Welcome to Shelf Care, where I usually review three books related by a theme. These aren’t necessarily the latest releases, but are hopefully books you can’t believe you missed.

This column’s theme: The Best Of Shelf Care: Holiday Gift Guide 2020

While I always think the books I review for Shelf Care worth reading (and trust me, there are way more  that I’ve read that would never make the cut) there have always been some that just stood out above the rest.  So for this month’s Shelf Care, I’ve gone back through the archives to pick out the books that really stood out. Desert island books that are good for a reread. Pop culture books that enable their readers to weigh in on a conversation, and those books that had such an interesting take on the subject matter that they were able to make unexpected premises interesting. These are the books that I can recommend without thinking about it. So if you’re looking to give something on the literary side this holiday season, see if your recipient matches up with my brutally short summary, and click through for a more thorough review.

So, if your recipient likes:

Science fiction/fantasy mash ups with a healthy dose of smart-assery and pop culture that absolutely shouldn’t work on paper, but do.

Try: Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

My review

Science, taken to ridiculous extremes, and explained at a funny, middle school level.

Try: what if?, by Randall Munroe

My review

Neil Gaiman’s dark and creative take on fairy tales, and demonstrating why letting eight year olds talk to genies is a bad idea.

Try: Dreams and Shadows, by C. Robert Cargill

My review

Fast paced dark military fantasy.

Try: The Black Company, by Glen Cook

My review

Douglas Adams, but only if he’d downed five pots of coffee and written all of the Hitchhikers’ books in one go while watching the Eurovision song contest.

Try: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

My review

70’s rock and over the top games of Dungeons And Dragons.

Try:  Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames

My review

Our robot overlords finding out their problems are just beginning after the last human dies.

Try: Sea of Rust, by C. Robert Cargill

My review

Stand up comedy and Agatha Christie.

Try: Ten Dead Comedians, by Fred Van Lente.

My review

Innovative far future science fiction with great ideas that holds up very well on a re-read.

Try: Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

My review

Feels there’s a reality that’s just outside our own.

Try: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

My review

Wishes there was something else like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.

Try: Cooking Dirty, by Jason Sheehan

My review

Relentless science fiction suspense novels that have to be read in one sitting.

Try: Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

My review

One shot authors who can create believable super heroes.

Try: Devil’s Cape, by Rob Rodgers

My review

The Twilight Zone.

Try: Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

My review

True crime with a dream team of cold case investigators.

Try: The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Casesby Michael Capuzzo

My review

Computers and 80’s nostalgia.

Try: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

My review

The best book Stephen King never wrote.

Try: American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett

My review

Wondering what happens after those child detectives and their dog grow up and have to face the one case they never really solved?

Try: Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero

My review

Living in a suspiciously cheap apartment building, where the superintendent is probably Stephen King.

Try: 14, by Peter Clines

My review

Haunted IKEAs.

Try: Horrorstor, by Grady Hendrix

My review

Action movies, modern technology and the ancient profession of vampire hunting.

Try: Vampire$, by John Steakley

My review

Short, funny stories around a protagonist who may be the greatest wizard of his generation, but just does not care.

Try: A City Dreaming, by Daniel Polansky

My review

So, what other books should be making the rounds this holiday season? Leave your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for my next column.

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