Give Me a Book for Christmas 2016

Yes, it’s that time of year again, where I tell you what’s been sitting in my Amazon Shopping basket for months as I try to justify buying more books in the guise of offering recommendations for people who like what I like but actually offer last minute hints to my loved ones who read the blog and anyone else who wants to buy me something.  In writing this I went back over last year’s version of this post and was cheered over how many of my 2015 wishes I’ve got and have read – and there are a couple more on my Kindle too that I bought myself!

Non Fiction

The non fiction section of this list always seems to be bigger than the fiction one – I think because non-fiction books are often more expensive or come out in hardback first so I’m less likely to buy them myself and it takes longer for them to drop down in price secondhand.

A new addition to the list is Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Mock, Hate and Fear by Sady Doyle, which Sarah MacLean recommended in her Christmas mailing list.  It’s a look at troubled women in the public eye through history – from Mary Wollstonecraft through Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse – examining what makes a “trainwreck” and why we’re so fascinated by them.  I’ve had my eye on The End of the Perfect 10 by Dvora Meyers since the Olympics in the summer, but haven’t been able to justify shelling out for it when I have so much waiting on the to-read shelf.  And then there’s Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me which I’ve just heard so much about but haven’t got around to reading yet.

There’s a few memoirs that I’m interested on – I keep hearing good things about Tara Clancy’s The Clancy’s of Queens about her childhood growing up in different parts of New York.  Then there’s Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime about growing up in South Africa when his parents’ marriage (between a white Swiss man and a black Xhosa woman) was illegal.  Noah is almost exactly my age and it’s crazy to me that this was still happening in my lifetime, to my contemporaries.

In history terms, I’d like First Women by Kate Anderson Brower about modern First Ladies of the US,  I want to read Barbara Leaming’s Kick Kennedy because I already have Paula Byrne’s novel Kick waiting on the shelf and I wouldn’t mind Rosemary by Kate Larson (although I fear it may make me sad and angry) because most of my knowledge about the other Kennedys comes from Laurie Graham’s novel The Importance of Being Kennedy and Robert Dalek’s biography John F Kennedy: An Unfinished Life.

I’m not one for science books in the main – although I’d also like to read several of the Mary Roach books I recommended yesterday – but I’d really like Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are which is an exploration of female sexuality and sex, but I’m not sure there’s anyone I know well enough that I can ask them to buy it for me!  Perhaps I’ll treat myself to it in the New Year!

Fiction

The fiction section this year breaks down into authors I want to try or books I keep hearing about and series/authors I collect.  I’ll start with the former, because if you’ve been here a while the latter may seem a bit familiar to you…

Last year I was asking for the last of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation books – this year i’m asking for her first collaboration with Beatriz Williams (who I also really like) and Karen White, The Forgotten Room, which is a timeslip novel covering three generations of a family in New York.  And incidentally I still haven’t managed to read Willig’s other novel from last year That Summer, where a woman inherits a house and discovers a painting and a mystery.

I’m always wanting non-Christmassy books to read in January – particularly because that’s when my birthday is and I’m sick of tinsel and mistletoe by New Year’s Day – which conincidentally is when Sherlock is back on TV, so Brittany Holmes A Study in Charlotte (female Holmes descendant at a US boarding school) or Sherry Thomas’s A Study in Scarlet Women (historical romance with female Sherlock) which I’ve been coveting for ages might well suit my mood early in 2017.

On the collection front, Virago reissued three more Angela Thirkells recently that I have not yet read or added to my collection (I wasn’t allowed to buy myself when Foyles were doing 20% off online, apparently 1 book as a present and 1 book for me was not an acceptable purchase ratio…) Miss Bunting, The Headmistress and Marling Hall.  There’s also a few more of Virago’s Designer Hardbacks that I’d quite like to add to the shelf – notably the two Daphne Du Maurier short story collections – Don’t Look Now and Other Stories and The Birds and Other Stories and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on the Train.

And in more boring every day reading so to speak, I really want to read the new Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris, All the Little Liars, partly because I like the series but also because the idea of an author coming back to a series after nearly 15 years fascinates me. I still don’t have the latest Julia Quinn (Because of Miss Bridgerton) or Sarah MacLean (A Scot in the Dark) so I’m falling behind in my historical romance reading as well as the rest of the backlog.

