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Gift Guide: Fiction and Crime of 2020

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that 2020 has been tough on everyone. And with the holidays just around the corner, we’re hoping to make the added stress of choosing that perfect gift for a special someone a little bit easier with a series of gift guides.

First up, we’ve curated a selection of the best and our favourite fiction and crime of 2020, ranging from Booker prize winners to unique stories that may have flown under your radar until now.

In terms of claustrophobic small-town thrillers, you can’t go wrong with McIlvanney Prize-winning Pine by Francine Toon, set in the Highlands, or The Searcher by Tana French, set in rural Ireland. For a cosier read, try The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, following four friends solving crimes from their retirement village. 

Are you a story keeper, teller, or archivist? Erin Morgenstern invites you to lose yourself in the winding corridors of the Harbour on The Starless Sea, where stories come to life and must be seen through to their (happy?) ending, in this truly enchanting tale by the author of The Night Circus. For more magical realism, Tales from the Cafe: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is a truly special follow up to the first collection of time-travelling tales from the Cafe Funiculi Funicula. And Earthlings by Sayaka Murata is ideal for the reader in your life who likes something a bit… weird.

Scroll down for more in-depth recommendations below:

Shuggie Bain: Winner of the Booker Prize 2020 by Douglas Stuart

Published: 15th Apr '21
Paperback / softback
£8.99

This year’s Booker Prize winner is Scotland’s second in fifty years of the award, and well deserved. Shuggie Bain is based on the author’s own experience, following a boy growing up in poverty in 1980s Glasgow with a mother who is battling addiction. At a time when inequalities in society have been brought into sharp relief, this beautiful novel is a must-read.

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Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes

Published: 23rd Jul '20
Hardback
£12.99

A Scottish classic in the making, Scabby Queen follows the friends and family of superstar Clio Campbell in the aftermath of the iconic pop singer and activist’s death. Perfect for fans of Janice Galloway, and Bernardine Evaristo.

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Piranesi: SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE 2021 by Susanna Clarke

Published: 15th Sep '20
Hardback
£14.99

Piranesi lives in a House that is the entire world. In fact he can’t remember anything before or outside of it and if he did, he would already have it catalogued in his journals. So when messages begin to appear in chalk, he begins to question everything he has taken for truth. Set in a dreamlike alternate reality, this gothic novel is a short but compelling vision of power, knowledge, and solitude.

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Love in Colour: 'So rarely is love expressed this richly, this vividly, or this artfully.' Candice Carty-Williams by Bolu Babalola

Published: 20th Aug '20
Hardback
£16.99

Perfect for the romantic in your life, Babalola’s short stories reimagine well-known myths and folklore from across the globe into contemporary tales of romance. From Nefertiti to Scheherazade, this anthology is rich, complex and, above all, alive with its love of love.

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Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Published: 30th Jul '20
Paperback / softback
£9.99

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year, Real Life is the story of Wallace, a Black, gay biochemistry student from a small town studying at a prestigious university. The book is fraught, most of the tension stemming from Wallace’s experiences of prejudice and microaggressions from his white counterparts. This is a campus novel that is absorbingly written and highly satirical, well deserving of its place on the shortlist.

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Rainbow Milk: an Observer 2020 Top 10 Debut by Paul Mendez

Published: 23rd Apr '20
Hardback, Paperback / softback
£14.99

A groundbreaking debut novel following the journey of a young, gay, Black man, making a new life for himself in London and processing his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. Mendez has a truly fresh voice, and explores race, religion and sexuality in new and previously-ignored ways.

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Exit Management by Naomi Booth

Published: 10th Sep '20
Paperback / softback
£9.99

Chilling, dark, and not afraid to tackle difficult topics, Booth’s London novel features complex characters in an intense entanglement and covers themes like xenophobia, classism, and trauma deftly.

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Summer by Ali Smith

Published: 6th Aug '20
Hardback
£16.99

The last of the seminal Seasonal Quartet, pushed back for publication because Smith was rewriting chapters during the pandemic, Summer is both the conclusion to a series and perfectly capable of standing on its own, putting this time into words as no other author can.

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Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Published: 20th Aug '20
Hardback
£14.99

Moss’s evocative yet sparse writing is perfect for any time of year, and so despite this book’s setting at a holiday resort in the middle of a Scottish loch, the dreich setting, complex character portraits and stunning ending make it an ideal gift for a literary fan.

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Christmas is Murder: A chilling short story collection by Val McDermid

Published: 5th Nov '20
Hardback
£10.00

Of course, for peak festive crime, who else would we turn to but Val McDermid and her new short story collection filled with dark stories that are perfect for frosty winter evenings. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan return to track a deadly killer threatening to strike on Christmas Day, amongst other dark and sinister tales.

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Staff Recommendations

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