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The Astra House Holiday Gift Guide for Contemporary Literature Lovers

Books make great gifts—and each of the titles we highlight here will provide readers with new stories and fresh perspectives to discuss at holiday gatherings.

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For readers who yearn for an inspirational book full of wisdom

The Sex Lives of African Women - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah: a deep, intimate collection of stories about relationships and self-discovery—surprising, uplifting, and full of hope. 

“The stories, as written by Sekyiamah, are mesmerizing. The women shared with her, and by extension with us, with true generosity.” —Glamour

For readers who enjoy a contemporary coming-of-age story and queer narrative…

The Town of Babylon - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela: an acclaimed queer coming-of-age story set in the suburbs of Long Island.


For readers who desire an emotional memoir about fitting in, growing up, and navigating a complex family…

Home Bound by Vanessa Bee - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

Home Bound by Vanessa Bee: a memoir that explores themes of belonging and home, mother-daughter relationships, globe-trotting, self-discovery.

“Readers of Home Bound will likely experience that pleasant rush of recognizing something personal in someone else’s reality, of answering, yes, home feels like this to me, too.” —Chicago Review of Books

For readers who hunger for gripping, page-turning thrillers starring a female protagonist…

Bad Fruit - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

Bad Fruit by Ella King: a smart thriller with a strong, biracial young female lead that centers around a complex mother-daughter relationship.

“A wild story of familial trauma and reckoning that never feels like a ‘trauma novel.’ —Sophia June, NYLON

For readers who delight in a smart book about Internet fame and identity politics…

Identitti - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

Identitti by Mithu Sanyal: A darkly comedic satire about the outsized power of social media in the current debates about identity politics and the power of claiming your own voice.

“Provocative and knotty . . . Identitti is a bracing story, one in which Sanyal refuses to give us the easy way out.” —Olivia Craighead, The New York Times

For readers who thrill in a collection of haunted tales from a lauded author of speculative fiction…

Concerning Those who have fallen asleep - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep by Adam Soto: a collection of strange and unsettling stories that explore the quiet spaces where the living and the dead haunt one another.

Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep is weird in all the best ways possible . . . These tales are plucked from bizarre worlds, from the blood of shadow creatures, from the tears of angels. Let them haunt you.” —Gabino Iglesias, author of The Devil Takes You Home

For readers who desire a book about the longing, discovery, and grit of growing up…

Dogs of Summer - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu: a story about two girls coming of age in the early aughts and a friendship that simmers into erotic desire over the course of one hot summer.

“[A] firecracker of a debut . . . Abreu’s novel, in Julia Sanches’s sparkling translation, is a revelation, perfectly capturing a festering summer of meltdowns and shrinking horizons.” —Anderson Tepper, The New York Times

For readers who crave a book about natural beauty and the transformative power of storytelling, and a manifesto on climate change and resistance…

No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies by Julian Aguon: a collection of essays full of wisdom and reflections on love, grief, joy, and triumph, with an offer to join the author in a hard-earned hope for a better world.

A Michelle Obama “Reach Higher” Fall 2022 reading list pick • “Aguon’s book is for everyone, but he challenges history by placing indigenous consciousness at the center of his project . . . the most tender polemic I’ve ever read.” —Lenika Cruz, The Atlantic

For readers who thirst for an intimate collection of poems or a morbid spin on celebrity fandom…

Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva: A macabre novel in verse of loss, longing, and identity crises following a poet who resurrects pop star Selena from the dead.

“A macabre love story that casts an inquisitive eye on Latinidad, womanhood, and celebrity worship.” —Keely Weiss, Harper’s Bazaar

For readers who pine for a black comedy workplace thriller set in a sprawling indoor shopping mall

Gunk Baby Holiday Gift

Encapsulating millennial ennui and middle-class boredom, Gunk Baby is an inventive and deliberate novel from a fresh, new, exciting voice.

“A dissociative meditation on a world that has come to feel increasingly meaningless . . . [Lau’s] prose combines the languid torpor of Michael Bible with the unease of Yoko Ogawa’s more macabre work.” ―Declan Fry, The Guardian

For readers who need a book about justice, activism, or anti-racism…

Becoming Abolitionists paperback - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell: A call to imagine a more just society.

Becoming Abolitionists provides a blueprint for each of us to begin to run, dream, and experiment toward a just and livable future.” —The Nation

For readers who love art and want to know more about the power dynamics of the art world…

Takedown - Best Books for Holiday Gifts

Takedown by Farah Nayeri: An exploration of some of the most pressing issues facing museums, galleries, collectors, and the other actors responsible for elevating and censoring art throughout history, and the democratizing movements shaping the art world today.

“Beautifully written, thoughtful and thought provoking, relevant to our times.”—Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran