Holiday Book Guide 2014: Fiction

From straight fiction to short stories, page turners, sci-fi, fantasy and beyond, it’s all here. Among the authors with new works: Margaret Atwood, Stephen King and Jane Smiley.

From straight fiction to short stories, page turners, sci-fi, fantasy and beyond, it’s all here. Among the authors with new works: Margaret Atwood, Stephen King and Jane Smiley. See all our holiday books recommendations.

Skip to: Fiction | Short & Stories | Page Turners | SF/Fantasy | Poetry


Song of the Shank

Jeffrey Renard Allen

Graywolf, $18 paper

An epic novel about slavery and musical genius based on the life of a slave who was the first black musician to perform at the White House.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Nuruddin Farah

Riverhead, $27.95

After a U.N. worker is killed by terrorists in Somalia, his half-sister tries to put family members’ lives back together.

Let Me Be Frank With You

Richard Ford

Ecco, $27.99

In wake of Hurricane Sandy, Ford’s famous character Frank Bascombe ponders destruction, illness and the mortality of himself and his loved ones.

A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James

Riverhead, $28.95

An assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976 provides inspiration for this ambitious novel told by multiple narrators.

A Map of Betrayal

Ha Jin

Pantheon, $26.95

The American daughter of a convicted Chinese spy discovers her father’s diaries and the family he kept hidden from his wife and children in the U.S.

The Moor's Account

Laila Lalami

Pantheon, $26.95

A Muslim slave on an ill-fated 16th century Spanish expedition to Florida narrates this lively tale that’s part coming of age and part indictment of colonialism.

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing

Eimear McBride

Coffee House, $24

In an experimental debut novel that captivated and shocked European readers, an Irish girl tries to come to terms with her brother’s illness and her own sexual abuse.

The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell

Random House, $30

Holly Sykes is an average British teen in the 1980s when supernatural beings first intercede in her life; this forward-moving story manages to tie all of Mitchell’s novels together.

Big Little Lies

Liane Moriarty

Amy Einhorn/Putnam, $26.95

Bullying, domestic violence and secrets percolate through this Australian tale centered on a death — or is it murder? — at an elementary school trivia night.


Marilynne Robinson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26

Returning to the setting of “Gilead,” Robinson tells the story of a drifter and her marriage to an Iowa minister.

Some Luck

Jane Smiley

Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95

Smiley’s new trilogy opens by zooming in on one farm family struggling with everyday hardships against the backdrop of three decades of American history.

All My Puny Sorrows

Miriam Toews

McSweeney’s, $24

In the celebrated Canadian author’s seventh book, a woman tries to help her beloved sister, a renowned pianist, deal with suicidal depression.

Short Stories

Stone Mattress

Margaret Atwood

Doubleday, $25.95

The darkly funny Canadian literary master behind “The Handmaid’s Tale” returns with her first short-story collection in eight years.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Hilary Mantel

Henry Holt, $27

This harsh, comic collection of contemporary short fiction from the author of “Wolf Hall” prompted some British politicians to call for her arrest.


Justin Taylor

Harper, $23.99

The young author of “Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever” returns with stories about love, death and heartbreak.

The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told

Jean Thompson

Blue Rider, $25.95

In these eight stories, National Book Award finalist Thompson adapts classic fairy tales to modern, realistic settings.

Page Turners

The Fever

Megan Abbott

Little, Brown, $26

After teenage girls in a buttoned-up New England town fall victim to a mysterious illness, paranoia spreads in this psychological thriller.

One Kick

Chelsea Cain

Simon & Schuster, $25.99

Suspense author Cain introduces a tough new hero: Kick Lannigan, a young woman kidnapped and rescued years ago, who now searches for abducted child.

Five Minutes Alone

Paul Cleave

Atria, $16

In the seventh installment in the “Christchurch Noir” series, a New Zealand detective searches for a man who’s helping rape victims kill their attackers.

The Wolf in Winter

John Connolly

Atria, $26

Private investigator Charlie Parker goes up against an entire Maine town intent on hiding some dark secrets.

