Sometimes the best gift is a chance to escape into a completely different reality: one with danger and magic, advanced technology and interstellar settings, or romantic meet-cutes and happily ever afters. We have all the above, and more, courtesy of our science fiction, fantasy, and romance shelves. Treat someone on your list (or yourself) to these alternate realities:
- The Buried Life by Carrie Patel
Patel’s Recoletta trilogy begins as a detective-duo whodnit and evolves into a complex political thriller about power and resistance. An immensely satisfying, little-known gem for the fantasy/steampunk shelf.
- The Devourers by Indra Das
Shapeshifting creatures, the Mughal empire, and a mild-mannered professor in modern day Kolkata collide in this strange, visceral, and beautiful dark fantasy by debut author Das.
- The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
A feminist fanfic crossover of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and even–Lord help us–Dr. Moreau. Like the best fanfic, it’s pure bliss (and gay)!
- The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
This (and its predecessor, The Bear and the Nightingale) is great fantasy with Russian gods, monsters, and other magical creatures, all threatened by Christianity. A deep winter setting perfect for this time of year.
- Half-Witch by John Schoffstall
Two girls storm the Holy Roman Empire – and heaven. The intersection of Kelly Link, Peter Beagle, and Voltaire.
- The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Like a cozy Hallmark Christmas movie in book form! Tired of being single, Cassie Beaumont hires professional matchmaker Simon Dodson who assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets her perfect match.
- One Day in December by Josie Silver
Follow two Londoners who fall in love at first sight, but don’t actually meet until he shows up at her door–as her best friend’s new boyfriend. Sweet and gooey, but also sharp and fun.
- Intercepted by Alexa Martin
After an exploitative relationship ends in infidelity, Marlee resolved never to date athletes again. There’s just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.
- The Barrow Will Send What it May by Margaret Killjoy
Queer anarcho-punk travelers and librarians fight demons, internal and external, in small town America. Like Supernatural during its monster-of-the-week phase, but good.
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But Oomza University has wronged the terrifying Meduse race, and Binti’s travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself ― but first she has to make it there, alive.
- An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Aster is a medic on the generation ship Matilda, where the upper and lower decks are segregated by race–the plantation, transposed into space. She discovers a link between the death of Matilda‘s sovereign and the suicide of her mother 25 years before, thereby beginning a civil war…and learning there may be a way off the ship. For fans of Ann Leckie and Octavia Butler.
- Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation
A much-needed collection of contemporary Chinese science fiction. Featuring Hao Jingfang’s award-winning short story “Folding Beijing” as well as stories by Cixin Liu, Xia Jia, and others.
- The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
A gay tax accountant schemes to take down a vast colonial empire from the inside, with economics. Nail-biting, double-crossing, completely excellent.