Best Books to Give This Holiday Season-2016

Looking for a gift for your favorite bookworm—or a gift to reward yourself after a long day of holiday prep? There’s something for every fiction lover on the list below, from picture books to share at bedtime, to wonderful chapter books to tuck into a backpack, to teen reads both moving and magical, to some of the best fiction books to hit shelves this year. These are the books they’ll want to start reading before the wrapping paper has even been tossed.

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Here are some recommended books (for all ages!) in the Southfield Public Library catalog with commentary from Barnes and Noble. If you don’t see a copy available, contact a librarian to place an item on hold for you!

Gyasi, Yaa
This remarkable, bold debut, which spans 250 years, is a heartbreaking and thought-provoking look at seven generations of descendants from the Fante and Asante tribes of Ghana. Kicking off the story are half-sisters Effia and Esi, whose disparate lives remain linked, despite the fact that they’ve never met. Their children and grandchildren live on different sides of the Atlantic, but whether they’re involved in the Gold Coast slave trade of Africa or suffering under its effects in America, it’s the personal, smaller stories within that framework—stories of hardship, transcendence, wealth lost, and love gained—that will deeply move you.
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The Girls
Cline, Emma
“These long-haired girls seem to glide above all that was happening around them, tragic and separate. Like royalty in exile.” Can you blame Evie, a bored, restless, 14-year-old, for becoming entranced by the group of young women (and their Manson-esque cult leader, Russell) she spies in the park in the late 1960s? Evie is especially fixated on Suzanne (a stand-in for Manson’s most famous “girl,” Susan Atkins), and recounts their interactions from the (relatively) safe distance of adulthood. Her rapt audience: a modern teen, Sasha, whose troubles and yearnings mirror Evie’s from years past. Psychologically astute and perfectly rendered.
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The Underground Railroad
Whitehead, Colson
In this year’s tour de force National Book Award winner, acclaimed essayist, novelist, and nonfiction writer Whitehead imagines a pre–Civil War United States in which the Underground Railroad isn’t a metaphor but an actual train that carries slaves to safety. A brilliant genre mashup that combines elements of sci-fi and historical fiction, it’s an astonishing, must-read tale about a female slave on a Georgia plantation whose escape route takes her not just from South to North but through space and time as well.
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Another Brooklyn
Woodson, Jacqueline
Though Woodson is perhaps best known for her children’s literature (especially the extraordinary, award-winning biographical book in verse Brown Girl Dreaming), her new book for adults is lyrical and poetic, too. Through the lens of an anthropologist who has come home for the first time in decades, it addresses the coming of age of August and her three best friends growing up in 1970s Brooklyn. “We tried to hold on. We played double Dutch and jacks. We chased the ice cream truck down the block, waving our change-filled fists.” Their journey into womanhood is fraught with tragedy, abuse, and betrayal—and a reminder that friendship can tie people together tighter than family.
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The Nix
Hill, Nathan
Eleven-year-old Samuel didn’t notice when his mother began to leave him. It started with a “slow burglary”—a photo missing from an album, a dress gone from the closet—and culminated in abandonment: “Slowly, her presence in the house grew thinner.” As an adult living in Chicago, Samuel is an adjunct professor and writer whose heyday is behind him (according to the publishing world, that is). When his long-lost mother makes national headlines for a notorious act, he’s forced to confront the realities of the woman who left him behind. A humorous, satirical look at pop culture, social media, Norwegian myths, online gaming, and American politics, The Nix is a compelling, entertaining, and (even at 640 pages) fast read.
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A Gentleman in Moscow
Towles, Amor
A follow-up to Rules of Civility (which tackled 1930s Manhattan), Towles’ latest historical novel takes place in Russia and depicts the life of Count Alexander Rostov, an “unrepentant aristocrat” sent by the Bolsheviks in 1922 to live out the rest of his days in the attic storage room of the Metropol hotel. As the world outside (he’s across from the Kremlin) passes him by, he adjusts to an existence devoid of the arts, leisure, and fine dining he is accustomed to. Yet in other ways his life is expanded immeasurably, as he creates an exquisite new world for himself. His relationships with the hotel staff, and a life-altering friendship with a child, breathe transcendent joy into every page.
