Suggest Some Books For the Holidays

Since I mentioned a couple of entries back that one way you can help the publishing industry pull out of its fiery death spiral is to actually, you know, buy some damn books, I think it’s appropriate at this point to open up a thread and let people suggest books they think people should consider as gifts this holiday season. Suggest books in any genre you like, fiction or non-fiction, or for any audience — what matter is you think they’re good. I would only offer three tips in making your suggestions:

1. Pick recent books (the last year or two is good);

2. If you’re an author, don’t flog your own books, flog someone else’s;

3. Per point two, don’t suggest my books; I figure people here don’t really need to be prompted on that score.

I’m personally suggesting The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, because it’s meaty wacky crazy involved future apocalyptic reading that people seem to either love or hate but are definitely never bored with, which makes it perfect for people who like to argue both about and with their books, which is most people I know. Also the fuscia-and-green cover certainly makes it stand out, doesn’t it (here’s the somewhat more sedate UK cover).

What do you suggest, book-wise, for this holiday season? Share! Share! We have shoppings to do!

123 Comments on “Suggest Some Books For the Holidays”

  1. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor,PhD

    She is a brain scientist who had a massive stroke and recovered and this is her book about it. Very uplifting. Very informative about stroke recovery. Very insightful about living a more peaceful joyful life.

  2. In terms of young adult titles, there’s a plethora to choose from. Out of which I’d heartily recommend:

    GRACELING, by Kristin Cashore, about a young woman who’s magical grace is her ability to kill – who begins to realize that she doesn’t have to be the king’s dreaded hand if she wants to be more. Exciting and complex, with a (physically) strong female hero.

    TH EKNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, by Patrick Ness, which is the extraordinary story of the only boy on a colony planet in which there are no women. And all of the men can hear each other’s thoughts, all of them, all the time. Gripping adventure coupled with thought-provoking ideas.

  3. I’ll suggest Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games (2007). It is a ripping good tale at any time, about the duel of wits between Inspector Sartaj Singh, a Sikh member of the Mumbai police force, and Ganesh Gaitonde, member of the Mumbai underworld, but it is especially worth reading now in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

    I’ve got ten more mostly recent beloved books listed in my blog — apologies if this is illicit blog pimping, but it does directly fit the theme of this post.

  4. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.

    Urban fantasy that I almost passed by. I’m glad I didn’t. Good characters and plot without that overt romantic flavor typical of the genre.

  5. If you want some scifi that will really make you think, I suggest Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (be warned, it is a >little< hard to get into… give it 50-75 pages and then zoooooom). I loved it.

    Also, Alistair Reynold’s House of Suns for some good space-opera action. Galaxy-spanning gypsy civilizations. Mechanical intelligences. Clones in love. All good.

    Anything by Charles Stross.

    Anything by John Scalzi.

    I’ve got some picks for fantasy too, but I think I’ll constrain myself to scifi.

  6. Chalice by Robin McKinley. A) Classic Robin McKinley. B) Classic stand alone fantasy, which for those of us who don’t like the endless epic so much is very nice.

  7. Kelly McCullough’s Ravirn series – Webmage, Cybermancy and CodeSpell. These books are a great mix of mythology and technology with fun characters and “laptops” you only wish you could have!

  8. Also, Harkaway’s (terrific) GONE AWAY WORLD is not only cool to look at, it’s made of muppet.

  9. Oh, I have some good ones to suggest.
    For adults:
    SCREAM FOR ME and DIE FOR ME by Karen Rose-don’t let the “romantic suspense” tag put you off, these first two installments of the trilogy are great psychological thrillers with sex as a bonus. KILL FOR ME comes out in Feb, so you won’t have to wait long for the conclusion, which I’ve read and also highly recommend.
    BOBBY FAYE’S FAMILY JEWELS by Toni McGee Causey is a fun cajun romp. There’s a mystery and a host of interesting characters. A fun read.
    THE HARROWING by Alex Sokoloff, now available in paperback, is horror, but not zombie-vampire-shapeshifter stuff. This is well written and will be enjoyed by those who don’t usually read horror.
    OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell, he overgeneralizes, but his basic premise is interesting.
    ALEX AND ME by Irene Pepperberg–a moving memoir and interesting take on what “intelligence” is.

    For YA:
    NATION by Terry Pratchett
    LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow, my Dh and I enjoyed both of these, too.

    For middle grade readers (but good for older readers as well:
    THE WAY WE WORK by David McCaulay, the same guy who did THE WAY THINGS WORK has come out with this cool book on the human body. Great fun and educational.
    THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman A great story and cool illustrations.

  10. The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson. That book totally blew me away last summer.

    I have Gone Away World, now that you’ve recommend it, I may have to get to it sooner rather than later.

  11. Other good YA titles (alongside Zoe’s Tale): Doctorow’s Little Brother, Larbalestier’s How To Ditch Your Fairy, McNaughton’s Cycler, Prose’s After, Rosoff’s How I Live Now, Clare’s City of Bones, Black’s Tithe, Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, Waters’ Generation Dead, Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It, Westerfeld’s Uglies, Mieville’s Un Lun Dun, Anderson’s Feed, Ursu’s The Shadow Thieves, Hautman’s Godless, and Philbrick’s The Last Book in the Universe. (Several of these are the first of a series–I give the first one and let the reader decide about the rest.)

  12. I just finished Charles Stross’s Halting State (2007). It was excellent. Most Whateverites are probably familiar with his work, but I’ll recommend it anyway.

  13. I just finished Oakley Hall’s “Warlock.” I think it’s the only western I’ve ever read, but it was excellent.

    Of the science-fiction stuff I’ve read this year, there’s Jay Lake’s “Rocket Science” and the Tobias Buckell books I wouldn’t have heard of if not for the Whatever.

  14. It’s last year’s book, now, but Alan Bennett’s An Uncommon Reader is awfully good, and I suppose it’s now out in paperback.

    I’m actually reluctant to buy books as gifts, mostly. I’m all for buying books, but too much of my you’re really going to looove this book-buying wound up with awkward defensiveness. No, it’s OK that you didn’t love it. People like different things! It’s OK. Have a gift card!


  15. Hmm…there are so many good books to recommend, but one does come to mind: Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory.

    And there’s a story to why this book comes to mind – specifically that it should be bought on December 15th at the author’s own suggestion. [a href=””]The details on why this is so.[/a]

  16. Well, if you’re a book nerd at all, I highly recommend Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series (his Jack Spratt novels are also good). They’re good light detective novels chock full of silly references, alternate history and some good villians. The most recent one came out last year I think and there are 5 in all. Also, they can be great reread books since you sometimes don’t catch all the jokes a first time. (I finally got a Waiting for Godot joke from the third book like a year or two after I first read it because I didn’t know who Godot was for all that time).

