Shopping for a reader can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite 2016 releases across nine different genres. So whether you’re shopping for a lover of literary fiction or a fantasy buff, you’re guaranteed to find something. Happy gifting!
In this novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx (whose name you may also recognize from Brokeback Mountain), the trees of the North Woods have a vitally important role. This epic, deeply affecting tale is about forests and the ways in which they play into centuries of human history. Publishers Weekly raved, “It’s exhilarating to read Proulx, a master storyteller; she is as adept at placing us in the dripping, cold Mi’kma’ki forests as in the stuffy Duke & Sons parlors.” For readers looking to branch out (see what we did there?) or anyone who loves historical fiction, this critically acclaimed novel is sure to be a hit.
Zadie Smith’s new novel Swing Time is one of the buzziest novels of 2016, and we have no doubt that it will find its way onto dozens of lists of the year’s best books. This story has it all: dancing, friendship, and big questions about identity and what it means to belong. In a starred review, Kirkus wrote: “Moving, funny, and grave, this novel parses race and global politics with Fred Astaire’s or Michael Jackson’s grace.” We recommend gifting this to readers who love staying up to date on major new releases, because this is surely one of the most talked-about books of the season.
Real talk: Who doesn’t love Amy Schumer? We thought so. In this charming and engaging memoir, comedian (and Trainwreck star) Schumer opens up to her fans on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from airport security to the most important relationships in her life. Along the way, readers can expect some laughs, but also some impressive insight. For the feminist or comedy-lover in your life, you can’t go wrong with this book. Plus, come on. Admit it. You laughed at the Stieg Larsson joke in title just like we did.
If you long for a piece of narrative nonfiction that combines the creeping horror of a suspense novel with the expert reporting of The New Yorker, then look no further. Jane Mayer tells a far-reaching story about American conservatism and, in particular, the Koch brothers. A word of warning: This would not be the right gift for your friend who is sick to death of hearing about politics. But your other friend—the one who still reads The New York Times daily and is insatiably curious—will have trouble putting this one down.
Mysteries & Thrillers
It’s the 1960s in California, and Evie Boyd is caught up in something weird. When she first saw the girls in the park, she was intrigued by them. Little did she know that they were part of a cult, and that soon, she would be part of it, too. The Girls tells the story of that cult, and will keep readers breathlessly turning pages until the very end. This book was undoubtedly one of the buzziest novels of 2016, and would make the perfect gift for readers who are fascinated by Charles Manson.
Well, we know Bookish editor Kelly Gallucci would love to see this book under her Christmas tree and we’re positive she’s not alone. In this mystery, a beautiful and well-coiffed woman is found dead in her home near what looks like a picture-perfect date-night dinner. Will Detective Antoinette Conway and her partner Stephen Moran be able to find who killed this woman? You’ll have to read to find out. Pro tip: If you really want to make someone’s holiday season merry and bright, buy them the whole Dublin Murder Squad series.
Dr. Nic Joshi spends his nights drinking away his grief on the cruise ship where he practices medicine. He used to work for Doctors Without Borders, but that was before his wife was murdered in Mumbai after uncovering a black market organ transplant operation. He tries to forget his old life, but the past comes back to haunt him when he’s approached by Jess Koirala, a woman who claims she was given his wife’s heart in a transplant. Jess says she has a message for Nic from his wife. Nic soon finds himself back in Mumbai with Jess, hunting down his wife’s killer. Along the way, he learns to open his heart to love once more.
If your reader is a fan of historical romances, you can’t go wrong gifting a book by Sarah MacLean. With MacLean, you’re guaranteed humor, insightful characters, and a delicious plot. In this novel, Miss Lillian Hargrove’s reputation is compromised when an artist unveils a rather scandalous portrait of her. She’s the ward of the Duke of Warnick, who travels to England in the hopes of snuffing out the scandal by quickly marrying her off. But he doesn’t count on the fact that Lillian refuses to marry any man she doesn’t love, nor does he count on falling for her himself.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
If you wanted, you could say that this anthology is actually 13 gifts in one package. This collection of Chinese science fiction was pulled together by Ken Liu, an author and translator. Sci-fi readers will likely recognize Cixin Liu, China’s most popular science fiction author, but those who are unfamiliar with the contributing authors are still in for a delightful and thought-provoking reading experience.
Charlie Jane Anders’ novel is the perfect read for those who enjoy both science fiction and fantasy. Laurence Armstead is an engineer working to create a technology to help stop disasters created by the global climate. Patricia Delfine is magically gifted and also uses her talents to help the Earth. The two drifted apart after being close in high school and never expected to see each other again. But with the apocalypse looming, they have to learn to work together (combining magic and advanced technology) to save the planet.
Nicola Yoon is quickly becoming a household name: Her debut novel, Everything, Everything, is currently being made into a movie starring Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) and Nick Robinson (Jurassic World). Her second novel, The Sun is Also a Star, takes place over 12 hours in New York City. Cynic Natasha’s and romantic Daniel’s worlds collide on one fateful day. Natasha is racing across the city to try to stop her Jamaican parents from being deported. Meanwhile, Daniel is busy following his Korean immigrant parents’ plans for his future when he sees Natasha and decides to take a risk on love at first sight.
This fantasy novel takes place in a world where committing an act of violence turns you into a monster (either a Sunai, a Malchai, or a Corsai). Kate Harker, a human, longs to be as cruel and heartless as her father, who controls half of the warring city they live in. August, a Sunai, wants nothing more than to prove he’s more than the monster others see him as. As their city becomes more dangerous, these two will have to decide which side of the battle they want to be on. This is the first in a duology by Victoria Schwab, one of the hottest names in fantasy today. The sequel comes out next summer, giving your YA reader something to look forward to after they fly through this.
Your favorite middle grader probably already knows who Raina Telgemeier is—and if not, this is a perfect place to start. Telgemeier is a talented writer and cartoonist. Her stories are told through characters’ facial expressions as much as through the text. This particular story focuses on two sisters, Cat and Maya. Cat, the older of the two, is cynical about her family’s move to the fictional town of Bahía de la Luna. Maya, who has cystic fibrosis, is excited for the new adventure. When the two learn that their new town is haunted, Cat wants to run and Maya wants to meet the local ghosts. Together, the girls explore themes of sisterhood, life, and death. They learn that their bond is something powerful that can’t ever be broken.
Raymie Clarke is willing to do whatever it takes to make her dad proud. She’s convinced that if she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 competition (and gets her picture in the paper), he’ll come back home. Raymie enters a baton twirling class to help her bring home the gold, and there she meets her competition. Beverly Tapinski and Louisiana Elefante are also willing to do anything to win. Kate DiCamillo slowly reveals that these pageant enemies have more in common than they originally thought. This National Book Award Finalist is sure to be a winner of a gift for a middle grade reader!
Ben Hatke’s enchanting picture book turns fairy tale tropes on their heads. While our hero, Goblin, is peacefully minding his business, an invading troop of adventurers storms in and steals everything in sight—including Goblin’s best friend, Skeleton! Goblin sets out to save Skeleton, but encounters one big problem along the way: Nobody likes a goblin. Everyone refuses to help him. Though he’s chased out of town, Goblin refuses to give up. This story of friendship and seeing past appearances is sure to please fairy-tale lovers.
Francesca Sanna’s moving picture book follows a refugee family as they flee their hostile homeland and search for a safe place to live. The young narrator infuses the story with hope for a brighter tomorrow, while the illustrations show dangers that the girl does not always see. Through her text and illustrations, Sanna shows the family braving the treacherous journey. This is a timely and important story that is sure to stick with parents and little readers long after they’ve turned the final page.