The Sal and Gabi duology (Sal and Gabi Break the Universe and Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe) are ostensibly about a boy who can reach through the multiverse and bring things through to his part of reality—but they’re also about friendship, finding common ground, being your best self, and sentient AI. Most middle grade books depict middle school as an evil horrible place, as much an antagonist as the book’s real villain. The Sal and Gabi books do away with all of that. Not only is Culeco Academy the coolest middle school ever, the series manages to ramp up all the tension and drama needed without having an actual villain. (Even the people who seem villainous at first turn out to be different from expected.) These are a delight for adult readers who love middle grade fiction, but they’re even more important for middle schoolers, who deserve to see kids their age saving the multiverse in communities full of hope and love.
Buy Sal and Gabi Break / Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Outlander Knitting: The Official Book of 20 Knits Inspired by the Hit Series by Kate Atherley
For the crafter in your life.
For fans of either Diana Gabaldon’s time-travel romance novel series or the hit Starz adaptation, this collection of patterns inspired by the show will transport your crafting friend into the Scottish Highlands. Featured among the projects are clothing, accessories, and decorations for the home.
Buy Outlander Knitting: The Official Book of 20 Knits Inspired by the Hit Series by Kate Atherley
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
For horror fans.
Compared favorably to horror-master Stephen King’s It, this classic revenge horror seamlessly combines elements of social commentary and drama. The story follows for American Indian men who, as childhood friends, experienced a disturbing event together. Now, the past has come back with a vengeance, and there’s no avoiding the violence they tried to leave behind. Jones is making his mark in the world of horror, and this is a not-to-be-missed thriller.
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Teen Titans: Raven and Beast Boy box set by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo
For DC fans.
Garcia and Picolo’s Raven and Beast Boy origin stories reinvent the characters for an audience who may have already met them in kid-friendly Teen Titans Go! or adult-aimed Titans. While the comic versions presented here draw on those previous incarnations, the stories are self-contained, giving readers both familiar and new to the DC series a chance to experience them for the first time. This hardcover box set gives the books an extra gift-worthy feeling.
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Thorn by Intisar Khanani
For the friend who needs a fresh fairy tale.
In this retelling of “The Goose Girl,” reluctant Princess Alyrra is happy to have escaped royal life. But when she learns of a plot against the prince, she must decide whether to reclaim the heritage she wanted to leave behind, or let the kingdom fall. This beautiful hardcover edition also features an additional short story set in the same world.
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Dinosaurs: The Grand Tour, Second Edition: Everything Worth Knowing about Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops by Keiron Pim
For Jurassic World and other dinosaur fans.
While the 2020 entry into the Jurassic World franchise, Camp Cretaceous, was geared toward younger viewers, plenty of adults never grow out of their love of dinosaurs. And why should they? These prehistoric terrors continue to be amazing—and modern scientists continue to make new discoveries on an almost weekly basis. This huge guide to dinosaur species offers references for more than 300 species full of colorful illustrations that show these titans in all their (feathery!) glory.
Buy Dinosaurs—The Grand Tour, Second Edition: Everything Worth Knowing about Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops by Keiron Pim
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
For the SFF connoisseur.
This series starter is set in a contemporary New York—but the city is coming to life. But a city killer is trying to stop New York from evolving, and the city’s mortal avatars are the target of its plans. It’s not uncommon to hear people considering N. K. Jemisin the best modern writer of speculative fiction, bar none, so picking up The City We Became, her most recent novel, is a no brainer if you’re buying for someone who likes smart, quality SFF.
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Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas
For the mecha enthusiast.
This triumphant conclusion to Tieryas’s United States of Japan trilogy, which can be read as a stand-alone, takes place in an alternate reality where Japan and Germany won World War II and divided the United States between them. An assassin known as Bloody Mary is determined to eliminate corruption from within the United States of Japan, regardless of the cost. It’s up to a secret police agent and a star mecha pilot to stop her, but determining enemies from friends is almost impossible. Tieryas balances the super cool world of mecha battles and spy action with searing social commentary and ethical questions, making this a challenging but imminently worthwhile read for fans of Pacific Rim.