    Also, I agree Doctorow’s Little Brother, that had me sucked in completely. I just started reading Terry Prachett’s Making Money but it’s got me hooked and if it’s anything like it’s prequel Going Postal, it’s going to be great.

  17. If there are any left, Subterranean Press just released “The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox”, by Barry Hughart. I am reading through my copy and loving every word of it!

  18. I endorse the WHAM-O Superbook by Tim Walsh (the link goes to the author’s book site and includes sample page views under the “Inside” tab).

    This is truly a book for all ages — it’s either a pleasant trip back to olde Christmas mornings and lazy summer days, or a sobering revelation how awful your childhood was without toys that seriously threatened life and property.

    To wit, the chapters including Wham-O’s (real, metal) machetes and fencing swords from the ’50s and ’60s, the toxic original Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, and the Air Blaster air gun that could “blow out a candle from 20 feet” are especially breathtaking.


    There are some great books out this year for the person in your life who has to make presentations at work or school. Get Slide:ology, the Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte; or Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds; or The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam.

    They are all visually interesting, quick reads with a lot of value. Get all three. Do your part to save captive audiences from PowerPoint Hell, and help your loved one pitch successfully and make some money.

  19. Literary Fiction:
    Yellowknife, by Steve Zipp
    When We Were Romans, by Matthew Kneale

    Résistance, by Agnès Humbert
    In the Land of Invisible Women, by Qanta Ahmed

    Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick

    Looking for Alaska, by John Green

    The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norma Doidge
    Proust was a Neuroscientist, by Jonah Lehrer

    Short Fiction:
    Springtime on Mars, by Susan Woodring
    Ellis Island and Other Stories, by Mark Helprin
    Four Letter Word, ed. Joshua Knelman and Rosalind Porter

  20. I recently read some excellent ones from several genres:

    My Lobotomy by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming. A sixty year-old man investigates what led up to his stepmother’s decision to have him lobotomized at age 12 and the events of his life after that event. It’s a heart wrenching search by Dully to find out about himself and to discover how to finally move on with his life.

    The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s my opinion that genre fiction suffers because it boxes itself in its own cliches. McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, etc.) takes on Armageddon in this dark, dystopic tale and doesn’t bog himself or the readers down in the why’s and what’s of how the world’s destruction, but just chronicles a boy and his father their journey across what’s left of this nation.

    Acacia by David Anthony Durham. This is epic fantasy every bit as good as George RR Martin or Tolkein, but with a twist – the story has a beginning, middle and end in the same volume. Sure, there’s room for the sequel, but like Scalzi’s work, the plot comes to a close before the book ends.

    Idlewild by Nick Sagan. A really edgy take on virtual worlds and deceptive perceptions that’ll make you feel like you did the first time you watched The Matrix. Quick, clever prose and a twist on nearly every page. Great reading.

    I have a lot more . . . but this is John’s blog. Not mine.

  21. So many books; so little time and money. Here are a few recent ones, in no particular order, and excluding clients/clients-of-clients from the list (and you know who you are):

    Ursula K. Le Guin, Lavinia — another “retelling”, but of a story that a lot of people have heard of but never heard… and, frankly, makes a lot more sense than does the original.

    “Jack Campbell” (John Hemry), The Lost Fleet: Valiant — fourth in a series of military science fiction novels that actually cares about the relationship between means and ends. And it’s an inexpensive mass-market paperback, so for the price of a casebound you can buy all four thus-far published!

    Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind — good metafiction wrapped around a good story. Also now available in mmpb.

  22. Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fischer. Due out this week. Yes, it’s a bio, but it’s Carrie Fischer and I read the arc for it and its super awesome and funny. The behind the scenes stuff in Star Wars is great.

  23. I was pleasantly surprised by The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, who I first learned about here at Whatever. Looking forward to the sequel.

  24. It’s not (just) the colors–it’s the way the author and title are superimposed on each other. My eyes are actually bleeding now. I hpoe yuo’re hppay. Jrek.

    (Actually, I find it difficult to process on some level. I have to consciously parse it, when normally I’m not aware of the process of reading–it’s more of a gestalt thing.)

    Speaking of, next time you’re reading a book, think about the edges of the page!


  25. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips – the Greek Pantheon shares a London flat. Their powers are starting to wane, and they have to take real-world jobs to support themselves – Apollo has a public-access psychic hour, Artemis is a dog walker, Aphrodite is, um, a phone sex operator. Two mortals accidentally get involved. Hilarity ensues.

    Black Ships by Jo Graham – the Aeneid from the POV of a priestess of Pythia.

    The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – a friend of mine recommended this to me, and I loved it. I don’t know what they’re calling it these days – Thief Lit? Rogue Lit? – conmen and smartassery (and badassery) in the city of Camorr. First in the Gentlemen Bastard series.

    …I’m going to be adding half the recommendations in this thread to my own wishlist, aren’t I?

  26. I would definitely second Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory for any genre fan. It’s quirky, different and fairly short (which makes it all the more likely the gift recipient will give it a try). He is also a debut author that could use the sales.

    Additionally, for anyone with teens in the house, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is an outstanding book.

    Go buy both. Twice.

    I’m assuming everyone here knows to pimp the Scalzi stuff already.

  27. Books! Books! Books!

    The Salvo Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri is good, but it contains sex and language.

    The Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon is excellent–my grandmother was harassing me to read faster so she could read them.

    Graphic Novels:
    The latest volume of Fables, War and Pieces is out, and although I don’t recommend starting there, it’s an amazing series, well worth going back to the start and reading forward.

    Territory by Emma Bull; I have an inordinate fondness of Doc Holliday, so this book hit a sweet spot for me.

    Liz William’s Detective Inspector Chen series

    And…. I’m late! Gotta run!

  28. Off the top of my head:

    Joe Haldeman, Marsbound — ostensibly YA, but a great read with many a surprise in store.

    Neal Stephenson, Anathem — <AOL> thirded.

    Iain M. Banks, Matter — the latest novel of the Culture is wonderfully textured, both poignant and funny as hell.

    Michael Flynn, The January Dancer — Gaelactic¹ intrigue. Currently competing for eyespace with this laptop … and winning, so the list ends here.

    ¹ Not a typo.

  29. The two Orphans Tales books by Cat Valente : “In The Night Garden”, and “Cities Of Coin And Spice.”

    They’re layered stores that weave back in on themselves, subvert and upend the standard fairy tale tropes, and OMFG the prose is beautiful.

