Looking for something off-beat book-wise to give as a gift this holiday season? Looking for something that’s imaginative and different? Something that your friends, family, or office buddies might not already have? Something with nice production values?
As the co-creator of a quirky gift book this year, The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, I've come up with some field-tested suggestions mostly from the last couple of years that might just do the trick. Because I am heartless I have included two titles in the photos that you’ll have to search relentlessly to acquire: Catherynne M. Valente’s Under in the Mere and Ellen Kushner’s The Man With the Knives. But because I am also not without empathy, I’ve added a couple not pictured that are more readily available…
Half World by Hiromi Goto (Viking) – Goto's phantasmagorical and often harrowing novel has already received the 2010 Sunburst Award and made the long list of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Neil Gaiman contributed an enthusiastic blurb. Featuring a strong daughter-mother relationship and a heroine both realistic and brave, the novel is a potent beautifully written and deeply felt mix of fantasy and stark reality that reminds me favorably of the work of filmmaker Miyazaki. It also avoids cliché by refusing to indulge in stock situations. Jillian Tamaki's bold yet whimsical illustrations add further layers to the text and transform the book from a compelling read into a good gift book.
The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly) - In The Wild Kingdom,Glenn Ganges blindly interacts with the nature of his suburban neighborhood: dead houseplants, a recipe for graysquirrel brain, and pigeons eating discarded french fries in the parking lot of a fast-food joint. Starting off wordless, The Wild Kingdom grows more complex page by page, ending with encyclopedic entries, biographical excerpts, anthropologic flowcharts, and a cataclysmic encounter of nature and technology. It’s a beautifully constructed book, with marvelous endpapers and great production values.
Eden by Pablo Holmberg (Drawn & Quarterly) – Quixotic, surreal, absurd, never cute but always lively, this tiny trade paperback shows off Holmberg’s talent for episodic comics that sometimes veer off into very strange places. A perfect stocking stuffer for fans of Woodring et al.
The Weird Fiction Review, edited by S.T. Joshi (Centipede Press) – Got a budding, dormant, or fully-formed weirdling on your gift list? The first installment of a new fiction/nonfiction journal dedicated to writers like Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, and their modern descendents is a beautifully produced book with French flaps and full-color plates of art by David Ho inside. Original fiction from Marc Laidlaw and others is balanced with nonfiction about Neil Gaiman, Clarke Ashton Smith, and more. This journal is just out and hasn’t gotten much publicity, but it’s an important new addition to the supernatural fiction field. Any weirdie you’re shopping for will love you for it.
The Library of Forgotten Books by Rjurik Davidson (PS Publishing) – This sleek and mysterious hardcover first collection turns the spotlight on an exciting new dark fantasy writer. Visit the metropolis of Caeli-Amur, where rival Houses of thaumaturgists battle one another, ruthlessly employing philosopher-assassins. Enter the totalitarian city of Varenis, whose librarians every week consign thousands of forbidden books to obscure shelves. The product of a fecund imagination, this is the sleeper cult classic collection of the year and well worth seeking out.
Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan (Slave Labor Graphics) – Elmer is a window into a world where chickens have suddenly acquired the intelligence and consciousness of humans, where they can now consider themselves their own separate race. Recognizing themselves to be sentient, the inexplicably evolved chickens push to attain rights for themselves as the newest members of the human race. This is edgy stuff and in lesser hands might’ve been too absurd. Instead, it’s riveting and thought-provoking. Originally self-published by the author in the Philippines, this is the first US edition of the book. A highly recommended graphic novel.