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Patchett, Ann
A marriage-destroying kiss at a christening sets off events that include an outsider’s controversial retelling of the incident (the book-within-a-book is also titled Commonwealth) as well as a film adaptation of said book. Six stepchildren, left to their own devices during long summer months, are affected by their parents’ couplings and uncouplings in different ways, until they can no longer imagine a life in which their respective families weren’t blown apart. Moving back and forth through time, the novel, Patchett’s seventh, crackles with intelligent, memorable discourse and a wide variety of sympathetic viewpoints.
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Today will be Different
Semple, Maria
Following her wildly successful sophomore book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Semple’s latest begins with a to-do list gone haywire. A modern, middle-aged wife and mother has taken stock of her supposed shortcomings and has decided to control, alter, or annihilate them for just one day. The results are hilarious, disastrous, and far-reaching. (What else can you expect from a television writer whose credits include Arrested Development, and whose engaging narrator, Eleanor Flood, admits, “I’ve been to nine shrinks in twenty years and I’m still like, ‘Wait…what?'”)
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News of the World
Jiles, Paulette
Longlisted for the National Book Award, News is set in 1870s Texas, where elderly war vet and vagabond Captain Kyle Kidd finds himself traveling 400 long and dangerous miles to San Antonio with an “uncivilized” 10-year-old girl. The girl was captured and raised by the Kiowa tribe after they murdered her parents and sibling. As such, she speaks no English and doesn’t remember a time before the Kiowas took her in. Kidd intends to return her to her family, but as their journey subtly shifts from a relationship of survival into a true and heartfelt meeting of souls, he may not be ready to leave her with a group of strangers, even if they’re kin. Though Jiles’ research must have been extensive, it effortlessly enhances the narrative rather than bogging it down, and in an age of Westworld, it’s tremendously satisfying to root for the white hats to win the day.
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Swing Time
Smith, Zadie
An unnamed narrator living in North London and her best friend Tracey, both biracial, navigate childhood dreams of becoming dancers. Only Tracey has the talent to succeed, but her star burns out quickly. Meanwhile, our narrator works as an assistant for a wealthy white pop star from Australia who’s obsessed with all things West African (from “saving” a village to adopting a child). Though her pivotal friendship with Tracey falls apart when the women are in their 20s, its effects never truly leave either of them, for good or ill. “I wanted to believe that Tracey and I were sisters and kindred spirits, alone in the world and in special need of each other,” the narrator says. A worthy successor to Smith’s previous novels, this is a brilliant narrative on identity, culture, race, and class.
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Lady Midnight
Clare, Cassandra
Clare kicks off her hotly anticipated new Dark Artifices series, set in the world of the Mortal Instruments, with Lady Midnight, centering on the Los Angeles Shadowhunters and bringing in characters old and new. Bound Nephilim warriors Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, grieving the tragedies of their pasts, must navigate both new supernatural challenges and old grudges in a deadly, alluring world readers are itching to return to.
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The Last Star
Yancey, Rick
This month, Yancey’s bestselling Fifth Wave trilogy concludes with The Last Star. At the start of book one, The 5th Wave, four waves of alien attack—from pestilence to mind control—have left over 90 percent of humans dead. Orphaned survivor Cassie, separated from her brother while waiting for the fifth wave, sets out on a deadly trek to retrieve him. In follow-up The Infinite Sea, she joins forces with a hardened group of fellow survivors, including mysterious, deadly marksman Ringer. In The Last Star, the remnants of Earth’s population have a choice, between holding onto their humanity and doing whatever it takes to survive.