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Star Trek: The Wisdom of Picard by Chip Carter
For the Star Trek fan in your life.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard has always been quotably wise. In this collection, Chip Carter pulls together some of the greatest lines, featuring Picard’s thoughts on leadership, justice, and space exploration. The quotes are accompanied by photography from iconic scenes of The Next Generation, making this a perfect gift for the Star Trek fan who already has everything.
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Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
For fans of Arrival and Stranger Things.
This first contact story from Hugo-nominated video-essayist Ellis is set in an alternate 2007. In the world of the novel, Cora’s father has blown the whistle on the first contact cover up. Cora herself wants nothing to do with aliens, but when one of the aliens decides Cora is the only human he’ll talk to, she’s stuck in the middle of everything. For lovers of aliens and conspiracy theories, this is one to pick up.
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Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud
For lovers of YA court intrigue.
In this sequel to Daud’s Mirage, Amani, who has been forced to serve as the body double for Princess Maram, is on her last chance. The princess discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion, and now Maram is suspicious of anything Amani does. Yet Amani is dedicated to the cause of seeing her people free, which means she has to make a choice: continue to work from within the palace and risk her life, or flee and risk her people. For a female-centered plot that deals with consequences of colonialism, this series conclusion and its predecessor are a sure hit.
Buy Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud
Star Wars From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
For the Star Wars fan.
Called “one of the best Star Wars books released this year” in our Den of Geek review, this anthology is packed with stories from authors both well-known and unfamiliar, whose works delve into the lives of central and side characters from The Empire Strikes Back. While some explore relationships between key characters (Luke, Leia, Obi-wan), others tackle the points of view of previously unnamed creatures (Sy-O, the space slug that swallows the Millenium Falcon). The stories are sometimes delightfully weird, other times grim or tender, and all a good gift choice for the Star Wars fan whose favorite film is still Empire.
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Remina by Junji Ito
For the manga fan.
This science fiction horror story centers on Dr. Oguro, who discovers a planet that has emerged from a wormhole and names it after his daughter, Remina. But as the girl Remina rises to fame, the planet shifts its course, threatening all life on Earth. Could Remina herself be the cause? This chilling story is a classic from Eisner-winner Junji Ito newly released for an English-reading audience.
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Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee
For the martial arts enthusiast.
For friends who like a little more grounded, real-world take, this exploration of Bruce Lee’s philosophies, written by his daughter, offer insight into the legendary martial artist. Although this title offers no martial arts tips, it is full of philosophy, untold stories, and inspirational takes from the cultural icon.
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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
For the lover of gothic horror.
When her cousin begs her to come rescue her from a mysterious doom, Noemí heads to a house in the Mexican countryside. As she looks into the secrets of both the house and her newly-wed cousin’s husband, Noemí finds that there’s more danger—real and supernatural—than she ever imagined. Set in the 1950s, this supernatural horror blends elements of Rebecca and science fiction for a chilling novel perfect for lovers of classic gothics.
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Marvel Greatest Comics: 100 Comics That Built a Universe
For the Marvel fan.
In a collection that spans the entire history of Marvel comics, characters like the Human Torch, Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the Guardians of the Galaxy show their historical origins. If you have a fan who’s waiting impatiently for the next MCU offering, this collection of some of Marvel’s defining comics from the company’s history may be just what they need to tide them over.
Buy Marvel Greatest Comics: 100 Comics that Built a Universe
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
For lovers of mythology and fairy tales.
Billed as Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets Hindi mythology, this debut novel centers on the daughter of a star and a mortal. Sheetal tries to be normal, but when her starfire accidentally hurts her mortal father, she must travel to the celestial court in order to save him. The combination of court intrigue, mythology, and a fairy-tale like tone is perfect for YA lovers.
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Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
For the romantic who needs a great stocking stuffer.
Although better known for the popular Kate Daniels series, the Ilona Andrews team (husband and wife Ilona and Gordon) has knocked it out of the park with the most recent installment in their “Hidden Legacy” series. There are now five novels and a novella in the series, with Emerald Blaze as the second book of a second arc, but while the book is most likely to resonate with readers already introduced to the character, it’s also a stand-alone magic-spy-action-adventure-romance. Despite that blend of genres, Team Andrews melds it all together in a world with both super cool magic and an alternate-reality Instagram, featuring characters you want to hang out with regardless of the stakes. The mass-market size also makes it perfect to slip into a stocking!
Buy Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews