The Literary Fiction Christmas Gift Guide

11th Dec 2013

Bad Santa
Got a literary fiction lover you want to treat this Christmas? (And it totally counts if it's you, by the way.) Here's some of our favourite literary reads from 2013, plus some older options...

For art lovers and adventurers

Over a decade since Donna Tartt‘s last book, The Little Friend, and more than twenty years since her incredible and universally-acclaimed début, The Secret History, The Goldfinch had readers the world over wondering if it’d be worth the wait. Luckily, it is.

Featuring international art thieves, darkly comic teen delinquents and a compelling cast of misfits and miscreants, it’s perfect for anyone with a love of literary fiction and epic cross-continental stories about art, identity, love and loss.

For silent film fanatics, flappers and Francophiles

Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman is an engrossing and evocative  début novel set in and around the iconic Pathé factory in 1920s Paris, featuring ambitious and would-be silent film siren Adèle Roux.  Full of suspense, glamour and deftly-drawn, multi-faceted characters who are never quite what they seem, it’d make a gorgeous gift for anyone with a penchant for Paris, silent cinema or  secrets.

Bonus options: other brilliantly dark and disturbing débuts published in 2013 include Peggy Riley‘s Amity & Sorrow and We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo.

For stargazers

It made Man Booker history earlier this year, taking The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton to the top of many a to-read list. But at over 800 pages, it’s much more suited to lazy literary lounging sessions with mulled wine and mince pies than being lugged about on daily commutes.

So if you know someone who loves astrology, elaborate plots, rich atmosphere, star-crossed motifs and gripping mysteries, this could be an ideal option. And we promise we’re not just saying that because of the author’s blonde hair.

For bohemians

Half Blood Blues (2011) by Esi Edugyan features jazz, booze and underground blues in Paris and Berlin, while Diamond Star Halo (2010) by Tiffany Murray brims with rock’n’roll in the fictional haven of Rockfarm in the Welsh countryside, and Dodie Smith‘s I Capture the Castle (1948) is the ultimate in romantic, crumbling English bohemia.

For alternative Americana

Set in the queer community of San Francisco’s Mission district, Valencia (2008) by For Books’ Sake favourite Michelle Tea is fast-paced, innovative and unapologetic; full of drama, sex,  humour, heartbreak and adventure. In NYC, Nevada (2013) by Imogen Binnie is the darkly comic story of a young transwoman trying to stay true to her punk values while working in retail.

Elsewhere, California (2012) is the début novel by Dana Johnson, set in Los Angeles. Powerful and poignant, with a complex and compelling protagonist, it explores race, identity, class, love and lots more in gorgeous writing beloved by everyone from Aimee Bender to T.C. Boyle.

For short stories

There’s lots to do over the Christmas holidays, right? Eat epic amounts of chocs, re-watch the entire Harry Potter box-set, overdo it on Amaretto. So if you need a present for someone with a short attention span, these short story collections are ideal for dipping in and out of…

The Tiger’s Wife (2011) by Téa Obreht, Because They Wanted To (1997) by Mary Gaitskill Missed Her (2010) by Ivan Coyote, Dead Girls (2002) by Nancy Lee and The Thing Around Your Neck (2009) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

For your favourite weirdo

For the ones who love the offbeat, bizarre, magical and macabre in their literary fiction, you could do a lot worse than Helen Oyeyemi‘s haunting novel White is for Witching (2010) or Shirley Jackson‘s sinister haunted house classic We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962).

For more dark and dream-like atmosphere and imagery, there’s Sleep Has His House (1948) by Anna Kavan, Sexing the Cherry (1989) by Jeanette Winterson or Fantastic Women: 18 Tales of the Surreal and the Sublime (2011), an anthology introduced by Joy Williams and published by Tin House.

Which other literary fiction titles are you adding to this year’s letter to Santa?


  • Ali Williams says:

    I’d also like to offer up anything by Alice Munro (Novel Prize Winner!) and Katharine Mansfield for short story wondrousness!

  • Kirsty Logan says:

    Such an exciting list of books – can’t wait to read those short story collections! I haven’t heard of Nancy Lee or Ivan Coyote but both books look great. Thanks, FBS!