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The Crown (The Selection Series, Book 5)
Cass, Kiera
Across four books and two storylines, Cass has created the world of the Selection, in which American Singer and Prince Maxon fell in love, married, and had daughter Eadlyn, the first princess to choose her husband in a Selection of her own. Eadlyn’s story began in last year’s The Heir, and concludes with fifth and final book The Crown, in which Eadlyn must select her husband from among the remaining contendors—a choice that becomes more difficult than she could have imagined.
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Glass Sword
Aveyard, Victoria
In Red Queen, 17-year-old Mare Barrow’s red blood made her a member of the powerless peasant class, in a world where the silver-blooded have both position and supernatural powers—until she’s revealed to have immense abilities of her own, despite the red in her veins. Aveyard’s sequel picks up right where its predecessor left off: reeling from a brutal betrayal and covered in the blood of battle, Mare Barrow sets out to recruit an army of her own, to fight back against her people’s Silver oppressors.
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This is Where it all Ends
Nijkamp, Marieke
The world can change in a minute. Nijkamp’s taut debut covers 54 of them, from just before a school shooting begins to its harrowing aftermath. Narration is shared among four students, both in and outside of the auditorium where the shooting occurs, all of whom have some link to the shooter. The cast is diverse, and their lives realistically tangled, in a story that combines almost painful tension with flashbacks that ground the sadly topical drama in an attempt at answering the question everyone asks: Why?
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The Sun is also a Star
Yoon, Nicola
Yoon’s stupendous sophomore novel takes some of the themes she introduced in her best-selling debut Everything, Everything—the power of human connection, love’s ability to both save and destroy—and expands on them to tell the fast-burning, possibly doomed love story of Daniel, a dreamy Korean American teen on his way to an alumni interview, and Natasha, a girl on a last-minute mission to save her family from deportation to Jamaica. The two meet in a record store and have an epic stop-and-go romance all stuffed into a single day that might be Natasha’s last in New York. Told in alternating narration, the book also makes room for a whole chorus of other voices and perspectives, transforming it into a big compassionate tapestry of New York City, life, and everything. It’s an absolute knockout.
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A Court of Mist and Fury
Mass, Sarah J.
n 2015 series starter A Court of Thorns and Roses, a huntress trying to feed her starving family becomes key to saving the faerie realm of Prythian. After Feyre kills a wolflike beast in the woods bordering Prythian and the human world, a frightening fae comes to collect: her life for the life she took. But living with gorgeous faerie lord Tamlin isn’t the doom she thought it would be—nor is Prythian as settled as she once believed. In follow-up A Court of Mist and Fury, Feyre is more powerful than ever, but has sacrificed much to return to the Spring Court. The dark deal she made with the Night Court still hangs over her head, and the safety of herself, her love, and her two-realm world are far from secure.
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Salt to the Sea
Sepetys, Ruta
In Sepetys’s hands, a footnote of World War II history—the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the biggest and perhaps most undersung naval tragedy in history—becomes a moving tapestry of lives and voices, of four people whose fates will converge onboard the doomed ship. Joana is a nurse and Lithuanian refugee attempting to outrun horrible guilt. Florian is a German art restorer with a secret, bent on avenging one small corner of the Nazis’ atrocities. Emilia is an orphaned Polish teen who carries her worst memory on her body, and who sees Florian’s heroic qualities even if he doesn’t. And Alfred is a Nazi sailor whose moral disease runs deeper than his uniform. After a headlong race across the frozen East Prussian landscape in the twilight days of the war, the three refugees believe passage on the Gustloff means salvation. But the worst is yet to come, and some scars never fade. Sepetys finds moments of grace, humanity, and sacrifice amid tragedy, while never eliding the costs of war or the brutal truths of the survival instinct.