    If you liked the Master Li and Number Ten Ox books at least in part because of the prose, you’ll probably like these. They’re a bit more intense, and rich. They’re not “light reads”, but wow are they amazing.


    Ellen Datlow’s “Inferno” anthology – Some of the best horror writing I’ve read in ages. If you ever enjoyed Steven King’s early writing, and then got bored with it, this will probably re kindle your love for the genre.

  30. Of stuff I’ve read recently:

    Winterbirth and Bloodheir, by Brian Ruckley – the first two books in what is to be a trilogy, I believe. Excellent epic fantasy, sometimes startlingly brutal, with an emphasis on the political brokerage of a fully-realized swords-and-sorcery world. Think George R.R. Martin, with a scoche (sp?) more magic and a wonderful “less-is-more” ethic.

    Duma Key by Stephen King – I’m really digging his later works, especially those written after his near-fatal accident in ’99. This is, I think, his latest, and it’s gorgeous. It’s definitely a Stephen King novel, but more… introspective, I guess. If you read and liked Lisey’s Story, or even Bag of Bones, you’ll enjoy this one.

    Dying to Live, by Kim Paffenroth – zombie-horror with a thoughtful, insightful edge. Paffenroth holds a PhD in divinity studies, I think, and has spent a lifetime studying the works of St. Augustine and Dante, both of which clearly informs his work. Not the best writing, and I wish it had gone on for 50-75 more pages – the ending felt abrupt – but a nice take on the genre.

    Locke & Key by Joe Hill – brilliant comic penned by Stephen King’s oldest. The omnibus containing the first six issue miniseries is mesmerizing – a great, creepy story with some damn fine artwork and amazing characters, to boot. I read it in one sitting.

    The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger – this book was published in 2003, so technically speaking shouldn’t be included, but I couldn’t leave it off. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking book, told alternatingly from the point of view of the time traveler and his wife. I can’t recommend this book enough. I cried at the end, and I don’t cry from books. Movies, yes, all the damn time.

    I’ll also second the recommendation of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Ye gods, what a book. Tough, beautiful, brutal – I cried in this one, too. Get it, get it now!

  31. I am only a little way into it, but I am enjoying Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, which is a kind of collective biography that looks at the likes of Joseph Banks (who as a youngster went to Tahiti with Captain Cook and became a science nexus when he got home, having – as President of the Royal Society – dealings with George III until he went mad), William Herschel (a German musician in England who built his own telescopes and discovered Uranus) and Humphrey Davy, the chemist.

    It’s not an academic text and appears – so far – to have plenty of stories and anecdotes and be a good read. It had some great reviews here in the UK – here’s a detailed good review here. Should appeal to those who like science and a sensawunda. Mind you, I think, from a cursory glance at, that it is not published in the USA until July 2009, though it’s been out in the UK for a couple of months… but sterling is now $1.50 or so, down from the $2 it was when I was last in the US in August.

  32. Jo Walton’s mystery/alternate history novels about Britain capitulating to Hitler: FARTHING, HA’PENNY and HALF A CROWN, in that order. HALF A CROWN came out in September.

    These are excellent as mysteries, insightful as social commentary, compelling as alternate history, damning as political commentary and generally cheeky. I’ve given FARTHING as a gift three times in the past year.

    And one more, Man Martin’s DAYS OF THE ENDLESS CORVETTE. This one is harder to explain, but imagine a boy-meets-girl situation with an absent father, a used car lot and a mechanical savant in a flyspeck Georgia town. Hijinks ensue.

  33. ::The Yiddish Policemen’s Union:: by Michael Chabon. I cannot recommend this enough. Was the best alternate history novel I’ve read in a while, and it’s detective noir to boot! Chabon taught me a thing or two about writing, as his prose is just too darn nifty to resist. This is definitely a must read.

    ::Implied Spaces:: by Walter Jon Williams. Such an enjoyable, yet thoughtful, far-future and hard sci-fi actioner. Williams makes wormhole science and “Vingean” singularities fun! No joke. It was refreshing to read such a master blend the hard science of quantum physics with the quick pace and gripping plot mechanics of a true-blue space opera. Another definite must-read for sure.

  34. Given the readership here, let me strongly suggest:

    Antarktos Rising by Jeremy Robison

    It’s a tech thriller with definite SF elements. Crustal displacement, massive death of 2.5 billion people, the north pole is now in North Dakota, Antarctica is a tropical paradise, and the remaining countries are racing to split up Antarctica, but the life forms there (ya gotta read it to understand) might have some say in the matter.

  35. A couple YA recommendations:

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Teenagers in dystopian gladiatorial contest (Think Lord of the Flies meets The Running Man).

    Graceling by Kristin Cashore – debut fantasy novel with great characters and lots of ass-kickery.

  36. Let’s see…

    Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg. Ostensibly about the Chandler software project, it captured the reasons I became and have stayed a programmer. Although techies should have a special appreciation for this book, it is not in any way, shape, or form a technical manual.

    Emissaries From the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro. With apologies to Peter F. Hamilton and Orson Scott Card, this book is “Paul Myo: Speaker for the Dead”. It’s the second best SF novel I’ve read this year, just behind Little Brother.

    The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Damn, did that man ever have a lot of fantastic things to say about how to live your life!

    I’ll see you the Kelly McCullough Ravirn recommendation, and raise you Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series. These are all quick fun urban fantasies, and you can throw in Simon R. Green’s Nightside.

  37. I’ve got to third “The Name of the Wind”, as fine a fantasy novel as I’ve read in a long time.
    Also King’s “Just After Sunset”, which I just finished. I know he needs no help, but King is only getting better, if you haven’t noticed.

  38. First, since I saw it mentioned, I want to second Josh Jasper’s praise for The Orphan’s Tales – it’s the kind of multi-layered, haunting storytelling that makes me drool with envy. The stories are engrossing and beautiful on their own, but Valente’s careful blend of old-fashioned narrative and modern prose is striking.

    Next, I’d also recommend Baltimore: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. The tales are straightforward and intense. The old-world myths referenced in its pages spring to life. Mignola’s artwork duly compliments the gothic web of twisted fairy-stories. It reads quickly, but is still obviously worth it.

    Also, I’ve been recently impressed with A. Lee Martinez’s works, particularly Gil’s All Fright Diner and Too Many Curses. They’re comical stories with intriguing characters that while not perhaps the same kind of satire as Terry Pratchett, still make a treat for fantasy enthusiasts who enjoy seeing their favourite genre adoringly lampooned and brought to its silliest conclusions. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and I’m glad that I picked these off the shelves when I noticed them. Great for YA audiences, too.