Bookish Stuff

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve already bought myself another year of Fahrenheit Press books and a couple more years of Literary Review, and I have Vanity Fair as well.  I did investigate a membership of the London Library, but I don’t know anyone who would spend nearly £500 on a library membership for me – especially with the massive backlog I have at the moment (and I can get a *lot* of books for £500 – that’s probably more than I’ve spend on books for myself this year anyway!).

I do fancy a new Kindle e-reader though – my first generation Kindle Touch has given me faithful service for more than 4 years, but it’s now struggling a little bit (it keeps stalling, possibly because of the amount of stuff on it) and the paint is scratching off it.  It’d also be nice to have two so that Him Indoors could use one on the beach on holiday (he ended up using mine for a fair bit of our last one).  My pick (I think) is the Voyage – because I want the backlight but I’m also getting lazy in my old age and liked the page turning squeezing thing when I tried it at the airport.

So there you are, more books than you can shake a stick at that I want for Christmas, despite the piles I already have.  It’s like an addiction except that I learn things and it’s not illegal.

Give a Book for Christmas: 2016 edition

It’s that time of year, Christmas present shopping has hit last minute panic mode is in it’s final throes and I’d like to remind you all that books and bookish related paraphernalia make great presents and are easily available without venturing into a department store.  The fractured elbow has slowed my progress somewhat – this should have been with you a week or more ago  – sorry.  But here are some suggestions from me.

Books for Him

My other half has just devoured the new Guy Martin book Worms to Catch in about 3 days (very fast for him).  I mentioned him last year, but he keeps turning out very readable books for the petrolhead in your life.  I don’t think you can go wrong with A Kim Jong-Il Production (a BotW pick a few months back) because as far as narrative non-fiction goes it’s just so bonkers it’s hard to believe it’s true.  I keep hearing Mary Roach recommended places – and they sound like they might be perfect books for men (although I’m still hoping one might end up in my stocking) Grunt  – all about how science and war and people collide – or Stiff – about what happens to human cadavers (as long as the recipient isn’t squeamish like me) seem to be the top picks.

For Fiction, I read The Murdstone Trilogy (actually just one book) by Mal Peet earlier this year – about a writer whose sensitive YA novels about troubled teens stop selling and who ends up writing fantasy – it’s a dark and funny look at fantasy tropes with some horror thrown in too.  If he’s read Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones or the like there’s probably something here for him.For my last pick, I’m suggesting Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, another book that I haven’t read yet, but have heard great things about.   It’s set in the future where natural resources are scarce and people escape into immersive video games like OASIS.  Then one player stumbles upon the first clue to a series of Easter Eggs which could lead him to a fortune.  I have the audiobook of this waiting on my phone for just as soon as I finish The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore – which is good, but very, very gory and long – only 20 hours of that to go!

Books for Her

Lets start with the fiction.  It feels like a long time ago that I read Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible (April) but I’ve lent it on since then and had nothing but good feedback, so I’m going to recommend it again.  I can’t remember why it wasn’t BotW at the time (maybe because I was half expecting to be reviewing it for Novelicious) but it is definitely one of my favourite books of the year, and hands down my favourite Pride and Prejudice retelling.  I reviewed Lucy Dillon’s All I Ever Wanted over on Novelicious the other week, and that would also make a really good pick – it’s sort of Christmassy (it starts at Christmas) but it’s not all tinsel and mistletoe, it’s a great wintery read to give to someone who wants to spend Boxing Day (or longer) curled up on the sofa with a book in front of a roaring fire if you have one. Helen Ellis’s collection of short stories American Housewife (a previous Book of the Week) would also make a nice stocking filler if you have a woman with a dark sense of humour in your life (get a taste of what I mean here).

And now some non-fiction.  I’ve already mentioned The Best of Dear Coquette (which you should totally buy as a present for yourself at least!), but if you’re buying for someone who was a teenager in the mid 90s or later, As If! an oral history of the making of the movie Clueless might be perfect.  Clueless was one of the films that I watched on heavy rotation as a teenager (it came out just before I started secondary school so we had it on video at various slumber parties) and it still stands up today.  As If! is a fun look behind the scenes and a reminder of how different and big the film was at the time

Books for Children

For little children, I love Jon Klassen (I’ve mentioned this before) and this Christmas sees his third book about hats – We Found a Hat follows on from I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat which have been big hits among the children I buy for.

