Best 2021 Fiction Books to Consider for Holiday Giveaways


This is part of the LA Times 2021 gift guide. If you buy books here, The Times can earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookstores. See the full guide here.

When it comes to donating books, it’s really the idea that counts. This year brought a major fiction surplus after the pandemic delays of 2020 (although supply chain issues make early orders a must). This means that there is something awesome for every reader on your list. Out of these 10 choices, you’ll easily find a match, or three, that will elicit gasps of “How did you know that?” “


No collection of espionage enthusiasts would be complete without John le Carré’s swan song, the last novel he completed before his death last December. His last gladiators are retirees who have returned from the cold, including a mysterious immigrant he met in a bookstore. Still, it’s not a cozy mystery; it’s a high stakes game as scary as the rest.

28 $ | Buy here

The perishing

A profile of a woman on the cover of "The perishing" by Natashia Deón

Any fan of contemporary fantasy will tell you that the momentum lies in writers of color reclaiming the genre. For readers who can’t wait for the next entry in NK Jemisin’s “Great Cities” trilogy, Natashia Deón’s new novel, about a 1930s LA resident who discovers his immortal mission while working for (ahem) The Times, will definitely help them out over.

$ 26 | Buy here


The cover of "Trees," by Percival Everett

Colson Whitehead took a hiatus this year from serious Southern narratives (see below), but Percival Everett took over, with assorted satirical giveaways. An epic racial revenge fantasy set in the Mississippi town where Emmett Till was killed may not seem like a fun giveaway, but Everett’s verbal hijackings are funny as hell.

16 $ | Buy here

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A man playing the guitar and a woman are sitting outside on the blanket of "Crossroads," by Jonathan Franzen.

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This one is a no-brainer for Jonathan Franzen fans on your list, but anyone looking for an old-fashioned storytelling immersion will find something in Franzen’s saga of a 1971 suburban Chicago family in moral crisis. . It will take some time to integrate – and for many, it’s a feature, not a bug.

$ 30 | Buy here


The book cover of "Matrix," by Lauren Groff.

Has anyone in your life complained about all the dystopian novels that have come out these days? Lauren Groff’s latest isn’t exactly utopian (she’s too smart for that), but her story of an ambitious and talented 12th-century nun who turns her abbey into a matriarchal center of power is the kind of fantasy that many of readers might opt ​​for the right now.

28 $ | Buy here

WEB Du Bois love songs

An image of a face and a tree on the cover of "WEB Du Bois Love Songs," by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has written a great American novel – 800 pages of poetry, history and pain, as well as the personal story of a woman raised with the expectations of the “Talented Tenth” but determined to learn all about this country powerfully. cruel. Give it to any Nikole Hannah-Jones fan, and they’ll be blown away.

$ 28.99 | Buy here

Something new under the sun

A person on fire in a field on the cover of "Something new under the sun" by Alexandra Kleeman.

Anyone who really wants to know that LA would benefit (and probably devour) from Alexandra Kleeman’s hilarious and spooky new novel, the realistic dystopia we can’t escape. An author is enlisted to “check out” a Hollywood adaptation of his novel, only to come face to face with a spoiled starlet, a substance called WAT-R, a Ballardian landscape of fiery highways, and a conspiracy worthy of “Chinatown.”

28 $ | Buy here

Beautiful people, where are you

The illustrated cover of "Beautiful people, where are you," by Sally Rooney

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Sally Rooney has become, obviously to her horror, a millennial brand – a dynamic that is the key to her latest novel about Irish semi-intellectuals in very hot relationships. For the young left-wing bookers in your life, it touches every pleasure center – philosophical and carnal, old and new.

28 $ | Buy here

Our country friends

A drawing of a wineglass and a country road on the cover of "Our friends from the country," by Gary Shteyngart

It might not be the first novel about the pandemic, but it has to be the funniest. The modern update of “The Decameron” by Gary Shteyngart – this classic set of stories told by exiled Florentines riding the Bubonic Plague – has a multicultural cast and location in New York’s Hudson Valley . Comforting, neurotic, cosmopolitan and apocalyptic: what’s not to love?

28 $ | Buy here

Lincoln Highway

A black and white photograph of a vintage train and car on the cover of Amor Towles'

Everyone has this parent who keeps talking about their lifelong mission of reaching every rest stop on Route 66. Amor Towles, the master of literary historical fiction, wrote the book for them – a 1950s bittersweet road trip taken by tough kids. through a legendary road whose access and exit ramps represent America’s promise and its limits.

$ 30 | Buy here

Afterparty: stories

Two men smoke in the back of a truck on the cover of "Afterparties: stories," by Anthony Veasna So

Fiction can transport us through time and space, but some of us read it for a level of immersion and understanding that you won’t find on vacation. Anthony Veasna So died last year at age 28, his promise largely broken. But we have “Afterparties,” his collection of funny, deep, and scary stories about American Cambodians making new lives in Stockton, California.

28 $ | Buy here

Harlem Shuffle

The red, yellow and green cover of "Harlem Shuffle," by Colson Whitehead.

Colson Whitehead is so adept at changing genres and tones that his fans don’t always follow him with every book; zombie satire readers may not like Oprah’s anointed slavery fantasies – and vice versa. “Harlem Shuffle” has something for everyone, however – a tough mind, deep historical undertones, as well as building a new fan base for crackling heist thrillers.

$ 28.95 | Buy here

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