The end of the year is near, and the season of book-giving is here! Jk, that’s every season. It was the end of the decade, but the start of an age, and all that Taylor Swift jazz. And honestly book nerds, what better way to celebrate the season than with some really gorgeous paperbacks that won’t break the budget?
These covers are so pretty we’ll take one copy for us, and one for a friend! (Or, let’s be honest, they might both be for us.)
Give the gift of important, entertaining, and fun books this month. Your friends will beam with pride, and you’ll be setting yourself up for good book karma in the new year, trust us.
12 Books Under $12
FOR BROKE BOOK NERDS WHO NEED TO BUY GIFTS
1. Pride by Ibi Zoboi
For the classic lit lover with a twist! We’re also obsessed with this new look.
Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.
In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.
2. This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender
For the film geek and hopeless romantic, give the gift of a diverse love story with a happy ending!
Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings. Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.
Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.
After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?
3. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
For the friend who loves romance and their #throwbacks with a side of tears.
It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.
4. The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
For the friend who wants to know what happens after you leave the magical world and come back to… our boring one.
Six years ago, sisters Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.
Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, and Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.
5. Villain by Michael Grant
For any sci-fi fan, ever.
It’s been four years since the events of GONE. The Perdido Beach dome is down, but the horrors within have spread. The alien virus-infested rock that created the FAYZ is creating monsters—monsters that walk the cities and countryside, terrorizing all.
There are tanks in the street and predator drones in the sky, doomed efforts to stop the disintegration of civilization. Into this chaos comes a villain with the power to control anyone with just the sound of his voice. Dillon Poe wanted to be a comedian once…but everyone made fun of him. Dillon the loser. Dillon the freak. Now he’s sending thousands to their death. Who’s laughing now?
The only people who can stop a superpowered villain are superpowered heroes. Dekka, Shade, Cruz, Malik, Armo, and a new mutant with unmatched powers, are all that stand in Dillon’s way. But when the lines begin to blur between hero and villain—some begin to wonder who’s really the monster.
6. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
For the quippy, sarcastic friend. And yes, if you don’t have one, you are that one, so maybe just get it for yourself. Bonus: this brand-new illustrated cover! We can’t stop staring—or (re)reading.
Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.
Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.
Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.
But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.
7. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
For the friend who loves myths, legends, and cultural lore.
A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.
Bestselling and award-winning authors explore the timeless themes of East and South Asian lore in sixteen original stories that will appeal to every reader. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. Edited by We Need Diverse Books co-founder Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, this anthology contains stories from sixteen Asian and South Asian authors.
8. When We Caught Fire by Anna Godberson
For the sweeping historical romance fan.
It’s 1871, and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson.
Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.
As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze.
9. The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli
Come to the series for the dragons, stay for the expanding mythology, killer stakes, and every kind of relationship to give you every type of emotion.
Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. Roa and Essie called it the hum. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.
Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered.
Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen. Only as queen could she save her people from Firgaard’s rule.
Then a chance arises to right every wrong—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa discovers she can reclaim her sister for good.
All she has to do is kill the king.
10. For A Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
For the high stakes adventure reader.
Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say.
In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden. Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills.
Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
11. The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
For the music lovers, of course!
We’ve lost everything… and found ourselves.
Loss pulled Autumn, Shay, and Logan apart. Will music bring them back together?
Autumn always knew exactly who she was: a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan has always turned to writing love songs when his real love life was a little less than perfect.
But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan is a guy who can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger who’s struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.
Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.
12. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
For anyone who wants a life-changing story.
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes.
Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
What’s your favorite book you’ve been gifted? Tell us in the comments!