Have a few wonderfully geeky friends in need of a gift this year? Rather than getting them yet another gadget or gift card, why not give them something magical, something that will open up new worlds? Books have the powerful ability to make us laugh or cry, transport us to far away places, provide an escape or allow us to see things in a new light. We think they make the perfect gift (we’re totally not biased), and with so many to choose from, you really can find something for everybody. Don’t know where to start in the vast sea of stories? We’re here to help! We’ve chosen some of the best books that we think would make the perfect present for all the geeks on your list this year.
For the fantasy fan…
Katherine Arden’s debut novel is the first in a trilogy, and book three, The Winter of the Witch, is coming in January 2019, so it’s the perfect time to give this dreamy, rich, medieval Russian-inspired fantasy to the folklore lover in your life.
The Golden Compass and its sequels is one of the most important trilogies ever written, able to cross YA and adult fiction boundaries. For almost twenty years, His Dark Materials readers hoped Pullman would return to Lyra’s world. He did so with La Belle Sauvage. And now, in time for the holidays, a gorgeous collector’s edition!
This book is a deftly-woven, contemporary fairy tale; a terrifying look at what happens when magical realism meets the Internet Age. When new father Apollo’s wife begins acting strangely, he chalks it up to the exhaustion of adjusting to their new lives as parents. But then she commits a horrific act and disappears completely, and Apollo must embark on a quest through New York City to find her and reunite his family.
Tanith Lee is a master fantasy writer, and if you and your friends haven’t encountered her yet, you’re in for a treat. The two novellas featured in Companions on the Road are each about strange and powerful relics, and the permanent impact they make on the adventurers in these tales. This book is perfect for fans of classic fantasy with a dark twist.
This volume celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Kristen Britain’s classic Green Rider series with a novella and two short stories, plus illustrations and backstory on the creation of the series by the author, and a special introduction by award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, Julie E. Czerneda. A can’t-miss for any epic fantasy fan.
A Visual History
Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer; foreword by Joe Manganiello
Art & Arcana traces the evolution of Dungeons & Dragons through art from its five editions and subsidiary properties including card games, miniatures and computer games. Sharing pages with imagery of D&D’s signature heroes and monsters is a fascinating history of the growth of tabletop gaming from 1974 to today, providing serious fans a look at the business, controversies and stories behind the hobby.
300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History)
George R. R. Martin
It is easy to celebrate a new book set in the mega-bestseller world created by George R. R. Martin but this book is a necessary installment for fans of the books. The events beginning centuries before A Game of Thrones, Fire & Blood is the historical account of the Targaryen family starting with legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat. It answers all sorts of questions only hinted at in A Song of Ice & Fire. A perfect gift for the Game of Thrones geek in your life!
Robert Jackson Bennett
Robert Jackson Bennett is one of my favorite current writers. His Divine Cities Trilogy was a masterful blend of weird fiction and urban fantasy with a bit of spycraft thrown in for good measure. His latest centers on a city that runs on industrialized magic and is at the center of a secret war fought to overwrite reality. Expect complex characters, an innovative magic system, and a brilliantly realized city. This is perfect for anyone who likes their urban fantasy a bit epic and weird.
The Magicians; The Magician King; The Magician's Land
The foundation for the SyFy show of the same title — and the books praised by George R. R. Martin — The Magicians and sequels are a daring feat of literary fantasy sure to capture the imagination of the grown-up Harry Potter fan. This box set is a must for those wanting a finished and completed story of magic and adventure.
Natalie C. Parker
Caledonia Stix once offered a helping hand to a Bullet boy claiming to be running from Aric Athair’s army — but instead, he led the warlord’s navy straight to her ship, destroying her family. Now, Caledonia captains the repaired Mors Navis with a firm “No Bullets” rule in place… until her best friend returns with a Bullet boy who saved her life, and the battle against Athair’s dictatorial rule over the seas escalates. If you loved watching Wonder Woman and Mad Max, this one’s definitely for you.
With the Nebula Award-winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik wrote one of those special books that only come along every so often, a beautifully-wrought fantasy that captured readers’ imaginations as well as awards. Spinning Silver is cut from the very same cloth and is just as magical, a fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. Fans of Le Guin, McCaffrey, Arden, and McKinley will love this book!
Give this one to someone you really love, as you’re actually giving them three books in one! Tarma and Kethry includes all three books in the Vows and Honor trilogy, set in Lackey’s immersive world of Valdemar. The tales follow the badass duo of Tarma, an elite swordswoman, and Kethry, a powerful sorceress, as they fight against evil and follow their destiny.
Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Check out our list of The 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time!
For the science fiction and science non-fiction fan…
This is the debut novel of Hank Green, co-creator of Crash Course, Vlogbrothers, and SciShow, and the brother of uber-popular author John Green. When a strange, ten-foot tall, Transformer-like robot appears out of the blue, a young woman named April makes a video of it and uploads it to YouTube. Little did she know, these robots — nicknamed Carls — have appeared all over the world, and her video puts her in the spotlight as their first documentarian. The question remains, however: what do the Carls want?
