[Updated! Now with recommendations from Becky Chambers, Stark Holborn, Adam Kranz, Jesse Bullington, Anne and Jared]
[Updated again! More recs from Jesse!]
[And again! New recs from Kirsty Logan!]
Tis the holiday season! But giving stuff can be hard. Not because you're a bad person (you're great!), but because people are really difficult, and, odds are, they've got all the obvious stuff already.
To help you spend your hard-earned money on the people you love, we've asked our contributors, guests and online-passers-by for some gifting suggestions.
We've all followed a simple 'If/Then' formula - helping you find the right gift for that very specific oddball in your life. (Or, yourself. We don't judge.) We'll keep updating with more recommendations over the next few weeks, so check back for even more assistance with your last-minute panic-buying!
If they need a laugh after this garbage fire of a year, then get them season one of The Good Place, because we’re all messy humans, we’re all caught up in stupid systems beyond our control, and we all could use some frozen yogurt.
If they’re still ride or die for Game of Thrones while simultaneously nursing a bitter resentment over how much better this show could do by its female characters, then get them the Skyrim Special Edition and let them live their own high fantasy adventure. It’s got all the time-sucking goodness of the original game, but the art’s gloriously remastered, the DLC’s unlocked, and the bugs are (mostly) fixed.
If they aren’t religious but love the winter holidays for symbolizing love and kindness in the face of the freezing dark, then give them The Bonobo and the Atheist by primatologist Frans de Waal. It’s a thought-provoking, perspective-altering, brain-calming book about compassion as natural instinct.
If they saw Wonder Woman and thought to themselves, “I could watch two hours of nothing but the Amazons,” then get them the first volume of ODY-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward. This gender-bent space opera retelling of The Odyssey is not an easy read (doubly so if you’re not familiar with the source material), but if immortal women doing archery flips off of charging horses made your giftee feel alive...sing in them, o muse.
If they watched the North American solar eclipse with a homemade pinhole box, then get them a pair of Celestron Cometron 7x50 binoculars. These wholly decent entry-level astronomy binocs will set you back no more than thirty bucks, and are a great way to dip a toe into the waters of backyard stargazing before taking the plunge on a big ‘scope.
If they're yearning for the days when they pretended to be ill so they could have the day off school and spend it in bed reading Terry Brooks or David Eddings, then get them Lucy Hounsom's Starborn, Heartland and Firestorm. Nostalgic, old-school high fantasy with a contemporary twist.
If they won't stop going on about The Wire, then supply some cheery Christmas reading with David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
If they're into westerns and comics and surrealism, then try Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos' Pretty Deadly series.
If they can't wait for Godless,/em> then get them Annie Proulx's Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Charles Neider's The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, or Day of the Outlaw on DVD.
If they have a hankering for a hunk of dried meat to gnaw but are of a vegetarian persuasion, get them this here mushroom jerky. In fact, if they're a mushroom lover, then you should get them a mushroom growing kit and a copy of Aliya Whiteley's The Beauty. They'll thank you. Maybe.
Stark Holborn is the author of Nunslinger. Stark has been tied up for the past few years buffalo herding but IS WORKING ON NEW STUFF, I SWEAR.
If you loved Thor: Ragnarok, which of course you did, it was delightful and funny and a breath of fresh air in a (Marvel) year featuring Iron Fist and a fairly standard sequel (Guardians 2) and yet another reboot, no matter how charming, of Spider-Man, and also Inhumans, but let us never speak of that again. Anyway, if you loved Thor: Ragnarok and you haven't seen director Taika Waititi's other films, drop everything and go watch What We Do in the Shadows, and then The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which will make you cry and laugh.
If you like Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and it seems like ages and ages before Record of a Spaceborn Few publishes: watch Star Trek: Discovery. Okay, bear with me; this is a tenuous connection, but: Becky loves Star Trek. And Discovery is doing really interesting stuff with the Trek universe. And it's better than The Expanse (yeah, I said it). And nicer.
[PS If you're a fan, definitely preorder Spaceborn Few because it honestly, swear to god, actually matters. This is not a nonsense thing publishers have made up to give themselves something to talk about.]
If you miss Carrie Fisher (as do we all): honest to pete, her novels are hilarious. Start with Postcards from the Edge (full disclosure: I work at her UK publisher but am not involved in publishing her books), her first novel. I recently read Surrender the Pink; it's both terrific on its own merits and interesting read if you have read The Princess Diarist and/or know anything about her relationships with Harrison Ford and various other men.
