Jólabókaflóðið may look like a pretty stabby word, but it’s actually a delightful compound that literally means “Yule book flood.” It refers to an Icelandic tradition that makes books a traditional gift around the December holidays, and we’re all for instituting it more widely. Here are the books we read that we’re recommending for giving this year, including gifts for dads, teens, and everyone in between. Remember that independent book stores need your support, and that it’s good to get in orders early if you can!
Geekly Reading Team
We unanimously recommend the Chorus of Dragons series, or at least the first book Ruin of Kings, forever and always as a gift. We are big fans. It’s Game of Thrones, but queer and less heavy/more fun!
The Locked Tomb series, and especially the first book Gideon the Ninth, is also a great gift, especially if you want your friend or relative to (a) think you are super cool and then (b) hate you forever for all the heartbreak.
- Nettle and Bone (T. Kingfisher) – Kingfisher books make the perfect gifts because they have everything. Fantasy! Romance! Humor! Depth! Always in perfect balance, no less. Any book by Kingfisher is also a gift that keeps on giving because her catalog of work is impressively large, and any recipient will thank you before diving into whatever work of hers they choose next.
- Rosebud (Paul Cornell) – This book is the incarnation of that time between Christmas and New Years when nothing makes a ton of sense and time gets all wobbly. I can think of no better crew to spend that time with than that of the Rosebud, an endearing group of weirdos who might be spacetime’s best defense against capitalist dystopia. [Review]
- The Mountain in the Sea (Ray Nayler) – This is a book for any Dad in your life (regardless of actual relationship or gender) who usually likes nonfiction but might be open to venturing into smart sci-fi. This near-future sci-fi is very smart, with deep meditations on the nature of consciousness and culture as it reacts to the unfolding climate crisis. Pairs especially well with The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery!
- Book of Night (Holly Black) – This is a great book for long winter afternoons when you want to be engrossed in the twists and turns of an amazing mystery. It’s got conspiracies, heists, cons, and murders–all with an innovative system of magic that even some Sanderson fans could appreciate. It also has the gritty, noir-ish feel of Raymond Chandler, or rather, of a shadow Chandler might have cast. [Review]
- Reluctant Immortals (Gwendolyn Kiste) – For anyone who likes gothic literature, 60’s hippie culture, and rad women, this novel takes on the continued stories of the women Dracula and Jane Eyre fridged and forgot and gives them new life–well, unlife. Horror might not be a traditional genre for holiday giving, but if you think the recipient can handle some unnerving imagery (it’s not really gory), it’s a fantastic narrative. Rule of thumb: if you’d get them a Stephen King book, you could definitely go above and beyond and get them a Kiste instead.
- Lavender House (Lev AC Rosen) – For the Agatha Christie fan in your life, this murder mystery takes a classic format with a great 1950s setting with a queer twist. This book is both a great murder mystery and a good exploration of the lives and survival methods of queer people at that time, with an excellent cast of characters. You can practically hear Billie Holiday while you read. [Review]
- A Taste of Gold and Iron (Alexandra Rowling) – It’s cold up here in the northern hemisphere, and this hot and steamy book will keep you or a recipient warm. It’s got everything: sexy queer romance, a cool setting, a subtle but unique magic system, political intrigue, and characters that you will die for by the end. [Review]
- The Lost Metal (Brandon Sanderson) – Recommending Brandon Sanderson is sort of like recommending Marvel movies. They’re very well-known and have broad appeal so they don’t exactly need the hype from one random book reviewer. But if you’re absolutely stuck on what to get a fantasy reader, you can’t go wrong with the Mistborn series in general. The recently released The Lost Metal caps off a secondary four-book mini-series bringing the series to seven books, which should keep a new reader busy for a while. Bonus points for being a good series for teens and other YA readers who were maybe too young when the series started but old enough now. [Review]
- Origins of the Wheel of Time (Michael Livingston) – Similar to recommending Sanderson, it feels a bit lazy to recommend the Wheel of Time, but this supplement book made me feel things. If you or your resident Wheel of Time addict hasn’t picked this up yet, I highly recommend it. Wheel of Time supplements have a questionable history, but this one absolutely lives up to the hype. [Review]
- Just Like Home (Sarah Gailey) – Horror and true crime smashed together in this excellent exploration of family history, the nature of home, and what makes a monster. We love Sarah Gailey, they have books in a number of different genres, but their work is always excellent and innovative. [Review]
- The Lord of the Rings Illustrated Edition (J.R.R. Tolkien) – In 2022, in fantasy, it’s safe to say Tolkien is one of the authors who has built a foundation for what is fantasy today, but the problem is too many authors have built their work on that same foundation without laying any new ground. That doesn’t change the fact that The Lord of the Rings is still an entryway for a lot of readers to get into fantasy. Sometimes the appearance of a book, especially a classic, can give it new life and this illustrated edition from 2021 is a beautiful hardcover that will delight the book lover opening this gift.
- A Little Hatred (Joe Abercrombie) – Abercrombie takes his fantasy world into the age of the industrial revolution. Worker’s rights is a topic on the forefront of the conversation often today and while it’s not always pleasant to read about it is truthful. New readers won’t have to read his previous books to relate to what is going but will have a treat of previous, more traditional, fantasy to books to dive into after they finish The Age of Madness trilogy. [Review]
- The Daughter of Redwinter (Ed McDonald) – Traumatized teen battles defense mechanisms, class distinctions, and dark magic users to find herself a found family among a higher class of wizard-likes bound to protecting what keeps the world together. McDonald really nails the voice of a teenager just trying to survive and find a place of their own. [Review]
- The City We Became (N.K. Jemisin) – Five people become the embodiment of the five boroughs of New York City in order to protect everyone from an eldritch being that embodies the ideas of H.P. Lovecraft, both his fiction and hateful beliefs. Blending the horrors of real life with the horrors of fiction isn’t an easy task to do without coming off heavy-handed, but Jemisin does it so well. This book is a perfect jumping off point for anyone discovering this multiple Hugo-nominated and award-winning author.
- Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Kate Beaton) – Known for her comic Hark! A Vagrant, Kate Beaton was, like any other student finishing college, racked with student loan debt. This is her story of her time leaving her home town during Alberta’s oil rush to try to pay back those loans and the harrowing tale that comes with it, not just for Kate but everyone in the oil business.