  39. I recently read, and liked, “The Watchman”, by Robert Crais.

    Here’s a brief description, selected from Amazon:

    Joe Pike, the intriguing, enigmatic partner of L.A. PI Elvis Cole, takes center stage in this intense thriller from bestseller Crais (The Two Minute Rule). To pay back an old debt, Pike is coerced into protecting Larkin Barkley, a hard-partying young heiress whose life is in danger after a “wrong place wrong time” encounter that quickly escalates and spins out of control. The enemy is shadowy, violent and relentless–but the fierce, focused Pike, one of the strongest characters in modern crime fiction, is equal to the challenge. The breathless pace and rich styling are sure to appeal to readers of hard-boiled fiction in general…

  40. I’ll recommend some new books that I haven’t read yet, but am REALLY looking forward to getting into:

    THE DROWNED LIFE by Jeffrey Ford; short-story collection by one of today’s best short-story writers

    THE LOVE WE SHARE WITHOUT KNOWING by Christopher Barzak; his first book tore my heart apart, I hope this one does the same

    TEMPLAR, AZ by Spike; this is a little different and not really pursuant to Scalzi’s request, but this is a phenomenal webcomic that has new print editions out for the holidays: The artwork is top notch, and the world Spike has created is completely believable. Set in a slightly parallel Earth with heavy Egyptian/African influences.

  41. Books I have actually bought recently for people (including myself)

    Nudge – Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler
    The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan
    Uglies – Scott Westerfeld
    The Adventures of Johnny Bunko – Daniel Pink
    ***Little Brother – Cory Doctorow*** (recommended for any remotely-nerdy teenager ever)
    Free to Be You and Me – Marlo Thomas (for kids or nostalgic adults)

  42. I just finished A. Lee Martinez’s The Automatic Detective, which is a fun little retrofuture novel. If you’re into non-fiction, Spycraft is an excellent tome about Cold War gadgets, and Everitt’s Augustus is a well-written biography of the Roman emperor.

    A second for Jo Walton, as well. I just read one of hers the other day, and was quite impressed.

  43. I second the recommendation for Jo Walton’s Small Change series. (And not just because I have a character named after me in Book 3.) We seemed to have reached a sort of turning point presaged in her series–having been through many years of a corrupt government and been given new hope, but our work is just beginning anew. It’s important to remember that you have to keep fighting the war, not just the little battles.

    Brandon Sanderson’s third Mistborn came out this year, and finished off that trilogy. I think it was a successful end to a series, and as usual Sanderson makes some neefty magic systems that are fun to explore.

    Tesseracts Twelve is out and my friend, David Nickle, has a story in it, Wylde’s Kingdom, which I will describe as Steve Irwin on Crack Meets A Giant Squid at the End of Days. If that doesn’t sound like a good story, I don’t know what I can do for you. You can read a snippet of it here:

    You can get Tesseracts Twelve on Amazon.

  44. >belated forehead slap<

    Somehow managed to miss “pick recent books,” cleverly hidden as it was at the very top of the list of tips, tucked behind the boldface “1.”

    Clearly, “Warlock” doesn’t belong here, nor does “Rocket Science.” Buckell & his Pepper tales still get the nod.

  45. Elizabeth Bear’s Stratford Man duology (Ink and Steel, Hell and Earth) – Set in the waning days of Elizabethan England the two novels feature Will Shakespeare, Kit Marley (Marlowe), faeries, theatre, the devil, and conspiracies wrapped in magical plots. Painful, beautiful writing. Part of her Promethean Age series, but does not require knowledge of the other two PA books as this is set 300 years before those novels.

  46. The two fiction books I’ve read in the last couple of years that I liked the best were Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. These were both terrific turns on two classic SF tropes – post-apocalypse and time travel. Adored both of them (and gotta wonder if Stephen Moffat read TTW before he wrote “A Silence in the Library” for Dr. Who).

  47. The Night Angel Trilogy that starts with The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks is one I’ve been reading recently and it’s very good. Pseudo-early renaissance setting (with magic added in), follows a boy-cum-assassin with fairly interesting political twists and turns along with very good combat scenes. Major characters aren’t invincible, either, which could be a plus or minus. They should be easy to find; they’re going to be the only softcover books in that end of the fantasy aisle that have white covers. Other pluses: all are softcover and all are out as of 12/1

  48. I’ve been negligent on the new book front, reading mostly books I should have read years ago if only I’d known about them, but thanks to all for the Christmas gift ideas! I now have 6 more books on my wishlist, and 4 more books in my shopping cart to give away.

  49. I second “Gil’s All Fright Diner”. Martinez is hilarious. A fat, hairy werewolf and a balding vampire that wears overalls? Priceless.

    Could also pick up “Watchmen” in preparation for the movie coming out in March (although it should still be read even if the movie wasn’t made, because damn, that is a great novel).

    “Keeping It Real” (Justina Robson) is a pretty far stretch from the norm as far as fantasy goes. I mean, how many other novels can you name where a demonic elf has a cyborg as a bodyguard?

    “Greywalker” (Kat Richardson) is another urban fantasy that doesn’t have the sexual/romantic overtones. Excellent read. She has a great imagination.

    That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head. I’ll try to think of some more to post later. Great thread idea!

  50. Elizabeth Bear’s All the Windwracked Stars-a really fun book that rewards rereading
    Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains-His fantasy debut. Not pubbed in the US yet, but available
    Neal Stephenson’s Anathem

    Terry Pratchett’s Nation-There’re a lot of adults who’d like this too. NOT a Discworld book-I don’t care for those at all, and I loved this. It’s an alternate-history coming of age. If you hate the cover, Waterstones UK put out a special edition with a much more attractive cover.
    Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother- A fun story with a lot of serious thought behind it.
    Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games-A really intelligent and thoughtful post-apocolyptic book. Also, the ultimate point of reality TV.
    Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book-It’s Neil at his best. Great stuff.
    Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters-Short fiction enjoyable by either kids or adults. Plus, Shaun Tan did the cover.

    Stocking Stuffers
    Caitlin Kittredge’s Nocturne City books-Night Life and Pure Blood. Perfect for the Dresden Files’ fan on your list.
    Emma Bull’s Territory-A World Fantasy award nominee and has made the preliminary Nebula ballot. Great book.
    Jo Walton’s Farthing-Perfect for the thriller-lover on your list. An alternate WWII-era setting focussing on what might’ve happened had the UK elected to make peace with Hitler. A Nebula nominee.

    Graphic Novels
    The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba.-Forget My Chemical Romance this is a lot of fun. Features zombie robot Gustave Eiffel.
    The Kin Book One by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh-If you or a teen you know liked Tithe and Valiant, this won’t disappoint.
    Suburban Glamour by Jamie Mckelvie-A really charming De Lintesque story with some fun music references.
    Shutting up now.

