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The Ten Best Colorado Books From 2022 for Gift-Giving

Ten local literary lovely ideas for giving this holiday season.
Ten local literary lovely ideas for giving this holiday season. Teague Bohlen
What makes the best stocking stuffers, outside of Slinkies and toe oranges? Books, of course. You may need a wide-mouth stocking, but there’s nothing better than a book. It’s not just the gift of the physical object; it’s the gift of the worlds waiting within the text to reveal themselves. It’s the invitation to devote a handful of precious hours to the spiritually satisfying act of reading. And bonus: It makes you, the gift-giver, look like something of an intellectual. It’s a winter win-win.

But what to choose? Here are ten suggestions from us to you, covering several different types of books, from young adult to comics to nonfiction to short story collections to novels — all of them published by Coloradans in 2022.

And remember this when you’re thinking about how to procure these bright and shiny gifts: While you’re inviting someone in your life to read local, make sure you’re buying locally, too.
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Flatiron Books
White Horse, Erika Wurth
Much has already been written about Colorado’s 2022 nominee for most notable novelist, Erika Wurth, but as she explained so succinctly in our interview with her earlier this year, her rise to literary stardom has not been won overnight. She’s a working writer who's still exploring her deep roots in Colorado and Denver, capturing stories through an Indigenous lens that was around for “old Denver.” Wurth’s novel White Horse is horror and trauma and the supernatural — but it’s all that taking place on streets you’ve walked, in settings you’ll recognize, and with names you’ve said and will say again. Call it unsettling bliss, Colorado style.
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Santa Fe Writers Project
Kids in America, Liz Prato
Prato no longer lives in Colorado, but she grew up here, attending school at Kent Denver and working various Gen X jobs around Denver back in the day. Kids in America: A Gen X Reckoning is a paean to that time while also musing on the generation's ambivalence toward the world, which was largely in transition, but with boomer expectations. It was a world where sexual assault was normalized; where mental illnesses went undiagnosed; where nuclear holocaust was fodder for TV Movies of the Week; where “any mistake could lead to total annihilation.” Ever wonder why your Gen X relatives are pretty cynical? Here are some of the reasons, told with wisdom and a touch of Beverly Hills 90210.
Beneath Cruel Waters, Jon Bassoff
Jon Bassoff is a Longmont writer mostly known for his horror stories; Beneath Cruel Waters is a triumphant experiment on his part, eschewing some of the more bizarre and supernatural narrative details in favor of those more earthbound. But this coming-home-again novel is no less horrifying for it — it’s just that the monsters are believably and tragically human. (For his reasons in trying something new, check out our talk with Bassoff back in June.) There might not really be a Thompsonville in Colorado, but by the time you finish this book, you’ll swear you’ve been there.
Sequential House
Soon-to-be Dead Boys, Kylee Aweich
Young adult books are just as popular as they ever were, and local librarian and author Kylee Aweich jumps into the YA pool with Soon-to-be Dead Boys, focusing on seventeen-year-old Ellie Garcia and her high school. When a list starts circulating containing the names of boys in school that have assaulted fellow classmates, it’s a cause for concern. That worry only rises as the boys on the list start turning up dead. It’s a mystery and thriller that will pique the interest of adults as well as their page-turning teens.
Why We Did It: A Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell, Tim Miller
We interviewed hometown boy Tim Miller upon the release of this memoir about his days as a strategist in the 2012 RNC “autopsy,” and how the Grand Old Party somehow slid downhill so quickly and so completely into the swampy mud of Trumpism. The book goes into great detail about the Olympic-level mental gymnastics that went into Miller, a gay man, becoming a political kneecapper for homophobes, and how his own personal experiences — as well as deeply recounted conversations with colleagues who are still in the squinty orange thrall of America’s worst president — reflect just how the GOP got to be the “pungent carcass” of the party he once served.
Woman of Light, Kali Fajardo-Anstine
When the literary figure Roxanne Gay praises your book with words such as “dazzling, cinematic, intimate, loyal,” then you know you’re doing something right. Local lit phenom Kali Fajardo-Anstine follows up her American Book Award winner/National Book Award finalist Sabrina & Corina with Woman of Light. The novel follows Luz “Little Light” Lopez, a reader of tea leaves and a laundress in 1930s Denver, who finds herself both suddenly alone in the city and also seeing visions of her family’s past — and their Indigenous stories that risk being lost forever.
Daisy Dog Press
Sister Liberty, Gregory Hill
Greg Hill’s 2012 award-winning novel East of Denver was something of a revelation — a raucous and relatable world that’s both utterly recognizable and at the same time charmingly skewed. And entertaining as hell. His new novel, Sister Liberty, debuts on Saturday, December 10 (with a launch event at the soon-to-be-missed BookBar), and promises to harbor that same frenetic energy in the purposefully non-sexy story of nineteenth-century French lesbians trying to survive in a southern Indiana religious cult. Color us intrigued.
IDW

Earthdivers
, Stephen Graham Jones

Yes, Stephen Graham Jones is an uncommonly prolific novelist, and Earthdivers is his fifth comic book, still in the process of being released (and with several super-cool variant-cover art editions, too). The powerful storyline of Earthdivers takes place in 2112, when the end of the world has finally come. Humanity’s only hope: to go back in time to put right what once went wrong — namely, the birth of America as a nation. A crew is sent on a one-way trip back to 1492 to kill those who were there at its very start, including none other than Christopher Columbus. Jones’s script combines with the art of Davide Gianfelice to bring this fascinating concept to the comic book page.
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Akashic Books
Denver Noir, Akashic Books
Can’t decide on a local author, but still want to get something based here in the Mile High City? Can’t go wrong with a single title like Denver Noir, which includes local authors aplenty. Those local scribes include Peter Heller, Barbara Nickless, Mario Acevedo, Francelia Belton, R. Alan Brooks, D.L. Cordero, Amy Drayer, Twanna LaTrice Hill, Manuel Ramos, Mark Stevens, Mathangi Subramanian, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Erika T. Wurth (again!) and Cynthia Swanson, the last of whom also edited this volume of gritty stories of the Colorado capital city’s underbelly. The anthology contains fourteen stories, each one devoted to a different part of Denver: Five Points, Baker, Cap Hill, Cheesman Park, Sloan’s Lake, Auraria, Globeville and the Northside, to name just a few. Can you get any more Denver than that? Didn’t think so.
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St. Martin's Press
Little Souls, Sandra Dallas
Sandra Dallas is old-school Colorado — she’s been on these types of lists for years now, and fans clamor for many years more. This 2022 entry in Dallas’s long list of publications, Little Souls, is more contemporary than was initially intended. Set in 1918 Denver, the book tells the story of two sisters and their work to survive during the era of the Spanish Flu — especially when it turns out that the flu isn’t the only thing killing people. Dallas says that this latest novel was started before COVID became an issue, which makes the timing all the more remarkable. Some might think it’s too soon for such narratives — but the idea that life goes on after a pandemic might just be the message we need today.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen

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