If you're kind of into the current spy-thriller thing but wish Mick Herron, et al., had more romance and corsets? Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series is a delight. There's an overarching present-day plot that binds the (seven) books together, but each novel is essentially a stand-alone romance novel that's light on annoying tropes and heavy on quips and skullduggery. It's 1802 and the premise is that the Scarlet Pimpernel (a real person in these books) has retired, so a series of English spies with flower names continue his good works by thwarting Bonaparte's plans to invade the UK, and also navigate the turgid waters of early Regency society. The first four books are the strongest but all are fun reads.
If the news these days is seriously bumming you out, then you can find any number of livestream animals to go gooey over here. The Alaskan bears are a firm favourite round these parts.
If you have a millennial/geek on your gift list and no idea about what to give them, (or just want to buy yourself something awesome), Etsy is here for you. Here is a 'none pizza, left beef' necklace. Here is an avocado toast lapel pin. Here is a unicorn sparkles bath-bomb. Here are a lot of nbsp;Jurassic Park 'clever girl' necklaces. Here is an artist who will create a custom papercraft portrait of your beloved pet.
If you're obsessed with llamas, or just have really great taste in camelids, here's a llama lamp!
If Rupi Kaur has awakened a taste for poetry in your soul, try out contemporary poets Brenna Twohy and Melissa Lozada-Oliva, or go treat yourself to A Street in Bronzeville or Annie Allen and discover the utter majesty of Gwendolyn Brooks.
Anne edits lots of things, including Pornokitsch.
If they like Game of Thrones, get them the complete Black Sails boxset for revolutionary anti-colonial gay pirate historical drama.
If they like A Song of Ice and Fire but wished it had more queer, trans, and POC characters, wasn’t built in a Eurocentric setting, and solved problems through dialogue and personal growth as well as brutal violence, get them Alex Marshall’s Crimson Empire trilogy. The final volume comes out early this December, so they can read the whole series in one go.
If they like The Thing or Fargo, get them the first two seasons of Fortitude for a wintry weird horror community drama set on a remote Arctic island.
If they like Life is Strange, get them Night in the Woods, a charming game about the melancholy coming of age story of a disaffected punk cat girl. It also features very cute baby rats and a possum :3
If they like Master of None (or honestly if they just have a sense of humor and a heart), get them The Big Sick. It’s a wholesome emotional rollercoaster of a movie, perfect for the holidays.
If they’ve ever said “I want to like Prog music, but everything out there is too pretentious and wanky” (or if they actually like prog), then get them the stunning 4(!) albums King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released in 2017.
Adam Kranz is a graduate student in insect ecology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He writes about fantasy, games, postmodernism, and environmental history.
If they are stoked for the return of L7, then get them Selena Chambers' Calls for Submission for a concentrated dose of grungy 90s atmosphere in a stellar collection of weird short stories.
If they dig Robert McCammon's classic Boy's Life, then get them Emil Ferris' My Favorite Thing is Monsters for a gorgeously illustrated and powerfully told tale of a horror-obsessed girl's coming-of-age-cum-murder-mystery.
If they love Edgar Allan Poe so much they suffered through John Cusack's The Raven, then get them The Haunted Palace by The Tiger Lillies for a unique album that proves modern odes to the master can actually succeed in capturing his ornate and eerie essence.
If they feel the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic, pick them out a piece of Feral Strumpet jewelry - the artist uses all of the above to create stunning pieces in her Scottish workshop.
If they are a groovy ghoulie with a sweet fang for horror art, buy them a terrifying t-shirt, bizarro beach towel, or other outlandishly adorned merchandise from the monster-obsessed artist Nick the Hat. If you don't know their size - or that of their beach - you can play it safe and order them a petrifying print instead.
Jesse Bullington is the author of numerous seriously-disturbing books, including PK favourites The Folly of the World and The Enterprise of Death. His sekrit double identity is Alex Marshall, author of the grimdark-and-super-metal Crimson Empire trilogy, starting with A Crown for Cold Silver.
If they are expecting, then get them Prevenge, for the best film about a murderous pregnant woman they've ever seen.
