The biggest critique of Las Vegas is that it is a soulless city devoid of real culture. Next year marks my 20th year in Vegas and I’d argue that it is a surprisingly generous community with a unique culture. Hell, five of the 10 editorial staffers I worked with at CityLife are authors. So, if you’re looking for the perfect gift that supports a local while also slyly subtweeting your stuffy so-and-so’s obnoxious Vegas jokes, these books are for you (and them)!
For the noir thriller obsessed: The House Always Wins by Brian Rouff
The Dice Angel author has made a career of writing thrilling novels set in Las Vegas. In his hands, Vegas is a character! His latest, published by local Huntington Press, is the story of Anna Christiansen, a young reporter who moves to Las Vegas and winds up living in a fixer-upper haunted by the ghost of a Sin City racketeer.
For the feminists: Vibrator Nation by Lynn Comella
A UNLV gender studies professor, Comella offers a thoroughly researched history of the first sex shops created by and for women — from Eve’s Garden to Babeland. These stores were more than just sex toys, they were epicenters of sex-positive, women-centric consciousness-raising and a feminist response to human sexuality painted only with a male-gaze brush.
To go beyond The Strip: Beneath the Neon: Life and death in the tunnels of Las Vegas by Matthew O’Brien
Full-disclosure: I sat next to Matt for years at CityLife, the first two of which were when he was writing and editing this book. It’s probably the oldest book on this list, but it remains rebukingly relevant year after year. Neon follows Matt as he walks miles of tunnels and storm drains under Las Vegas and you meet several of the dozens and dozens of people who live under the city. It is both literally and figuratively the underside of this city and the stories will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
For the kids: Christmaspus the Christmas Octopus by Paul Mattingly and F. Andrew Taylor
Christmaspus is the charming story of an octopus who learns about Christmas after Santa loses his hat in the ocean. It’s thoroughly delightful and published by Pop Goes the Icon, a local comic book company.
Shameless family plug: Beach Blanket Bistro by Shannon Stiles
I know, this book is not by a Vegas author. It’s a cookbook — the first in a series — by my cousin’s husband, Shannon Stiles. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my family member. Still, cookbooks make great gifts! (You know I’m right.)