20 Best Books to Give the Person Who’s Read Everything
Not sure which read to pick up for your favorite bookworm? These under-the-radar gems are bound to brighten every kind of fiction (and nonfiction) fan’s day.
For a midlife crisis-sufferer or a post-grad
Berg, the main character in The Boatbuilder by Daniel Gumbiner, is a smart, sensitive young man who has fallen into a powerful addiction to prescription drugs after suffering a concussion. His case seems hopeless until he becomes an apprentice boatbuilder in coastal California, discovering the ability to get out of his own head and live one day at a time while crafting custom-built boats. This spare, beautifully written book brilliantly conveys the redemptive power of working with one’s hands. It’s not a family saga, no one is saving the world, yet the main character makes meaningful changes one small decision at a time. Find out the top 10 books everyone lies about reading.
For the tea-sipping Anglophile
To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last, an award-winning screwball comedy by Connie Willis, features time-traveling academics from Oxford University in the future. They must keep returning to Coventry Cathedral before it was destroyed in World War II, so they can retrieve hideous little artifacts that will allow them to recreate it in perfect detail. If you appreciate that the academics keep returning despite the danger because they’re all so terrified of the bossy benefactor funding the project who is, gloriously, named Lady Schrapnell, you’ll love this novel.
For the legal eagle in your life
Brothers Teddy and Leo, the protagonists of Bear is Broken by Lachlan Smith, have taken care of each other ever since their father murdered their mother in this contemporary thriller set in San Francisco. Teddy is now a top criminal lawyer: Colorful, cocky, and suspiciously successful. Leo has just been admitted to the bar. When Teddy is shot, putting him into a coma, Leo has to step into his older brother’s shoes, take on a high stakes criminal case, and wade through the wreckage of Teddy’s life trying to figure out who would try to kill him and why. Bonus points: It’s the start of a series. Don’t miss our list of the best thrillers of all time.
For your friend who’s still mad at J.K. Rowling for not writing an eighth Harry Potter novel
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan stars Elliot, the crankiest boy in the Borderlands. Much to his dismay, there are no video games across the magical wall, and boring javelin-throwing golden-haired warriors are greatly admired. But who could possibly leave when there’s a chance to meet elves, mermaids, harpies, trolls, and other magical beings? Though Brennan is a well-liked young adult writer, she originally published this story in online installments just for her fans. Now that it has been bought by a major publishing house, everyone can enjoy this former cult classic.
For fans of bodice-rippers who devoured the Outlander series
Set against the complicated, fascinating backdrop of the English-Scottish wars of the 16th century, The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett is the tale of accused traitor Lymond of Crawford, his love affair with a blind girl, his Cain-and-Abel relationship with his own brother, and his merry band of outlaws and rogues. We found ourselves hurtling through the pages, trying to decide who was the true traitor to Scotland and worrying about the eventual fates of Dunnett’s many vivid characters. This book is the start of a classic series first published in 1961.
For the thrills, chills, and suspense addict who has run out of Stephen King novels
Back in the day, Gerry Fegan was a stone-cold hitman for the IRA, but he’s falling apart in the peace negotiations of the 1980s in The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville. Is Gerry really being haunted by 12 of his murder victims? He sees them everywhere, begging him to shoot his old friends and comrades among the IRA. At the same time, his life is increasingly entwined with those of a young woman, who is hated for her former relationship with an English cop, and her small daughter. Can Gerry protect them from everyone, even himself?
For your sister who wants a nicely written romance that makes her laugh and feel cozy all over
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a funny, charming retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, set in and around Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Kate is pretty, capable, and actually a very kind person who does everything for her father, a distinguished scientist, and her boy-crazy little sister Bunny. But her brusque manner scares everyone away…except her father’s Russian lab assistant. Does he only want to marry her to stay in the U.S.? Or has he truly fallen for Kate, his “vinegar girl”? Decide for yourself! Want a romantic book to share with your honey? Start with these 10 novels that will tug at your heartstrings.
For aficionados of Westerns, courtroom dramas, and mysteries
In Cimarron Rose by James Lee Burke, Billy Bob Holland of Deaf Smith, Texas, is a man with a past. Once a Houston cop, then a Texas Ranger, now an attorney, he sired his only son out of wedlock and had to watch him be raised by a much lesser man. But now that the young man has been accused of rape and murder, Billy Bob feels he has no choice but to take his son’s case, facing down the ghosts of violence that run through his life and back through his family history to the early settlers of Texas.
For a young hipster friend or relative in need of an original new read
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is a spare, droll, often wistful tale of a young Japanese woman who finds her métier in working at—where else—a convenience store. Keiko is just normal enough to want to hide how much of a social misfit she is. Left to her own devices, she can veer toward sociopathy, as when she tries to break up a school fistfight with a shovel or considers sticking a small knife into her baby nephew to stop him from crying. But in the regimented world of Smile Mart, where there’s a standard response and gesture for every occasion, Keiko can relax, and in her own peculiar way, even consider dating. These are the 10 surprising books every teen should read.
For sci-fi geeks
This hidden gem, Kindred by Octavia Butler, was the first science fiction novel ever published by an African-American woman; for years it was a cult classic, but now Butler is finally getting the attention she deserves. Dana, a young black writer in California in 1976, keeps finding herself traveling back in time to a slave plantation in 19th-century Maryland, where she saves a young red-headed boy named Rufus from one dangerous scrape after another. Eventually Dana realizes that Rufus is her ancestor. If he doesn’t survive and enter into a non-consensual relationship with one of his slaves, she will never be born. What should she do? It’s simultaneously thought-provoking and impossible to put down.