I really enjoyed the first two books in Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair’s Mysteries and  both The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow and The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth should be fairly easy to get hold of if you’ve got a middle-grade (upper half of primary school) reader to buy for.  Robin Stevens’ Wells and Wong books got a mention last year, but the series has grown since then and I think it’s a great choice for a girl (or boy) who has done St Clares or Mallory Towers and some Famous Five/Five Find-outers and wants more.  They do contain death though

Other Bookish Gifts

In my post about presents for me last year, I said that I wanted a Literary Review subscription – I got one (thanks Little Sis!) and have just bought myself another two years worth.  I’ve enjoyed reading it, found books I want to read that I wouldn’t otherwise and used their reviews it to weed out books I don’t want to read/can wait to turn up in the secondhand shops.

I can’t believe how much I’ve talked about Fahrenheit Press already, but I’m going to do it again now – sorry! I bought myself their subscription earlier on this year – and it’s given me a string of Books of the Week and so much good stuff.  I’ve just renewed it for another year and if you have a crime reader in your life this might be just the gift for them.  2016 has had reissues of 90s crime series, new thrillers about all sorts of things, the Danny Bird series and James Bond and Stephanie Plum’s lovechild and more. They’re so good I feel like I’ve done nothing but talk about them all year.  And that’s before I write my Books of the Year post! Details here.

I got myself a Vanity Fair subscription this year which I’m still enjoying – and magazines are a gift that keeps giving through the year – I’ve bought Good Food, Gardener’s World and others at various points. Condé Nast keep emailing me to tell me that if I buy the wrong magazine for me giftee then I can change it for free too and so that’s practically a win win!

So there you have it, some gift suggestions from me. And if you need any more ideas, all my suggestions from last year still stand – gifts for him, her and kids. Coming next: What I want for Christmas…

Buy Me a book for Christmas: Gift Ideas

So, after gifts for him, her and children, for Part Four of my Christmas book recommendations, I’ve come to books I want for Christmas.  As you know I read a lot of books and have a big backlog anyway, but this is my wishlist.  Perhaps it’ll give you some more ideas for gifts – or maybe it’ll give you some ideas about what to ask other people to get you!

Fiction

I’m hoping to find some Deanna Raybourn in my stocking.  I’ve really enjoyed her Lady Julia Grey series, and I’m hoping that Santa will bring me some of her standalone books – which are more expensive over here as they’re US Imports – like Night of a Thousand Stars, City of Jasmine or A Spear of Summer Grass (which after months of being c£7 for Kindle has dropped to £2.99 at time of writing, but I now can’t buy because I might be getting it for Christmas!) or the first book in her new series A Curious Beginning.

Another American import on my Christmas list is The Lure of the Moonflower – the final book in Lauren Willig‘s Pink Carnation series.  I’m desperate to know what happens – I have the second last book sitting on my shelf ready to read, but I don’t dare start it because I know as soon as I read it I’ll want to read the last one *now* and then i’ll end up buying it before Christmas comes!

I’ve seen glowing reviews, but heard mixed word of mouth on Elena Ferrante‘s Neapolitan trilogy, so I’m curious to read them but can’t justify buying them myself with the to-read pile in its current state. So if anyone fancies buying me My Brilliant Friend, I’d really appreciate it!  I’m also after the last in the Tales of the City series – The Days of Anna Madrigal.

Regular readers will know of my love of detective stories and cozy crime, so I’d be delighted if the latest Grantchester novel from James Runcie turned up on Christmas Day – Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins is in a rather expensive US paperback edition or hardback (which would match the ones I already own better) at the moment.  I’d also be happy to find the next book (that I don’t own) in the Tasha Alexander‘s Lady Emily series (Dangerous to Know), or one of Catriona McPherson‘s Dandy Gilvers that I haven’t read (like …and the Reek of Herrings),

Non Fiction

I don’t tend to buy myself a lot of non fiction, what with the pile being so big and so much of it coming out in hardback first, so Christmas is a a really good opportunity for me to get a few things that I can’t justify buying with the to-read pile in its current state!