  51. My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell. This is the tales of a boy and his odd family, living on the island of Corfu in Greece for a few years. Durrell was intending to write about the flora and fauna on Corfu, but funny anecdotes about his family slipped in, and eventually took over the book. It is hilarious, one of the few books that has ever made me laugh out loud. I can’t seem to find the 2 sequels in print, at least not for reasonable amounts of money.

    I’ve been reading a lot of Octavia Butler’s stuff lately, have enjoyed it all.

    Tananarive Due- good stuff, if you like horror/thrillers. There is a good amount of black history in her books as well. I haven’t read her historical fiction yet (Joplin’s Ghost) but I’ve heard good things about it.

    Anything by Terry Pratchett.

  52. Ok, one more graphic novel
    Mouse Guard Fall 1152-An awesome book in which medieval mice fight to survive. Appropriate and liked by all ages from 6-7 on up. Yes, really.

  53. One very recent book which I believe is only available with online retailers (, Amazon, etc.) is Shreve Stockton’s “The Daily Coyote”, born of her website, and chronicling the first year of Charlie-the-orphaned-coyote’s life with her.

    It sounds cheesy the way I describe it, but Stockton’s writing is always lyrically honest without ever being trite or overwrought and her photography is stunning. I bought it for the animal-lover in my family.

  54. I’ll second PixelFish’s reccommendation of Sanderson’s Mistborn books. I can’t think of any other instance of reading fantasy where I thought “It would be so incredibly cool to see this magic in action!” Naomi Novik comes close, but I’ll give the nod to Sanderson and his “every metallic object can simultaneously become a paddle-ball of death and destruction” system of magic.

    Other than that, I’ll give props to John Twelve Hawks and his Traveller books for some good old fashioned paranoid conspiracy and exciting chase scenes.

  55. I’d like to either recommend the five volume ebook edition of P.C. Hodgell’s God Stalker Chronicles that BAEN offers on its webscriptions site (that link also has the best concise introduction piece into Jamethiel’s world) here:

    Or if you don’t mind giving out vouchers, the new hardcover and trade paperback editions of the first two volumes will come out on January 6th, 2009.

    Pat Hodgell has already sold another novel in that universe to BAEN, but I REALLY hope we get more of this very underappreciated epic fantasy author – and if the rereleases sell well that’s obviously more likely ^^.

  56. This is a sweet gift guide thread. There’s tons of good ones on here and I love Charlie Stross and Neal Stephenson and Octavia Butler as much as the next guy, but if youre’reading Scalzi’s blog, I think there’s a 93% that you’re already into all that shit. Hell, Scalzi namechecks Stross in almost any post that isn’t about bacon. I’m gonna throw out a book that’s gotten a lot of hype but maybe not as much love in our corner of nerdery as it should’ve-The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. The thing opens with a quote from Galactus , for heavens sake.
    It is the perfect combination of hilarious and tragic, and though its’s a novel, it’s also kind of the most entertaining (and horrifying) history book I’ve ever read.
    If you like science fiction and fantasy and good writing, that book will eat your mind. Many of the people that would like it the most won’t ever pick it up unless someone gives it to them as a gift, so the book has strong potential to be the perfect christmas gift- one that the recipient was completeley ignorant of before they got it, but can’t live witout once they have it .

  57. I just finished a wonderful book by Matthew Jarpe (his first novel, in fact, congrats on getting published Matthew!) called “Radio Freefall.” The best way I can describe it is Rock’n’Roll meets Cyberpunk. Great first novel and I’ve already loaned it to a friend.

    And of course how could I recommend sci-fi without mentioning Jack McDevitt’s latest novel, “The Devil’s Eye.” As with all of his books it’s exciting, imaginative, and just a darn good time the entire way through.

    I think he’s the only author that I have a complete collection of novels from (though Peter F. Hamilton and Scalzi come close, only missing one or two from each of them)

  58. Some of the best fantasy I’ve read lately is Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. The latest volume is Princep’s Fury. The previous four books in the series are all currently in paperback.

  59. Flora Segunda and Flora’s Dare, by Ysabeau Wilce. Excellent YA about Magick and Derring-do in a very alternate San Francisco. I can’t even describe the world, it’s so awesomely original.

  60. I love Patrick O’Brian’s “Aubrey and Maturin” series, but it’s not very recent. However, Julian Stockwin is still pumping out books in his “Kydd” saga, and it’s spectacular as well, for those of us who get off on historical naval fiction.

    His latest is published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton(as Treachery), and in the US (as The Privateer’s Revenge) by McBooks Press. is his site – he doesn’t seem to blog regularly, but he does have a good monthly newsletter that always has good tidbits, trivia and contests.

  61. I’d like to see everyone read “Dragons of Babel” by Michael Swanwick. It’s set in the same world as the amazing “Iron Dragon’s Daughter.” I love his modern world of faery that he has created for these stories.

  62. I want to second Robert Crais’ mystery novels. The Elvis Cole series, and the most recent one that centered on his partner, Joe Pike, are the best detective novels going. (Seriously, I think Elvis Cole is the best L.A. detective since Marlowe.)

  63. Curse you John Scalzi!

    I have this post w/comments open in one window and open in another.

    I’m checking every title that interests me in worldcat (if you don’t have a acct. get one…it totally rocks for bibliographic information AND it will let you know what libraries have the item and just how far they are away from you.)

    Then I just save the title in a list (you can have as many different lists as you want) and I will eventually print out the list and take it with me to a bookstore (or probably Windycon, Coastcon, Penguicon, Duckcon, etc and buy from one of the Dealers)

  64. Curse you John Scalzi!

    I have this post w/comments open in one window and open in another.

    I’m checking every title that interests me in worldcat (if you don’t have a acct. get one…it totally rocks for bibliographic information AND it will let you know what libraries have the item and just how far they are away from you.)

    Then I just save the title in a list (you can have as many different lists as you want) and I will eventually print out the list and take it with me to a bookstore (or probably Capricon, Coastcon, Penguicon, Duckcon, etc and buy from one of the Dealers)

  65. My Tank is Fight!, by Zack Parsons. If the repicient enjoys reading about the insane, desperate depths that Hitler went to in an effort to win the war, this is a great book. It has techspecs on the numerous inventions chronicled within, as well as short fiction showing what it may have been like to encounter these things in real life.

    Awesome invention: Landkreuzer P. 1000 “Ratte”, a tank coming in at 35 metres in length, with over 20 men crewing her and three cannon. Seriously.

