29 Fabulous Books to Put on Your Gift List

And by “gift list,” of course I mean the list of things you hope others will give you. 🙂

About midway through this year, I started a tinyletter as a way of sharing book recommendations more frequently and casually than I do through my book-related jobs (I work in a bookstore and also co-host a literary interview show). In each note, I dash off a short review, then I throw in something fun from the internet, a great tune, and some sort of cartoon (sometimes by me). A book, a link, a song, and a picture — those things, in that order, every time.


This week’s note rounds up all the books I’ve mentioned so far. Here’s the list:

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki: Women behaving badly but understandably in California; dark, funny, fabulous.
Chemistry by Weike Wang: Brainy type-A woman in quarter-life crisis; funny, brilliant.
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy: Literary thriller about a vacation nightmare; prepare to stay up late.
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor: A disappearance story that’s more nuanced and slower-in-a-good-way than most.
Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: A woman coming of age in 1960s New York; a man searching for his mother in the present.
The Assistants by Camille Perri: Fun, fun, FUN.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai: Reminded me of a podcast serial with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, plus a little time-travel.
Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown: A “where did she go?” story that keeps you hooked.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer: Guy meets guy, guy loses guy, guy narrates hilarious, charming story.
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson: A perfect little read when you’re in the mood for something quirky and not-depressing.
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo: Spare, sparkling, heartbreaking, and perfectly paced; a story about how much external meddling love can withstand.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: 1. Go buy Kleenex. 2. No, more Kleenex. 3. Read. 4. Cry. 5. Be left speechless. (PS: Yay! Jesmyn won the National Book Award AGAIN. Here we are talking about the book.)
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Compelling and emotionally true fiction about contemporary families, secrets, and resentment. I don’t know a soul who didn’t like it.
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran: Oof, this one has some heart-wrenching scenes, but also some satire to balance it out. I can’t stop thinking about it.
The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash: For anyone who digs historical fiction (and those who don’t think they do).
The Bear and The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron: Good lord, this woman is a master of narrative voice. The Bear is narrated by a 5-year-old; The Last Neanderthal is narrated by a female Neanderthal. Both are exquisite.
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks: Gentle, often wistful, storytelling you can’t help but hear narrated in Hanks’ voice; give it to your dad.
Marlena by Julie Buntin: A female-friendship novel that goes emotionally deep (and sometimes dark); gorgeously written.
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg: Wry, honest, refreshing.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: At its heart, a love story about a young couple; on another level, an unforgettable tale of what it means to be a refugee (both literally and metaphorically); one of my very favorite books of the year.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: My go-to gift recommendation this season; a good ol’ epic novel about one Irishman’s life; moving, sometimes tear-jerking; unexpectedly very funny; a total crowd-pleaser. (NOTE: I have an extra signed copy of this one, and it’s rude to be greedy, so I will draw a name on Dec. 1 and share it with one tinyletter subscriber. How ’bout that?)

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris: SEDARIS. 500 pages worth!
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy: A memoir of a life going very-much-not-according-to-plan; there’s a whole section where you won’t even take a breath.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby: A hilarious, sometimes crass, often quite touching memoir.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: The classic. Now a movie that I refuse to see because what if it overwrites the book in my brain?
The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis: What happens when a woman decides to leave her marriage, her religion, and a whole way of life.
Hourglass by Dani Shapiro: Thoughtful, poignant writing about relationships from the perspective of midlife; would make a great gift for a mom, sister, or married friend.
Signs of Hope — Messages from Subway Therapy: Surprisingly touching and uplifting for a book that’s just pictures of post-it notes.

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Get ’em at your indie bookstore! And if you’d like to get these bookish notes every week(ish), subscribe to the tinyletter here.

PS: I’m not the only one in the mood for a big whoppin’ booklist. It’s list season, and I’m collecting best-of-2017 reading lists in this Twitter thread. Feel free to chime in and add your favorite, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. Bonus points if your reading list links book titles to your favorite bookshop’s website, IndieBound.org, or their publishers’ page.

Happy reading!


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