Heavy Hitters for the Holidays: Gift Guide No. 1

What a year for books! 2021 brought us new releases from some of our favorite authors and introduced us to new, talented writers we can’t get enough of. When it comes to picking out bookish gifts for family and friends, there’s no shortage of incredible titles from this year, so we’ve rounded up some of our top picks from 2021 for this first installment of our Gift Guide. Now, before you start browsing, we have one more recommendation for you: Shop early. Seriously. By now, you’ve probably heard about shipping delays and things stuck on boats, and books are no exception to these widespread issues. There’s no time like the present to snag these popular titles, so come in and see us, or shop from the comfort of your home on our new-and-improved website!

Recommended by Ann

The Days of Afrekete: A Novel Cover ImageThe Days of Afrekete: A Novel

“I didn’t feel like I was reading this novel — I felt like I was living it.” That was the blurb I wrote for the jacket. It’s true. This book is magic.

Recommended by Ann

Five Tuesdays in Winter Cover ImageFive Tuesdays in Winter

By Lily King

Five Tuesdays in Winter moved me, inspired me, thrilled me. It filled up every chamber of my heart. I loved this book.

Recommended by Karen

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev Cover ImageThe Final Revival of Opal & Nev

For fans of Daisy Jones and the Six, this book may at first seem similar: A dynamic female singer joins forces with a talented musician-songwriter. Keep reading. Opal is a Black rock singer in a time when that was relatively rare and the relationship between her and Nev is complicated. This is a smart, entertaining read.

Recommended by Lindsay

Matrix: A Novel Cover ImageMatrix: A Novel

The experience of reading Lauren Groff’s Matrix is what I imagine it’s like to tour the Medieval wing of the Louvre after taking hallucinogens–vividly surreal, a bit disorienting, and overwhelmingly beautiful. I got lost in the story of Marie, a young woman charged with overseeing an abbey in twelfth century England. This novel is every bit as strange and compelling as I’ve come to expect from Lauren Groff.

Recommended by Ben

The Prophets Cover ImageThe Prophets

There’s a reason this made it onto the 2021 National Book Award shortlist for fiction! The subject matter is weighty, but it fits the bill if you’re looking for a novel that is timely, literary, historical, and is seasoned with magical realism. Fans of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, and Yaa Gyasi will find much to admire here.

Recommended by Elyse

The Sentence Cover ImageThe Sentence

The Sentence is timely, passionate, mysterious, and a great read! It has so many twists and turns, but it’s all relevant and cohesive — like so many branches belonging to the same tree. Life is complicated and beautiful — two words I can use to describe the characters and themes of the book. I loved every page!

Recommended by Kathy

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie: A Novel Cover ImageThe Mystery of Mrs. Christie: A Novel

What really happened in the 10 days when Agatha Christie went missing during the height of her popularity? This fictional re-telling tries to answer the question of how much her unfaithful husband was to blame…

Recommended by Ben

Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel Cover ImageCloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel

Set in multiple centuries, and following five protagonists who are each overlooked in their own ways, Doerr has once again brought his magic to the page—or should I say 600 pages? The writing is imaginative, confident, vivid, and compassionate as he wonders boldly about the connectedness of stories, people, nature. Here’s your invitation to join in this epic tale!

Recommended by Sissy

A Slow Fire Burning: A Novel Cover ImageA Slow Fire Burning: A Novel

I love books about books. Hawkins injects a bit more of her humor into this literary thriller. Her timing is flawless and brings sparks of light into a dark mystery. Several of the characters are so well-drawn that I missed them when they weren’t on the page. There are SO many motives – plagiarism, jealousy, alcoholism, dreams dashed, and futures destroyed. Fans of Elly Griffiths and Anthony Horowitz will love it.

Recommended by Andy

Silverview: A Novel Cover ImageSilverview: A Novel

The master of spy fiction’s last novel. A retired spy is running a bookstore in a small English coastal town and can’t escape the past.

Recommended by Aly

Beautiful World, Where Are You: A Novel Cover ImageBeautiful World, Where Are You: A Novel

Two best friends on the verge of their 30s correspond about their disenchantment with the world around them, while romance offers them both confusion and clarity. As in Normal People, Rooney offers heart-achingly relatable prose to help us rediscover the beauty in existing.

Recommended by Elyse

Oh William!: A Novel Cover ImageOh William!: A Novel

Strout’s iconic heroine Lucy Barton recounts her complex, tender relationship with William, her first husband–and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante.

Recommended by Andy

Harlem Shuffle: A Novel Cover ImageHarlem Shuffle: A Novel

Whitehead brings Harlem in the sixties to life in this fantastic crime novel.

Recommended by Patsy

Crossroads: A Novel Cover ImageCrossroads: A Novel

Franzen’s latest tour de force novel introduces the Hildebrandt family in 1970’s suburban Chicago. Pastor father Russ and three children all face dilemmas of being good people versus following their desires while wife Marion comes into her own independence with the burgeoning feminist movement. This book will appeal to anyone alive during the 70’s; those who participated in church youth groups will find hearty laughs.

Recommended by Rae Ann

Atomic Love Cover ImageAtomic Love

Atomic Love is a story of espionage, love, and a woman battling danger to make a better tomorrow. The paperback edition will be released on November 30, so pre-order it now!

Recommended by Ann

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life Cover ImageA Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life

Saunders discusses seven Russian stories in order to help us become better readers, better writers, and (amazingly) better people. The seven stories are included. This book is pure joy on paper.

Recommended by Karen

Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South Cover ImageGraceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South

Margaret Renkl is my favorite essayist. Every week I look for her column in the opinion pages of the New York Times. In a time when the country has such deep divisions, I can rely on her writing to be all heart, no snark. I’m so proud to have this fellow Nashvillian’s newest collection on my shelf.

Recommended by Andy

The Baseball 100 Cover ImageThe Baseball 100

Veteran sportswriter Joe Posnanski list the 100 greatest baseball players of all time. Guaranteed to start arguments.

Recommended by Chelsea

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America Cover ImageHow the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

An exploration of how the narrative of slavery has been remembered, or purposefully forgotten, this was the most important book I read all year.

Recommended by Hannah

Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir Cover ImageSomebody’s Daughter: A Memoir

Easily my favorite memoir I’ve ever read. Ford’s gorgeous writing unapologetically reckons with some of the hardest truths life has to offer, and she is masterful in doing so. If there ever was a must-read memoir, I would wager this is it.