If they need a new girlboss heroine, then get them The Good Fight, to bask in the glory of Diane Lockhart.
If they like their fairytales with a healthy dose of darkness, then get them Jen Campbell's The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night.
If they want a spooky read for Jólabókaflóðið, get them Laura Purcell's The Silent Companions – and then read it by candlelight.
If they prefer their life advice to be given by a Russian fairytale witch, get them Taisia Kitaiskaia's Ask Baba Yaga.
If they want some strange and sinister short stories, get them Camilla Grudova's The Doll's Alphabet.
If they love pop culture snark, get them Alana Massey's All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers.
Kirsty Logan's latest book is the wonderful A Portable Shelter, and the next one is The Gloaming (coming April 2018). We also recommend her short story "Four Feet", which you can read (online) (for free) (here!).
If they miss David Bowie - or are all caught up on Wicked + Divine, then hand them L.R. Frederick's The Book of Luce. It is the mystical/musical/mystery fusion that everyone needs, a gloriously-written ethereal thriller set in the musical underground.
If they grew up on the D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths (and Norse Myths! I legit read the covers off both!), then the Jeffrey Alan Love and Kevin Crossley-Holland Norse Myths is their jam. Crossley-Holland's interpretations are well-researched and entertaining, and Love's illustrations will knock their socks off. This is a big ol' oversized book that makes a spectacular gift for kids large and small.
If they love Adventure! - the sort of reader that moans about the lack of high-flying zeppelin adventures, polar exploration, lost words, and derring-do, then Gregory Manchess' breath-taking Above the Timberline is bound to please. This mahoosive book is fully illustrated, with each page a different, full-page, full-colour artwork from the legendary artist. It is classic 'pulp' in all the best ways: less of a book than an eye-capturing, page-turning experience in its own right.
If they've read all of Squirrel Girl, then please get them Patsy Walker aka Hellcat!. Hellcat! is an utterly charming series of misadventures about friendship and fitting it. That makes it sound naff, and the (lovely but) perky illustrations support the initial perception of twee, but Hellcat! gets very deep, very quickly, doesn't shy away from the hard stuff, and will bring a tear to your eye.
If they haven't read all of Squirrel Girl, then get them some Squirrel Girl.
If they're an enthusiastic, but undisciplined, cook, then Caz Hildebrand's The Grammar of Spice and Niki Segnit's The Flavour Thesaurus are both lovely, and useful, additions to the bookshelf. Both books are very pretty, as cookbooks should be, and rather than prescriptive recipes, they rattle off all sorts of unusual uses (and pairings) for spices. It is a bit like cooking from first principles. Or improvisational kitchen alchemy. Much, much, much more fun than reading a script.
If they loved American Gods, proudly present them with Sami Shah's Fire Boy. A young man learns he's half-djinn - and the world around him is filled with walking myths and legends. Like Gods, packed with clever references and great adventure. Unlike Gods, it is set in sprawling and fascinating Karachi, has a charmingly goofy central character, and has a biting horror edge to it. They'll thank you. (Nightmares and all.)
If they like Discovery and classic pew-pew space opera, but with, you know, characters and contemporary relevance, then try them on the gorgeous re-release of Helen S. Wright's A Matter of Oaths. Action, and adventure, and a little bit of heartbreak - this book has been lost for too long.
If they miss Downton Abbey, then try them on the box set of Trollope's The Way We Live Now. The 2001 BBC adapation is snarky and surprising, and stars David Suchet playing a sort of Dickensian Penguin, and clearly having the time of his life. (I mean, it is no North & South, but it tries.)
If they think they know everything there is to know about Alien, take them one step further with Roger Luckhurst's lovely companion volume for the BFI. Like everything from Luckhurst's pen, it is both erudite and hilarious; enjoyable, accessible, amusing scholarship on a fascinating topic.
If they're huge Miéville fans, but miss the Bas-Lag series, then they could do worse than scratching the itch with Jane Gaskell's Atlan series. The five book - incredibly weird - fantasy starts with The Serpent. It is out of print, but they'll be so overjoyed to have a new monsters, mayhem, word-art and politics series that they'll undoubtedly forgive you the second-hand copy.
Jared is particularly fond of The Djinn Falls in Love (co-edited with Mahvesh Murad), which makes a perfect gift for anyone that likes saucy literary fantasy about fire spirits.