This isn’t an “Anastasia’s top whatever of whatever” kind of list, it’s more like “which books Anastasia would totally buy for other people if she knew those people would actually read them and not just hide under their bed until they could get rid of them without Anastasia knowing” kind of list.
So: these books work for both kids and adults, and they’re completely wonderful. That sort of thing is actually a lot harder to accomplish than you might think, especially considering how many adults refuse to read YA books because they’re “too young” (read: it’s all dumb kid stuff). But these ones definitely work for both young and old, and they’re varied enough in genre that I think you could find something for at least one person you know! (And hopefully that one person will actually read the book you choose for them…)
I originally wrote this with Christmas/Hanukkah/other winter holidays in mind, but they could totally be given for any other holiday/birthday/etc as well.
1. Nation by Terry Pratchett.
[Nation is] a sensitive, wonderful story about death and growing up and religion and even colonialism, and it’s told in a way that makes it all bearable without turning it into a farce. (From my review.)
2. Sabriel by Garth Nix.
I really like the world in the Abhorsen series. It’s got quite a lot of interesting elements to it, like the use of bells as a magical weapon and the division between Chartered magic and Free magic. Plus I don’t think I’ve read a book before where a necromancer is both the protagonist and a white hat as well! I really like the characters, too, though I don’t think I’d be anybody’s friend– they’ve got good traits, especially Sabriel. She’s a really strong, courageous, determined young woman, and I admired throughout the book her even when she messed up or was scared. (From my review.)
3. The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland
The first book of a trilogy (with some more sequels), this would work for any kid or adult interested in the Arthurian legend. It’s beautifully written, and both magical and exciting enough to tempt all sorts of people (my review).
4. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
It was scary and sad and sometimes it poked me in the “ow, my heart” place, and I love everything about it (from my review).
Note: I would not recommend this for kids younger than maybe…14? And also not for the squeamish. It’s gory.
5. Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Even better than the art, though, is the writing! It’s extremely fun, and I love the references to other fairy tales and books. Like! Green Eggs and Ham, Puss in Boots…bearded ladies! Though that last one isn’t really a fairy tale. But it’s still awesome! I don’t ever remember reading a story featuring a bearded women before, and Castle Waiting features several of them. The other characters are just as fun, especially Jain, a former Lady-with-a-capital-L who runs away to the castle to escape her horrid husband. She’s sassy and determined and brave, as are all of the women in Castle Waiting, actually (from my review)
Some other great books that would work (with links to my reviews): Freedom & Necessity (for those who love historical fiction and thrillers), Going Solo (for those who like humor, travel narratives, and World War II stories), Leviathan (for those who like steampunk, those weird walker things in Star Wars, and World War I), The Naming (for those who like Tolkien), The Princetta (for those who like adventure stories, faerie tales, and stories that make them cry), Lord Darcy (for those who like historical fantasy, alternate universes, and really awesome writing).