Giving a gift to a book lover anytime soon? Our third annual Holiday Gift Guide features some of our favorite recent books for kids, teens and adults. If you don't already have a favorite local bookseller, we've also provided a list of Oakland bookstores below.
Have suggestions of your own? We would LOVE to hear them--please share in the comments!
Books for Children
Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi
Buy it for: kids who like funny stories and need occasional reminders to clean up after accidents.
Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown
Buy it for: Frida fans, kids who think everyone should have a dozen pets.
Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to his Daughter by Mark Gonzales
Buy it for: anyone who needs an affirming message around upholding their religious faith when faced with prejudice.
The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow
Buy it for: parents who want a beautifully illustrated, Harlem Renaissance-based Nutcracker (with an all-Black cast) to read to young kids.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
Buy it for: barbershop regulars, kids who like their fades tight.
You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith
Buy it for: warm bedtime sharing, and people who want to support Native American writers and illustrators.
Sticker Girl Rules the School! by Janet Tashjian
Buy it for: kids who secretly dream of their stickers coming to life (warning: it’s not as great as you’d think!)
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Buy it for: anyone who may relate to balancing immigrant parents and school crushes.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
Buy it for: anyone who, like twelve-year-old Malú, has wrestled with whether they are “Mexican enough.” And zine nerds.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
Buy it for: those who loved Williams-Garcia’s heartwarming trilogy beginning with One Crazy Summer, and aspiring blues musicians.
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Buy it for: readers who will relate to struggling with friends, family, faith, and fashion.
Girls who code: learn to code and change the world, by Reshma Saujani. Buy it for: creative kids who want to bring their ideas to life.
Children’s Graphic Novels
Phoebe and her Unicorn series by Dana Simpson
Buy it for: Calvin and Hobbes fans.
Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
Buy it for: readers who’ve worn out their copies of every Raina Telgemeier book.
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
Buy it for: monster lovers and adventure-bound feminists of all ages.
CatStronauts by Drew Brockington
Buy it for: cats in space (and kids who love them).
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Buy it for: Bollywood fans; readers who are a little too young for Persepolis.
If Found… Please Return to Elise Gravel by Elise Gravel
Buy it for: that person who’s always nose down in a sketchbook.
Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence
Buy it for: future astronauts or anyone who wants an adventure in space.
Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer Holm
Buy it for: Babymouse devotees who like realistic stories too.
Books for Teens
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
Jess has a crush on her best friend Angie. But when Angie meets another girl she is interested in things turn dark. Buy it for teen fans of creepy thrillers.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett leaves the tiny island she has lived on her entire life and becomes part of a performance group called Caraval; but it quickly turns sinister. Buy it for fans of fantasy and whimsical stories.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Justyce is in the top of his class and on his way to an Ivy League school but is now at risk of losing it all after a run in with a police officer. Buy it for teens who are looking for a stimulating read about race relations.
Diary of a Haunting: Book of Shadows by M. Verano
Melanie thought she had found the perfect journal for her thoughts; until she finds out from a Wiccan friend it’s a book for casting spells. This is the 3rd part of the series. Buy it for teen horror fans.
The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lillium Rivera
Margot is grounded! She is ready to lie, cheat and possibly steal in order to get out of her parent’s store and go to the ultimate beach party. Buy it for fans of coming of age stories that have some complex themes.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr’s world is shattered after she witnesses her best friend killed by a police officer. What follows is a nightmare of media coverage and Starr being bullied by the police and drug dealers. Buy it for teen fans of powerful realistic fiction.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli
“Bedtime stories” for tweens about 100 different amazing women from the past to the present. Buy it for young feminists who also appreciate gorgeous illustrations.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez
Julia was not going to do what her parents expected, stay home, skip college, take care of her family; she had her own future laid out. But a tragic accident changed it all. Buy it for fans of smart, funny and sometimes sad realistic fiction.
Landscape With Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
The vuvv have landed and are ready to take over the earth in this futuristic satire tale. Buy if for fans of science fiction who appreciate an interesting metaphore.
Miles Morales Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds
Miles is just a regular teenager living a regular life, except for the fact that he is Spider-Man! Buy if for younger teens looking for a contempory twist on a traditional super hero.
Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin
A romantic twist on Romeo and Juliet set in Israel and Palestine. Buy it for fans who will appreciate a story told in verse.
Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older
Sierra and her friends, the Shadowshapers, have been pushed into a battle with supernatural enemies on the streets of Brooklyn. Book 2 of the Shadowshaper series. Buy if for fans of wildly creative fantasy.
