What books to buy for Christmas? We’ve asked our favourite booky people what they’ll be buying – and hoping to receive this festive season…
Harriet Young – These Novel Thoughts
This year, my attention has been drawn by the Macmillan Collector’s Library editions. The covers are stunning, and the choice of books is huge, so I’m hoping Santa might drop a couple of them in my stocking! I’ll be gifting some beautiful coffee table books – the Welcome to the Museum series is gorgeously illustrated and there are lots of different ones to cover all interests. They’re perfect for adults as well as children. I’ve also spotted The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus for my husband. He loves mathematics, statistics and game theory so I know he’ll find this funny! Follow Harriet @thesenovelthoughts.
Mrs Trefusis – The Books That Built Me
The book I’m giving everyone is As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Alex Preston and Neil Gower – so beautifully illustrated and elegantly written, it’s a thing of great joy that will give pleasure long after Christmas. Top of my Christmas list is a subscription to the London Library – it is the only properly quiet place in Mayfair and an oasis of high-brow calm. You can bump into Hilary Mantel or Tom Stoppard in the stacks, though, no talking, of course. And from the looks of things, the leather arm chairs in the reading room seem to be Literary London’s preferred place for a post prandial snooze. Follow Mrs Trefusis @mrstrefusis
Damian Barr – Damian Barr’s Literary Salon
I will be giving Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zore Neale Hurston which came out in 1937 but reads like it is fresh today – a young black woman’s voice as vital and bold and completely herself as she can be despite the challenges she faces in 1930s Florida. Seek it out! I’d like to receive everything written by Muriel Spark—it’s her 100th next year (or would have been). The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is a tiny gem fo a novel that keeps revealing new facets every time I read it. So, yes pls, more Muriel Spark. Follow Damian @Damian_Barr.
I’d like to receive Andy Weir’s Artemis – the main character is Saudi, as am I! The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill has been on my radar for a while, and Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of stories that sounds bold and apologetic – I think I’d love it!
I’ll be gifting Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Aisha Malik – it’s humorous, sentimental and an incredibly honest portrayal of modern Muslim women. I laughed so hard reading this, but also appreciated the enlightening work by the author. Aidan Donnelly Rowley’s The Ramblers was a lovely, cosy read that I think would be perfect for this time of the year; it has blossoming relationships, strong female friendship and it’s set in New York, a city that so many of us find a unique energy in. Follow Sumaiyya @sumaiyya.books.
Molly Flatt – Associate Editor, FutureBook
I love to force my reading tastes upon family and friends, and this year I’ve chosen a particularly eclectic quartet. Lucky Ghost by Matt Blakstad is a painfully-timely cyber-thriller about AR and media corruption, and a wonderful romp to boot. Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage – the next installment in his Dark Materials universe – says essential things about consciousness, religion and the importance of libraries, while sucking you into a ravishing plot.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho came out in 2015, but I’ve only just discovered it, thanks to my publisher handing me some freebies when I dropped off my own novel’s final proofs. Naomi Novak described it as “an enchanting cross between Georgette Heyer and Susanna Clarke”, and it’s exactly as good as that sounds. Finally, my non-fiction chaser will be Mary Beard’s Women and Power, because EVERYONE MUST. In terms of books I’d like to receive, I look forward to family and friends forcing their reading tastes on me. I’m all too aware of my own literary filter bubble, and I love to have it popped. More novels in translation, novels by BAME writers and biographies of inspiring humans I’ve never heard of, please. Follow Molly @mollyflatt.
On my Christmas list I have got a couple of the Penguin Clothbound classics, because what better time than Christmas to get special editions? I also hope to find The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking in my stocking and I will also be offering it to someone, possibly my secret Santa at work. It sounds like the kind of book everyone should read right now. My partner will probably get a science book because he’s a science nerd 🙂 I haven’t decided which one yet. Follow @TheReadersWardrobe.
Kara Rennie – Books Are My Bag
This year, I’ll be gifting some books that have brightened my commutes immensely during 2017 – starting off with Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt, which is excellent and I hope and expect, will be under the tree of many homes this Christmas. I’ll also be picking up copies of Jami Attenberg’s laugh-out-loud All Grown Up, which as soon as I finished, I wanted to re-read immediately.
Books I’d like to receive this year? I’ve had my eye on the beautiful illustrated editions of Harry Potter 1-3 for a while now, and I’d also love to read The Good People by Hannah Kent, after having loved her debut Burial Rites so much – plus, the foil-cover is so stunning. Sometimes, books that you have in mind for someone may not be the books you leave the shop with; the serendipity of browsing in a bookshop and hand-picked recommendations from booksellers can lead to the most unexpected purchases, and the most perfect gifts, for friends, family, and yourself. Follow @booksaremybag.
