Christmas Gift Guide: Books

To my mind, no Christmas is complete without a new book under the tree. My children have at least one in their stocking and I cross my fingers that one has made its way into my present pile. 

It’s not ‘just’ a book, you see. It’s a whole new world. An escape from reality (relatives, over-sugared children, excess etc). A gift of time. Truly, a beautiful thing. I’ve sifted through the bookshelves and picked my favourites for this Christmas. My family would do well to look away now…

1. Mad About the House – Kate Watson-Smyth

The award-winning interiors blogger takes to ye olde written page and shares her decorating and decor tips. Perfectly on point. 

2. Iris Apfel Accidental Icon – Iris Apfel

The ebullient, charming, not remotely “fuddy duddy” nonagenarian strikes a pose (or several) interspersed with maxims for life.

3. How to Eat a Peach – Diana Henry

One of the most beautiful cookbooks from one of my favourite cooks.

4. The New York Times: 36 Hours – Europe

One of the slickest travel guides around.

5. The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories – Edited by Martin Edwardes

I adore a murder mystery, particularly one set in a country house over Christmas. This book begs for a roaring fire, warm drink and possibly a box of chocolates to hand…

6. Factfulness – Hans Rosling

One of the most important books Bill Gates has ever read. The kind of book that changes the way you think (and makes you realise that things aren’t as bad as we think they are). Now that’s what I call a Christmas present.

7. Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert

Or indeed, whichever of the Penguin Classics happens to be the recipient’s favourite. I’ve been given two Austens by friends who know me very well indeed.

8. Peonies: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden by Jane Eastoe

A beautiful book about one of the most beautiful flowers. Perfect for gardeners, would-be florists, and people who like their coffee tables to look gorgeous.

9. Love is Blind – William Boyd

Alex and I are both huge Boyd fans. I’d read his shopping list if I got my hands on it. So Boyd’s new masterwork (following the fortunes of musician Brodie Moncur) would be a very welcome addition to my present pile (if anyone’s asking).

10. Shelfie: Clutter-Clearing Ideas for Stylish Shelf Art – Martha Roberts

How to do a great #shelfie meets tidying? Surely some kind of dream for many people?

11. Jeeves and the King of Clubs – Ben Schott

Hi ho Jeeves. That topping Ben Schott chap has taken on the old paterfamilias Wodehouse and makes a jolly good fist of it, what?

12. Cassandra Drake – Posy Simmonds

Simmonds is a genius. End of. She draws characters so real they breathe from the page (as does London, which is beautifully evoked). A delicious, stocking-filling must.

13. Transcription – Kate Atkinson

Spies, secrets and lies. Like everything Atkinson writes, this is compulsively readable.

14. Pretty City London: Discovering London’s Beautiful Places – Siobhan Ferguson

From the founder of the epic Instagram account @prettycitylondon, this book gathers together the best of London’s pretty hidden (and not-so-hidden) corners.

15. The Spy and the Traitor – Ben MacIntyre

If you read the extracts in The Times, you’ll know how gripping this story of espionage and the daring brilliance of Oleg Gordievsky – KGB officer turned British spy. Unputdownable.

16. The Way Past Winter – Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Sisters Mila and Pipa set out to look for their brother, Oskar, who has mysteriously vanished after strangers arrive at their house. A beautiful book with a beautiful, Norse-tinged story.

17. Claris – The Chicest Mouse in Paris – Megan Hess

Megan Hess is a fashion illustrator who has worked for some of the biggest brands around (Dior, Chanel, Tiffany, Cartier) and her first book for children is a little girl’s delight.

18. You are Awesome – Matthew Syed

Perfect for children who need a confidence or resilience boost. Comes recommended by the harshest critics: children themselves.

19. The Restless Girls – Jessie Burton

Jessie The Miniaturist Burton’s feminist retelling of the legend of the twelve dancing princesses is a visual delight (and sends all the right messages: be passionate, value who you are (clue: it has nothing to do with how you look), and you definitely don’t need a prince to save you.

20. Animalphabet – Julia Donaldson 

A gorgeous, lift-the-flap manual of alphabet and animals. Ideal for the littlest people who will love this and playing in all the wrapping paper.

21. Mary Poppins- PL Travers with illustrations by Lauren Child

Lauren Child (she of Charlie and Lola fame – the only books my son will have read to him right now) illustrates this gift edition of the famous tale. (Note to the pernickety (I include myself in this): it’s abridged, but so lovely you can forgive that.)

22. The Penguin Classics Book

A good gift for the ‘what on earth do I buy for them’ person in your life: a companion book to the Penguin library of classic literature.

23. Simple – Yotam Ottolenghi

Although I am unconvinced that Ottolenghi’s definition of ‘simple’ entirely tallies with my own (beans on toast, anyone?), this is definitely the closest most of us will get to cooking his (amazing) food.

24. Dear Mr Murray: Letters to a Gentleman Publisher – David McClay

Letters written to the publisher and publishing house (family-owned for seven generations) from its authors (the likes of one Charles Darwin, Thackeray, Conan Doyle). An ideal gift for book lovers.

25. Educated – Tara Westover

Michelle Obama calls this memoir “phenomenal” – and it is. It’s about a little girl called Tara, brought up in strict Mormon community, forbidden access to medicine or education (her birth went unregistered, she never set foot in a school). At 16 she escaped her increasingly-troubled family home – and discovered the transformative power of education. Staggering.

26. Everything I Know About Love – Dolly Alderton

The Sunday Times columnist’s memoir of love and friendship is required reading for millennials – or anyone who has ever been young and hopeful and looking for love,

27. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life – William Finnegan

I’m stealing this from my husband’s Christmas list. Liberally garlanded with laurels, it’s a sensation. (And you don’t have to know anything about surfing to enjoy it.)

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  • Reply
    Helen McMillan
    December 5, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    So many great reads here – I loved Educated, and my kids are loving You are Awesome – and so many to add to the Xmas list. Good books make winter so much better.

    • Reply
      December 6, 2018 at 10:52 am

      This is so very true. I have ordered You are Awesome for my daughter who is having a real confidence wobble, so good to hear your children are loving it. N x

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