Solo by Kwame Alexander
A novel is told in verse about 17 year old Blake and the struggles he is having with his father. Buy if for fans of gritty realistic fiction.
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
The chapters in this stunning poetry collection are broken down by the life cycle of flowers; wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. Buy it for fans of the wildly popular Milk and Honey poetry collection.
When We Fight We Win by Greg Jobin-Leeds and AgitArte
A collection of inspirational stories and activism in the 21st Century. Buy it for your socially conscience teens who also appreciate stunning illustrations.
Graphic Novels for Teens
Afar by Leila Del Duca
Boetema and Intou are orphans. Things get complicated when Boetema discovers she has the power to astrally project herself to different worlds. Can she and her brother figure out how to harness her power for the greater good? For fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender or anyone looking for a sci-fi coming of age story with strong characters.
The Spill Zone by Alex Puvilland
'The Spill' destroyed Addison's town, killed her parents and left her sister traumatized. Now Addison wants answers and will go to all lengths to get them. Recommended for readers of the Akira manga series as well as any lovers of sci-fiction dystopia with strong female heroines.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
Tillie Walden is at home on the ice. As a dedicated figure skater, it's what she knows and she excels at it. But as she gets older and gains fulfillment off the ice with new friendships and experiences, she begins to wonder if there's more to life than ice-skating. This graphic memoir is sure to delight readers of Smile, Relish, or anyone looking for a read that portrays the hardships of growing up and changing dreams.
Gotham Academy Second Semester, Vol 1: Welcome Back by Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, and Adam Archer
Olive Silverlock is back with her crew for her second semester and a new set of adventures. Comic readers are sure to enjoy this batmanesque story with X-men and Harry Potter vibes.
Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
With appearances by familiar characters such as Cinder, Scarlet and other Rampion crew members, Wires and Nerve is a must have for fans of Marissa Meyer's "Lunar Chronicles" or anyone else looking for a fast-paced, sci-fi adventure story.
Complete Stories by Kurt Vonnegut
For the first time all ninety-seven stories by the late great Vonnegut have been published together, including five previously unpublished stories. Long live Vonnegut with his keen eye, humor and compassion! Buy it for social critics and readers who love to laugh and cry at the same time.
Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York by Francis Spufford
Richard Smith, a young man from England, arrives in Pre-Revolutionary War New York City with a staggering fortune of over one thousand pounds. But what exactly is his business? Not your run-of-the-mill historical novel. Buy it for swashbucklers seeking an exciting read.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
San Franciscan Ruth Young is still hurting from a bad breakup when she decides to move home to be with her father Howard, a history professor falling under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. Packed with humor and empathy. Buy it for dramedy lovers.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
An inventive short story collection that mashes up fairy tales, horror, science fiction, fantasy, queer theory, dark comedy and realism. A finalist for this year’s National Book Award. Buy it for true originals and anyone who defies categorization.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Author Arthur Less is in crisis: he’s turning 50, his publisher has rejected his latest book, and his former boyfriend is getting married. Less sets off on a global speaking tour to run away from his troubles but runs into one disaster after another. Buy it for readers who love romantic comedy with a generous helping of introspection.
Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell
DeShawn, a queer African American artist living an uninhibited life in San Francisco, looks back on his life when he returns to his rural Alabama hometown for his uncle’s funeral. Buy it for anyone who would enjoy a punk, raunchy, sensitive story from a celebrated Oakland filmmaker, musician, dancer and writer.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
A traumatic family reunion is viewed through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy and his drug addicted mother in a brutal story of poverty and racism in the American South cut with moments of hope, tenderness, resilience and mystical power. Winner of this year’s National Book Award. Buy it for people who love beautifully written, intensely moving fiction with social justice at its heart.
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
After years of scrimping, Anil and Bindu Jha have sold their small business. Suddenly in possession of a small fortune, they must come to grips with their newfound wealth and status in this comedy set in a rapidly changing India. Buy it for anyone who loves to laugh out loud.
Afterglow: A Dog Memoir by Eileen Myles
Prolific and acclaimed poet and queer icon Myles wrote this book as a tribute to Rosie, the dog she lived with for sixteen years. A mix of memoir, prose experimentation, comedy and heartbreak, her connection with her canine companion becomes a lens with which she views all facets of life. Buy it for dog lovers, literature lovers and other humans.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Our nation’s favorite astrophysicist offers a quick overview of the cosmos, presenting basic and complex concepts in a way that is approachable, readable and fun! Buy it for armchair scientists and other geniuses.
