Merry Bookmas! A book-buying guide for the holidays

Christmas tree made out of books

Stumped for gift ideas? Out of shopping days? Tired of giving socks and giftcards? (Seriously, why are you doing that? Amazon is right there.)

What you should be giving people is books. Your friends love to read (or at least they say they do on their Tinder profile), the authors get new fans, and you look super smart and cool. Win-win-win!

Here’s a handy list of books, short stories, poetry, and games(!) for all your gift-giving needs this holiday season. And hey, maybe pick up a present for yourself while you’re at it.

Sci-Fi & Fantasy

  • Sciath – J. A. Castelli: A catastrophic accident leaves Kyra to puzzle out a swirling vortex of questions before the Architect’s power is passed into the wrong hands.
  • The Crashers – Magen Cubed: Five strangers walk away from a subway crash unscathed, only to realize the event has left each of them with strange new powers.
  • The Transmigration of Cora Riley – Ellie Di Julio: With the help of an unusual guardian angel, Cora navigates the afterlife and quickly learns that gods and monsters are very real indeed. Only the power of belief – in the Otherworld, in her companions, and in herself – will return her to the land of the living.
  • Desperation – Alexander Dundass: Arriving in Lonsation space, Admiral Savage finds it seized by the Hegemony. To take advantage of their uranium supplies, he must free Lonsatia. But do so, he must battle his cyborg brothers exiled for attempting to take over the galaxy.
  • Steel Victory – J. L. Gribble: Today, the vampire Victory is a councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations. Her human daughter is a warrior-mage, balancing life as a mercenary with college courses. Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.
  • Lycopolis – Ali Luke: Seth’s got a lot going for him: money, charm, and a niche online game where he can play god. He wants more. much more. Because Lycopolis isn’t just a game–something ancient and evil has been playing him all along.
  • Home Birth – Jessica McHugh: When the queen of the darkogs makes Eibal an offer she can’t refuse, she risks everything to give her an heir. But Eibal soon finds herself in a war between humans, darkogs, and her own body.
  • The Empress Game – Rhonda Mason: The seat of the Empress Apparent isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in ritualized combat. Now that tournament has been called and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds.
  • Keys and Needles – Michelle Nickoliasen: In her nightmares, Tania sees a mysterious hooded figure ripping children from their families. When her dreams start coming true, Tania and Logan must set out on a dangerous mission beyond anything they’ve ever imagined.
  • Spiralchain: Gatemaker – Jeremiah L. Schwennen:  When a mysterious girl from another world reveals to Adam that he was is a Gatemaker, everything changes. Together, they must travel to the medieval world of Onus and confront both terrible danger and their own fears.
  • Queen of Shadows – Dianne Sylvan: Overwhelmed by her ability to manipulate emotions through music, Miranda Grey comes to the attention of vampire lord David Solomon, who discovers that Miranda’s powers may affect the vampire world, too.
  • Nightlord: Sunset – Garon Whited: When Sasha is killed, reluctant vampire Eric is thrust into an alternate world to avenge her death. There he becomes a Nightlord, fights a dragon with the help of his magical steed, and upchucks a sword named Firebrand.

Young Adult

  • In a World Just Right – Jen Brooks: Sometimes high school senior Jonathan Aubrey wishes he could just disappear. And as luck—or fate—would have it, he can. Ever since coming out of a coma as a kid, he has been able to create alternate worlds.
  • Chemistry – C. L. Lynch: Only one person seems to like Stella: Howard, the biggest loser at her new school, who’s also a great listener and respects her. And now undead hordes are showing up at Stella’s door, and Howard might be to blame.


  • The Reluctant Reaper – Gina X. Grant: Desperate to reunite body and soul Kristy D’Arc seeks out allies, but what of her attraction to Dante, the sexy Reaper with a flair for romantic language who scythed her soul?
  • Fairest of the Faire – Susabelle Kelmer: Fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with widowed Connie at first sight. Despite his commitment-free life and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

Short Stories

  • Five Empires: Escape – Joely Black: One Master Assassin has spread rumors of coming war and Lorasz must decide whether he has the courage to prevent the end of the world as he knows it.
  • Head – Nik Markevicius: A day of lurid adventure as Nate’s desperation drives him into the gutter of humanity. As he upsets ever more dangerous people, Nate realizes there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
  • Revolver – Joel K. Sullivan: Nine short stories, from a soldier’s last letter to a comical encounter with an assassin to the dark spiral of a suicidal millionaire.


  • Fight Like a Girl: A powerful collection of science fiction and fantasy ranging from space operas to medieval warfare to urban fantasy. These are not pinup girls fighting in heels; these warriors mean business.
  • Twice Upon a Time: Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares.
  • Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling: Over two dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work.


Personal Growth


  • Visegrad: The Coming War in Eastern Europe – David March: A hypothetical conflict between the Eastern NATO and Russia, with a weakened US, a neutral Germany, and a surprise threat from Poland.
  • Pugmire – Eddy Webb: Fantasy adventure in the ancient future where dogs have been uplifted to use tools and language and seek to rediscover the world they’ve inherited. Pugmire is a world in which dogs have built a new society using ancient but fragmented lore left behind by humanity.

Related articles