The Secret Place

Tana French

Viking, $27.95

In the Irish author’s fifth thriller, two Dublin detectives investigate a popular teenage boy’s murder at a posh girls’ boarding school.

The Golem of Hollywood

Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

Putnam, $27.95

Father and son authors team on this novel featuring an L.A. serial killer, a burnt-out detective and Jewish mythology.

The Good Girl

Mary Kubica

Mira/Harlequin, $24.95

In this debut thriller narrated from multiple perspectives, a young art teacher's one-night stand turns into a failed abduction.

Ghost Month

Ed Lin

Soho, $26.95

A young food-stand owner in Tapei investigates the murder of his high school girlfriend, whom he hadn’t seen in seven years.

After I’m Gone

Laura Lippman

William Morrow, $14.99

A retired Baltimore cop tries to solve the 10-year-old murder of a gambling boss’ mistress, in a novel inspired by a real-life Baltimore cold case.

The Skeleton Road

Val McDermid

Atlantic Monthly Press, $25

A skeleton is found in an old Edinburgh school building, leading police to look into the case of a long-missing Croatian soldier.

Last Winter, We Parted

Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Allison Markin Powell

Soho, $25

A formally inventive, darkly disturbing novel about the psychology of a murderer, translated from Japanese.


Broken Monsters

Lauren Beukes

Mullholland, $26

Set in contemporary Detroit, where a mysterious corpse — half-man, half-deer — launches a police detective into obsession in this suspenseful multivoiced narrative.

Bathing the Lion

Jonathan Carroll

St. Martin’s, $25.99

Five people in a small Vermont town have the same surreal dream one night, and they find they’ve been called by the cosmos to do battle with chaos.

The Peripheral

William Gibson

Putnam, $28.95

A resourceful heroine moves between two distinct futures in this murder mystery full of surveillance, nanobots, environmental destruction, fast food and cyborgs.


Stephen King

Scribner, $30

In the latest from the master of horror, a minister loses his family, rejects religion and becomes obsessed with a mysterious force called “secret electricity.”

Ancillary Sword

Ann Leckie

Orbit, $16

The sequel to the Hugo- and Nebula-winning “Ancillary Justice,” Leckie’s science-fiction novel follows soldier Breq as she tries to secure a space station.

The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

Tor, $25.99

Aliens hear signals being transmitted from Earth and decide to attack the planet in this first book of a trilogy by a popular Chinese science-fiction writer.

Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches

Cherie Priest

Roc, $15

Lizzie Borden and her sister do battle with the evil forces that killed their parents in this opener of a planned series.

Sleep Donation

Karen Russell

Atavist, $3.99 e-book

An insomnia plague falls and sleep becomes a black-market premium in this e-book-only novella by MacArthur “genius” fellow Karen Russell.

Lock In

John Scalzi

Tor, $24.99

This near-future thriller follows two FBI agents investigating a murder in the years after a virus has killed millions and left others conscious but paralyzed.

Area X

The Southern Reach Trilogy

Jeff VanderMeer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35

Gathered in one volume are “Annihilation,” “Authority” and “Control”: three unsettling novels about expeditions into a wilderness area that seems beyond human control.


Shadow of a Cloud but No Cloud

Killarney Clary

University of Chicago Press, $18 paper

A haunting collection of prose poetry that evokes vivid scenes and middle life with quiet mastery.


Edward Hirsch

Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95

Raw, relentless, inconsolable, this book-length poem is an elegy and lament for a lost son.

Prelude to a Bruise

Saeed Jones

Coffee House Press, $16 paper

Race, sexuality and identity drive this energetic debut from a promising young poet.


An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine

Graywolf, $20

This vivid hybrid of verse, documentary images and narrative prose reframes the story of Trayvon Martin and issues of racial identity.

Collected Poems

Mark Strand

Alfred A. Knopf, $30

A half-century’s work by the recently deceased U.S. poet laureate demonstrates his dark wit and wisdom.

See all our holiday books recommendations.