What would a librarian recommend as a great holiday gift? A book of course! And we're proud to help with our first ever Holiday Gift Guide, featuring some of our favorite books this season. And as if that weren't great enough, we're capping it off with a list of local indie bookstores where you can buy these gems. (Call ahead to confirm availability!)
Books For Adults
Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry
Drawing on African American traditions, Afro-Vegan is the latest cookbook from Terry, a local hero, award-winning chef, author, educator and activist.
Buy it for: hungry Oaklanders of any culinary persuasion; comes with an extra serving of food justice.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The acclaimed essayist examines the meaning of race in our country and looks back on his personal history in a letter addressed to his teenage son. Winner of the 2015 National Book Award for nonfiction.
Buy it for: your son, anyone, and everyone.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
James recently became the first Jamaican winner of the Booker Prize for this novel that revolves around the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley (referred to only as “The Singer”) and a web of rival politicians, gang members and hit men, CIA agents, an ex-girlfriend and a journalist from Rolling Stone.
Buy it for: anyone who likes their entertainment bloody, gritty and darkly comic, with a guarantee from one of the most prestigious literary awards on the planet.
M Train by Patti Smith
Rock legend Smith follows her award-winning memoir Just Kids with another look back on her life, reflecting on the people and places that have inspired her, looking back on happy years with her late husband, and mulling over matters of creativity, connection and loss. The New York Times calls it “achingly beautiful,” saying Smith “is remarkably attuned to the sound and sorcery of words, and her prose here is both lyrical and radiantly pictorial.”
Buy it for: rockers, poets, artists and lovers.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Two talented girls share an intense friendship/rivalry as they grow up in a poor, crime ridden neighborhood in Naples during the 50s. The first of a quartet of novels by an internationally acclaimed and mysteriously pseudonymous Italian author; the final book was recently released in English so binge readers can plow through all four without stopping.
Buy it for: your brilliant friend.
So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
With his unique combo of sharp observation, wit, and compassion, Ronson takes a look at modern day witch hunts on the internet, in which whole lives can be ruined by one transgression.
Buy it for: Twitterers, Facebookers and other internet addicts.
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
This novel’s hero, Gustavo "Highway" Sánchez, will tell you himself: he’s the world’s best auctioneer. He is also the proud owner of Marilyn Monroe’s teeth, which he installed in his mouth after purchasing them at an "auction of contraband memorabilia in a karaoke bar in Little Havana."
Buy it for: loopy, artsy, oddball geniuses.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
In this thought-provoking and darkly funny debut novel, a half-Vietnamese, half-French young man looks back at the fall of Saigon, his flight to the United States as a refugee and his new life in Southern California. He’s a double agent: a Communist sympathizer working for the South Vietnamese Army, torn between two loyalties, two cultures and two lands.
Buy it for: anyone who’s interested in new perspectives on well-trodden territory.
Through the African American Lens from The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
A petite but gorgeous book that features photographs from the museum’s permanent collection, offering glimpses of personal and public life of Americans of African descent.
Buy it for: history buffs & photography nuts.
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
11-year-old Ijeoma, life shattered by the Nigerian Civil War, falls in love with Amina, another refugee. When the girls’ relationship is discovered, they are separated, and as Ijeoma becomes a woman, she must face her feelings and sexuality in a repressive and homophobic society.
Buy it for: anyone who loves a good cry.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Sometimes irreverent and self-deprecating, sometimes introspective and insightful, and always hilarious essays from actor and comedy writer Kaling on topics ranging from celebs, stylists and self-confidence to a speech she gave at Harvard Law School.
Buy it for: Jokers and pop culture junkies.
Graphic Novels for Adults
Domestic Times by Tessa Brunton
What's it REALLY like to live with a partner? How does anyone do it and stay sane? This hilarious comic is guaranteed to smooth over any domestic squabbles.
Buy it for: your friends who just moved in together.
Drinking at the Movies, 2015 edition by Julia Wertz
Not that we want you to move to New York, but-- you will probably love this comic about moving from San Francisco to New York. Julia Wertz (of Farty Party fame) could not be funnier.
Buy it for: that hard-to-impress stand-up comedian.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Although this graphic memoir came out almost a decade ago, the Broadway adaptation won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015—a great excuse to revisit this groundbreaking work! Fun home is a deeply personal tragicomedy about the author, her coming out story and her relationship with her family, especially her closeted father.
Buy it for: Anyone who might enjoy reading someone else’s diary.
Get Jiro! by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose and Langdon Foss
In near-future Los Angeles, a violent war is brewing between organic locavore purists and exotic internationalists, and famous sushi chef Jiro is slashing through the middle of the combat.
Buy it for: food snobs with a taste for blood.
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
Six tales from a storyteller known for his cool illustrations, sharp observations and wry yet compassionate sense of humor.
Buy it for: witty and moody indie readers.