    I’m also a fan of Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis. It’s a ghost story, it’s about fathers and sons, it’s semi-autobiographical. (It’s less pornographic and disjointed than his previous works, which include American Psycho, the Rules of Attraction, and Less Than Zero.)

  66. One Dead in Attic, by Chris Rose is an anthology of essays/newspaper columns from New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina. Brilliantly written and touching. Shows what life down here was and continues to be like way better than anything else that I’ve seen.

    Since, like so many, my library was destroyed by Katrina, I’m still catching up on old books (I’m making myself re-read things as I add them), so most of my other recommendations wouldn’t meet the timeliness requirements. One great idea, which can work with all of these others, is to give a gift of a book and make a donation of another copy of the same book to a local library in your recipient’s name.

    I, also, will be adding all sorts of stuff to my already incredibly long want list after reading this thread. Thanks for the good ideas, everyone!

  67. Well, other than all of Mr. Scalzi’s books, obviously, I’ve got a couple suggestions.

    First, what I think is the best vampire novel I’ve read since Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Thirteen Bullets by David Wellington. It started out as a blog, but it can be bought in book form now. Well worth finding.
    Second, another book that started as a blog, Day By Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne. A zombie novel, and a little unpolished in places, but still a very interesting look at the genre.

    Then, I’m going to suggest going to some “thinking outside the box”. Find a favorite author and then hunt down some obscure work by them that you’ve never gotten around to reading. Get something from some author that you’ve never read, or in a genre that you’ve never read before. It’s amazing to me what I miss in other genres when I forget to poke my head into the other sections of the bookstore. For instance, I found The Torturer’s Apprentice: Stories, by John Biguenet looking at a general fiction shelf while waiting in line to check out. Great stuff.

    And, yeah, I think it’s a great idea to go buy books to support the economy. They’re still the cheapest form of entertainment per minute available. (More if you read slow like me!)

  68. 2666 by the late Chilean author, Roberto Bolano. A sprawling, wonderfully written mystery-esque novel, one of the best I’ve read. And even though it is nearly 900 pages long, it is broken down into five stand-alone sections that need not be read in order. Highly recommended.

  69. The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan probably had the biggest impact on me. This years In Defense of Food was not as impressive… but elaborated and told how to put it to use in realistic terms. 7 word subtitle”Eat food, Not too much, Mostly plants.” I guess you could oversimplify every science based diet book “Eat less, Exercise more.”

    Always on the look out for the latest by Richard Morgan, Peter Hamilton, Daniel Simmons, John Scalzi, Neal Asher, and Neal Stephenson.

    Looking forward to trying out some of the Whateveresque picks.

  70. I absolutely recommend T.A. Pratt’s most recent book in the Marla Mason series, Dead Reign. I’ve greatly enjoyed this series and can’t wait for the next book, due in Spring.

    From Publishers Weekly –
    “The complex, funny and powerful third entry in Pratt’s urban fantasy series (after 2008’s Poison Sleep) pits kick-ass sorceress Marla Mason, the guardian of East Coast metropolis Felport, against the newly reincarnated king of the underworld, a handsome and lusty fellow who calls himself Walking Death. He invades her territory in human guise and demands her prized artifact, a magical dagger that symbolizes her office and can cut through anything as long as its rightful owner wields it. When she refuses and Walking Death discovers that the weapon can’t be seized by force, he exiles her and takes over the city. While a few unpredictable allies start an underground resistance, Marla turns the tables on her enemy by launching her own invasion of Hell.”

  71. The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, The Last Argument of Kings). The third volume came out in August here in the US, so give the first volume and watch them buy the others. This is a terrific fantasy series.

    Lies of Locke Lamora (seconding Lauren at 29)

    Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman is a clever, well written superhero novel. Other than the high quality prose, crisp plotting, and wild invention I cannot imagine why I liked this book so much. I guess its stuff like Malign Hypercognitive Disorder – he’s not an evil genius, he just has issues.

  72. Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America by Brian Francis Slattery.

    This book is practically written in free-form verse; it’s as though Tom Robbins were more of a poet, and had darker nightmares. Reading it leaves me feeling charged and ready to DO something, and I’m equally repulsed at the depiction of the return of slavery and attracted to how ambiguously righteous the main protagonist is. So far, this is my favorite book all year.

    The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles by Noam Nisan and Shimon Schocken.

    This book will show you exactly how computers work, from the ground up (you start with NAND gates, you end up with tetris running on simulated hardware you built that runs an operating system you wrote in a language for which you write the compiler). Working through it has been some of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve done in a long time. It just came out in paperback this year, and is definitely worth the $25.

    Making Money by Terry Pratchett.

    This is actually the first Pratchett I’ve ever read, though I read Good Omens when it was first published many years ago (it was a collaboration with Neil Gaiman). As it turns out, Pratchett is as funny and talented as everyone says. Weird, huh?

  73. The Crooked Letter, by Sean Williams- I’m reading this right now and really enjoying it. Post (or mid) apocalyptic fantasy. Really good stuff.

    Books I’m gifting this holiday:

    Sunshine, and Chalice, both by Robin McKinley- she’s fantastic

    Temeraire books by Naomi Novik- gateway in to fantasy for someone who likes Patrick O’Brian

    How to Ditch Your Fairy, by Justine Larbalastier- YA

    A second on the Daily Coyote, but I bought it at Barnes and Noble, not online, so it’s probably pretty widely available.

    I’m also giving Farthing, by Jo Walton- with an eye to reading it myself when the recipient is done.

  74. Let me try that again… from the NYT review: “The Stuff of Thought” explores the duality of human cognition: the modesty of its construction and the majesty of its constructive power. Pinker weaves this paradox from a series of opposing theories. Philosophical realists, for instance, think perception comes from reality. Idealists think it’s all in our heads. Pinker says it comes from reality but is organized and reorganized by the mind. That’s why you can look at the same thing in different ways.

  75. I recommend The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. The writing is fantastic, the characterization amazing, and the central character is an unapologetic SF geek. A great read.

  76. I would like to suggest Canadian authour Tony Burgess.

    He was doing Zombie before Zombie was cool

    The Hellmouths of Bewdley
    Pontypool Changes Everything

  77. I’m 80% of the way through “The Gone Away World.” The “rather sedate” UK cover looks better in reality, because once you see the end-papers, you realise that crack across the front cover peeks into Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”.

  78. I finished ‘The Affinity Bridge’ by George Mann a short while ago and loved it. Might not be available in the US yet – I picked up a UK copy. Excellent mix of mystery and SF in a steampunk meets Sherlock Holmes kind of way, with zombies thrown in for good measure.

