gift guide

Oakland Public Library's 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

If we do it two years in a row, can we call it a holiday tradition? Either way, we're glad to help you once again with your seasonal gifting duties. Our second ever Holiday Gift Guide features some of our favorite books from the past year, with a list of local indie bookstores where you can buy these gems. (Call ahead to confirm availability!)

This page has recommendations for adults and teens, plus check out our gift guide for children's books here. You can also view the teen recommendations on Pinterest.

Books for Adults

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Following her father’s funeral, August reflects on her youth and the friendships that sustained her. Interconnected stories depict the joys and friendships that were intertwined with the stress of poverty, a broken family, and the everyday challenges of growing up.
Buy it for readers who love to mull over memories and relationships.

Desert Boys by Chris McCormick
In a small desert town in California’s Antelope Valley, young Daley Kushner comes of age, comes out of the closet, and moves on to San Francisco to become a writer. 
Buy it for anyone who loves stories about growing up or coming out.

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Blending science, social history and personal experiences, Mukherjee takes a wide-ranging look at genes: how they function, what we don’t yet know, the history of genetics research, and the philosophical and ethical ramifications of our knowledge. Another riveting, illuminating and accessible book from an oncologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer.
Buy it for armchair scientists and ethicists.

Guapa by Saleem Haddad
Rasa is a young gay translator with an American education living in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. He finds refuge at Guapa, the underground bar where he can be himself.
Buy it for anyone who can relate to being marginalized in the midst of political turmoil.

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
In Montego Bay, Jamaica, thirty-year-old Margot saves all of her money for her younger sister’s education, working for a hotel and participating in the island’s sex tourism trade on the side. Meanwhile Margo pines for another woman while the threat of anti-gay violence looms.
Buy it for anyone who likes great characters and shrewd social commentary.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Effia and Esi are half-sisters raised in different villages in Africa’s Gold Coast in the 18th century. One sister is married off to an English colonizer; the other is sold into slavery. The beautiful and gut wrenching stories of their descendants illuminate three centuries of history on both sides of the Atlantic.
Buy it for readers who love meaningful and gorgeously written historical fiction.

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
In a terrible hunting accident, Landreaux Iron kills young Dusty, the son of his best friend and his wife’s half-sister. In an act of retribution rooted in Native American culture, Landreaux and his wife offer the grieving couple their own son, LaRose.
Buy it for anyone who would love a powerful and moving masterpiece from one of this era’s most admired and beloved authors.

Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra
Chilean author Zambra plays with form in this experimental story collection, in which test questions provide an unexpected framework for his short fiction. The result is clever, compelling, funny and sad.
Buy it for adventurous readers and other geniuses.

Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers by Stephen Shames & Bobby Seale
In October of 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Less than a year later, Seale met Stephen Shames, a Vietnam War protester who wanted to photograph the Panthers. On the 50th anniversary of the BPP, they are still friends and have collaborated to produce this book documenting the history and legacy of the Panthers in words and photographs.
Buy it for history buffs, photography nuts, Oakland lovers and activists.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The narrator of this scathing satire is a young African American man called before the Supreme Court after reinstating slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. In addition to winning the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Sellout recently became the first book by a U.S. writer to win Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize.
Buy it for anyone who likes an off-the-wall, profound, and foul-mouthed story with a proper stamp of British approval.

The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band by Michelle Cruz Gonzales
A punk rock herstory featuring Gonzales, drummer and lyricist who played in three San Francisco bands during the 1980s and 1990s, facing misogyny, racism and bullying.
Buy it for feminists, punks and other fearless people.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a young slave who flees the violence and terror of her Georgia plantation via a system of literal, not metaphorical, subterranean steam trains. It’s a page turner that takes an unflinching look at the horrors of American slavery, freshly bestowed with the National Book Award for fiction.
Buy it for readers who like their historical fiction suspenseful, inventive, and brutal.

The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Charles Wang left China for the United States, where he built a cosmetics empire. When his company tanks during the economic crash of 2008, he loses his Bel Air house, pulls his younger kids out of college and private school and the family hits the road with the intent to move in with the eldest daughter, a conceptual artist who lives in the Catskills.
Buy it for readers who love charming and quirky comedy.

We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang
An incredibly timely and important book that contextualizes the racial and class tensions we recently witnessed and experienced in the presidential campaign this year. Chang discusses how white Americans' feelings of displacement in our multiracial American society has fueled so many of our public policies around housing, policing, education, public speech, and equity.
Buy it for people interested in how things got the way they are.


Graphic Novels for Adults 

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew
This graphic novel documents the life and work of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (born 1938), who dreamed of becoming “Singapore’s greatest comics artist” but never made it big. The book intertwines his biography, his art, and the history of 20th century Singapore using a dazzling combination of visual and narrative styles. Amazingly, Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a fictional character, but this book will make readers struggle to accept he’s not real.
Buy it for devoted creatives and folks who never give up.

Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
Hanawalt combines vivid illustrations with a wacky sense of humor as she relates personal narratives and everyday observations, often skewering foodie culture.
Buy it for hungry readers who like to laugh out loud.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Enn is a fifteen-year-old boy who has no luck with girls, but his friend Vic is super smooth. What happens when they go to a party where the girls are literally from another planet?
Buy it for anyone who has experienced the horrors of dating.

