One of the most common types of holiday gifts is the Coffee Table Book — big, expensive, and usually something people flip through instead of actually reading. But what if you could give a book that would fascinate your friends as well as looking like a status item?
This year has seen a huge crop of nice-looking books of, or about, science fiction and fantasy. There are some lovely books that your friends will want to keep in pristine condition — until they inevitably ruin them by thumbing through the pages too many times. Here are 17 science fiction and fantasy books that make beautiful gifts.
Hunger Games - Collector's Edition by Suzanne Collins
For all your friends who missed the luxurious gladiator train on this amazing trilogy the first time, and want to get caught up before the movie comes out — the Collector's Edition is basically just a really nice hardcover, printed on nice paper with those torn edges that make a book seem classy. And it comes in a special slipcase, containing exclusive new mockingjay artwork. I had lost my copy of the first book or lent it to someone, so I was really happy to pick up this new, slightly fancy edition.
The Phantom Tollbooth - 50th Anniversary Edition by Norman Juster
No doubt you, like all right-thinking people, have already read The Phantom Tollbooth, and so have your kids. But perhaps you know someone who has never been exposed to it, or whose copy was long since lost. In any case, this deluxe anniversary edition is well worth grabbing, since it both restores and celebrates the original text and pictures. The packaging is incredibly lovely, including the original artwork embossed on the case, with a transparent acetate jacket. And there are essays about the book by Michael Chabon, Maurice Sendak, Suzanne Collins, and many others.
Alien Vault by Ian Nathan
Not the first book to be written about the making of Ridley Scott's Alien, but quite possibly the most attractive. Nathan's book is a beautiful hardcover inside a cardboard case, with tons of pull out illustrations, including amazing reproductions of art by H.R. Giger and the army of other art geniuses who worked on this film. Read an excerpt, with illustrations, here.
American Gods 10th Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman
Another anniversary edition, this one actually includes an "updated and expanded" version of Gaiman's "preferred text" for the book, so even if you've read this one before, it's worth picking up — or sharing with neophytes. And it's a nice-looking hardcover, with a beautiful gray painterly front cover that will look good on your friends' nightstands. The story of Shadow, newly released from prison, and his relationship with the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, is just as fresh as ever — and now's a great time to rediscover it, with a TV series in the pipeline.
The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein
The award-winning fantasy author returns with a beautiful new novel about a family that's made a bargain with faeries. (Our review is here.) Will falls in love with Livvy, and to some extent with her carefree, unconventional family — but when he tries to rescue Livvy from the fallout of the family's bargain, he only makes things much more complicated. With new takes on Grimm's Fairy Tales covering television right now, this book is probably the most thought-provoking look at the real stories and what they would be like today.
Outlander — 20th Anniversary Edition by Diana Gabaldon
And one last anniversary edition, just because those often make terrific gifts. This seminal time-travel romance novel got a really beautifully packaged version, complete with a music CD and a new essay by the author, in time for its 20-year anniversary. Claire goes on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank, only to pass through a cleft stone in a henge and find herself 200 years in the past, where she falls in love with a young soldier.
Zombie Survival Guide Journal
Keep your own notes on the battle against the relentless forces of the undead, with this nice-looking notebook — which is blank except for some lovely zombie art. If your friend has failed to complete a novel during NaNoWriMo, then this is a great incentive — you could easily fill these pages with some really dark, macabre scribblings.
Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan Vol. 1 by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Named one of the best SF/fantasy books of the year by Publishers Weekly, this collection of over 200,000 words of short fiction will give you a crash course in one of the darkest, most surprising gothic authors around. Subterranean Press always does an amazing job with packaging their deluxe hardcovers, and this is no exception. This book is listed as sold out on Subterranean's own site, but in stock on Amazon — so I'd hurry up and order a few copies now.
The Terry Bisson Collection from PM Press
If PM Press, the anarchist book publisher, was smart, they'd be publishing all three of their beautiful books by Terry Bisson in some kind of fancy slipcover, or even just a cardboard box. But no matter — the three of them together make an absolutely lovely gift, for anybody who loves great writing. Bisson is one of SF's great treasures, a wry, sardonic storyteller with a taste for the absurd and the subversive. These three books include a story collection featuring some of his more outlandish tales, an alternate-history of the South in which the Deep South is "an independent Black nation called Nova Africa," and an apocalyptic satire. If you have a friend who only knows Bisson from "They're Made of Meat," these three little books are a perfect gift.
Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen by Kage Baker
When beloved SF author Kage Baker was battling the illness that ultimately took her life, she distracted herself by watching old science fiction silent movies, and reviewing them for Tor.com. The 49 reviews include some films you've probably seen, and some you've undoubtedly never heard of. Now Tachyon Books has collected all of them in a beautiful little book, which is so full of snark and wit that you'll feel as if Baker was sitting with you giving her commentary on these films.
Drew Struzan: Oeuvre
One of the all-time great poster artists, Struzan has had his work collected in book form before — last year, we did a gallery of his art in connection with another book release — but Ouevre is the nicest, most beautifully packaged collection yet. It's over 250 pieces of artwork, including all of his iconic Star Wars and Harry Potter images but also some rarities. And it reaches right up to the limited edition Walking Dead poster he did last year. Plus there's an introduction by George Lucas.
After The Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh
Another one of Publisher's Weekly's picks for 2011's best books, this story collection is not festive. It is more like a punch in the face, over and over again. We'll be posting our review in the next few days, but suffice to say that the brilliant author of China Mountain Zhang and Mothers and Other Monsters has done it again, with a story collection that takes your fears of economic apocalypse and magnifies them to amazing effect.
1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, edited by Paul Gravett with a foreword by Terry Gilliam
We already shared with you some graphic novels that would make great gifts — but this art book is a great primer in comics lore, complete with huge, lavish reproductions of comics covers and interior art. It's a nicely eclectic look at great comics from all genres and all countries, showing just how diverse and powerful the form has become.
Planesrunner by Ian McDonald
The author of River of Gods, Cyberabad and The Dervish House moves into young adult fiction with this stirring adventure novel. Everett Singh's father goes missing, but he leaves Everett an app on his computer — which turns out to be the Infundibulum, a map of parallel Earths. This sends Everett off on a multiverse-spanning adventure as he seeks to rescue his father from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order.
Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss
What do you give your video game-obsessed friends who haven't picked up a book in months? How about an original Halo novel written by the one and only Karen Traviss, who blew our minds with her Star Wars Republic Commandos novels? Nobody writes gritty high-tech military action like Traviss, and nobody fills licensed properties with relatable, cool characters the way she does. In this book, the war appears to be over for the first time in decades — but it's actually just gone underground.
The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
With the release of The Kingdom of Gods, the trilogy is complete at last, and you can take in the full sweep of Jemisin's audacious tale about a huge empire that keeps the god of darkness imprisoned in its heart. Dynastic power struggles, theological crises, and tangled relationships are at the heart of these books. And the three of them make a lovely gift for anyone in your life who hasn't yet discovered these fantastic books.
Star Wars: The Complete Vader by Ryder Windham and Peter Vilmur
And finally, there's this gorgeous art book, which takes you deep inside the legends of the Dark Lord of the Sith. In spite of everything George Lucas has done to destroy Lord Vader's mystique, he's still one of the coolest characters in movies, and this book is chock full of artwork and insights, showing just how far Anakin's reach has been in popular culture over the decades.