Starting as a sort of science fiction spin on “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Dark Matter turns into an extremely fast-paced world-hopping thriller following a college physics professor’s attempts to get back to his old life. Crouch, who also wrote the Wayward Pines trilogy, is known for big plot twists and his latest novel really delivers.
The new Doctor is here, and she’s fantastic. Young Doctor Who fans hungry for more of the Thirteenth Doctor will adore this all-new adventure, featuring Jodie Whitaker’s incarnation of the character plus companions Yaz, Ryan, and Graham.
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern
Fifty years after Dragonflight was published, Gigi McCaffrey takes up her mother’s mantle and continues the Pern saga with Dragon’s Code. Piemur, a young harper, must unite Pern’s past and present dragonriders if the planet is to survive a renewed attack from Thread and a burgeoning schism among the dragons themselves.
Arguably the most important science fiction novel of all time and an absolute must read for everyone, Dune is a perfect book for new readers as well as returning. And with director Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”) and Brian Herbert spearheading a forthcoming movie adaptation, this edition of Dune is a perfect gift for that geek in your life.
This suspenseful novel follows a time-traveling investigator trying to get to the bottom of a murder that involves the crew of a ship believed lost in deep space. Along with having a brilliant way of dealing with the paradoxes of time travel, the book examines the impulses that drive humans to seek the truth and the perils that might be waiting for them.
Heroine’s Journey, the third book in Sarah Kuhn’s delightful superhero fantasy series, came out this summer, but we would never tell you to start a series midway through, so pick up book one, Heroine Complex, and give yourself or a loved one the gift of a smart, snarky completed series.
A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler
Part reference book, part instructional text, part entertainment, Ryan North’s How To Invent Everything is perfect for that friend who’s prone to long conversations about the relative merits of machetes vs. firearms in a zombie apocalypse. It’s a rigorous how-to for building society from the ground up, should you find yourself stranded in the past with a broken time machine, with information on survival, mathematics, biology, art, reproduction, and more – check out the table of contents here!
Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones with Jason Arnopp
If you’ve ever watched “Black Mirror,” you’ll know just how strange, disturbing, and utterly gripping this show is. This behind-the-scenes look dives deep into its creation, with exclusive images and ephemera, and detailed accounts from producers, creators, actors, and more. If you have a fan of “Black Mirror” in your life, this is absolutely the gift for them. Or for you — not everything you buy this season has to be for someone else!
Science fiction that’s heavy on the science, The Martian pays tribute to NASA and human ingenuity through the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars who has to figure out how to survive long enough to be rescued. Nerdy jokes lighten up what could otherwise be dry material and the difference between the novel and film is substantial enough that you can definitely enjoy both.
The Marvel Comics Art of Alex Ross
Alex Ross and Chip Kidd
Alex Ross is a legend among comics artists, and for good reason — his interiors and cover work over the past two decades demonstrate an immense artistic talent and love of his subject matter. Pick up this collection of his work for Marvel – or, if you’re shopping for a DC fan, grab a copy of Mythology, his collection of DC art.
This alternate history takes place in a timeline where Japan won World War II and dominated the planet. Makoto grew up in the California of the United States of Japan, where he dreams of becoming a military mecha pilot. But his friend’s plan to game the entrance exam goes horribly wrong, leaving him with only civilian piloting as a goal… if the rising tensions between the USJ and Nazi Germany don’t erupt. Mecha Samurai Empire is an excellent read for fans of alternate history, dystopian works, and — of course — giant fighting robots.
And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine
Hilarious tall tales and unbelievable true stories abound in this treasure trove of oddball medical anecdotes. Buckle up and get ready to learn all about the poor woman who peed through her nose, Chicago’s amphibian baby, a hapless soldier who had to perform gall stone surgery on himself, and many more cases you’ll never forget. Thank goodness for modern medicine, right?
The concept of time is a complex topic, and one often explored in the realm of science fiction. For a more factual take on the matter, turn to Carlo Rovelli’s latest work. The author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics brings us another brilliantly-written and accessible account, this time unraveling the mysteries of time and our understanding of it. This is the gift for the sci-fi fanatic who wants to dive a little deeper.
Sanderson is best known for penning epic fantasy, but he turns to science fiction for the first entry in his new YA series. Set on a planet where the descendants of a crashed fleet must hide underground to avoid their alien attackers, the story follows Spensa, a bold teen who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a pilot to help humanity retake the stars.
Do you have a Star Wars fan in your life? Whether they watched “Solo” in theaters or not, they’ll definitely enjoy the wild adventure in Mur Lafferty’s novelization of the film. While the story follows the plot of the movie, it also includes scenes from alternate versions of the script, and explores more of the world than we got to see on-screen.
Jim C. Hines
Terminal Alliance is a funny, fresh sci-fi novel about a crew of janitors aboard a spaceship who’re our last hope for saving the galaxy. Yes, really. Part space comedy, part first contact tale, part thrilling apocalypse story, this book is too much fun to miss.
