It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means — time to get some light novels for all your friends. But what books would they like best, you wonder? As luck would have it, I’ve put together this guide to give you some ideas of what to get. Some of these are titles I think could be of interest to readers, even if they are not already big fans of light novels, anime, manga, etc.
(Note that links to Amazon are affiliate links, so a small percentage of sales goes toward this site.)
For Fans of Swords and Sorcery
Do your friends like old-school fantasy anime, or tabletop RPG stories in general? This nice-looking hardcover novel for Record of Lodoss War might be just the pleasant surprise to get them. It will release on December 19th, and tells the story of how a swordsman, dwarf, elf, priest, sorcerer, and thief embark on a quest to save the land from a looming evil.
Meanwhile Overlord (currently with five volumes out) offers a unique spin on the fantasy setting. The protagonist has found himself trapped in the world of a defunct MMO game–and he is playing the role of the evil skeletal overlord! The hardcover books of this series feature unique illustrations reminiscent of classic fantasy novel artwork.
For Fans of Urban Fantasy
- Baccano! (hardcover, ebook)
- The Devil is a Part-Timer! (paperback, ebook)
- Magical Girl Raising Project (paperback, ebook)
Baccano! may be one of the most approachable series for newcomers to light novels. It is set in Prohibition-era New York, and features a large and memorable cast of characters who engage in a rollicking series of clashes between mobsters and immortals. So far there are five volumes out for this series, and they’re available in hardcover.
For one of the more lighthearted series available in English, I recommend The Devil is a Part-Timer!, which tells the story of a demon lord and his general who find themselves trapped in modern Tokyo. To get by, the devil must become a part-time worker at a fast food restaurant… Hijinks obviously ensue. The ninth volume of this series releases on December 19th.
I’ll give one more recommendation: Magical Girl Raising Project. This title has a more niche appeal, but if you think your friends would like a darker take on the magical girl subgenre with a Battle Royale-esque setup, this is an exciting read. The second volume just released this month.
For Fans of Sci-fi
If your friends enjoy space opera novels, they should definitely check out Legend of the Galactic Heroes. This is a series devoted to telling two sides of an interstellar conflict, and features a plot filled with clever military strategy and political scheming. There are five volumes out so far. Also worth noting, excellent audiobook readings are available for the first three volumes via Audible.
When he’s not working on Sword Art Online or Accel World, Reki Kawahara is writing The Isolator, a story about teens granted special abilities by strange aliens. The story of the first volume is unusually thoughtful, and features the viewpoints of both the protagonist and antagonist. This series is available in hardcover, and so far three volumes have been released. A great option for friends who would like a slightly different take on the superpowers formula.
For Fans of Mystery Thrillers
- The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria (paperback, ebook)
- Zaregoto: Decapitation – Kubikiri Cycle (paperback)
- Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (paperback)
The three suggestions I give here are all pretty different from one another, but I think they’d all work great as gifts for newcomers and veterans of light novels alike.
Volume 1 of Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria features characters caught in a murderous time loop, and details their struggle to find a way to escape the supernatural entrapment. The story is told in an engaging non-chronological manner that I felt was well thought-out.
Meanwhile Decapitation: Kubikiri Cycle offers a new take on the “murder mystery at an isolated island mansion” formula. The characters are unique, the dialogue is witty, and the highly-anticipated sequel novel Strangulation: Kubishime Romanticist will follow up in February.
Lastly, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers is a great option for friends who might be interested in a clever blend of fantasy adventure and mystery. The prophesied heroes must vanquish an evil deity, but with the added predicament of one of their own potentially being a traitor. The third volume of this series releases December 19th.
For Fans of Drama
Would your friends be interested in a book a little more down-to-earth? One option that could work well as a gift–especially for music-lovers–is Sound! Euphonium. The story follows a cast of charming characters, offering slice-of-life snapshots of life in a high school band.
For something I would recommend more for those who are already familiar with anime and manga (etc), My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected offers a pessimistic yet amusing take on how high school students relate to one another. There are three volumes out so far, and they’re all quite humorous.
