All of these titles should be available as e-books as well, for the Kindle and tablet users in your life.  And this isn't just a list of my favorite comfort reads that have helped me think about anything other than the year 2020. (ok, maybe it is)

Happy shopping, and happy reading!

(heads up, be aware that I consider nearly all of the books listed below to be "rated R" for adult content - swear words, violence, adult themes, drug use, sex, etc)

For the reader who wants to start a long, satisfying science fiction series that will help them think about anything but the year 2020, I recommend In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker. This pseudo-stand alone is the first book in The Company series.  Perfect for readers who enjoy the long game, science fiction romance, cyborgs who can't forget how to be human, out-of-control AIs, and excellent dialog.

For the reader who is looking for beautifully written short stories that aren't just smart, they are brilliant, I recommend Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh.  Most of the characters in these stories are trying to get home. Due to their curiosity about machines, science, time travel, and "hmm, maybe it'll work if I do this", they've become volunteers in their own experiments. I've made it sound a little frightening, but in a way, nearly all of these stories are love stories.

For the reader who like hard science fiction and heist stories I recommend The Quantum Magician, by Derek Künsken.  Hard scifi, impossible odds, genetically modified humans, smart dialog and smarter science, and characters and visuals that leap of the page, this is the hard science fiction version of Ocean's Eleven.

If you were intrigued by the Ocean's Eleven reference, but you're purchasing for a reader who prefers fantasy, I recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  Buckets of snark,  beautiful con-jobs, thieves who somewhat have hearts of gold,  echoes of Fahfrd and the Gray Mouser, and simply tons and tons of fun.  I have lost count of how many times I have read this book, by the way. 

For the reader who appreciates a unique take on the post apocalyptic genre, I recommend the duology Archivist Wasp and Latchkey by Nicole Kohner-Stace.  To save her community, Isabel must go down in the haunted catacombs of the old dead city, where she finds a nameless ghost, a famous dead woman, and enough hungry ghosts to scare off any sane person. If Isabel gives up out of fear or exhaustion, everyone she knows and loves with die. How can Isabel can save her world when all memories and knowledge of the past have been lost?

For the reader who loves post apocalyptic stories but wants something shorter and more stabby, I recommend Ration by Cody Luff. In this futuristic home for girls, calories are rationed.  Should a girl hoard calories, the rest of the girls on the floor risk starvation.  Light on the adult supervision, heavy on the atmosphere, and with the feeling of a cornered injured animal with nothing left to lose, this short novel packs quite a punch, and ultimately is as hopeful as it is terrifying. 

For the reader who wants their fantasy series to have it all - courtly intrigue and betrayal, amazing mythology,  angry gods who walk around talking (and doing other things) to mortals, bad guys who you can maybe grow to sympathize with,  family dynamics and the connections between parents and children, history that has literal weight, fantastic characters who refuse to stay on the page,  and delicious sexual tension I highly recommend N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy

For the reader who is feeling a little exhausted and is looking for something to help them calm down and feel like they are out in the country I recommend  Waystation by Clifford Simak.  In this delightfully pastoral story, Enoch is the guardian of a waystation for aliens. The waystation is hidden inside Enoch's farmhouse, and all Enoch has to do is offer hospitality to the aliens, and keep nosy humans off his property.  Appearing to his neighbors as a socially awkward and quiet man, in reality Enoch has friends across the galaxy and has been gifted with near immortality. 

After all this book shopping, you deserve a gift for yourself!  If you missed Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris books when they first came out, I recommend the newly printed Ambergris one-volume omnibus. The strangeness and beautiful surreality of the festivals, history, and residents of  the city of Ambergris made the original trilogy a cult favorite. Every novella and novel in the Ambergris-verse focuses on a different character, making them all function as linked stand-alones.  Maybe you know Vandermeer because of Annihilation or Borne? Ambergris is a smidge less horror and a lot more beautiful weirdness.

And if you have the responsibility of purchasing a gift for someone who has said "please, no more books! I have more than I could ever read in a lifetime!",  do they like pie?

POSTED BY: Andrea Johnson lives in Michigan with her husband and too many books. She can be found on twitter, @redhead5318 , where she posts about books, food, and assorted nerdery.