I mentioned in my Gifts for Her post that I’m not big on Roman history, but I do quite fancy Mary Beard‘s latest SPQR, but hardbacks do tend to linger on my shelf somewhat, so perhaps her Confronting the Classics might be a better choice and likewise fill in some gaps in my education.  Also on the history front, I really want to read Anita Anand’s Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, especially after seeing the documentary based on it on BBC One a few weeks back – which is still on iPlayer for a few more days.  I’m a big fan of Helen Rappaport‘s books (she’s a great speaker too) and I’d quite like her Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses, even though I usually find the Russian Revolution too unbearably depressing!

From this year’s crop of celebrity autobiographies and memoirs, my picks would be Sue PerkinsSpectacles and Drew Barrymore‘s Wildflowers or maybe Grace Jones‘s I’ll Never Write My Memoirs which is about an era which I’m fascinated by and was hoping that The Boy would ask for, but he hasn’t! She’s not a celebrity in the traditional sense, but I’m an occasional reader of The Bloggess and Jenny Lawson‘s second book Furiously Happy is on my want list – I’ve read the kindle preview and am really interested by it.  It’s only in hardback at the moment, but as I still haven’t got her first book, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, I would be happy to receive that instead/as well!

Those who know me in real-life know that I don’t wear a lot of make-up. But despite this, I do watch a lot of YouTube make-up videos. And Lisa Eldridge is one of my favourites.  Consequently I’d really like her history of make-up Face Paint, but can’t justify buying it for myself. Hint. Hint.  At the quirky end of the book spectrum, I’ve got a fancy for How to Climb Mount Blanc in a Skirt, and either of Shaun Usher‘s Letters of Note books – the new one sounds fabulous

On the aspirational home front, I’d really like Marie Kondo‘s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying because I am a bit of a hoarder – even when it’s not books!  I’m sure The Boy would be delighted if I could find away of jettisoning some of my stuff happily, although obviously he’d be even happier if I could stop acquiring the clutter in the first place!

Miscellaneous

I know my reading habit can intimidate people and scare them off buying me books (in case I already have it or have read it) but I’m always delighted to get a book voucher – be it a National Book Token or a Kindle voucher and I try to spend them on something I consider a treat – like a nice hardback or an ebook that’s over my usual price limit.  After chortling over their Bad Sex Awards for years, I’ve been eyeing up a subscription to Literary Review but can’t really justify buying myself it!

What don’t I want?  No cookery books please (unless it’s a Mary Berry I don’t already have) as I still haven’t worked my way through everything I want to cook from the ones that I already have and the cookery book shelf is getting full.  Don’t buy me the Booker shortlist – I’ve got so much to read already, I’ll never get around to them – as my attempts to try and improve my award-nominated book hit rate show!

And finally, if you really want me to love you forever, you could pre-order me a copy of The Rogue Less Taken from Sarah MacLean – one of my favourite purveyors of smart, funny and sexy historical romance – and do it from her local Indie bookshop Word in Brooklyn, because I really want the US version (the UK one doesn’t match my collection, but I’ll link you to it anyway in case you want it for you), and Word will send it to me signed and with bonus goodies.  But even nightshift brain can’t really justify spending $22 shipping a $7.99 book to the UK.  Even if I did do it for Never Judge a Lady by her Cover last year – which is also not as nice in its UK edition, which is something I never though I’d say about an American edition of a romance book.  But if you do, let me know, because I may yet weaken and buy it anyway, and it would be stupid for two of us to do it….

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

Finally something I can take a photo of! And US romance authors don’t really do UK signings!

So there you go, Books for Him, Books for Her, Books for Kids and Books for Me.  And still to come from me before the big day will be a round-up of Christmas-themed reading.  I know. I’m spoiling you.

Buy a Book for Christmas: Ideas for Children

After Books for Guys and Books for Girls, I give you Books for Kids!  I buy books for all my nieces and young cousins every year.  I think boys and girls should be encouraged to read books with male and female protagonists, so hopefully there’s something for everyone, but obviously these are going to be influenced by what I’ve read and what the girls have read and told me they liked.   I don’t have kids, so if some of my suggestions seem really obvious to those of you reading who are parents, I’m sorry.

