Top Ten Novels for Gifting this Holiday Season

Looking for a newly published book to gift a friend or loved one this holiday season? I truly believe there is little more thoughtful than a well-chosen book. Books are such personal gifts: What better way to show someone you took the time to think about what they might like? And isn't a brand new hardcover a bit of a luxury? Here are my top ten novels of 2014, with publisher blurbs and genre topics to help you match book to receiver. Happy Holidays!

(P.S. If you're on a budget, or would rather spend less and buy more books, check out this post on recommended paperback fiction. There are some wonderful titles to consider!)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Four starred reviews, National Book Award short list

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.   

Genres: historical fiction, WWII, dramatic novels, atmospheric novels, lyrical writing, adult books for teen readers

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Two starred reviews, Amazon Best Book of 2014, Kirkus Best Book of 2014

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Genres: historical fiction, suspense/murder mystery, intense romance, 1920s

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Three starred reviews, Amazon Best Book of 2014

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

Genres: historical fiction, American South, biographical fiction, character-driven novels

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Five starred reviews

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Genres: young adult novels for adults, suspense, shocking endings, atmospheric novels, haunting novels, stories told non-linearly

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Three starred reviews, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Genres: realistic fiction, novels told by multiple narrators, young adult novels for adults, intense novels, character-driven novels

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

National Book Award short list, Washington Post Ten Best of 2014, Three starred reviews, Goodreads Readers' Choice Finalist

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 

Genres: dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, haunting novels, non-linear storytelling

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Two starred reviews, Goodreads Readers' Choice finalist

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
 
A murder, a tragic accident, or just parents behaving badly?  
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.  
But who did what?
 
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Genres: suburban suspense, dark humor

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Starred review, Goodreads Readers' Choice Finalist

Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi's literary debut novel is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one's own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of two women separated by a century who share similar destinies.

Genre: contemporary fiction, parallel narratives, lyrical novels, adult novels for teen readers

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Three starred reviews, Library Journal Ten Best Books of 2014

Following a terrible fight with her mother over her boyfriend, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her family and her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.
 
Genres: haunting novels, multiple narrators, intricately plotted novels, paranormal novels

Everything I Never Told You By Celeste Ng

Three starred reviews, Amazon Best Book of 2014

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Genres: psychological suspense, character-driven novels

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