The run-up to Christmas is my all-time favourite time of year to buy books. They are an essential part of my “survive the winter” toolkit, along with vitamin D tablets and an unhealthy addiction to browsing holidays in the sun that I can’t afford. In the spirit of the festive season I extend my love of book browsing to buying books for people that I love. No Christmas Day is complete without a juicy stack of books on the bedside table to get stuck into when you get into bed.
I’m sharing this year’s Christmas haul of books in the hope that it gives you some inspiration for your own bedside table or for the book-lovers in your life. Happy reading!
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
A small book that packs a big punch, Small Things Like These tells the story of Bill Furlong, a kind-hearted coal merchant living in Ireland in 1985, during his busy Christmas period. He discovers darkness and devastation at the convent at the edge of town, the latter silently complicit in the goings-on within its walls. A powerful commentary on the now infamous Magdalene laundries and exquisitely written.
Lucy By The Sea, by Elizabeth Strout
If you enjoyed Oh William! and My Name Is Lucy Barton, you will love this. Lucy reluctantly leaves New York City and goes into lockdown in a house on the coast of Maine with her ex-husband William. The novel is a magnifying glass on the minutiae of life and relationships that we all endured and experienced in different ways during the pandemic and in lockdowns the world over.
What Writers Read, edited by Pandora Sykes
Beautifully bound and endlessly inspiring, What Writers Read is a collection of 35 writers on the books that most affected them. From Nick Horby recounting his love of Emil and the Detectives to William Boyd on Catch-22, each commentary will leave you with a reading list as long as your arm and a re-kindled appreciation for the books that shaped your own life.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
From the author of Little Fires Everywhere, Our Missing Hearts is a dystopian novel set in present day United States where, following years of economic and social devastation, an authoritarian government imposes draconian measures that include removing the children of dissidents (particularly of Asian origin), burning unpatriotic books and monitoring all “unpatriotic” people. Much of these “dystopian” elements will feel chillingly familiar as will the steps that lead the country to that place. A book of hope and how art can change the world, seen through the eyes of twelve year old Bird Gardner.
Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Three friends set up a gaming company in the late 90s which puts them on a path of huge success and tells of the challenges that go with it. A fascinating insight into the complex and creative world of game coders and the relationship of three friends and co-founders. Highly original, entering and wholly absorbing.
The Romantic by William Boyd
If Any Human Heart has forever been on your list of favourite books of all time (as it has mine), then it might about to be bumped off the list in favour of The Romantic. Another “whole life” tale, this time from the perspective of Cashel Greville Ross, born in 1799. We embark on his lifetime travels from his birthplace in Country Cork, Ireland and onto Oxford, Zanzibar and Sri Lanka. Boyd’s turn of phrase is as captivating as ever so prepare for a headfirst plunge into another world.
Murder In the Falling Snow
This is an anthology for those who love nothing more than a Christmassy whodunnit. Ten classic crime stories from authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L Sayers and Gladys Mitchell. Hunker down under the fairy lights to read this book and whatever you do, don’t answer the door.
Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
A wildly popular novel and for good reason. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in 1960s America where she is treated with undermined, overlooked and patronised on a daily basis by her male colleagues. Her determined spirit, her passion for science and her unwillingness to tone down her intellect for the sake of her colleague’s egos, leads her down an unusual path to family, love and ultimately, success. Uplifting, at times devastating and highly inspiring, read it before they make a limited TV series of it.
How To Apologise For Killing A Cat by Guy Doza
A charming and helpful guide on the power of rhetoric and how it can be harnessed as a tool in the act of persuasion. A useful book for anyone applying for jobs, trying to get a date or fascinated by the world of language and the power it yields.