Under Fives

An oldie but a goodie to start for the upper end of this age group – Janet and Alan Ahlberg‘s The Jolly Christmas Postman.  They need to be past the ripping things apart stage and be able to cope with the little letters without losing them.  Mog is everywhere this Christmas, and it’s totally deserved – Judith Kerr writes wonderful children’s books.  My favourites are obvious ones like The Tiger Who Came to Tea and all the Mog books, but also The Great Granny Gang.  Jon Klassen‘s books have gone down well with the little people I buy for – I’m still getting fish drawings based on This Is Not My Hat.  I also like Chris Naughton‘s books like Oh No! George – but Little Sis-the-teacher reckons she prefers her picture books with more detail so you can get the kids to describe them.  And finally, if you haven’t already seen them, Oliver Jeffers‘ books are gorgeous – I love Lost and Found.

Five to Eight year olds

The Nieces are in love with Jenny Colgan‘s Polly and the Puffin – we got a postcard with a puffin on it from their latest holiday and a note saying it was because of the book.  If you want to give something educational, but also absolutely beautiful and engrossing, go and find a copy of Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski‘s Maps in your local bookshop.  I think this is gorgeous and it teaches stuff subtly as well, a bit like Richard Scarry did for younger kids.  Their Welcome to Mamoko is equally beautiful.  I’m also debating buying My Sewing Machine book for the nieces – as they have a Grandma who is big into sewing and patchwork – but I’m not sure it’s fair to let her in for the extra work!

Eight to Twelve year olds

School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith went down well with Eldest Niece (just under this age bracket, but a keen reader) – who wouldn’t love a story about a boarding school that’s on a tall ship?  I read it and thought it was fun and clever and modern.  In Waterstones last week I saw some lovely new editions of Noel Streatfeild‘s Shoe Books.  I haven’t read them all, but Ballet Shoes is amazing – although I was a little annoyed there wasn’t a similarly pretty version of White Boots (which I still have on my shelf upstairs) which is sometimes called Skating Shoes to make it fit the series. If you want to give some classics, my local branch of The Works had a variety of Enid Blyton Boxsets – including Famous Five, Secret Seven and The Faraway Tree – although I can’t find all of them on the website.

Secret Seven mysteries

Finally a photo I hear you cry! Is this the most picture challenge gift post of the set? Just you wait…

Also mentioned here before are Robin Stevens‘ Wells and Wong mysteries – I can’t wait for Eldest Niece to hit the right age (I think murders are a bit scary for her yet), Murder is Unladylike is the first one, but First Class Murder is the latest and is all you’d hope for from  a book that is boarding school story meets Murder on the Orient Express.  For the top end of this age bracket, I’d also suggest Simon Mayo‘s Itch (which I’ve read) and its sequels Itch Rocks and Itchcraft (which I haven’t) which are sciencey thriller chase stories.

Teen/Young Adult

No surprise that I’m going to recommend Gail Carriger‘s Finishing School series.  Her books are one of my obsessions – I’m currently working my way through her audiobooks on my walks too and from work.  Etiquette and Espionage is the first one, and would be a great gift for someone who has read St Clares/Malory Towers or similar when they were younger.  I really enjoyed the Geek Girl series earlier this year, which would make a great choice for a girl who is into her clothes and fashion, but which isn’t afraid to show the less glamourous side of modelling as well as the difficulties of not fitting in at school.

Geek Girl Picture Perfect

This is the third Geek Girl book – I read the others on Kindle, but at least I have this one to photograph!

I read Jenny Valentine‘s Fire Colour One back in the summer and it would make a good choice for someone who’s read The Fault in Our Stars (they’ll almost certainly already have TFIOS, but I’ve put the link in anyway), but doesn’t quite want to cry as much again.  One which will make you cry (especially if you’ve read other Pratchetts) is the final Tiffany Aching book The Shepherd’s Crown.  I spoke about it at length earlier this year, but I really think that this book is the culmination of a brilliant series.  If you’ve got someone who’s read Harry Potter and/or The Hobbit and is looking for the next move, start them on The Wee Free Men and you may be the originator of a Discworld love affair.  If you’re buying for someone who’s not as much of a reader, may I suggest the first Lumberjanes book.  I loved this graphic novel, and even The Boy pronounced it “quite good, but it ended just as it got interesting”, which presumably bodes well for Part Two.

