Fiction Faves: Novels and Stories to Read Over the Holidays

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If you’re feeling brave — and confident in your recipient’s taste — give a friend a novel! If you’re not so sure (we get that), check out our gift lists for nonfiction and memoir, and consider this fiction collection your official holiday break reading list. Starting with the late-fall novels we love right now and ending with our greatest hits of 2018, here’s the year’s best fiction as far as your Parnassus staff readers are concerned:

Recommended by Karen

Unsheltered: A Novel Cover ImageUnsheltered

Kingsolver pulls us in with two narratives set in different centuries. The stories are tied together by themes of family, science, and truth — and one poorly constructed house. She pulls off a delicate balance, with compelling characters making this a book you will savor.

(Signed copies available while they last!)

Recommended by Catherine

Virgil Wander Cover ImageVirgil Wander 

This is exactly the book to read for the holidays: full of kindness, quirky characters, and a protagonist who keeps you quietly chuckling to yourself.

(Signed copies available while they last!)

Recommended by Sissy

A Ladder to the Sky: A Novel Cover ImageA Ladder to the Sky

If you adored the protagonist of Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies, you might hate the characters in this one. But you’ll love the story just as much, I promise! How much ambition is too much ambition in the world of writing and publishing? Find out.

Recommended by Mary Laura

The Adults: A Novel Cover ImageThe Adults

What a fun read! Put a copy into the stocking of every adult family member this season. (And rejoice when they all go off to their separate corners to read quietly.) Exes, new partners, step-parents, secrets, hijinks . . . This funny novel about a Christmas vacation gone wrong has all the right ingredients to entertain and cut the tension surrounding big family holidays.

Recommended by Mary Laura

My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel Cover ImageMy Sister, the Serial Killer

What a perfectly nimble, sharp — and short! — novel about two sisters forever entwined in each other’s lives. Dry, dark humor offsets the uneasy suspense, and what seems at first like a crazy thriller about a psychopath on the loose turns out to be an emotional story of family, love, and the depths we go to for each other.

Recommended by Mary Laura

News of Our Loved Ones: A Novel Cover ImageNews of Our Loved Ones

Did you love All the Light We Cannot See, but you’re not quite ready to re-read it? Pick up this beautifully written story of a French family living in Normandy during World War II and how the bombing of their home affected them for generations.

Recommended by Keltie

Family Trust: A Novel Cover ImageFamily Trust

A witty story of inheritance and familial deceptions, set in the ambitious land of Silicon Valley. The narrative is presented through the perspectives of four family members in a Chinese American family, and I especially loved the clever mother and daughter who seem always to be one step ahead of the men — but there are a few surprises along the way. A fun contemporary comedy of manners.

Recommended by Keltie

Friday Black Cover ImageFriday Black 

I dare anyone to read the first story in this collection and not be gobsmacked. This might not be a book that would usually appeal to me: dystopian short stories with a lot of graphic violence? Not my thing. But I will carry this brilliant work with me forever and will always be haunted by the Finklestein Five. Nana Kwame Adjei Brenyah has earned his spot in the American literary canon.

Recommended by Devin

The Proposal Cover ImageThe Proposal 

We all know how I lost my mind over Jasmine Guillory’s last book, The Wedding Date. Well, guess what? This is the follow-up, and I lost my mind over this one, too! Nik is at a Dodgers game when her boyfriend of five months proposes in a very public fashion. Carlos swoops in to rescue her from the stares, and their fun, sweet, and just straight-up hot romance begins.

Recommended by Courtney

Bridge of Clay Cover Image

Bridge of Clay 

I’ve read Zusak’s I Am the Messenger 36 times and I can tell you now, having finished Bridge of Clay, that I’ll spend a lifetime rereading this beautiful novel. Clay Dunbar, his bridge, his brothers: they know things about life that I need to embrace if I’m ever to fully live.

(Signed copies available while they last!)

Recommended by John

Sabrina Cover ImageSabrina (Graphic Novel) 

This Booker Prize-nominated graphic novel is a searing representation of our current borderline-personality-disordered American psyche, framed by a murder mystery. As an undercurrent of technology threatens to sweep society off its feet, Sabrina reminds us that to know anyone, we must shut off the screen, and that over-stimulation is nothing more than the putrefaction of our society disguised as one big party.

Recommended by Joy

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good Cover ImageAn Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good 

These five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady are darkly funny and irreverent. Maud is a sympathetic retiree who goes through life looking for trouble and finds it, but also enjoys meting out justice to those who wrong her. I enjoyed this little book much more than I should have.

Recommended by Andy

Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel Cover ImagePast Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel 

If you know someone who devours the Jack Reacher mysteries, make sure they have the latest installment.

Recommended by Andy

The Fox Cover ImageThe Fox 

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Day of the Jackal, another classic-to-be and a must-read for mystery lovers.

Recommended by Andy

Dark Sacred Night (A Ballard and Bosch Novel) Cover ImageDark Sacred Night (A Ballard and Bosch Novel) 

We had so much fun when Michael Connelly was here in the store for his event recently. If murder mysteries are your thing, add this to your reading list. It’s phenomenal.

Greatest Hits: More fiction we loved in 2018 (for a full listing of ALL our favorites, click back through all our Staff Picks lists from the year)

A few thrillers & mysteries: 

And don’t forget the fabulous fiction selections from our First Editions Club in 2018:

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Speaking of which, now’s the PERFECT time to give a pre-paid First Editions Club subscription to a friend or loved one! In a special offer that runs only through Sunday, December 16, purchase a 12-month gift subscription to the First Editions Club and get a $30 gift card FREE with your purchase. (And/or: purchase a 12-month gift subscription to our monthly YA book box, ParnassusNext, and get a $20 card.) Place your order now! 

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Did we mention that your First Edition Club books always arrive in an adorable re-usable bag?
Make sure it gets there! Holiday ordering deadlines for shipped gifts: 

  • Media mail rate: December 13
  • Priority rate: December 19

Want it gift wrapped? We’re happy to wrap any orders FREE — just let us know in the “notes” section at checkout. (Note: All wrapped gifts must be shipped via priority mail. Believe it or not, media mail won’t allow wrapping paper.)

Today’s post is part of our series of holiday gift lists! Coming up next: stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts to grab here in the store.