December 05, 2017

Borderlands Opinionated Holiday Gift Guide

by Jude Feldman

I was delighted to see that most retailers this year actually waited until Thanksgiving was over before putting out their holiday decorations (or worse, turning up the holiday music)!  Last year, I swear, it seemed like a bunch of stores were moving in Christmas lights, menorahs, and New Year's noisemakers on July 5th, so I appreciate the restraint this time 'round.  However, winter is well and truly here now, and I'm personally thrilled that the gift-giving season has arrived, because there are just so many absolutely wonderful books to brighten the days of your friends and family.

We here present our usual Opinionated (and Digression-Filled) Gift Guide to help you out.  However, if you don't see something appropriate here, we're always happy to make custom suggestions for you or anyone in your life.  We'll even wrap 'em for you!  (A special note to those of you purchasing presents: we're glad to gift wrap upon request, although our typical caveats apply: first, if we're busy, you may have to wait a bit to have things wrapped, and, second, some staff members are MUCH better than others at it.  It is possible that your package may resemble a brightly wrapped Lovecraft-ian, batrachian, rugose, Thing of No Human Shape.  For some customers, this is not a problem . . ."better than I can do!," they say.  However, if you are concerned about our, ahem, abilities, we're also happy to just hand you the gift wrap, scissors and tape.)

Now, onward!

Let's start with a huge selection of signed books.  We're quite spoiled with all the marvelous local authors who have dropped by to sign their work recently, and we currently have signed books from Charlie Jane Anders, S.G. Browne, Gail Carriger, Richard Kadrey, Ellen Klages, Nick Mamatas, Seanan McGuire (no longer local, but still in our hearts and willing to sign books on the tailgate of the store's truck in a random parking lot in San Lorenzo in a giant rush, which surely looked like the world's strangest drug deal),  Christopher Moore,  Annalee Newitz, and many, many more!   Also, Marie Brennan and Becky Chambers be around in the next week or so, so feel free to request personalized copies -- we'll make it happen if we possibly can.

One of my favorite new titles is MIXED UP: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader) edited by Nick Mamatas and Molly Tanzer.  This is a collection of more than two dozen classic recipes, hot tips on ingredients and preparations, and also new cocktail-themed short stories.  It's just great fun.  Another fun option is KILLER FASHION: Poisonous Petticoats, Strangulating Scarves, and Other Deadly Garments Throughout History by Jennifer Wright, which might appeal to the Edward Gorey fan in your life.  Stunning and unusual is ABOVE THE TREELINE by artist and author Gregory Manchess, and you just have to see this one!

Two beautiful anniversary editions you might want to consider: NAME OF THE WIND TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (with incredible illustrations by Dan dos Santos, and more than 50 pages of new material!) and THE PRINCESS BRIDE 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION: this stunning new release features foil and embossing on the cover, an interior printed on elegant uncoated cream stock with rough-cut edges, fifty (!) full-page color illustrations by Michael Manomivibul, full-color chapter openers, and a gorgeous color map printed on the endpapers.  It really is "inconceivably" lovely.

New science fiction releases -- INFINITE STARS edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt shouldn't be missed; it's a collection of some of today's most prestigious and talented science fiction authors writing original short fiction in their most famous worlds.  It contains new stories by Catherine Asaro, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jack Campbell, David Weber and many, many others.  ARETMIS by Andy Weir just came out, and although it is getting mixed reviews, it seems to be one of those "black licorice books" that people either love or hate, but no in-between.  Great news for The Expanse fans among you -- book six, PERSOPOLIS RISING -- comes out December 5th!  AUTONOMOUS by Annalee Newitz is deservedly getting almost universally positive reviews, and we've got signed copies for that special someone.  There're also two super-cool little pocket-sized hardcovers; a gift edition of OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, and the SIX MONTHS, THREE DAYS, FIVE OTHERS, expanded from a Tachyon chapbook, by Charlie Jane Anders.

