Every year, at the end of November, I shop for books. For me, the days after Thanksgiving have always been a day filled with browsing bookstores and bringing home stacks of books I might not read immediately, adding them instead to already bursting bookshelves and an endless TBR list. This book buying tradition is one I share with my family and one that you should take part in, if you’re able. I’ve queried a few booksellers at independent bookstores around the country to get an idea of what they might recommend if you were to come in the store or browse their online catalogs, if you feel in the book-buying/borrowing spirit this month (libraries are also a wonderful place to browse for books during the holiday season.)
Jessi, Copper Dog Books (Beverly, MA) recommends:
House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune: One of those rare gems of a book that’ll make you smile and warm your heart months after finishing it. Linus is a caseworker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth and his life couldn’t be more boring – until he meets Arthur Parnassus and his kids, who include a sprite, a gnome, a were-Pomeranian, and even the anti-Christ! A sweet hopeful story about finding family in the most unlikely of places.
Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers: Dex is a traveling tea monk, and although they love making people smile, they are still struggling to feel fulfilled. They seek solitude in the wilds, mysterious lands where robots were set free hundreds of years ago to roam. When Dex encounters Mosscap, a robot with a childlike sense of wonder for human behavior, and deadly insects, the last thing they want to do is embark on an adventure with it-after all, they are the first person to encounter a robot in two hundred years! However, Dex has no idea that Mosscap will actually be teaching Dex what it means to be human. Warm, lush and as cozy as a Studio Ghibli film, this book made me want to wander into the woods with my friends and build a yurt commune and never return. This book was the equivalent of talking to a friend about life over coffee – or tea- and feeling like the world may just end up ok in the end. Dex and Mosscap are the new friendly faces of hopeful sci-fi!
Katherine D. Morgan, Powell’s Books (Portland, OR) recommends:
Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald: A darkly funny look at what happens when a misfit grows up and learns to deal with the trauma that he tried to leave behind as a child. I laughed, cried, and had the time of my life.
Body Work by Melissa Febos: The perfect gift for anyone who has always felt like they have a story to tell, but didn’t know how to get started. I consider this to be a literary classic now.
Booksellers at Gibson’s Bookstore (Concord, NH) recommend:
The booksellers at Gibson’s Bookstore read widely and are excited to hand sell books across all genres this holiday season!
The Animal Adventurer’s Guide: How to Prowl for an Owl, Make Snail Slime, and Catch a Frog Bare-Handed–50 Activities to Get Wild with Animals By Susie Spikol, Becca Hall (Illustrator): For the kid who likes to explore the natural world around them, or who loves animals. Good for rural living, suburbs, or apartment living. —Elisabeth
This Is What It Sounds Like: What The Music You Love Says About You By Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas: Written by music producer and cognitive neuroscientist Susan Rogers; who has over the course of her career worked with artists like Prince, David Byrne, and Barenaked Ladies; “This Is What It Sounds Like” looks at the different ways we experience music and helps readers discover their personal music sweet spot. Each chapter goes into a different aspect of music such as authenticity, novelty, lyrics, timbre. These are explored through song recommendations that the author suggests readers listen to as they read. Through these “record pulls” Rogers helps readers build their own “listener profile” based on what music resonates with them most. —Jo
Daphne By Josh Malerman: Daphne is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve had the pleasure of reading. The only way to stay safe from Daphne? Don’t think about her. Don’t think about the 7-foot tall, denim clad, KISS-makeup wearing dead woman with hands large enough to palm a basketball or crush a skull. Don’t think about her blue skin. Don’t think about how she smells like smoke and whiskey. Don’t think about how thinking about her will get you killed. Don’t think about Daphne. – Ryan (Signed copies available at Gibson’s Bookstore!)
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan: Probably THE big novel of the spring. The Candy House brings us back to the world of A Visit from the Goon Squad, and to an exploration of character and authenticity that will have you up late rereading and obsessing over dozens of brilliantly written passages. Like the candy house of fairy tales, our possible futures are amazingly seductive, and dangerous, too.” —Michael
Mariana Calderon, Store Manager of Savoy Bookshop (Westerly, RI) recommends:
A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys: This is a book for readers and dreamers and lovers who want their sci-fi to come with a healthy dose of optimism. The future the book depicts is never shown as easy to get to, or even easy to exist in. But it felt tender and difficult and desirable all at once, and I am jealous of everyone who will soon be diving into its pages for the first time.
The Wolf Suit by Sid Sharp: Somewhere in between a picture book and a novella for kids and their grown-ups, this fable is full of heart, humor, and incredible illustrations. Perfect for readers who love the quirkiness of Over the Garden Wall, and readers who perhaps relate just a tad too much to the feeling of needing to wear a mask to socialize.”
Booksellers at Oblong Books (Rhinebeck, NY) recommend:
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston: This spectral romance is a balm to the spirit. When writer Florence Day has to return home for an unexpected funeral, she’s surprised to find herself visited by the ghost of… her stoic, too-handsome editor. Romance readers will want Ashley Poston to haunt their shelves after reading this: it’s soulful, punny, whimsical, and death defyingly romantic. – Nicole (signed copies available!)
