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FOR THE PERSON WHOSE TBR PILE IS NEVER FEWER THAN 10 BOOKS TALL

1. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead.

2. Sankofa: A Novel by Chibundu Onuzo

Girl, Woman, Other meets An American Marriage in this gripping story of a mixed-race woman who goes in search of the African father she never knew. Masterful in its examination of freedom, prejudice, and personal and public inheritance, Sankofa is a story for anyone who has ever gone looking for a clear identity or home, and found something more complex in its place.

3. Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.

Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

4. Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California’s rugged coast. Now Rich and his wife, Colleen, are raising their own young son near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich’s employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation—and beyond it 24-7 Ridge—is a logger’s dream.

Told from the perspectives of Rich, Colleen, and Chub, in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, this intimate, compassionate portrait of a community clinging to a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation makes Damnation Spring an essential novel for our time.

5. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

A whipsmart debut about three women—transgender and cisgender—whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

6. The Other Black Girl: A Novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Urgent, propulsive, and sharp as a knife, The Other Black Girl is an electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing. A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, it will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

7. Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

From the author of Mexican Gothic and Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a riveting noir about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome gangster, and the mystery of the missing woman that brings them together.

8. American Delirium by Betina González

From award-winning novelist Betina González, a dizzying, luminous English-language debut about an American town overrun by a mysterious hallucinogen and the collision of three unexpected characters’ lives through the mayhem.

9. Three Rooms by Jo Hamya

Set in one year, Three Rooms follows a young woman as she moves from a rented room at Oxford, where she’s working as a research assistant; to a stranger’s sofa, all she can afford as a copyediting temp at a society magazine; to her childhood home, where she’s been forced to return, jobless, even a room of her own out of reach. As politics shift to nationalism, the streets fill with protestors, and news drip-feeds into her phone, she struggles to live a meaningful life on her own terms, unsure if she’ll ever be able to afford to do so.

10. I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness: A Novel by Claire Vaye Watkins

From “the most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx” (Vogue), the furious, hilarious, soul-rending story of one woman’s reckoning with marriage, work, sex, and motherhood.

Leaving behind her husband, Theo, and their young daughter, Claire, a writer, gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump—and a creeping case of postpartum depression. Deep in the Mojave desert where she grew up, Claire meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose death still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark dims with every passing year until all that remains is a smoldering addiction. Claire can’t go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, she finally finds a way to make herself at home in the world.

11. Las Biuty Queens: Stories by Iván Monalisa Ojeda

In this acclaimed story collection, Chilean transgender performer and author Iván Monalisa Ojeda delivers an irreverent, honest and full-throated love song to New York City from the perspective of a group of trans Latinx immigrant friends who walk the streets, get high, compete in beauty contests, look for clients on their impossibly high heels, and fall prey to increasingly cruel immigration policies.

12. Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

Folklorn is a genre-defying, continents-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families.

A Korean-American scientist who has always been haunted by a ghostly imaginary friend, and whose mother warned that the women of their family were subject to a cyclical intergenerational curse, seeks answers in her mother’s folk tales and a family history riddled with war and loss, as the fate of her ancestors closes in on her.

13. Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

An essential and revelatory coming-of-age narrative from a thrilling new voice, Rainbow Milk follows nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.

14. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.

15. Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Fight Night is a love letter to the mothers and grandmothers who have raised us, and to all the women who know what it costs to live in this world, but who are still finding a way—painfully, ferociously—to live on their own terms. From the bestselling author of Women Talking and All My Puny Sorrows, a compassionate, darkly humorous, and deeply human new novel about three generations of women.

16. Bewilderness by Karen Tucker

Set in rural, poverty-stricken North Carolina and told in a riveting dialogue between the girls’ addicted past and their hopes for a better future, Bewilderness is not just a brilliant, funny, heartbreaking novel about opioid abuse, it’s also a moving look at how intense, intimate friendships can shape every young woman’s life.

17. What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

From the author of Halsey Street, a sweeping novel of legacy, identity, the American family—and the ways that race affects even our most intimate relationships.

A community in the Piedmont of North Carolina rises in outrage as a county initiative draws students from the largely Black east side of town into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the integration sets off a chain of events that will tie their two families together in unexpected ways over the next twenty years.

18. Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith

Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, this kaleidoscopic novel set in Vietnam spins half a century of history and folklore into the story of a missing woman.

19. Bride of the Sea by Eman Quotah

During a snowy Cleveland February, newlywed university students Muneer and Saeedah are expecting their first child, and he is harboring a secret: the word divorce is whispering in his ear. Soon, their marriage will end, and Muneer will return to Saudi Arabia, while Saeedah remains in Cleveland with their daughter, Hanadi. Consumed by a growing fear of losing her daughter, Saeedah disappears with the little girl, leaving Muneer to desperately search for his daughter for years.

Eman Quotah’s Bride of the Sea is a spellbinding debut of colliding cultures, immigration, religion, and family; an intimate portrait of loss and healing; and, ultimately, a testament to the ways we find ourselves inside love, distance, and heartbreak.

20. Beautiful World, Where are You? by Sally Rooney

A new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends.

Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

HOLIDAY 2021 GIFT GUIDE: BIBLIOPHILE
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