Digital-Only Titles to Consider
If your friends have e-readers (e.g. Kindle, Nook), buying them an ebook can make for a nice gift. Especially if you find yourself shopping at the last minute! Just be sure to click on the “Give as a Gift” button so you can send the ebook to your friend.
The Faraway Paladin is a great option for fans of classic fantasy adventures. In this story, a boy is reborn in another world, where he is raised by a skeletal warrior, a mummified priestess, and a spectral sorcerer. The world-building is in-depth and there is a lot for the protagonist to gradually discover.
If your friends like Sword Art Online and other stories set in virtual reality, Paying to Win in a VRMMO can make for a particularly amusing diversion. The protagonist is rich enough to pay his way to the top, so he doesn’t have to bother with silly things like training and teamwork to defeat his foes.
Lastly, for your friends who enjoy shoujo manga and anime, Akaoni: Contract with a Vampire is a rather enjoyable supernatural romance. The characters are easy to like, and I felt the story offered some clever twists to the vampire conflict formula. The story follows the heroine’s viewpoint, but also tells some scenes from the hero’s.
Blu-ray/DVDs — Anime Based on Light Novels
I want to suggest a few anime that your light novel-reading friends might enjoy.
First is Gosick, a great mystery series set in 1920s Europe. Victorique is a genius loner, and Kazuya is a skittish outcast. They end up solving unusual mysteries together, but what stands out most in this series are the characters themselves. A very likeable duo. At the moment this series is available in two collections (the first half in Part One, and the second half in Part Two).
Next up is Humanity Has Declined. This is definitely one of the strangest anime I’ve ever seen, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The story follows a young woman who serves as a kind of ambassador to fairy creatures who now rule(?) the world. The stories are sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartwarming, and always bizarre.
Lastly I recommend Tokyo Ravens, a great series for those who like their anime more action-packed. The story features an interesting magic system based on traditional Japanese folklore and occultism. I really liked the cast of characters for this one, and thought the plot provided some clever twists along the way. The story also offers a nice blend of drama and comedy.
For Fans of Sword Art Online
There are tons of Sword Art Online goodies out there. Here are a couple things I came across while browsing Amazon.
First off, here’s a smug Kirito plush. How cute.
And speaking of cute, here’s a figure of Asuna wearing a yukata. Maybe ask your SAO-loving friends who they think is “best girl” first before making the purchase though. (It’s probably Asuna though, right?)
Finally, there’s an artbook that just barely released in English: the Sword Art Online abec Artworks book. This features 160 pages of illustrations by abec, who draws all the artwork in the light novels. A pretty nifty gift that should please any fan of the series!
For Fans of Re:Zero
Your friends can’t get enough of Re:Zero, but do any of them have a Re:Zero backpack? Perhaps this holiday season, they will get one.
Do your friends love Emilia? If yes, then they’ll love the Emilia Nendoroid figure, which comes with icicles, a hoodie, and a flying cat. If no, then maybe they’d prefer a Nendoroid of Rem, the round-headed maid.
So far there are five volumes out for the Re:Zero light novels. Maybe your friends have these already… but maybe they don’t have the Re:Zero Ex bonus volume? Maybe you can surprise them with this new book giving backstory for Crusch and Felix.
For Fans of Your Name
- Your Name Blu-ray/DVD
- Your Name Soundtrack CD
- Your Name: Another Side – Earthbound (hardcover, ebook)
Your Name is the latest film from Makoto Shinkai, and if you’d like you can pick up a hardcover of the novel-form of the story, written by Makoto Shinkai himself. It’s the same story, but with more words and fewer clouds.
You can get your friends the movie itself, and maybe the soundtrack CD would be a good idea too? Then they can listen to the Radwimps songs whenever they start to feel a little wistful.
There’s another book worth checking out — a collection of side stories called Your Name – Another Side: Earthbound. If your friends wanted to learn more about some of the various characters in the film, this could be just the thing they should have put on their wish list.
I hope this guide gave you an idea or two for what to get your friends! Be careful not to drop too hard when you shop.