Lumberjanes

And thank goodness for Lumberjanes. Just you wait until tomorrow though. That’s even worse!

Finally, if in doubt, there’s always a book token.  But lots of your old favourites from when you were that age may still be in print, but out of fashion, so the kids may not have them. my mum’s getting My Naughty Little Sister for one of the little girls she buys for this year.  I bought Eldest Niece The Worst Witch for her birthday in the summer (and I’ve heard a passage from The Worst Witch being used in a school entry reading comprehension test!) and I think she’s since asked for more of them.  Meg and Mog, Hairy McLairyThe Enormous Crocodile and Peace at Last are all still out there too.

Miss Parts 1 and two?  Here’s Books for Him and Books for Her. Coming next, the final part: What books do I want for Christmas?

Buy Her a Book for Christmas: Gift Ideas

After the Books for Men extravaganza yesterday, here’s the books for Her post.  My mum and my sister both get books from me as part of their Christmas present, and it’s often tricky, because I pass them my favourite books through the year so I have to try and find something different!  As with yesterday’s post, my links are to Amazon, because lots of these are 3 for £10, or reduced in some way – thus freeing up more money to spend on yourself other presents.

Fiction

I find fiction recommendations easiest, but some of this is depending on what sort of present your buying the book as. Most of my book purchases are as stocking fillers or extra presents, rather than the whole present – so I give a lot of “lighter” fiction.  My mum’s asked for Anne Tyler‘s A Spool of Blue Thread for her Christmas book (I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you) and tells me that she just loves her other books, so if you know someone who’s read her Booker nominee from this year, it might be worth checking out the back catalogue too.

I’ve mentioned Beatriz WiliamsA Hundred Summers in a BotW post and that’s definitely worth a look.  I also have her latest – Along the Infinite Sea – on my to-read pile, but I haven’t managed to get to it yet.

In a shameless plug for a friend, I loved Kirsty Greenwood‘s Vintage Guide to Love and Romance when I read it on holiday earlier this year (back in my early days of reviewing for Novelicious and before I’d met the lady herself).  Equally Lucy Robinson‘s The Day We Disappeared or Mhairi McFarlane‘s It’s Not Me It’s You would make great stocking fillers and although they came out earlier in the year (all on the same day in fact!) they aren’t summery books, so would be fine to give in December!

If you want to buy hardcover, I loved Laura Barnett‘s The Versions of Us (which I mentioned along with Vintage Guide in my Summer Recs list, but hey, when a book’s good, it’s good)- it’s Sliding Doors meets One Day and every bit as amazing as that sounds.  The paperback is out on December 31st.

Copy of After You in a Jiffy envelope

I liked After You so much I’ve posted it to a friend so she can read it

Also only in hardback or ebook at the moment is Jojo Moyes‘ much awaited sequel to Me Before You, After You.  I read this last week, and whilst I didn’t love it the way I loved Me Before You (see BotW squeals here), it’s still a good read – and would be a gift option if you know someone who cried their way through Lou and Will’s story and wants to know what happened next.  Another hardback option would be Paula McLain‘s latest Circling the Sun.  I’ve just lent my copy to mum – who has been raving about The Paris Wife, which she finished last week.

It’s nice to be appreciated!

Non Fiction

I always find non-fiction harder to recommend.  I’m a history graduate so a lot of my non fiction reading falls into that and I also find it easier to recommend fiction for women.  Probably because I read mostly fiction, but I’m sure someone will say this is unconscious bias, the patriarchy etc.  Still I’ll have a go.

Astronaut Wives Club

Finally a book I still have! So I’ve taken a fresh photo of it and everything!

You may remember this from a previous BotW post – but I need to give another mention to The Astronaut Wives Club, which would I think would go down well with loads of people – Mad Men fans, history fans, Americana fans etc.

The Roman Empire is not my period (I like my history modern enough that I can identify with the people, so usually post c1450) but I found How to Manage Your Slaves both funny and fascinating.  It’s got a lot of facts packed in there, but wears it lightly and is very readable.

Pretty Honest

And another one I still have! Hurrah!