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Shusterman, Neal
Shusterman has a gift for marrying high concepts with great compassion and grippingly intelligent payoff; he sees his ideas through to their broadest conclusions in fascinating, right, and always relevant ways. Scythe imagines a future in which scientific advancement has defeated death, but may have birthed something even more frightening: a world free of consequences, aging, and foreseeable ends. Its people can turn back the clock on their bodies whenever they want, and live lives nearly devoid of intense passions—except when a Scythe comes to visit. Scythes are a highly trained force of public servants who deal out death according to quotas and within a strict set of rules: rules of studied randomness doing its best to imitate the indifference of true death. When an exemplary Scythe takes on two teen apprentices, Citra and Rowan, both seem suited to the job. But after their mentor dies under mysterious circumstances, the teens’ paths diverge: Citra is assigned to another noble Scythe, but Rowan finds himself re-apprenticed to a psychopath who threatens to upend the Scythehood for his own ends. This series starter is as haunting and eerily believable as Unwind.
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Telgemeier, Raina
Raina Telgemeier is back with her signature graphic novel style in this new fictional tale about teenager Catrina, who is moving with her family to a coastal town in Northern California in hopes that the new setting will help her sick little sister. Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from Bahía de la Luna’s sea air. But as the sisters soon learn, the weather isn’t the only creepy thing about this town—there are ghosts! Maya really wants to meet one, but Catrina wants no part of it. Can she push past her fears to help her sister?
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child-Parts I and II
Rowling, J. K. & Thorne, Jack & Tiffany, John
The tale of the Boy Who Lived continues in this eighth original Harry Potter story—the first to be presented as a stage play, premiering in London’s West End on July 30, 2016. Set 19 years after the conclusion of the final book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the new story finds Harry now an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three children. And his youngest son, Albus, is struggling with the weight of his family’s legacy, as both father and son are forced to face some unfortunate dark truths in this highly anticipated release.
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Serafina and the Twisted Staff
Beatty, Robert
Serafina defeated the Man in the Black Cloak in her 2015 debut novel, but she’s having to face a new evil in this equally suspenseful follow-up. One evening, Serafina is attacked by a group of vicious wolfhounds in the forest near her home at Biltmore Estate. The animals seem to be under the control of a terrifying creature—and Serafina believes this stranger isn’t acting alone. Someone else is wreaking havoc at Biltmore—and it’s up to Serafina to put a stop to it.
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Pennypacker, Sara
Bestselling author Sara Pennypacker’s latest is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about a 12-year-old boy named Peter and his beloved fox, Pax. Peter rescued Pax as an orphaned kit and has raised him as a pet since Peter’s own mother’s sudden death five years earlier. But now Peter’s father is heading to the frontlines of a raging war and is forcing his son to release his pet fox into the wild before Peter goes to live with his grandfather. The ensuing chapters alternate between the boy’s and fox’s perspectives as they each learn how to survive without the other.
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Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes
Riordan, Rick
Ancient Greek and Egyptian mysticism are swirling together to form a force to be reckoned with in this new collection of crossover stories from author Rick Riordan. Demigods & Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes is comprised of three crossover short stories all published together for the first time—The Son of Sobek, The Staff of Serapis, and The Crown of Ptolemy—in which powerful magicians Carter and Sadie Kane meet demigods Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase, just as strange creatures begin showing up in unexpected places.
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An Author's Odyssey (The Land of Stories Series, Book 5)
Colfer, Chris
The fifth book in Chris Colfer’s popular modern-day fairy tale series finds twins Alex and Conner Bailey facing the realization that the only way to get to the Masked Man and his army is in Conner’s own short stories. The pair will need the help of all their friends and allies—some crafted from Conner’s very own imagination—to defeat the menacing masked one. Bonus: This Barnes & Noble exclusive edition contains an excerpt from The Mother Goose Survival Guide.
