The best fiction books to gift this season


This is part of the LA Times 2022 Gift Guide. See the full guide here.

Which books make the best gifts? It’s not an easy question when it comes to fiction; each novel or collection of stories sets its own mood, follows its own rules, appeals to its own perfect reader. Here’s what you need to know about 15 delightful works of fiction, all released this year, and the perfect recipient who’ll thank you for matching.


(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Shopping for a Gen Xer? Or, really, someone fascinated by nonconformity? Look no further than this posthumously published novel by Katherine Dunn, the author of the 1989 classic “Geek Love.” Where this bestseller depicts a family of carnival freaks, “Toad” harkens back to the ’60s (Dunn was actually a boomer), rendering that decade of idealism via flashbacks to a cohort of hippie college students from the North West. who preached peace and love but dissolved in envy and darkness.

$28 at macmillan

Olga dies dreaming

Cover image of "Olga dies dreaming" is a woman illustration made up of different patterns

It is easy to adopt radical positions on social networks, more difficult to really understand inequalities or to commit to a cause above all. Xochitl Gonzalez sums up these issues in a heartbreaking but heartwarming family story: a wedding planner and her brother, a closeted gay politician, yearn for their hardline mother, who is in her native Puerto Rico fighting for independence even then. they jostle each other on the slippery capitalist scale and their old Brooklyn neighborhood falls prey to gentrification.

$28 at macmillan


orange and pink illustration of a boy playing the piano on the cover of "Lessons: a novel" by Ian McEwan

Anyone on your list who liked “Atonement” knows what the British novelist can do best, especially with historical fiction. The particular appeal of ‘Lessons’ is not just its historical sweep, taking the last 70 years of world history through the perspective of a complicated Briton: it is also Ian McEwan’s most personal novel. . This one’s for baby boomers, sure, but not only: give it to readers of meaty Anglo-centric novels who love a good, well-told thread.

$30 at Random penguin house

Fiona and Jane

yellow, green and pink illustration of two women on the cover of "Fiona and Joan," by Jean Chen Ho

Jean Chen Ho’s ode to friendship and growing up is a kind of double coming-of-age story, featuring two besties who deal with family secrets and young adult conflicts in a very specific medium – the Taiwanese American from Los Angeles – even as their dilemmas would. feel familiar to any millennial, especially one who’s ever had a best friend. Essentially a storybook, it’s also easy to digest in bite-size pieces.

$26 at Random penguin house

sea ​​of ​​tranquility

the moon rises behind a hilly meadow on the blanket of

Even for fans of “Station Eleven” — the bestselling pandemic novel and hit TV show — who passed on Emily St. John Mandel’s modest sequel, “The Glass Hotel,” this one is worth the worth squeezing into their hands: an extended generation-matrix of vignettes revolving around the central mystery of several people who have the same strange experience across the centuries. Throughout the journey from Britain in 1912 to the lunar colonies of the 25th century, the narrative is brilliantly consistent. There’s even another pandemic – and a bestselling novel about it.

$25 at Random penguin house


building under a showcase on the roof of "Trust" by Hernan Diaz

For the reader in your life who enjoys complicated narratives but isn’t so much into Mandel-esque sci-fi, Hernan Diaz’s deconstruction of a warped New York aristocratic family would probably hit the mark. Not only is there a novel within the novel, but also an ongoing autobiography, a crummy memoir and a lost diary, arranged like nesting dolls and upholstered with enough Gilded Age splendor to dazzle you up to what the pieces are falling into place.

$28 at Random penguin house

The Last White Man

illustration of an eye on a purple background on the cover of "The Last White Man" by Mohsin Hamid

From the terrorist’s monologue in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” to the migratory parable of “Exit West”, Mohsin Hamid’s novels always manage to touch the zeitgeist while opening up timeless worlds. This is the case of “The Last White Man”, a story about the anxieties of whiteness that reads like a Borges reworking of a Kafka tale, beginning with the first sentence: “One morning, Anders, a man white, woke up to find it had turned a deep, unmistakable brown.

