Wot I Read This Year
I worked at an indie bookstore for awhile and one of my favorite things was recommending books! So I figured, why not take this chance to tell you about some of the books I loved this year. Maybe you're still on the hunt for someone in particular on your gift list. (Or maybe YOU can use something to read over the holidays, between the egg nog and the rum punch... :)
Books by Friends:
So I know these folks. But these books are great.
J. K. Cheney, The Golden City. Selkies. Magic. Mystery. And 1900's Portugal. For the person who would like their fantasy crossed with a historical detective novel.
Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead & Two Serpents Rise. And this series is for the person who wants their legal thriller mixed with fantasy. A cool urban world with strange gods and undead bosses.
Ted Kosmatka, The Games. This is exactly, precisely, for the person on your list who loves Michael Crichton. Jurassic Park meets Hunger Games.
Books for Writers:
Diana Wynne Jones, Reflections: On the Magic of Writing. A beautiful collection of essays from UK children's fantasist Jones, with a foreword by Neil Gaiman.
Blake Snyder, Save the Cat! It's technically about screenplay writing, but it's a also a useful straightforward book for thinking about plotting.
Some Excellent Gifty Books:
John Kallas, Edible Wild Plants. This is the book everyone used to ask me for when I worked at the local bookstore, and now it exists. Such a cool book--I haven't tried eating dandelions or mustard greens myself yet, but I sure enjoyed reading about it. For the survivalist on your list.
Jim Lynch, The Highest Tide. A coming-of-age story set in Olympia, Washington, about a boy who loves the seashore. The book opens when he finds a giant squid. Everyone raved about this a few years back when I was at the bookstore and they weren't wrong. For the lit person on your list.
John Scalzi, Redshirts. Star Trek from the point of view of the "expendable" crew members. You know if you know someone this is perfect for.
A Few More Kids/Young Adult Books:
Kristin Cashore, Bitterblue. (YA) The third in the loose series (along with Graceling and Fire, but you can read them in any order.) I love these books so hard. Beautifully-written high fantasy--Robin McKinley fans will love.
Eva Ibbotson, Journey to the River Sea. (MG) Not super-recent, but I mention it because every time I read an Ibbotson book I remember she's one of my favorite writers evar and zomg why haven't I read everything she's written yet? But this way there's still books left, so that's good too. This one is set in 1900's South America and it's for the kid who likes the Frances Hodgson Burnett books (Secret Garden etc - but this book makes particular reference to her Little Lord Fauntleroy). If you have a kid who likes dogs, give them Ibbotson's very last book, One Dog and His Boy.
So my awesome dad (hi, dad!) has been tracking down out-of-print children's books for me for my birthday and Christmas gifts for . . . oh, maybe a decade now? I highly recommend this. (But you can't have him; he's mine). Here's a few books I recently read, in case you're moved to find them.
Helen Cresswell, The Bagthorpes Saga. Starts with Ordinary Jack and Absolute Zero. A hilarious series of British books about an eccentric, competitive, misadventure-prone family. Absolute Zero is particularly funny, as the family all decides to go in for entering contests and end up winning ten yogurt-makers and things.
P. L. Travers, I Go By Sea, I Go By Land. So Travers wrote the Mary Poppins books, you know? And apparently in 1940 she came to America, shepherding two young children (family friends) over on the boat, to get away from the bombs. She then wrote this lightly-fictionalized book from the point of view of the girl. (This also led me down an interesting rabbithole about the less-than-admirable circumstances surrounding Travers adopting a small boy . . . seriously, why do all the famous children's authors have slightly problematic pasts?)
Noel Streatfeild, Gran-Nannie. If you know Streatfeild, it's for Ballet Shoes. Well, the nanny in that and many of her other wonderful turn-of-the-century books about kids embarking upon careers was apparently based on a nanny that her father had (and whom she knew.) This is the fictionalized story of that nanny's life, and the details are just amazing. If you want to read an account of what it was like to go into service in the Edwardian era, hunt down this book.