The Center for Fiction Gift Guide

For all those weirdly specific people in your life!


What book to get your cousin’s husband who refuses to read women writers

So he’ll admit that Joan Didion and Susan Sontag are all right, but any time, say, Donna Tartt comes up, he yawns. Don’t give in! No one is going to convert him as well as the cool Rachel Kushner and her second novel, The Flamethrowers. This book has everything—and by everything we mean motorcycles! NYC in the 70’s! A protagonist named Reno! Okay, in all seriousness, Kushner’s sexy and charismatic prose is going to hook him, but he’ll respect this intelligent novel in the morning. 

What book to get the Crime Fiction Academy student (or any aspiring mystery writer)

Who better to guide that budding crime fiction writer in your life than the Crown Prince of Darkness, Stephen King? (We’re not sure that’s his official title, but we're going to go with it.) King’s On Writing is a refreshing mix of memoir and practical advice on craft that will prove invaluable for the next Mary Higgins Clark or Dennis Lehane. Please note: We advise against giving any writer a long winter retreat in a remote hotel.


What book to get a member of the Proust Society

You have the urge to get the Proust lovers in your life something radically different from their favorite author, but don’t do it. Just give in. And so we’re recommending Benjamin Taylor’s beautiful new biography, Proust: The Search. This volume examines Proust’s masterwork in its historical context. If your favorite Proustian has already purchased Taylor's book, we suggest tea and madeleines.



What book to get the woman obsessed with the Brontes who wears velvet and lace as much as possible 

An obsession with the Brontes and all things romantic, means one thing—horses. All right, not necessarily what you’d think of, but you know it’s true. We recommend Mary Gaitskill’s new novel The Mare. The protagonist, a Fresh Air Fund tween named Velvet, doesn’t seem a likely subject for Gaitskill, but she’s wrought a mature and riveting novel out of this coming-of-age story.  




What book to get that hipster dude who seems to exclusively read intellectual-sounding foreign writers that you’ve never heard of

You’re not going to be able give this guy anything he’s never heard of. So instead, up your cred by giving him at least something that’s really good and from a small press: Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth (Coffee House Press). First conceived as a commission from an art gallery owned by Jumex (a Mexican juice company) Luiselli wrote this novel with the input of the factory’s workers. It is literally the story of Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez and “his teeth," but it is also an inventive and playful work of art that explores the value we place on things.

What book to get that friend who, anytime you bring up a book you like, says, "Oh yeah, I saw that movie" 

Time to dig deep on this one and get this person a pick that hasn’t been turned into a feature film. Far from the Madding Crowd? The Martian? Still Alice? I know what you're thinking. This does seem like an impossible task, so we're recommending Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. Short stories are rarely turned into films, so your friend will actually have to read this book to find out what happens. And Link’s eerie and beautifully crafted stories are sure to keep her turning the pages.

What book to get the bride who's only focused on her upcoming nuptials, even though they’re two years away

We admit this one is a little mean, but maybe Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have A Family will shock her into having a little perspective? In this debut novel, the day before her daughter’s wedding a house fire tragically kills June Reid’s entire family. (We said it was mean.) June flees across the country, but she can’t escape the tragedy of that night, though she also finds something more. If this one feels a bit much, try Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, a much lauded novel that will give her a glimpse into married life she’ll never forget.  



What book to get your great uncle who doesn’t seem to enjoy anything and you never know what to get him

Frankly, you said it, he’s not going to like anything, so get him whatever you want! We recommend The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This debut just won our First Novel Prize for 2015 and is gorgeous and heart-rending and thought-provoking, and we think everyone should buy it, read it, and, of course, give it as gifts to every fiction-lover they know.  




None of these exactly right for your weirdly specific friend or family member?
Buy them the gift of A Novel Approach from The Center. Our eerily brilliant, prescient, incisive (Did we mention extremely good looking?), and easy-to-talk-to Novel Approach consultants will offer forty-five minutes of pure psyche-exploring time to find out what your picky loved one will want to read. From there they'll send their notes off to the elves we have working in the Center's basement who will churn out THE MOST AMAZING BOOK LIST of twelve books tailored to your Great Aunt Gertrude or Bobby who lives down the street and is always digging holes in his front yard. For an extra charge, we'll even send your giftee one of the selected books each month. This is a guaranteed year of great reading—and it may even improve their personality! Better yet, why not purchase a Novel Approach for yourself and start out the new year with your own personalized road map of great reads? BUY NOW