It's already December and you haven't a clue what to get your family, friends or, gasp, co-workers for the holidays. Instead of racking your brain, let us do the heavy lifting. Here are 10 books that you should consider procuring for the history buff, fiction addict, or nonfiction enthusiast in your life.
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
A fantastic read by the award-winning, Nigerian-British author best known for reimagining fairy tales into modern sagas. Boy, Snow, Bird is no different. The novel is a poignant reworking of Snow White as the daughter of a black man who passes for white. It is a tale so haunting in its exploration of identity, race, and belonging you will regret not buying a copy for yourself.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The first in a trilogy, My Brilliant Friend is set in an Italy undergoing change at the outset of the 1950s. Ferrante's account—one about the fragility and beauty of human relationships—follows the close bond between two friends. It is an all-engrossing trip across time and country; are you up for the ride? Ferrante can write the hell out of human relationships, and if My Brilliant Friend leaves you craving more, pick up her novel Days of Abandonment.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This is the nonfiction legal thriller John Grisham never wrote. Written by the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a MacArthur fellow, Bryan Stevenson depicts his legal battle to pull a man off death row and expose the failures of the criminal justice system. Just Mercy is a bare-boned, true-life account of the legal system and its toxic affects on the most vulnerable among us. This book is great for any legal buff, political hound, or activist. But, in truth, it is also a book for everybody: a story as heartbreaking as it is powerful.
Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and a Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
Deresiewicz's book is an uncompromising critique of higher education in America—and perhaps one of the finest in recent memory. As the former Yale professor cautions: "Learning how to think is only the beginning, though." Excellent Sheep is ideal for the college student, high school graduate, or twentysomething trying to figure out what they want to do with their life.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
You probably saw the film but didn't read the book. But you should read the book. For those not familiar with the plot; the story follows a man accused of murdering his wife, but the reality of the situation is anything but. Gone Girl is everything you want it to be: mysterious, suspenseful, and absorbing. Who wouldn't want to read a thriller of a relationship gone crazy?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History is the debut novel from the author who's 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning work, The Goldfinch, is the hardcover of the moment. Set at a small New England college, the story unravels around the misbehavior of six classics students. This is another hard-to-put-down story with a twist—murder. Who did it, why, and will it happen again? But you'll have to read the book to find out.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Marlon James's novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is perhaps the best book of 2014. Set in Jamaica, it is a work of historical fiction based on true events: it details the days leading up to, and the fall out after, an assassination attempt on famed singer Bob Marley. Told in various first person accounts—gangsters, assassins, politicians, CIA agents, and a music journalist—Seven Killings is captivating in its unapologetic spirit and sweeping portrayal of Kingston.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist will get you talking—to friends, family members, and Twitter frenemies. Gay, who has become one of our most provocative essayists, leaves nothing off the table in her debut collection: race, gender, sexuality, feminism, politics, and compassion all filter through her sharp-eyed view. Taken in whole, Bad Feminist is a brave affirmation of selfhood: I am a woman, this is my story, and there is power in its telling.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
In the abstract, Being Mortal deals with two certainties: aging and death. More closely, the book probes the ability of medicine to grant us more fulfilling, prolonged lives. Time waits for no one, and Gawande, who is a surgeon and professor at Harvard, attempts to expand (and illuminate!) our understanding of what growing old means today. Whoever you give this to will thank you for it.
The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westoros and The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, Elio M. García Jr. and Linda Antonsson
This is the perfect book companion for the Game of Thrones buff. All the history, nuance, and character minutiae you wanted to know about the Seven Kingdoms but don't, are here. Drop what you're doing—no, really—and proceed to the nearest bookstore. The World of Ice and Fire is selling out fast. Don't be the last to gift it.