  79. My best read this year was actually a listen: the free podcast of Mykle Hansen reading his comic novel, “Help, A Bear is Eating Me!” It’s available free at his website, I’d say read it, too, if you’re a reading purist :). It’s really, really funny.

  80. I’m gonna have to go with the people who recomended Nation, by Terry Prachett. But make sure you have at least one box of tissues nearby. Hey, a book about learning to forgive the universe for being a messed-up place SHOULD make you cry a lot.

  81. Crime fiction:

    The Bryant & May series of books by Christopher Folwer.

    The Brant series of books by Ken Bruen.

    The Jack Taylor series of books by Ken Bruen.

    Not crime fiction:

    Lee by Tito Perdue

    Any one of Nathan Singer’s 3 books, 1 of which is SF: Chasing the Wolf.

    Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis.

    Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale by Russell T Davies.

    I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. I usually do.

  82. Ask a bookseller to recommend a book? Hah!

    Ditto on Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” – my
    favorite for this fall. The Running Man combined with
    Brave New World and 1984.

    Also popular among the YA set: Ally Carter’s “I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You.” It’s about a secret boarding school for the daughters of CIA and NSA
    agents. On a ‘tailing’ exercise in town for sophomore Covert Ops class, Cammie meets a really cute boy,
    invents a cover story on the fly and starts a life of a dual
    agent – hiding her boyfriend from her friends and
    teachers and hiding her school from her boyfriend. Some
    of it was hilarious. There’s a sequel too.

    Lemony Snicket’s latest – “The Lump of Coal” which is like
    The Grinch Who Stole Christmas…good for all ages. It’s
    kinda non-denominational too.

    “Wicked Gentlemen” by Ginny Hale – a conspiracy-in-high-places/serial-murder urban fantasy. Winner of this year’s Spectrum award.

    “Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand” by Dana Kollman – a
    very witty memoir of a CSI working for Baltimore
    County’s Police Department. You won’t watch CSI quite
    the same way again.

    For the D&D fans – “The Elvish Gene” by Mark Barrowcliffe
    Not quite what you’d think of as a memoir of teenage
    years spent playing Dungeons and Dragons. Very good.

  83. “Subterranean Press just released “The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox”, by Barry Hughart. ”

    I am overjoyed to hear this. They’re great books.

    I’ll second the rec for “Little Brother”. Another good YA book is “the Adoration of Jenna Fox” by Mary Pearson. I also liked Lisa McMann’s “Wake”.

    Somebody upthread suggested Alex Sokoloff’s “The Harrowing”. Her second book “The Price” is even better.

    For crime fiction, Ken Bruen’s “Once Were Cops” is a knockout, as is pretty much anything by Ken. “The Guards” is still my favorite, though.

  84. I’d like to add my voice to the chorus recommending The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) – it was the most darkly lyrical book I’ve read in years.

    And I also cried at the end of The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger), which is not something I generally do. Amazing book.


    The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly – dark, funny, thought-provoking fantasy from someone who usually does dark, funny, thought-provoking detective novels.

    KJ Parker’s Engineer Trilogy (Devices and Desires, Evil for Evil, and The Escapement – the last one came out in 2007, so it qualifies as recent). Few do the intricate politics of alternate worlds as well as Parker.

    Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein – a fascinating look at recent American history through the lens of arguably the most important figure (not likable or role-model-able, just important) of the second half of the 20th century.

    I’ll stop there.

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments so far, even if they have added to my already bloated wish list. Ah well. There is no such thing as too many books.

  85. I also love Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and adored Gaiman’s Graveyard Book. I would give both to friends/family this year.

    I am currently loving Doug Lain’s short story collection called Last Week’s Apocalypse. Also: Elizabeth Hand’s Generation Loss.

  86. The Company, by K.J. Parker. I realize how bad it’s gotten because I automatically turned the flyleaf to look for the map, and there isn’t one. It doesn’t need one. It’s a fantasy novel that’s about people, and not about the trappings of swords or magic or eldritch gods; it’s very thoughtful, and a little sad.

    It’s one of those books that I’m going to buy multiple copies of so all my friends will read it.

  87. Duane Swierczynski’s “Severance Package” is great fun. More crime fiction: Sean Chercover’s two PI books “Big City, Bad Blood” and the new one, “Trigger City” are knockouts.

  88. Kylie Chan’s The Dark Heavens (White Tiger, Red Phoenix, Blue Dragon)

    Set in modern Hong Kong, an urban fantasy based on Chinese, not Western mythology. No werewolves, vampires or faeries, instead you get martial arts monks, Taoism, demons and demi-gods.

    Not sure if these are released in the US, as she is an Australian author.

  89. My Most Excellent Year, by Steve Kluger.

    YA. Too good to be true but oh, so much fun to read. Chronicles the 9th grade year of two boys and a girl.

    And I second the Robin McKinley nominations — both Chalice and Sunshine.

  90. One book I don’t think I’ve seen yet and that I know doesn’t get enough recommendations is “The Inferior” by Peadar O’ Guilin. It’s a scifi story set on a world where humans live on a world where the only edible food are other intelligent species. The subject matter is handled deftly, the characterization is excellent, and the world-building is teased out slowly.

    Another one I’d recommend is “The Last Wish”, a short story collection from the Witcher Saga by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The main character of the Saga is Geralt, a mutant who slays monsters for money. However, the monsters are not always the ones you’d expect in a series rich in Old World myths and fairy tales.

    For cat lovers I’ll mention “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World” about a cat who became a staple of the library in Spencer, Iowa. You can buy this from Amazon, however, Prairie Lights, the independent bookstore in Iowa City, is donating half the proceeds from the book to the local animal shelter.

  91. My absolute favorite book this year is Studs Terkel’s P.S.: Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening.

    Books I’ll be giving as a gifts are:
    Jack Kirby’s The Demon
    Nation by Terry Pratchett
    Prince Valiant – Far from Camelot by Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni
    And the Carrie Vaughan books for my cousin

  92. 3 books, in no particular order:
    D.A. by Connie Willis (YA)
    Promises to Keep by Charles De Lint
    The Orphan’s Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente

  93. Elizabeth Hand’s “Generation Loss” was creepy as hell. Good read.

    The Alinea cook book is mind-blowing if you’re a food geek.

    And I fourth “Pandemonium.”

  94. “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” by Patrick Ness. On a planet where biological warfare has killed all the women and infected the surviving men and animals with a telepathy virus, a boy on the brink of officially becoming a man is about to make some very interesting discoveries. Unique and darkly funny voice, narrative drive like a sports car in perpetual motion, great take on telepathy. Be aware that it’s the first book in a series, and ends on a cliffhanger.

