10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2021

Need some good fiction for the longest nights of the year? Here are 10 books arriving in December. 

This epic spans Korea’s tumultuous 20th century by connecting seemingly unconnected stories, including those of a starving hunter who saves a Japanese officer from a tiger, a girl sold into apprenticeship to a courtesan and her rise to fortune, and an orphaned street beggar. “In this extraordinary historical novel, debut author Kim weaves together the story of friends and rivals trying to survive and thrive from the era of the Japanese occupation of Korea to the political purges of the mid-20th century... Gorgeous prose and unforgettable characters combine to make a literary masterpiece.” (Kirkus Reviews)

TELL ME HOW TO BE by Neel Patel
On the one year anniversary of his father’s death, Akash Amin can't bring his boyfriend home to his family in Illinois because he still hasn't told them he's gay. His mother Renu also has big secrets, including the fact that she's moving to London in hopes to reunite with the forbidden love of her youth. "In Patel’s resplendent debut, a mother and son reveal their secrets and regrets... Patel skillfully maneuvers through the treacherous territory of abandoned dreams, family squabbles, and cultural clashes before finding a resounding catharsis for mother and son. The result is noteworthy and memorable." (Publishers Weekly) Patel is also the author of the short story collection If You See Me, Don't Say Hi (2018), an NPR Best Book of the Year.

THE FORTUNE MEN by Nadifa Mohamed
Mohamed’s third novel, a finalist for this year’s Booker Prize, is based on a true story that took place in 1950s Wales. Mahmood Mattan is a Somali sailor and father of three who struggles with unemployment and gambling. When he is accused of a brutal murder, he is sure that his innocence will save him. “Heart-wrenching… This powerful, deeply affecting exploration of mid-twentieth-century racism and other forms of prejudice has stark relevance today.” (Booklist)

I'm Not Hungry but I Could Eat by Christopher Gonzalez
Short stories that may leave you hungry for more, featuring queer Puerto Rican characters with a focus on relationships and appetites. "Gonzalez's debut collection crackles with humor and tension in brilliantly crafted stories... Throughout, Gonzalez works multiple registers, creating rich, compressed portraits of his characters. This is as poignant as it is hilarious." (Publishers Weekly)

Sonya used to be an actress, but now she’s a full-time mom and alcoholic. She adores her son but she’s on the verge of losing him—and needs to choose between keeping her son and drinking. “Harding brilliantly captures both the hilarity and wisdom of Sonya’s 12-step program, with her time in rehab poignantly complicated by Sonya’s separation from Tommy and her fear she might not be reunited with him. When Sonya views the world through sober eyes, the real struggle starts, and she movingly confronts the traumas that helped put the bottle to her lips in the first place. This unflinching portrait of a troubled, tender soul takes readers to the depths of the human heart.” (Publishers Weekly)

The arrival this month of the third Dandelion Dynasty fantasy is a fantastic opportunity to return to this series, created by a multiple Hugo-, Nebula-and World Fantasy Award-winning author–or start with the first, The Grace of Kings (2015) if you’re new to these books. “A world steeped in myth, philosophy, and East Asian culture with a densely woven story of cultural conflict, political intrigue, and family rivalry... Liu’s world is lively, fluid, and above all, original, populated with nuanced characters, mighty flying lizards, sentient narwhals, and living books. Wooden submarines, large scale shadow puppet plays, and airships made of bamboo and silk powered by “silkmotic force” add to the dazzling atmospherics as Liu mixes the drama of heroic wuxia battles with twisty intrigues and the characters’ ever-shifting priorities, balancing each element to create the epic feel of real history. With a third installment just as mesmerizing as the previous volumes, this series continues to be a wonderful and necessary breath of fresh air in epic fantasy.” (Publishers Weekly)

THE LOVE CON by Seressia Glass
Kenya Davenport is an engineer, a nerd, and a full-figured Black woman with a passion for costuming that she’d love to turn into a career. As a finalist on the reality TV show Cosplay or No Way, she has a chance to make her dream come true—and also find romance along the way. “Glass has written an engaging romance that will win over romance readers and die-hard fandom nerds alike… Kenya is a heroine who staunchly refuses to exist on the sidelines, fighting to prove that she deserves every aspiration she dreams of reaching. A charming rom-com perfectly crafted from all the best tropes.” (Kirkus Reviews)

CYBER MAGE by Saad Z. Hossain
In a dystopian urban Bangladesh in 2089, Marzuk is a 15-year-old hacker dealing with bullies, scheming djinn, and a gamified virtual world. “Hossain's giddy new novel, another inventive blend of mythology and cyberpunk gizmology (after The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday)… Hossain puts a clever spin on both high fantasy and hard science tropes as ancient djinns wield futuristic technology to go head-to-head with humans empowered with their own technowizardry.” (Publishers Weekly)

THE CAT WHO SAVED BOOKS by Sosuke Natsukawa
A bestseller in Japan from an award-winning author, this gentle, whimsical story follows Rintaro, an introverted teen who inherits his late grandfather’s rare book shop, where a plump tabby cat named Tiger enlists his help in saving the world’s endangered books. “Rintaro undertakes the challenges assisted by the saucy cat few humans can see, and his quests resemble the tests posed to heroes in myth, legend, and video game... Cats, books, young love, and adventure: catnip for a variety of readers!” (Kirkus Reviews)

THE PUSHCART PRIZE edited by Bill Henderson
The 46th edition of this annual anthology continues to share excellent stories, poems and essays from small presses from around the world. This year’s volume includes work from Jabari Asim, Kevin Wilson, Daniel Orozco, Joyce Carol Oates and many more established and up-and-coming authors. “Small presses, notes longtime editor Henderson, are the bulwark between literature and a steadily agglomerating publishing industry… As ever, an essential volume for anyone tracking the progress of American letters.” (Kirkus Reviews)