March: Book 3 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Brings historical lessons to readers: the final book of this relevant trilogy. 
Buy it for history buffs and graphic novel fans.

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu
Beautiful artwork accompanies the story set in a post war world where teens are hunted and hunt. 
Buy it for fans of steampunk and comic book lovers.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
It’s the morning after Halloween, 1988 and four twelve-year-old girls ride bikes through their suburban neighborhood on their paper route. What starts out as a mild morning in suburbia gets complicated when they encounter aliens, monsters and wormholes. 
Buy it for fans of 80’s nostalgia, supernatural phenomena, and tough girls.

Patience by Daniel Clowes
Patience and Jack are expecting a baby when Patience is shockingly murdered. Still gripped with grief years later, Jack finds a time machine and tries to use it to prevent her killing. 
Buy it for anyone who might like “A cosmic timewarp deathtrip to the primordial infinite of everlasting love.”

Prince of Cats by Ron Wimberly
Heard of Romeo and Juliet? This graphic novel puts an unexpected twist on the story, focusing on Tybalt, Julet’s cousin and Romeo’s foe. His tale unfolds in 1980’s Brooklyn complete with dynamic artwork, hip hop and punk sensibilities, and iambic pentameter.
Buy it for underground comics fans who love inventive mash-ups.

The World of Edena by Moebius
Stel and Atan are on an interplanetary investigation when they encounter the mythical paradise of planet Edena, where they rediscover a world of lo-tech pleasures.
Buy it for back-to-the-land types who yearn for utopia.

Books for Teens

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
A poignant story of two boys having to face racism and prejudice.
Buy it for teens who are questioning and struggling with the current climate of law enforcement. 

Bad Girls of Fashion by Jennifer Croll
Ten powerful and famous women who use fashion to make a statement and change perspectives.  
Buy it for your history loving fashionista. 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Simon, the chosen one, and Baz, the vampire, initially hate being roommates at school until a spark ignites between them.  
Buy it for Harry Potter fans looking for something a little bit different.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Sometimes all it takes is one look outside your window to fall in love with someone; at least it did for homebound Maddy.  
Buy it for young fans of romantic fiction.

Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella
Learn about the feminists who have gotten us this far and about the beginning of feminist action in this timely book.  
Buy it for anyone struggling with what feminism means today. 

Into White by Randi Pink
An African American girl’s prayer gets answered in this funny, yet sometimes shocking novel when she wakes up one morning with pale skin, blue eyes and blonde hair.  
Buy it for teens looking for a provocative read about race.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Join Emma, a half-angel Shadowhunter, on an obstacle course to find the murderer who’s been killing Faeries and humans in the streets of LA.  
Buy if for Mortal Instruments fans.

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel
Rani’s life is crashing down around her. Meanwhile, she meets Mark who introduces her to an underground hip-hop crew where she is able to show her skills.  
Buy it for fans of unique and dramatic novels. 

Self-Esteem Team's Guide to Sex, Drugs and WTFs?!!  by Grace Barrett
The team gives tips on how to get through a difficult, fun, and confusing age.
Buy it for teens who appreciate honest advice.

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to her summer until a strange Zombie crashed the first party of the season.  
Buy it for Cassandra Clare and fantasy fans.

Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero
1980’s coming of age story of friends struggling with adversity and racial profiling.  
Buy it for fans of young adult urban fiction.

Graphic Novels for Teens

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet. Vol. 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is a new era for the Black Panther series set in an African nation suffering under political unrest.
Buy it for fans of Between the World and Me.

Giant Days, Volume 1 & 2 by John Allison
A group of girls meet at their university and become instant friends, which is good since things are about to get weird.
Buy it for fans of funny coming of age comics.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
Fifteen-year-old Maggie finds love at summer camp in this graphic memoir.
Buy it for fans of romance and biographies.

March: Book 3 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Brings historical lessons to readers: the final book of this relevant trilogy.
Buy it for history buffs and graphic novel fans.

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu
Beautiful artwork accompanies the story set in a post war world where teens are hunted and hunt.
Buy it for fans of steampunk and comic book lovers.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Volume 1-6 by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
In the final comic of this series Lunella must decide to save her friend or save humanity!
Buy it for outspoken teens who love fantasy.

Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief by Mark Russell
Beth Ross is the first teen president of the United States and the country better get ready for her!
Buy if for fans looking for an unusual hero.

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

List compiled by Christy Thomas and Xochitl Gavidia with input from OPL staff.

Oakland Public Library's 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

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!)

This page has recommendations for adults and teens, plus check out our gift guide for children's books here. You can also view the teen recommendations on Pinterest here.

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.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
The thoughtful and funny follow-up to O'Malley's blockbuster Scott Pilgrim series.
Buy it for: anyone, and maybe buy them Scott Pilgrim while you're at it.

Step Aside, Pops! by Kate Beaton
Kate Beaton's webcomic Hark! a Vagrant is basically the best thing about the 21st century so far.
Buy it for: anyone who loved her eponymous first collection.

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.