FUN: Picking the perfect book as a gift for friends and family

If there’s ever a gifting trap, it’s the one that happens when you decide to buy a book for someone you know. I can remember several instances over the years where I could sense that the person receiving my gifted book was unimpressed for various reasons.

But why would someone be nonplussed by a gift? Because books are personal. Your choice in a gifted book reflects what you see in somebody. Or so they often think. This is particularly true when you’re buying for the occasional or non-reader.

But wow…when you find the perfect book for someone and that someone LOVES it, there is no GREATER feeling of satisfaction. It’s an instant bonding moment. That person will think “You get me” and reward you with praise and hugs.

I’m not making a claim that I’m an expert at book gifting. As I mentioned before, I’ve made some unfortunate choices. But here are some book suggestions for the coming Christmas holiday along with the type of readers who might enjoy them.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Alix E. Harrow)

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK: Virtually anyone who likes to read. Alix’s portal fantasy has broad appeal. Good for young readers and adults alike. I call this one a pretty safe bet.

Amazon link

THE USUAL SUSPECTS (Maurice Broaddus)

Thelonius Mitchell is tired of being labeled. He’s in special ed, separated from the “normal” kids at school who don’t have any “issues.” That’s enough to make all the teachers and students look at him and his friends with a constant side-eye. (Although his disruptive antics and pranks have given him a rep too.)

When a gun is found at a neighborhood hangout, Thelonius and his pals become instant suspects. Thelonius may be guilty of pulling crazy stunts at school, but a criminal? T isn’t about to let that label stick.

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK: Most middle-grade readers. Parents of exceptional children. Marginalized readers. This is a fun whodunit that was partly inspired by the author’s own rambunctious kids.

Amazon link


All the girls who live in the Apartments are forced to weigh their own hunger against the lives of the others living in the building. When Cynthia is wrongly accused of ordering an “A” ration, she’s punished by the other girls. Eventually, she is forced to leave the Apartments along with Ms. Glennoc, one of the former managers who has tormented and abused her for years. Together, they encounter a world of even more scarcity, but one filled with politics and intrigue. Cynthia struggles to return to the Apartments and help the girls who are still there.

Forced to reconcile her role in the destruction of these girls with the greater needs of society to find any sustainable source of calories, Ms. Tuttle makes one bad decision after another while she grapples with a mother who is growing more and more impatient with her mistakes.

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK: If your friend likes socially conscious dystopias (think The Handmaid’s Tale) then Ration is the gift of choice. The guy who co-wrote the copy (me) arrogantly compared the title to The Road and Atwood’s classic, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have done so without truly feeling like the book is good enough to stand with those two iconic works.

SABBATH (Nick Mamatas)

The infamous eleventh-century warrior Hexen Sabbath is plucked from death and certain damnation by a being claiming to be an angel of the Lord, and finds himself dropped into contemporary Manhattan with no clothes, no weapons, no resources, and one mission—to track down and kill the living personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins before they bring about Armageddon.

With time running out and his only ally a destitute art gallery owner, Sabbath must fight his way through New York’s elite and challenge the world’s most powerful man, or an eternity of suffering will be his, and our, only reward.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS BOOK: Pulp readers who enjoy Richard Kadrey and Charlie Huston! What I’m saying is that if your friend likes fast-paced, smart, and thoughtful supernatural action, then this is a great gift choice. Just look at that cover and tell me otherwise.

Amazon link

My Apex cohort Lesley Conner offers a bonus suggestion for my blog followers!

GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW (Silvia Moreno-Garcia)

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS BOOK: Is your reader friend someone who particularly enjoys cultural immersion in their fantasy choices? You won’t find a better gift book than this one. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a criminally under-read writer. Help correct this by foisting her book on your friends and family.

Amazon link


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