Uncle Johnny’s Holiday Gift Guide


It’s that time of the year again. That time when you’re standing around in a lot of stores thinking “what the heck am I getting (insert difficult to buy for person in your life here) this year?” The Big-Mouth Billy Bass idea didn’t go over so well, and they’ve never quite forgiven you for the t-shirt with Kirk, Picard, Janeway and Sisko in a Mt. Rushmore arrangement. So this year it’s time to get them something they’ll actually like. And of course, here on Magical Words, we’re pretty much always going to recommend books. Because no matter what that episode of Hoarders said about me, you really can never have too many books. 

I used a couple of specific criteria in selecting books for this list. First, none of the books on this list will financially benefit any of the contributors to this site. That way I can appear to be unbiased. So, even though Kicking It just dropped this week with some stories from amazing writers, you won’t find it on the official list. But I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings to receive it as a gift. And even though How to Write Magical Words is a project near and dear to all of our hearts, and an excellent gift for writers at all stages of their careers, it also won’t be on the list. 

See what I did there? Ok, good, you’re still with me. 

1) The first project I’m going to recommend is an anthology that does feature a story of mine, but it’s a charity anthology, so I’m not breaking my own rules. Writers for Relief Vol. 3 is a project by Davey Beauchamp and Stuart Jaffe to raise funds for the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes last year and Typhoon Haiyan earlier this year. The antho features stories from Kevin J. Anderson, Eugie Foster, Ben Bova, Todd McAffrey, Janine Spendlove, and me! I’m thrilled to be part of something so awesome, and it was a huge boost to my not-inconsiderable ego to be listed on the cover among such giants in the field. Especially Ben Bova, who was one of the first science fiction authors I ever read when I was a kid. 

2) If you have young people in your house, they should read, too. And A.J. Hartley’s Darwen Arkwright series of fantasy novels for middle grade readers is some truly awesome stuff for the kids who are all done with Harry Potter and are looking for the next thing to read. Or if they’ve seen all the movies and want to read something similar, I highly recommend the Darwen books for the young fantasy lovers in your life. 

3) I picked up Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver at JordanCon last year in a book swap after we did a signing together, mostly because the cover looked cool and the premise of bleding fantasy with Appalachian mountain life and bluegrass music sounded like something right up my alley. I thought I’d find a light read, kinda like most of the stuff I read, you know, popcorn novels. Boy, was I in for a surprise. In my favorite book of 2013, Alex created a world as rich in character as any lit fic novel could ever hope to be, with just enough magic to keep him firmly planted in with the rest of us genre hacks. He reminds me of some of my favorite Southern authors like John Hart, Pat Conroy and Ron Rash. I can’t recommend the novels of the Tufa highly enough. 

4) After Misty Massey became something like the seventh person to recommend Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora to me, I finally bought it. And of course I love it. I’m halfway through the book right now, and it’s my “couple of chapters before bed” book every night right now. The characters are charming, witty and incorrigible, just like I like them. The title character owes a bit to Raymond Feist’s Jimmy the Hand, which in turn owes more than a little to The Artful Dodger, and both are old favorites of mine. So I can’t wait to grab the rest of the Gentleman Bastards series, and I’ll probably do so in short order, since they’re all on sale for kindle right now. 

5) I hate Brandon Sanderson. Let me be perfectly clear in this. I hate the fact that he’s so immensely talented, and such a nice human being, and so prolific. In short, he’s better than me on every level, and my acquaintance with him got me back into playing Magic:the Gathering, which has cost me thousands of dollars and brought me countless hours of joy over the past couple of years. So of course when he broke down and wrote a superhero novel, it was excellent. Steelheart is his foray into this genre, and he handles this with the same level of talent and skill (and if you’re on this site, you know they’re not the same thing!) that he brings to everything. But the bonus for me was Legion – with maybe the most inventive new protagonist in years. I’m not going to give any spoilers, just buy the book. It’s friggin’ amazing. 

6) Speaking of friggin’ amazing, I can’t really do that without talking about Seanan McGuire and Mira Grant. The woman just has too much talent to be contained in one name, and everything she’s put out is gold. Add to that the fact that she’s hell on wheels at karaoke, and you’ve got talent to be reckoned with! I fell in love with her writing in the Newsflesh series, which started with Feed. I was a blogger long before I wrote fiction, so the book really hit home with me. I love everything about the series – the intrigue, the characters, the plot, the world-building, everything. 

I’m going to stop there and tell you that you should also check out all the stuff that I and the rest of the MW crew have out, and if you’re anywhere near Rock Hill, SC next Saturday morning, come out to the BooKnack at 11AM and pick up some signed stuff. 


7 comments to Uncle Johnny’s Holiday Gift Guide

  • Yay!! I’ve brought another unsuspecting soul into the clutches of Locke Lamora!

  • Love this list!
    For the young men (and women) on your Christmas list, remember Rob Thurman. The Cal and Niko Leandros series are stellar.

  • Excellent list. I would add anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, THE WINDUP GIRL by the ridiculously talented Paolo Bacigalupi, the Cold Magic books by Kate Elliott, and NAME OF THE WIND by Pat Rothfuss.

  • All I want for Christmas is my laptop back
    My laptop back
    Yes, my laptop back.
    Gee, if I could only have my laptop back
    Then I would have a merry Christmas!

    Seems so long since I could save
    A file without the fear it will be eaten.
    Gosh, oh gee, how happy I’d be
    If word count I’d be reapin’.

    All I want for Christmas is my laptop back
    My laptop back
    Yes, my laptop back.
    Gee, if I could only have my laptop back
    Then I would have a merry Christmas!

  • What do you mean by “next Saturday” – the 7th or the 14th?

  • Razziecat

    Oooh, yummy list! 😀 Another Lamora fan…just wait, it gets better. Especially the third book. 😉

    And if there’s anybody out there who hasn’t read anything by Emma Bull, I highly recommend War for the Oaks, Finder, and Bone Dance.

  • And lets not forget, for our //shudder// non-reader friends and family… audio books are a wonderful way to reel them in to the world of words!