I won a copy of Sali Hughes Pretty Honest last year, literally a day after I’d told my mum to buy it for me for Christmas.  I haven’t read it cover to cover, but I have dipped in and out repeatedly and found it really good.  I think this would work for a lot of people without being seen as being judgy.  And if if you have a teenage girl to buy for and you want to do more than just buy a make-up gift set from Boots or the current books from the latest YouTube sensation, this could be just the job.

Not That Kind of Girl

Boom. Three. Doesn’t this look well illustrated compared to the fiction section?

I have the paperback of Lena Dunham‘s Not That Kind of Girl sitting on my to-read pile, I haven’t read it yet, but I bought it because I’d heard a lot of good things about it.  And if you know a Girls fan (I don’t have Sky Atlantic) then this might make a good choice, but watch out, because it came out in hardback for last Christmas. Also out in hardback last year and in paperback all over the place now is  Amy Poehler‘s Yes Please which I really want to read and which might work if your giftee hasn’t already had it.

Miscellaneous

There are some people for whom a really pretty book is just the job.  Foyles used to have a helpful section of this sort of book in the front of their old Charing Cross Road store – I’m sure there’s an equivalent in the new store (even if I haven’t spotted it yet).  Virago’s VMC Designer Collection are great for this – they look gorgeous and the books are good too.  They started coming out a couple of years ago so some of my favourites – like Barbara Pym‘s Excellent Women – are harder to get hold of, but new ones are still appearing – like Daphne Du Maurier‘s The Birds and Patricia Highsmith‘s The Talented Mr Ripley.  Penguin also do a nice line in cloth bound classics – like this Sense and Sensibility.

VMC Designer Hardbacks

My OCD tendancies are yet to find a satisfactory order for these, but they’re so pretty I don’t care!

I also love Bookishly’s range of prints – their Pride and Prejudice one would make a lovely gift – if you’re buying for a friend, several of the quotations you can chose from are not romantic.  However exercise caution if you are thinking of getting someone an e-reader cover.  I’ve been caught out on sizes and variations before – all the various kindles seem to be subtly different.  There are some gorgeous ones out there though – I’ve bought one which looks like an actual book from Klevercase before, but check the model you’re aiming for very carefully.

So there you go.  Coming next: Children’s book recommendations.

Buy Him a Book for Christmas: Gift Ideas

I am the person who gives everybody they possibly can a book for Christmas.  My immediate family all get a book AND a “normal” Christmas present.  I buy young relatives books as often as I can. I even gift myself a Christmas book.  So I thought that I would give you suggestions for presents –  on top of  a post about Christmas-themed books.  This is the first of four post which I hope cover all eventualities.  Most of the links are to Amazon – because quite a few of the books mentioned across the various posts are in their 3 for £10 promotion, thus saving you money to use to buy yourself books on other things.

Non Fiction

Men can be tricky to buy for – or at least I find them hard.  I often end up buying biographies of sportsmen.  The Boy in my life is a massive petrol head – he devoured motorbike Guy Martin’s Autobiography this last weekend, which had been sitting on the shelf since last Christmas and is out now in paperback.  He’s said he’d quite like Martin’s hardback, When You Dead, You Dead.  Also on his Christmas list this year is ex-F1 driver turned World Endurance Champion Mark Webber’s book Aussie Grit.  The annual Jeremy Clarkson book will have been a fixture on many people’s Christmas lists for years, but if you fancy a change, The Boy really wants And On That Bombshell – a behind the scenes look at Top Gear, written by Top Gear’s script editor Richard Porter, who I’ve been following on Twitter for years without knowing what his day job was!

Guy Martin autobiography

I have had *such* headaches taking the photos for these posts. I could cry. Honestly I could.

Away from the motorsports books he’s a big Bill Bryson fan – so The Road to Little Dribbling may also turn up in his stocking.  One of his favourite books this year has already featured here as a Book of the Week – but A Year of Living Danishly is so good that I think it deserves another mention – particularly as Hygge starts in January and moving to a new country is often one of those things that gets mentioned in New Year’s Resolutions.

Trumbo by Bruce Cook

Check out my attempts at artistic arrangements of the books. This was the best I could manage.

