Maybe you’ve already tried combing through the New York Times Notable Books. You’ve checked the Amazon bestsellers page, what, 57 times already? You’re hell-bent on knocking off your holiday shopping list quick and easy—and books are an easy way to do just that.
But so many bestseller lists and “notable book” announcements only reveal the big names with the most hype. In crises like these, we encourage turning to your neighbors. You might not have heard of them (yet), but Colorado authors have churned out some fantastic stories this year (several of which we already covered!). And after combing through a few of our favorites and a few we missed in 2019, we’ve taken the guesswork out of holiday book shopping. Here are some locally crafted titles you should take a chance on this year (and who they’d be perfect for).
From Hell to Breakfast by Meghan Tifft
For: The cousin you can’t quite pin down
From University of Colorado, Colorado Springs English professor Meghan Tifft, From Hell to Breakfast feeds off its own bizarre premise: Protagonist Lucinda is dating Dracula. Or, at least, he calls himself Dracula, and he acts like Dracula? He sleeps in a coffin and hunts pigeons for their blood, but he also works a night shift at UPS. Oh yeah, and several people have recently disappeared from town. Weird, huh?
The book is self-aware enough to know how strange it is, and that’s why it works—the reader is constantly guessing at what might be going on, and is therefore sucked further into the surreal. This is escapism in its most unusual and magnetic form, and it’ll make any reader with a taste for the offbeat eager to dig in. Buy it at your local bookshop.
Bling by Andy Seth
For: The uncle in the midst of a middle-age crisis
A self-help memoir turned novelized parable, Bling is an adaptation of Denver author, music producer, and entrepreneur Andy Seth’s own tale of self-discovery. Despite growing up in a motel, Seth became a successful businessman and headlining DJ by the time he graduated college. Yet, he eventually struggled with feelings that his life lacked meaning. He later sold several companies and went on to launch Flow, an agency creating digital marketing apprenticeships for under-skilled youth.
His book, Bling, is a somewhat similar awakening story: Rapper A-Luv is a hotshot son of Indian immigrants who relishes in, well, bling … until it brings him depression and addiction. He sets out for India, where he meets several colorful mentors and attempts to master their “high vibe lifestyle,” a doctrine that draws on meditation, focus, and positivity. Using hip hop as a foundation—Bling was released with its own soundtrack—the book is a creative refreshment in an otherwise oft-stale and repetitive genre. Buy it at Amazon.
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
For: The niece who’s obsessed with Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
If your teenager loves the season’s hottest new celebrity couple—otherwise known as Shamila—then it’s not a long shot to guess they love YA romance stories, too. They’ve probably already read When Dimple Met Rishi, the New York Times bestselling rom-com from Rocky Mountain dweller Sandhya Menon, but have they picked up the companion story yet?
In There’s Something About Sweetie, Ashish Patel, recent recipient of an unceremonious dumping, challenges his parents to set him up with his next date. Meanwhile, track star Sweetie Nair is dealing with her own family drama: She makes her parents proud at school … but she’s overweight, and to them, that’s unacceptable. As Ashish and Sweetie learn to know (and maybe even love) each other, they see a new side of their own identities. Buy it at your local bookshop.
You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane
For: The mom who’s still learning how to use Siri and Alexa
Boulder-based research scientist and blogger behind aiweirdness.com, Janelle Shane knows a thing or two about our robot overlords ahem companions. She writes frequently about the wild antics algorithms can get into when they don’t quite understand humans. (One of our favorite examples is her experiment with neural network-generated cookbook recipes, which include “Chocolate Pickle Sauce” and “Whole Chicken Cookies.”)
In You Look Like A Thing And I Love You, Shane uses cartoons and similar experiments to break down the ways AI have infiltrated our daily routines, and why they work the way they do. Through her humorous voice and down-to-earth approach, she makes seemingly complicated concepts accessible to even the most tech-averse. Buy it at your local bookshop.
The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis
For: The Southern in-laws who just moved to Colorado
Your mother-in-law came to the mountains because, well, so has everyone else—but maybe she hasn’t quite adapted to Colorado culture yet. Give her a book that reminds her of home with this debut from Denver author Andrea Bobotis, who herself was born in South Carolina.