    L. J. Smith’s somewhat trashy but addictive teenage witch novels “The Secret Circle,” have been reprinted. Not great prose, but very fun and with excellent (PG rated) lesbian undertones. Her Night World and Vampire books are also in the process of being reprinted. They’d all be great gifts for teenagers who enjoyed “Twilight.”

    “The Sand Chronicles” (three volumes out) is one of my favorite manga of the year. Simple on the surface but emotionally complex, this bittersweet story about family, first love, and growing up packs a lot of character development and depth into each volume.

  95. I’m going to pick a few Independent Press books for my selection:

    Rob Shearman’s “Tiny Deaths” – probably the best book of short stories I have read in the last 10 years! (Published by Comma Press)

    Allyson Bird’s “Bull Running for Girls” – an excellent debut collection, and well worth a place on your shelf. (Published by Screaming Dreams)

    George Mann’s “The Affinity Bridge” – Huge steampunk fun from start to finish. It’s essentially Steed and Emma Peel in Victorian London. (Published by Snowbooks)

    “The Grin of the Dark” by Ramsey Campbell. Atmospheric, and a very disturbing read. (Published by PS Publishing – and later, Virgin Books).

  96. If I may suggest a book (or set of books) being reprinted, then fantasy readers may enjoy P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath series; Godstalk, Dark of the Moon, Seeker’s Mask and To Ride a Rathorn.

    The stories are fantasy set on a world where a dimension hopping race called the Kencyr are forced to make their last stand against an evil called Perimal Darkling, despite internal treachery and native enmities. The main character, Jame, may well be the destructive third of the Tyr-ridan – the incarnation of their three faced God – given that she manages not to destroy herself in the process.

    (As a note, Hodgell is due to get her next book to Baen in February, so the story *is* proceeding.)

  97. Despite its enumeration of many ways the world is guarantee absolute doom (given several billion years), I thoroughly enjoyed “Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End” by Philip Plait. Black holes, gamma ray bursts, and supernova – fine bedtime reading :)

    An older book, “Trust Us, We’re Experts! How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future”, by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, was sobering in making me appreciate how much opinion is manipulated by public relations, especially appeal to authority. Being journalists, they’re keen to cite verifiable sources.

  98. Right now, I’m really digging Wikinomics and plan to buy a few copies for some friends and family. It explores the culture of mass collaboration, today’s version of the DIY ethic, and Web 2.0 / social networking. But it’s a business book, not a technical book, so it doesn’t delve way into RSS feeds, XML issues, etc. Not a perfect book, but I haven’t seen one that does a better job of exploring this area.

  99. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez…I always recommend this one. Say hello to Magical Realism with this book.

    America America by Ethan Canin…His writing is beautiful, and it’s great characterization.

    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro…His style is very minimalist, but the book is so powerful.

    The Autumn Issue of the Southern Review out of LSU. It’s got a bit of everything, even some great photography.

    and for the sci fi fiends out there:

    Joel Shepherd’s Crossover…A great take on the What does it mean to be human question with a kick ass female supersoldier set against a multi-ethnic background.

  100. I would like to suggest the “Bigtime” novels by Jennifer Estep, which are (to use the author’s description), “sex, lies, and superheroes.” The three novels (so far) are KARMA GIRL, HOT MAMA, and JINX.

  101. I would recommend the Charlie Fox series written by Zoe Sharp. (Third Strike was released in September). This is a British series, of which the first four books are still only available in British editions, but the main character is a woman of grit who has survived what life has thrown at her, and found a job which allows her talents to be of use.

    There is something to be said for such aspirations, to survive and be of use, and something to be said for Zoe Sharp’s skills as a writer.

    I would also recommend Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series. Unique world building and characters you would like to meet and hang out with.

  102. Two P.C. Hodgell recommenders, good karma ^^.

    Another publisher who could use good karma is Vera Nazarian and her Norilana Books. She publishes a lot of Sherwood Smith ya novels and anthologies with great authors and she’s in real trouble at the moment, through no fault of her own (as has been linked via Sherwood Smith and Elizabeth Bear’s LJs):

    If you need your money for Christmas gifts and can’t really spare any more, I would expect that buying from Norilana might also help somewhat in her situation.

  103. I’m reading (and recommend The Writer’s Tale by Doctor Who writer-producer Russell T Davies and his friend and interviewer, Benjamin Cook of Doctor Who Magazine. It comprises a bawdy, funny, honest exchange of emails between them during the time Davies was writing for the 2008 series, illustrated with Davies’ cartoons (and some photos) and punctuated with bits of script. Cook asks Davies lots of interesting questions along the way about process, technique and the psychology of it all, and Davies avoids the trap of espousing the One True Way to Write. It’s illuminating to see that the man who projects boundless enthusiasm and confidence when promoting the show has private struggles with self-doubt and procrastination. It’s also interesting to see the evolution of the episodes and their casting, rather like getting to know more about the Beatles by listening to Anthology or some bootlegs.

    The fiction I’m reading at the moment is a few years old, although more recent items are on my wishlist. I can’t justify even buying my must-haves until I’m employed again.

  104. Having read to the bottom and not seen anyone else mention these (while taking notes, naturally, for things I want to get), I’ll put in a good word for Michelle Sagara( West)’s _Cast In_ series. It’s ongoing, though the first one isn’t quite “recent” any more; Cast in Shadow, Cast in Courtlight, Cast in Secret, and Cast in Fury, so far. They’re the adventures of a young woman who works for the … not exactly a police … department of a multiracial city, including lion-men, bird-men, and dragons. And who has more magical power than is good for her, and is slowly learning about it – and there’s a – not quite a Dark Elf, and not exactly a Vampire – who’s taken her under his wing. And complications galore. I’ve liked her stuff since I read The Sundering, and I’ll recommend any of her several series to anyone…


  105. So there I am in the library, picking up my daughter (who’s not there) and I see this obnoxious book , all pink and green and I remember reading that I should buy it. The clerk refuses to let me buy it insisting that I check it out and promise to return it. We’ll see, but meantime it’s a wonderful read! Thanks John!!

  106. The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death — by Charlie Huston. due out in January.

  107. So, I managed to unboggle myself long enough to come up with a few I’ve enjoyed recently:

    Sharp Teeth (Toby Barlow)

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (and indeed Michael Chabon’s entire backlist, pretty much)

    Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson, because if you haven’t read it, y’oughta)

    White Noise (Don DeLillo)

    And there are a gazillion more – re-read some of Richard Morgan’s stuff, loving Asher’s Polity stories, really enjoying Black Jack Geary’s journey home in the Lost Fleet series…


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