March, Books 1 & 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Congressperson and Civil Rights leader John Lewis recounts his story in these first two volumes of a projected trilogy. The graphic format vividly depicts defining moments in the nonviolent struggle against segregation and inequality while Lewis’s point of view adds a personal edge.
Buy it for: Activists, historians and anyone who could use some inspiration.
Saga, vol. 1-5 by Brian K. Vaughan
Saga is kind of impossible to describe. It's fierce, it's feminist, it's funny, and it's loaded with a$$-kicking aliens and ghosts.
Buy it for: someone who wants to fall in love with a story--there's no end to this series in sight yet.
Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman
This brand-new edition collects all six "Overture" stories, the prequel (more or less) to Gaiman's amazing Sandman series.
Buy it for: Sandman fans.
Syllabus by Lynda Barry
Lynda Barry is a phenomenon of a human (I'm not even sure she's human) and a pretty terrific teacher. This collection of her lecture notes and assignments for graphic novelists will inspire.
Buy it for: that friend of yours who's always talking about maybe drawing a comic someday.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
Victoriana! history! math! computer science!
Buy it for: steampunk fans or your friend who just finished coding school.
Whirlwind Wonderland by Rina Ayuyang
A collection of little moments and stories by an Oakland artist. Ayuyang shows why traffic is your buddy, how to dance with Brad Pitt, and other lessons in charming ink drawings.
Buy it for: someone who wants to slow down and notice things.
Books for Teens
The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer
A sinister tale of a teen boy moving to his grandmother’s house in a small and backwards town after a family misfortune.
Buy it for: young adult novel fans who would enjoy a new spin on a classic style horror story.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This story, told in verse, follows twins Josh and Jordan through life obstacles like basketball, girls, music, and unfortunately jealousy.
Buy it for: teens that have a hard time finding novels they like and/or if they are interested in music and sports.
Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices by Lisa Charleyboy
A powerful anthology by North American Native artists that includes poetry, fiction, memoir, and other artistic expression.
Buy it for: young adults who would appreciate a unique and visually beautiful nonfiction book.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
High school senior Gabi fills her diary with all her secrets while searching for her identity.
Buy it for: anyone who enjoys a realistic coming of age novel with a twist.
On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers
16 year old computer wiz Dahlia joins forces with a group of teens to fight a giant corporation in the year 2035.
Buy it for: teen science fiction fans who want to change the world.
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl
A moving and stunningly beautiful book about the women who have shaped our nation.
Buy it for: kids, teens, and adults who enjoy colorful, informative, and inspiring books.
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Follow Marguerite as she travels through different dimensions to find her father’s killer.
Buy it for: fans of romantic and action-packed science fiction.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery Gorgeously illustrated memoir about Lowery being the youngest protester in the march from Selma to Montgomery. Subsequently this heroic teen was jailed eleven times before her 15th birthday.
Buy it for: inspired teens who want to know how it feels to change history.
We are the Youth by Laurel Golio and Diana Scholl
Personal stories and striking portraits of LGBTQ youth from around the United States.
Buy it for: young adult fans of memoirs and photojournalism.
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Like most teens, Ali has a lot going on, school, friends, boxing, and family. When his friend Noodles get in trouble it causes a dangerous situation for Ali.
Buy it for: young adult urban fiction fans.
Graphic Novels for Teens
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Anda, a hero in the game Coarsegold, befriends a boy across the world named Raymond. Instead of just playing the game for fun, Raymond’s life depends on his avatar’s success.
Buy it for: comic fans and gamers.
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
Muslim- American Kamala loves the Avengers and wants to fit in with the popular kids. Despite her desire to be “normal,” she possesses shape shifting abilities.
Buy it for: comic fans who are looking for something a little different.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen
Charlie and Nate have an unlikely friendship that nearly ends when they have a war with the school cheerleaders.
Buy it for: comedy fans who love the classic “nerds versus popular kids” type stories.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
An updated version of the classic The Green Turtle series, the first Asian American super hero.
Buy it for: fans of super hero style comics and the hugely popular comic author Lang.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
This beautifully illustrated graphic novel includes five chilling stories.
Buy it for: horror fans.
Tomboy by Liz Prince
Find out how Liz navigates this world when Liz doesn’t feel like a boy or a girl.
Buy it for: the graphic novel and memoir enthusiast.
Oakland Indie Bookstores
These are great places to buy books, and they'll no doubt have more recommendations for you. Remember to call before you visit if you're looking for particular titles.
Laurel Book Store, 1423 Broadway. 452-9232
Pegasus - Oakland, 5560 College Ave. 652-6259
Marcus Bookstore, 3900 MLK Way. 652-2344
A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 LaSalle Ave. 339-8210
E. M. Wolfman, 410 13th St. 415-250-5527
Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College Ave. 653-9965
Walden Pond Books, 3319 Grand Ave. 832-4438
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games, 4014 Piedmont Ave. 601-7800
More Gift Guides
You'll find our recommendations for children's books here. We also compiled a superlist of graphic novels for children, teens and adults here. If you love Pinterest, you can also view the teen recommendations here.