Richard K. Morgan
Netflix may have made Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon a science fiction sensation, and deservedly so, but he’s written a lot of other great stuff. Thin Air is follow-up to his 2007 novel Thirteen. Thirteen introduced us to Carl Marsalis, a genetically modified super soldier turned bounty hunter. Like Marsalis, Thin Air protagonist Hakan Veil is a lab-created human variant, but this time the action takes place in the hardscrabble world of colonial Mars.
Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Check out our list of The 100 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time!
For the horror and weird-fic fan…
Compiled and written by Becket With an Introduction by Anne Rice; Illustrated by Mark Edward Geyer
There are almost twenty books set in the world of Anne Rice’s vampires. At this point, even the most dedicated of Rice’s fans are likely to have a little trouble remembering all of the important details from time to time. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles: An Alphabettery is a godsend: the ultimate guide to thousands of years of vampire history. New Rice readers and longtime devotees alike will want to keep this book close at hand.
True Accounts of Ill-Fated Lives
We’ve all got to go, but how we do it probably won’t be up to us. Most of us would prefer quietly passing at home surrounded by our loved ones, but there are other possibilities, and some of them are quite dramatic. Cecilia Ruiz’s Book of Extraordinary Deaths is a hilarious and quirky memento mori: a perfect stocking stuffer for the morbidly inclined.
A Contrivance of Horror
The Conspiracy Against the Human Race is Thomas Ligotti’s pessimist manifesto: a blistering refutation of the the idea that life is, in and of itself, good — far from it. Consciousness is a curse, in Ligotti’s mind, and the only logical response to the human condition is for our species to go voluntarily extinct. You won’t have to agree with his conclusions to appreciate his trip into the darkness.
The forerunner of modern science fiction introduced readers to “the Modern Prometheus,” Victor Frankenstein, whose desire to play god produced the Creature who has become one of the most well-known figures in pop culture. While any time is a great time to read Mary Shelley’s classic, this year marked the 200th anniversary of publication of Frankenstein, and this anniversary edition contains additional context about Shelley and the world around her.
Already read Frankenstein? In Kiersten White’s young adult retelling of the classic, Elizabeth Lavenza takes center stage as a young woman plucked from an abusive caretaker by the Frankenstein family. In fear of being cast out, it becomes Elizabeth’s role to soothe and care for the increasingly unstable Victor – no matter what unholy acts he commits in the name of his own experiments. An excellent next read for fans of the classics looking for an updated look at the novel.
Believe it or not, telling spooky stories at Christmas was, at one time, an honored tradition. I say it’s time to bring that one back. Hark the Herald Angels Scream is a collection of chilling yuletide horror stories that is certain to make this December one to dismember… I mean, remember.
Shirley Jackson is one of the masters of horror, and in her classic The Haunting of Hill House, four people gather at the notorious estate of Hill House seeking proof of the supernatural. At first, Hill House appears to be an ordinary spooky manor – but as the four spend more time within, it becomes clear that the house is going to claim one of them. Hill House is one of the best literary horror stories you can read, and with a Netflix adaptation available now, it’s a great time to refresh yourself on Jackson’s work.
Edited by Scott G. Bruce
Christmas can be awfully nice, but sometimes all of the accompanying expectations and obligations can make it a little feel closer to hell. But hey, if you’re going to hell you might as well have a guide. The Penguin Book of Hell is your tell-all take on Hades. I like to call it What to Expect When You’re Expecting… An Eternity of Fire and Brimstone.
Edited by S. T. Joshi
If you’re stumped on what to get that die-hard horror fan in your life, you could do a lot worse than picking up one (or several) titles from the Penguin Horror Series. Featuring classics from such influential horror mavens as Shirley Jackson, Ray Russell, and Edgar Allan Poe – just to name a few – there’s plenty of classic dread inducing tales to be found.
Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? In this spooky tale, you’re on the side of the ghost — Rose Marshall died in 1952, the unwilling sacrifice to pay for the immortality of Bobby Cross. Though it’s been years since he ran her off the road, she’s still on the run from him, and he won’t stop until he finds her. This is a ghost story, and a darn good one, but it’s also a story of American folklore and the mythology we create.
The Official Behind-the-Scenes Companion
Just in time for the holidays, Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down is the perfect gift for the “Stranger Things” fan in your life – or just treat yourself! This behind-the-scenes companion features concept art, photos and tons of interesting information about what goes on behind the cameras.
Grady Hendrix has carved out a particular niche in the horror world; his novels are gothic/classic horror-inspired romps that manage to walk the line between poking good-natured fun at genre tropes while simultaneously bringing the scares. His latest, We Sold Our Souls, is the tale of a washed-up heavy metal guitarist on a hellish, potentially soul-saving road trip. This one’s perfect for fans of heavy metal, horror, or anyone feeling the sting of the cancellation of “Ash vs. Evil Dead.”
The World of Lore: Dreadful Places is a great gift for any “Lore” fan, but it’s also the perfect way to introduce friends looking for a creepy new podcast to what “Lore” has to offer. Much like the rest of The World of Lore series, Dreadful Places takes on a particular lore-filled topic – in this case, all manner of unnerving, nightmarish, and potentially haunted locales.
Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Check out our list of The 100 Best Horror Books of All Time!