We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds: A masterpiece. When Avery’s family moves her to her dying grandmother’s home in Georgia, Avery doesn’t expect to find new friends… or to uncover her family’s haunting history. I don’t know how Jas Hammonds managed to weave so many beautiful, intricate layers into this story, but We Deserve Monuments is an absolute stunner. An inter-generational mystery, a tribute to first love, and one of the best YA books I’ve read in the last decade. Read this. – Nicole
Twelfth Grade Night by Molly Booth and Stephanie Kate Strohm: Even knowing what was going to happen, I ended up with my heart pounding, racing through to the end to make sure it all resolved nicely. A lovely magical universe that would make a fun tabletop setting (and feels like a spiritual successor to my beloved Eyes Like Stars). – Nicole
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske : I loved this! The combination of an intriguing magic system, a fast-paced plot, and the growing romance between two characters I adored made this an addictive read. I can’t wait for what comes next in this world! – Frederick
Sea Serpent’s Heir by Mairghread Scott and Pablo Tunica: Feisty pirates? Vengeful gods? Teenage girls with the power to destroy the world? Yeah, Sea Serpent’s Heir is my kind of book. Think Sea Beast meets Monstress: violent, fantastical, and enthralling. – Nicole
The Getaway by Lamar Giles: Imagine a massive theme park where the folks who work there also live on-site. Then one day the gates close and disaster strikes around the world. All that’s left are the workers… until the private jets start to arrive and things really get scary. Absolutely riveting and deeply creepy! A phenomenal read. – Suzanna
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna: I’m head over heels for this absolute charmer of a novel. Orphaned witch Mika Moon spends most of her time on her own, as common witch wisdom of the day states that solitary witches are less likely to get found out. She can’t help herself but create a ‘fake’ social media account where she posts theatrical videos of her at-home spell making, sure that no one out there would ever take her seriously. But when a distant family of witches sends her a message asking for help, her safe, witchy world is turned upside down. This was by far the most fun, uplifting, magical (and spicy!) romance read of my whole summer. – Noelle
Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald’s memoir-in-essays is not just a recap of a wild life—a poor kid at a outrageously wealthy private school, struggles with drugs and alcoholism, working the bar scene in California, time spent doing illegal aid work in Burma, six months at the website King —but a fascinating recount of a conscious decision to break from toxic masculinity and bad habits, and an examination of how to find purpose and joy in life. Worth a read, and an easy gift to give the man in your life who needs a bonk on the head because he’s Too Cool for feelings. – Nicole
Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White: Two years after the end of the world, Benji is trying to escape the cult that destroyed it. But because he’s hailed as their savior–the one who will finally wipe out the last straggling remnants of humanity–they’ll do anything to get him back. With a gay, trans MC and an autistic love interest, this book doesn’t pull a single punch. Sublime, visceral, bloody queer horror. A celebration of the rage and vengeance of the downtrodden. Hell yes! – Frederick
Nicole Lintemuth, Bettie’s Pages (Lowell, MI) recommends:
Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen: I can’t get enough of this book, it’s WEIRD, it’s funny, and it’s a biting commentary on social media, influencer culture and reality TV! Must read for any horror fans.
High Score by Destiny Howel: A great gift for kids! High Score is a fast paced, fun, wild read! Who doesn’t love a heist book? It’s written by a fellow D&D nerd and is a great book for middle grade readers!
Abby Rice, manager at Title IX: A Bookstore (New London, CT) recommends:
Man o’War by Cory McCarthy: A tender story of identity, love, and self-acceptance- River is a raw, sarcastic, and unflinchingly honest protagonist. Man o’War is one of the best books about the trans experience I’ve ever read. I also highly recommend the audiobook, which is read by Grey’s Anatomy star E.R. Fightmaster!
Kalie Barnes-Young, Barnes And Noble, The Grove (Los Angeles, CA) recommends:
A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft: When I think about Saft’s phenomenal sophomore novel, I think of mythical hunts, magic steeped in alchemy, an atmosphere so rich you feel as if you could live in it, and enough yearning to make your heart wrench. If you prefer your young adult reads to be a little quieter, but heavier on nuances of character, then look no further than your next favorite fantasy novel right here. No one does gothic-esque vibes and mood quite like Saft!
A Thousand Miles by Bridget Morrissey: Two estranged best friends. A road trip ten years later. Secrets, swoons, and second chances. In a year that saw the publication of so many wonderful romance novels, it’s difficult to pick a favorite, but Morrissey writes with such an abundance of heart and humor that it’s not hard to fall in love with Dee and Ben from the get-go and immediately declare it a new fave.
Christine Bollow, Programs & Marketing Manager at Loyalty Books (Silver Spring, MD) recommends:
Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine: Woman of Light is an epic, immersive book spanning five generations of Indigenous Chicano women — whose stories and voices take center stage.The author’s love of research and the history of her people shines through in the sentences and the story. Fajardo-Anstine’s gorgeous prose is steeped in beauty, in sadness, in fury, and in joy. Readers will care deeply for this family and their stories that are integral to the American West, yet have been often overlooked. Reading Woman of Light made me feel as if I lived in that magical golden hour before the sun sets, with the desert sand dancing along the air, the wind whipping through my hair, and “like time [was] collapsing into the past.”
Bluest Nude by Ama Codjoe: Bluest Nude is a sensual, seductive, and luminous collection of poetry that draws the reader in with tenderness, vulnerability, and desire. These poems simultaneously satisfy while leaving you with an aching need for more. Ama Codjoe is officially one of my favorite poets now and I can’t stop recommending this collection!
Kel, Main Street Books/Second Flight Books (Lafayette, IN) recommends:
Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis: Victorian style fantasy with lush gowns, crisp winter, showy magic, elves colder than frost, and one young woman striving to do what’s right. There’s a sweet romance between the MC and a dude, and a side romance with 2 lesbians!
Bloody Spade by Brittany M Willows: A fantastical modern story with tech and magic and one angry catboy. When magic is based on a deck of cards, you deal with the hand you’re dealt.
Featured Image Courtest of Tom Doherty Associates/Catapult/Penguin Publishing Group/Roaring Brook Press/Penguin Young Readers Group/Brittany Margaret Willows