The Icelandic custom of exchanging books on Christmas Eve, and spending the rest of the evening reading and eating chocolate, sounds to me like a great tradition. My family knows they’ll be getting books from me—I generally do at least half my holiday shopping in the bookstore—and books are always on my wish lists.
If you’re looking for gift ideas, here are the books—some old, some new—that I read or reviewed this year that most excited me, either because they made me think, or they were just plain fun. (Of course, if you’d rather read them yourself than give them away, that’s OK too!)
In no particular order:
- The Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy: space opera at its best. An AI embarks on a quest for justice in a highly stratified, militaristic society.
- Weaveworld by Clive Barker: hope, heroism, and devotion amid horrors and attempted genocide. What can be imagined is never entirely lost.
- Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold: another space opera, this is a wild rollercoaster ride with a terrific female protagonist juggling demands of the heart with wartime duty.
- This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin by Emma Darwin: a non-fiction deep dive into one writer’s creative process, and what happened when that process failed.
- Restoration Day by Deborah Makarios: a clean, noble bright fairytale with a heroine who has to grow up fast and a hero who is definitely not Prince Charming.
- Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: a Regency romance with magic.
- The Molenstraat Music Festival by Sean Mongahan: a lovely novella about loss, discovery, hard choices, and the depth of feeling in a student/teacher relationship.
- The Kingfisher’s Debt by Kura Carpenter: an urban fantasy including a mystery and a sweet romance, and featuring the Fair Folk, Elementals, and police in Dunedin, New Zealand.
- The Case of the Missing Kitchen by Barbara Else: part family drama, part madcap farce, this murder mystery with an endearing nutcase protagonist starts at a run and never slows down.
- The Lord of Stariel by A J Lancaster: a fairytale combining family drama, mystery, and sweet romance, with a competent, likeable female protagonist.
- Temeraire (or His Majesty’s Dragon) by Naomi Novik: the Napoleonic wars with dragons.
- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: six interconnected stories ranging from the 19th-century South Pacific to a post-apocalyptic future.
- Maus by Art Spiegelman: Holocaust memoir as graphic novel.
- The 13 Clocks by James Thurber: this old favourite is a fairytale full of wordplay, begging to be read aloud.
- Where We Land by Tim Jones: a novella exploring the human costs of the worsening climate crisis.
- Moonheart by Charles de Lint: the setting—semi-sentient, world-straddling Tamson House—makes this Canadian urban fantasy unique.