Rosie will be giving Gavin Pretor Pinney’s The Cloudspotter’s Guide and a membership to the Cloud Appreciation Society – it’s one of the most giftable books, exploring our curious relationship with clouds, the “patron goddesses of idle fellows”. Showing how this has been expressed over the centuries in literature, art and film, it is written accessibly enough that it can be lazily tucked into following a full turkey dinner and too many chocolates. Meanwhile Nuzha has had Her Body and Other Parties (Carmen Maria Machado’s short stories collection) on her wish list for a while – extracts of which she’s read and adored for their visceral power. She also hasn’t yet had the chance to read Alan Hollinghurst’s long-awaited The Sparsholt Affair, which she’s hoping will be as life-changing as The Line of Beauty.
Katy will be doling out the two books that have knocked her socks off this year: Juliet: A Life in Memories, the extraordinary true story of foreign correspondent Juliet Peck, told in the form of memories from friends and family 10 years after her death at the age of 45. Equally extraordinary is The Gastronomical Me, the autobiography of MFK Fisher (described as one of the best prose writers of the 20th century by W.H. Auden). Fisher’s sassy, sensual memoir – documenting a life dedicated to food and pleasure – is one of my favourite discoveries this year. Other titles they’re wishing for include Mihaela Noroc’s The Atlas of Beauty, Jen Campbell’s The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night and The Anna Karenina Fix by Viv Groskop. Follow The Bluestocking Club @TheBluestockingClub.
Choosing a few books is such a tricky thing indeed – and there are so many favourites this year. The books I would gift for Christmas are The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Russian woods, Slavic myths and beautiful prose) and Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me (lovely storytelling plus important themes about place of women).
Then there’s Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (quintessentially Indian; big themes in a short novella) and Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child (beautiful imagery and perfect of winter). Not forgettting The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry – which is a wonderful book to get lost in. I would love to receive After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry, Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno or The Book of Memory by Petinah Gappah for Christmas. Follow Resh @TheBookSatchel.
Alice-Azania Jarvis – Literary Salon Host at The Ned, ES Magazine’s Features Director
Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 is top of my wish list. I cannot wait to dive in on Boxing Day. It’s followed by Fall Out: A year of Political Mayhem by Tim Shipman – his last book, All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class, was unputdownable. I’d also be thrilled with Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling.
As for giving, I’ll be taking inspiration from some of the salons I’ve hosted at the Ned. My sister will be getting Otegha Uwagba’s Little Black Book: A Toolkit For Working Women, as well as Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World by Nell Stevens, a brilliantly funny memoir that feels very true to our generation. Mum’s getting Elizabeth Day’s The Party, a must for anyone who missed it this summer, while Francesca Hornak’s Seven Days of Us would put even the grouchiest relative in the festive mood and Clemency Burton-Hill’s Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Every Day is a joyous present for absolutely anyone. I also cannot recommend Tim Murphy’s Christodora highly enough. It was one of my favourite books of the year – I’ve already bought a copy for my Dad. Follow Alice-Azania Jarvia @aliceazania.
Animal Farm by George Orwell is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s short, it’s witty, and it’s so very relevant! One of my friends has wanted to read it for a while, so I’m giving her a copy of it in a nice edition. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also a favorite of mine. It’s such an important and eye-opening book that I wish everybody would read it! It’s also super short (and cheap) so it’s a great little extra-present, if you still have a bit of room left in your gift budget.
One of the books I’m wishing for is the new hardback edition of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I’ve read a few of her books in the past, and have loved them all, so when I saw this new edition I knew straight away that it was going on my wish list! Another wish this year is Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I love picking up non-fiction books, especially science-themed ones, and this one seems to be on everybody’s favorites list! Follow Silke @silkreads.
The books I am going to be asking for are The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas which is about a writer and I thought would be inspiring. And also the new illustrated edition of How to Stop Time which looks beautiful. I think I am going to be giving the new vintage edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale which is a lovely updated edition and a book I think everyone should read. Follow @TheRoamingReader.
Amy would really like to receive Difficult Women, a short story collection from Roxane Gay. She loved Bad Feminist and has been meaning to read more of her stuff. She’ll be giving Little Deaths by Emma Flint. It’s an insanely gripping crime novel, based on true events, but it’s also a revealing look at how women are demonised in the media. Emma is an incredible writer whose dedication to her craft is a real inspiration.
Rosy didn’t get round to reading Elizabeth Strout’s Anything is Possible, or The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy – either, and preferably both, would be a welcome addition to her stocking. She’s big book giver at Christmas – her dad will be getting The Fact of a Body, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s extraordinary memoir-cum-murder investigation, and for her mum, a copy of Fran Cooper’s These Dividing Walls will be perfect. Follow The Riff Raff @riffraff_ldn.