$26 at Random penguin house

The Librarian of Memory

a woman in a futuristic outfit on the cover of "The Librarian of Memory and Other Dirty Computer Stories" by Janelle Monae.

Concept albums have sometimes been compared to novels, but what if you did the opposite? The Afrofuturist pop star carries the sci-fi notions of his album “Dirty Computer” into a set of stories, each a collaboration with a different sci-fi writer. The result is an exploration of utopian freedom in a dystopian state of surveillance, which is even funnier than it sounds, as kaleidoscopic as the music of Janelle Monáe.

$29 at Harper Collins


luminescent tree on the cover of "Mecca," by Susan Straight

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Every gift has a point of view. If your view is that pop culture has it all wrong in Southern California, Susan Straight’s latest novel is a great way to preach, in large part because it’s so engaging. Its mostly Latino characters, including a motorcycle cop, an undocumented immigrant, and a harassed single mother, live hundreds of miles from the ocean. The real outsider is a wealthy woman from Los Feliz, and the real community is forged through adversity.

$28 at macmillan

Our missing hearts

Feather on the words on the cover of "Our missing hearts" by Celeste Ng

For fans of “The Handmaid’s Tale” – the book or the show or both – Celeste Ng’s follow-up to “Little Fires Everywhere” (the book and the show) would be a welcome presence under the tree. In the not-too-distant future, powerful government forces have scapegoated minorities, and a boy is left adrift when his mother, a Chinese-American activist poet, goes missing. Raised to expose her, at age 12 he is inspired to find out what happened, embarking on a quest that could change the country.

$29 at Random penguin house

The seaplane on final approach

Illustration of water with reeds sticking out over cover of "The seaplane on final approach," by Rebecca Rukeyser

This one is a bit nasty. 18-year-old Mira, obsessed with the concept of “mischief,” goes on an adventure to a remote Alaskan island, dreaming of meeting her aunt’s eldest son-in-law while working as a housekeeper at a small resort. shaded seaside. As tensions within the staff boil over, Rebecca Rukeyser weaves a dreamlike spell – “Twin Peaks” through “Northern Exposure”. Give it to someone who wants something weird, in the best way.

$27 at Random penguin house


Head silhouette with long purple braids on a red background on the cover of

Leila Mottley, all 20, is that rare young phenom who is not the product of privilege. Inspired by a real-life corruption case within the Oakland Police Department, she created a lyrical page-turner around Kiara, a teenage girl surviving poverty through sex work, dreaming of better days until that she’s entangled in a level of institutional abuse that she’s never seen before – and she’s seen plenty of it.

$28 at Random penguin house

Mouth to mouth

Clouds on a black silhouette wearing white glasses on the cover of "Mouth to mouth," by Antoine Wilson

Get it for someone who loves Negronis; Antoine Wilson’s thin novel is bitter, smooth and invigorating. Imagine “The Talented Mr. Ripley” located on the Westside of Los Angeles, at the intersection of the art world, the beach and the underground economy of Hollywood’s guest. Our mysterious protagonist performs CPR on a powerful art dealer. The rescued man quickly forgets, but the rescuer feels he is owed…something.

$26 at Simon & Schuster

chilean poet

A black cat adorns the cover of "Chilean poet."

The life of international poets is mixed, in the popular imagination, with love and revolution. And then there is reality: broken relationships, blended families, disappointed ambitions. Alejandro Zambra has fun mixing the two in a novel about two poets, father-in-law and son-in-law, who yearn for the greatness of Neruda but must face the here and now. Roberto Bolaño enthusiasts will have plenty to occupy themselves with.

$27 at Random penguin house

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Video game-like font with wave illustrations on the cover of "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow," by Gabrielle Zevin

Want a player to disconnect for a day? Hand over Gabrielle Zevin’s crazy story of two gamers who log on to college (Harvard and MIT, of course) and end up creating one of the best computer games of all time. Following these friends over the ensuing decades of wildly disparate results, the author does his research but carries it lightly, so that the narrative unfolds but the details make sense to experts and scholars alike. novices.

$28 at Random penguin house

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