The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt transports readers to the Palmetto State—specifically a town called Bound—where Judith Kratt watches over the family’s aging home and tries to forget the family’s legacy: In 1929, a tragic murder ended her younger brother’s life. When her long-estranged sister, Rosemarie, decides to return to Bound, Judith takes stock of all the family’s possessions and, in the process, starts to understand the role she played in the tragedy. In this story of loss, race, and Southern identity, Bobotis’s earnest voice is what makes the mystery seem so achingly real. Buy it at your local bookshop.
Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson
For: The best friend who’s still mourning the end of Game of Thrones
Your best friend hasn’t stopped talking about how much he hated the Game of Thrones finale. A new fantasy series might not fill the hole in his heart, but it can definitely take the edge off. Prolific science-fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson not only writes about thrilling fantasy worlds, but he practically lives in one—his residence is, apparently, a castle in the Rocky Mountains.
All showmanship aside, Anderson’s The Spine of the Dragon is an ambitious start to his Wake the Dragon series, in which two continents battle as otherworldly creatures known as wreths—the original creator of humans—return to stir up trouble. The story is huge in scope and complicated, but that’s exactly what will compel true fantasy fans: The world-building is enough to submerge yourself in. Buy it at your local bookshop.
The Dog Who Took Me Up A Mountain by Rick Crandall
For: The aunt with an Instagram account for her dog
If Fido already has 50,000 followers, chances are your aunt is ready to take him on an Insta-ready adventure: Might we suggest scaling a fourteener together? That’s exactly what author Rick Crandall did with his pint-sized Australian terrier puppy, Emme.
In this inspiring story, Crandall shares about how depression gripped him in the post-tech bubble burst era as he struggled to find his place during middle age. His wife encouraged him to adopt Emme, who soon became his near-constant companion. Through Emme’s silent but steady encouragement—and a variety of beloved Colorado peaks—Rick finds himself again. Buy it at your local bookshop.
Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived The Tennessee Children’s Home Society by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate
For: The dad who’s fresh out of World War II novels
Your dad won’t stop talking about the latest historical tome he devoured, but maybe it’s time for a change of pace. This fascinating, heart-wrenching collection of real-life stories still dives into the past, but to focus on a lesser-known scandal from the 1920s through 1950: the black-market baby business in Memphis.
It’s not a war story, but Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate’s deeply researched volume is no less tragic, though ultimately triumphant. In 2017, Wingate published Before We Were Yours, a novel which brought to light the infamous Georgia Tann’s business stealing babies from poor families, single mothers, and women who’d been told their infants were dead. Wingate teamed up with journalist and Colorado dweller Christie to put together Before and After. The nonfiction follow-up gathers the stories of these men and women—stolen from their families and given to desperate parents—and reunites families in an emotional culmination in Memphis. Buy it at your local bookshop.
The River by Peter Heller
For: The ski-bum brother who teaches rafting lessons in the summer
If your brother’s still trying to find himself in the Colorado wild—and, to be honest, who isn’t?—tell him to drop his copy of Kerouac and turn to the gorgeous nature writing of Peter Heller. Heller, a longtime outdoorsman and Denver resident, has always had a heart for adventure stories, and his latest, The River is a truly thrilling tale.
In The River, college students and childhood friends Wynn and Jack decide to canoe the Maskwa River in Canada, only to run into a wildfire ripping through the forest. They overhear heated voices on the riverbank and decide to paddle to the source: a couple having a fight. But when they search, there’s no one to be found. Only a day later do they discover a man—mysteriously (and ominously) alone. Buy it at your local bookshop.
Blitzed by Alexa Martin
For: The sister who’s more excited for the Super Bowl than Christmas
Alexa Martin knows the NFL stage better than most: She’s married to a former professional player who now coaches high school football in Colorado. But she draws upon her time in the NFL circle to write her hilariously juicy football rom-com series, The Playbook.
Her most recent installment is Blitzed, the story of local bar owner Brynn Larson, whose watering hole becomes a favorite of the fictional Denver Mustangs. When player Maxwell Lewis takes a liking to Brynn, she refuses to fall for his flashy antics—until, of course, their pasts come back to haunt them, and a fledgling attraction is inevitable. Buy it at your local bookshop.