On the history front, I haven’t read Trumbo (yet) but it’s just been turned into a film and the McCarthy era is fascinating – particularly in the movie industry.  I’ve also had quite a good hit-rate with Ben MacIntyre – my dad loved Operation Mincemeat, and Agent Zigzag and Double Cross have also gone down well with him and several other men of various ages that I buy for.  His latest is A Spy Among Friends, about Kim Philby, which I haven’t read – but which may well end up in someone’s stocking this year.

Fiction

My Boy has got hooked (like me) on Janet Evanovich this year, so I’ve been on the lookout for pacey and fun thrillers for him.  It’s tricky as it very often ends up with me buying books for me!  I’m going to try and turn him onto the Fox and O’Hare series next – The Heist is the first one, The Scam is the latest.  They’re basically Ocean’s 11 or White Collar but as a book.  She’s an FBI agent, he’s a fraudster – but they have to work together to catch con-men.

On the straight-up thriller front, The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen is a twisty thriller – you can check out my review for Novelicious here, equally The Devil You Know is dark, creepy and tense, although I wasn’t keen on the ending (again reviewed on Novelicious)  Crime-wise, Ben Aaranovich is one of my new obsessions (I’m trying hard to ration myself and read slowly) Rivers of London is the first, Foxglove Summer the latest.

Foxglove Summer

Try not to look at the dents in the hardback spines, I know once you’ve noticed it’s hard to stop,but…

I’ve already mentioned The British Library Crime Classics series in the BotW post on Silent Night, but it bears repeating that there some really good titles in this attractive looking series which would make good gifts for an Agatha Christie fan looking for Golden Age Crime.  And as the series is bring stuff back into print that’s been out of circulation for a long time, there’s much less risk that they’ll have read them already! On top of the ones I’ve already mentioned, try The Z Murders and Murder Underground.  Speaking of Golden Age crime, Sophie Hannah’s Poirot continuation The Monogram Murders might also be worth a look.

Murder Underground

Try and focus on the retro stylings of the book, and the shine of the table – which I polished specially

This is breaking my own rule about not mentioning stuff I’ve read for Novelicious before the review goes up there, but I’ve just finished reading TV historian Neil Oliver’s first novel Master of Shadows, and without preempting my review there too much, it is basically the novel version of one of those historical epic movies.  Set in the fifteenth century. it follows a young man as he flees Scotland, becomes a mercenary and ends up entangled in the fall of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire.  It was too gruesome for me, but if you have a Game of Thrones fan in your life, this could be a great choice for them.

Master of Shadows

The pile of book effect is wearing thin? I know. And this has foil on the cover so its a photo nightmare

My Boy has also expressed an interest in Timur Vermes’ Look Who’s Back, which has been sitting in my Library book bag for ages.  In case you’ve missed it, this was a massive best seller in Germany – and tells the story of what happened when Adolf Hitler wakes up in 2011 Berlin.  It’s already been made into a movie in Germany and Radio 4 have dramatised it over here.  It’s meant to be laugh-out loud funny, but disturbing.

And finally, I’m not big on scary, but The Boy has film director David Cronenberg’s debut novel on his to-read pile.  I don’t like recommending books that I haven’t read (or that people around me haven’t read) but Consumed has a good review average on both Amazon and Goodreads and pull quotes from Stephen King and JJ Abrams, so strikes me as a fairly good punt in a genre I’m really not very fluent in.

Consumed by David Cronenberg

Still, at least I had enough books for this post to make a stack. Just wait til tomorrow…

Miscellaneous

If you want to give bookish gifts that aren’t actually books, then may I point you in the direction of American company Out of Print.  They do the most gorgeous clothes with book covers printed on them and for each purchase they donate a book to a community in need.  I’ve gifted their t-shirts to several men at various points – including The Boy, who loves them and stares wistfully at their website every time he sees me looking at it, but tells me he has enough clothes.  The tees are soft, the print isn’t crunchy (if you know what I mean) and they wash well and hold their shape.  If you’re in the UK I think we’ve already missed the cheap shipping international deadline, although they say you can upgrade, but TruffleShuffle stock a few styles, as do Amazon.

So there you are, hopefully I’ve recommended something for most tastes or situations – or at least provided a jumping off point.  Coming next:  Books for Her.