As much as I love Christmas, I’m not so sure about the shopping part of it. My heart sinks when I look at the number of Christmas presents I need to buy over the next few weeks. I do enjoy buying books for people though, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as finding the perfect book for someone you love. We’ve been trawling the bookshops and the newspapers to find the most interesting or beautiful (or both) books out there, and hopefully help you find the perfect book for someone. Here’s what we found.
Michele, Meg, Jane and Julie
For your blood thirsty brother-in-law…His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. We absolutely loved this clever literary crime novel set in a Scottish crofting community in Victorian times. More psychological drama than thriller; more revenge tragedy than murder mystery, this will leave you guessing right to the horrifying end. Bookstoker’s Review.
For your romantic aunt… The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, The Blessing and Don’t Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford. A completely irresistible collection of Nancy Mitford’s classic books on love, war and English aristocracy, beautiful colourful covers. A treat for your bookshelf as well as your mind. Review The Telegraph.
For lovers of stinging satire…The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This year’s Man Booker Prize winner takes a long, hard and satirical look at race relations in the U.S. A black American named Me tries to reintroduce slavery and segregation as a way of saving his Los Angeles neighbourhood from gentrification only to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court where he has to defend is racist actions. Full of biting humour, swearing and frequent use of the n-word, The Sellout is a punchy read not for the faint hearted. Review The New York Times.
For your hipster brother (and his vegan wife)… All That Man Is by David Szalay. Szalay is one of our discoveries this year and his portrayals of modern life will appeal to both men and women. This book consists of nine intertwined stories of men on journeys. As the novel progresses, the main characters grow older as Szalay takes us through the different stages of a man’s life as the spring of youth turns into the chilly winter of old age. Bookstoker’s Review.
For anyone with a heart...Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter. A little gem of a book about how a young father and his two young sons deal with the loss of their wife and mother. Experimental in structure, this book won’t be to everyone’s taste but if you’re after something original and deeply moving, it’s perfect. Bookstoker’s Review.
For anyone interested in slavery and American history...The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This book is one of the better books I’ve read this year. Its portrayal of American slavery and post-slavery society is as shocking as it is convincing, yet it has a truly original angle on this well-trodden literary territory. Combined with a roster of truly memorable characters, it makes for a terrific read. Bookstoker’s Review.
For lovers of great sensual classics…The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa. A sensual, sensuous and sexy Italian classic written in the 1960s but set in the 1860s during the unification of Italy. The aristocratic Sicilian Salina family are threatened on all fronts as Italian society goes through sweeping changes. I’m reading this now and I’m completely engrossed. Review by The New York Times.
For your arty sister-in-law...A Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramovic. The Serbian performance artist famed for her extreme live art works featuring pythons, inhuman endurance tests and face to face confrontations with onlookers opens up about her tough childhood, her colourful love life and, most importantly, her art. Fascinating stuff. Review The Guardian.
For your fashionable niece…Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year by Alexandra Shulman. A well reviewed memoir by possibly one of the scariest people in Britain, Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue. In this diary, we follow her through the year of Vogue’s centenary and, according to the reviews, she can be both funny and charming. Review The Guardian.
For your open-minded husband/brother/son/father …The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry. Baby-doll clad British transvestite artist Grayson Perry might not be the obvious person to go to for advice on masculinity, but in his book The Descent of Man he gives you just that, and with wisdom, grace and humour. Perry argues for a less aggressive, more caring masculine ideal in the style of Obama and David Beckham. Illuminating reading. Review The Guardian.
For fans of The Boss…Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Very well reviewed rock-star autobiography. A must have for any self respecting Springsteen fan. Review Los Angeles Times.
For anyone interested exile and loss…The Return – Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar. This is the true story of Matar’s return to his homeland Libya in 2012, just after Gaddafi’s fall, and 22 years after his father disappeared. Reviews are glowing and this is on top of my list of Christmas reading. Review The Guardian.
For anyone in search of cosiness ….The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Living Well by Meik Wiking. This year’s must have Christmas book. Wiking defines this wonderful concept which encompasses cosiness, creating intimacy, drinking coca in front of the fireplace, lighting lots of candles on a dark autumn evening and much more. Especially useful over the holiday’s as you have time to practise all the tips on creating ‘hygge’ – the Danish way. Bookstoker’s Review.
For the Italophile…Venice, An Interior by Javier Marías. A heavenly combination of one of my favourite authors writing about one of my favourite cities. Marías spent a great deal of time in Venice in the 1980s and knows the city well. His reflections on how history and geography have shaped Venice and Venetians are captivating as is his ability to evoke the atmosphere of the city. Next best thing to going there. Bookstoker’s Review.
For your art loving Italophile…Florence: The Paintings and Frescoes 1250-1743 by Ross King and Anja Grebe. A stunning book and the most comprehensive of it’s kind. It includes all the paintings on display in the Uffizi Gallery, The Pitti Palace, the Accademia, and the Duomo plus many others – in total over 2000. A feast for the eyes.
For the cooks in your family…Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver. Classic Christmas recipes (roast goose, turkey), vegan recipes, delicious variations on vegetables and what to do with left-overs. I know I’ll be using this over Christmas. Yum! Review The Independent.
For the arty cooks in your family….Les Diners de Gala by Salvador and Gala Dali. The Spanish surrealist artist and his wife’s collection of recipes seasoned with Dali’s wacky illustrations and photos was republished by Taschen this year and promptly sold out. Hopefully in stock again before Christmas, this is a guaranteed success. Review The Guardian.
For the hard core, intellectual history fan….Meeting with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel. A tome of a book with photos of and the stories behind rare manuscripts which cover almost a thousand years of medieval history. De Hamel has been granted access to places and manuscripts where none of us mortals would be allowed, the result is impressive. Review by the FT.
To finish off, now that you’ve got the book, how about a matching handbag? Moscow based Krukrustudio can help. Choose from a wide range of literary bags themed on To Kill a Mocking Bird or The Great Gatsby or custom order your own.
Here’s what some of the newspapers are recommending.
And here’s where to buy them…