If fantasy is more to your taste, we've definitely got you covered.  CREATURES OF WILL AND TEMPER by Molly Tanzer just came out, and it's a delightful feminist DORIAN GREY while simultaneously incorporating comedy of manners elements from SWORDSPOINT and Victorian theatre a la Forest Leo's THE GENTLEMAN (also recommended).  I'm doing a poor job of explaining this one because it is hard to categorize, but that's all the more reason to read it!  Speaking of hard to categorize, also just released is a wonderful new short story collection from Peter S. Beagle, beloved author of THE LAST UNICORN, called THE OVERNEATH.  I personally think Beagle is at his very strongest in the short-story form, and you really shouldn't miss this one.  LA BELLE SAUVAGE by Philip Pullman returns to the world of THE GOLDEN COMPASS to tell more of Lyra's story.  IN OTHER LANDS by Sarah Rees Brennan didn't get the attention that it should have, and I hope to at least partially remedy that here.  Snarky, self-aware, smart, funny, and tremendously sweet, IN OTHER LANDS works equally well for adults and genre-versed young adults.  A fantasy that came out almost a year ago but deserves tons of attention is Ellen Klages' PASSING STRANGE, which is a love-note to the complicated 1940's queer culture in San Francisco, as well as a sweet story with just a hint of magic.  DOWN AND OUT IN PURGATORY shows off the short fiction of stylist Tim Powers, and it's very worth checking out.

Bestsellers -- books that have been flying off the shelves around here include all three books of N.K. Jemisin's Hugo-winning Broken Earth Trilogy; Cixin Liu's THREE-BODY PROBLEM (translated by Ken Liu); Charlie Jane Anders' ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY; Brandon Sanderson's OATHBRINGER (the third book of The Stormlight Archive); THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS and its (relatively) new prequel THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE by M.R. Carey.

If your gift-ee just has to have the newest and the latest, check out STRANGE WEATHER by Joe Hill, a brilliant collection of four short novels that's NOT AT ALL like his dad Stephen King's DIFFERENT SEASONS.  We've also just got A WAR IN CRIMSON EMBERS, number 3 in Alex Marshall's Crimson Empire books, which is one of my very favorite recent fantasy series.  It's like Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, and George R.R. Martin all collaborated on this work, and it's hugely fun.  Brand new from Gail Carriger is ROMANCING THE WEREWOLF, a holiday romance novella set in the SOULLESS world.  Just out from Mira Grant is INTO THE DROWNING DEEP, a terrifying tale of very dangerous mermaids, and SOURDOUGH by Robin Sloan, author of MR. PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSHOP.

Classics: we have beautiful, gift-worthy editions of THE HOBBIT,  ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, DUNE, NEUROMANCER, LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, oversized illustrated editions of the Harry Potter books, and many, many more familiar favorites!

Recently in media: Many great options!  We have Stephen King's wonderful Dark Tower series, and the books are easily a million times better than the movie, despite the excellent acting of Idris Elba and others (frankly, I'd watch Idris Elba read a phone book, but even he, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Taylor, the terrific young actor who played Jake, couldn't fix a movie that tried to cram seven books and a prequel into 90 minutes of screen time).  Much better movies include "The Arrival", based on the story of the same name in Ted Chiang's STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS.  Coming in February 2018 will be Netflix's version of Richard Morgan's ALTERED CARBON, and I have to say I am cautiously optimistic about it.  I'm more enthusiastic about the movie based on A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle, since the preview looks AMAZING.  Also great is CHANCE by Kem Nunn, recently made into a TV series that features the noir-est San Francisco ever, with Hugh Laurie.  The opposite of noir is Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries, also now a TV series with droll dialogue and fabulous clothes in 1920's Australia.

Oddities are always an entertaining choice.  You might choose THING EXPLAINER: COMPLICATED STUFF IN SIMPLE WORDS by Randall Munroe; 199 CEMETERIES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE by Loren Rhoads, a gorgeous coffee-table style book at a regular hardcover price; LITERARY WONDERLANDS: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE GREATEST FICTIONAL WORLDS EVER CREATED, edited by Laura Miller; or PAPERBACKS FROM HELL: THE TWISTED HISTORY OF 70's AND 80'S HORROR FICTION by Grady Hendrix.  We've also got signed copies of the perennial Christmas favorites LAMB, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BIFF, CHRIST'S CHILDHOOD PAL, and THE STUPIDEST ANGEL, A HEARTWARMING TALE OF CHRISTMAS TERROR, both by Christopher Moore.

As always, we're happy to make personalized recommendations and practice our Psychic Bookseller Skills when you're stumped.  If you just can't decide, we also offer gift certificates in any amount.

We wish everyone a very peaceful, hopeful, and happy holiday season.  As the Counting Crows say, "A long December/ and there's reason to believe/ maybe this year will be better than the last."  Here's hoping that each one continues to get better.

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