The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook by Preeti Mistry with Sarah Henry
Mistry’s original Oakland restaurant Juhu Beach Club may be closing soon, but you can get inspired to cook up her globally influenced Indian food with this beautiful book. It’s bursting with color, personal stories, pantry tips, and of course, recipes. Buy it for cooks and hungry people seeking “Indian spice, Oakland soul.”
The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland by Robyn Spencer
An in-depth history of Oakland’s local Black Panther Party chapter, highlighting the contribution of women to the movement. Buy it for historians and Oakland enthusiasts.
They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
Cultural critic and poet Abdurraqib offers essays on music, pop culture, race and politics, some of which have appeared in The New York Times, MTV News, and Pitchfork. Buy it for music nerds and people who are trying to figure out what’s going on.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A new book from award-winning journalist and author Coates combines some of his best essays from The Atlantic with new work spanning the Obama era and touching on issues of race, inequality, and the unaddressed and unresolved aspects of our nation’s history. Buy it for intellectuals, activists and folks who miss Obama.
Adult Graphic Novels
Archangel by William Gibson, Michael St. John Smith, Butch Guice, Alejandro Barrionuevo, and Wagner Reis
The iconic Science Fiction author’s first graphic novel is set in 2016 America, where the Vice President uses a new technology called a Splitter to visit 1945 Berlin to kill his grandfather in a time travel enabled power grab. Buy it for lovers of Science Fiction, alternative histories and dystopias.
Baking with Kafka by Tom Gauld
Gauld, whose work appears regularly in New Scientist, The Guardian and The New York Times, pokes fun at the literary world and highbrow culture with wit and sarcasm. Buy it for bibliophiles with a sense of humor.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
A beautifully illustrated memoir which tells the haunting and emotional story of the Bui family’s flight from South Vietnam in the 1970s and the challenges of adopting a new home. Buy it for anyone who agrees that immigrant stories are quintessentially Amerian.
Black History In Its Own Words by Ron Wimberly
Striking close up portraits of Black visionaries including Shirley Chisholm, Octavia Butler, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Angela Davis and Dave Chapelle, accompanied by memorable and pithy quotes. Buy it for anyone who loves stunning graphics and wise words.
Jane by Aline McKenna and Ramon K. Perez
A modern retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre features a young woman who flees small town life for New York City where she enrolls in art school and finds work as a nanny. McKenna is also the producer and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Buy it for graphic novel fans who like melodramatic gothic tales and beautiful illustrations.
Monograph by Chris Ware
You might know genius comic artist Chris Ware from his New Yorker covers or his Acme Novelty Library series. He has a reputation for self-deprecation and insecurity but thank goodness he had the hubris to compile this chronicle of his life and career that is eighteen inches tall and weighs over eight pounds. Buy it for indie comics fans and book collectors with very large bookshelves.
My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
In 1960s Chicago, ten-year-old Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her neighbor, a Holocaust survivor. Buy it for fans of masterly crosshatching, page-turners, B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines.
Octavia E. Butler's Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
Four decades after its initial release, Duffy and Jennings offer a graphical retelling of acclaimed speculative fiction author Butler’s most beloved work. Kindred tells the story of Diana, a Black woman who travels through time and space from contemporary California to pre-Civil War Maryland, where she meets her ancestors, including a white slave owner. Buy it for Octavia Butler fans and anyone who loves complex, powerful stories.
Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung
Known for his Scott Pilgrim series, O’Malley teamed up with artist Hung to create this quirky story about Lottie, a glamorous fashion blogger with a picture-perfect image that’s at odds with her insecurities and ongoing struggle with seasonal allergies. Buy it for fashionistas who love dark comedy.
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 Books Oakland, 5560 College Ave. 652-6259
Marcus Bookstore, 3900 MLK Way. 652-2344
A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 LaSalle Ave. 339-8210
East Bay Booksellers (formerly Diesel), 5433 College Ave. 653-9965
Walden Pond Books, 3319 Grand Ave. 832-4438
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games, 4014 Piedmont Ave. 601-7800
Cape and Cowl, 1601 Clay St. 907-0678
E. M. Wolfman, 410 13th St. 415-250-5527
Wolfman New Life Bookstore, 644 40th St. 415-250-5527
Spectator Books, 4163 Piedmont Ave 653-7300
If used books are more your style, please check out the Bookmark Bookstore, the non-profit store run by the Friends of the Oakland Public Library. Visit them at 721 Washington St, Oakland, or call 444-0473.
List compiled by Xochitl Gavidia, Amy Martin and Christy Thomas with input from OPL staff.