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Dog Man (Captan Underpants: Dog Man Series, Book 1)
Pilkey, Dav
Dav Pilkey is back with a new hero for Captain Underpants fans. Is it a dog? Is it a man? No! It’s Dog Man! George and Harold’s latest heroic creation is part dog, part man, and all about biting, er, fighting crime! Greg used to just be a regular police dog with a normal human police companion, but after an injury in the line of duty, the pair undergo a life-changing surgery that combines the head of a dog and the body of a human, resulting in the titular character who’s all set to sniff out the bad guys.
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Return to the Isle of the Lost (Descendants Series, Book 2)
de la Cruz, Melissa
Author Melissa de la Cruz is returning to Disney’s Isle of the Lost with this stellar second book in the Descendantsseries. Now living in Auradon and dating King Ben, Mal thought she had left her villainous roots behind her. But she and her friends Evie, Carlos, and Jay have all received menacing messages demanding they return to the Isle of the Lost—and they suspect that their parents are the ones sending them. Maleficent, Evil Queen, Cruella de Vil, and Jafar won’t rest until their kids are back in their clutches and Auradon is destroyed, so the teens are sneaking back to the island to put a stop to it. But will Mal discover she’s still wicked at her core, or has she truly turned over a new leaf?
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The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo Series, Book 1)
Riordan, Rick
“How do you punish an immortal?” Riordan ominously asks in the description of the first book in the new Trials of Apollo series. “By making him human.” Naturally, Zeus is the punisher here, and his son Apollo, god of the sun, is on the receiving end after angering dear old dad. But rather than being sent to his room, the 4,000-year-old deity is cast down to Earth, landing in New York City as a regular teenage boy. He now has to: 1) learn how to survive, 2) find a way to get back in Zeus’s favor, and 3) dodge his many god, monster, and mortal enemies—NBD.
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Ada Twist, Scientist
Beaty, Andrea & Roberts, David
Bringing diversity, ingenuity, and hilarity to a picture book—in equal measure, no less—is no easy task, but Beaty and Roberts have teamed up again to make it possible. Tenacious Ada Twist is a self-identified scientist, with no fear of failure. So when she has a problem, she’s on her way to fixing it before you can say “failed experiment.” Read this to your favorite little chemist tonight!
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Bedtime for Batman
Dahl, Michael & Beavers, Ethen
When darkness falls, the real work begins. After changing into his costume and cleaning up the city, Batman can climb into bed. But even from the shadows, he is watching, and waiting—a hero’s job is never done. Parallel narratives show a boy preparing for bedtime, and the Dark Knight taking care of business—the result is an eye-popping, highly engaging tale for the little superhero at your house!
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The Thank You Book
Willems, Mo
Introverted Gerald is a worrier, while affable Piggie is carefree. Gerald and Piggie are best friends, but their approach to life couldn’t be more different. In this charming conclusion to Willems’ bestselling Elephant & Piggie series, Piggie is thanking EVERYONE, but Gerald is afraid that his brash pal is going to forget someone very important along the way.
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What do You do with a Problem?
Yamada, Kobi
If you’ve every had a problem and chosen to ignore it, chances are it hasn’t gone away. Instead, it’s gotten bigger—and likely more persistent. This follow-up to What Do You Do With an Idea? shows us, quite simply, the life cycle of a problem. Readers of all ages are reminded that a challenge makes us more courageous, and when we are encouraged to confront our predicament head-on, we often find that it’s less daunting than we originally perceived it to be.
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Pete the Cat Storybook Collection: 7 Groovy Stories!
Dean, James
Fans of James Dean’s groovy feline Pete the Cat will love this collection of seven of his most beloved tales—including Cavecat Pete, Pete’s Big Lunch, and Too Cool for School! With his friendly demeanor and laid-back attitude, Pete is one cool character, and kids will love reading about his adventures.
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If You Give a Mouse a Brownie
Numeroff, Laura
Our favorite mouse is back, but we’ll warn you—only read this hilarious tale on nights dessert has been served. Brownies obviously lead to ice cream, and one helping—like one reading—is never enough! You’ll definitely want to add this sweet indulgence to your beginning reader’s collection!
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