There’s (almost) no problem that a book can’t solve, and that includes the quandary of what to buy for the difficult person on your Christmas list who can come up with no ideas except Amazon vouchers. But fear not, because I have put together a gift guide, matchmaking 10 types of reader with personal book recommendations.
For the person who doesn’t have much time to read:
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
Translated from the Kannada by Srinath Perur, this 118-page novella tells the tale of a destitute Indian family who are suddenly transported to riches when a business venture is successful. The family dynamics must realign:
We consulted each other when money was to be spent, gave precise accounts. We thought of the family as being interdependent: a person who spent money was also taking it away from the others. All that changed overnight. There was enough now to buy things without asking for permission or informing anyone or even thinking about it. Appa’s [the father, previously the established head of the family] hold on the rest of us slipped. And to be honest, we lost hold of ourselves, too.
It’s a short, snappy, but very thought-provoking read that will appeal to many readers due its universal themes of family and money.
For the person who rarely reads:
Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
First, try a graphic novel! They’re not all about superheroes. This one is about Katie, a restaurant owner with big dreams. As problems start arising in her professional and personal life, she is tempted by a supernatural ability to re-do each day, putting mistakes right. But this soon gets messy…
Beautiful artwork and a gripping story. Another option is Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: a collection of short spooky stories, told folklore-style.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
A short, fast-paced YA thriller. Only 225 pages long with plenty of dialogue, this is a captivating story of wealthy American cousins who spend every summer on their private island. But the main character, Cady, is hiding a terrible secret… prepare for a shocking twist!
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Once the murder occurs, it’s impossible not to keep page-turning until you find out the culprit, having plenty of fun along the way trying to guess. This is the first Agatha Christie I ever read, and it’s a classic: a locked train carriage with no footprints on the snow outside. The culprit must still be on board… but all is not as it seems…
For the Politically Dissatisfied:
What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe
I have only read it once, nearly 2 years ago, but I still firmly count this genre-defying novel as one of my top 5 favourite books ever. It’s the 1980s, and each member of the Winshaw family dominates their respective sector – banking, politics, art, food and journalism. Superbly written, made up of too many complex interlinking elements to describe, and yet so cohesive and so skilful. If in doubt, buy this.
For the Feminist:
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Beginning with a description of ‘the shape of power’ this futuristic Atwood-esque piece of speculative fiction examines how the rhetoric of gendered power relations can so easily be flipped in an alternate universe. It’s fast-paced, angry and exciting – I was hooked.
For a Teenage Girl:
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Perfect for a daughter, niece or perhaps your best friend: these two coming-of-age tales are full of confusion, angst, emotion and self-actualisation. Moran’s Johanna Morrigan reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde and goes off adventuring around London, while Fisher’s memoir (which will also appeal to Star Wars fans, but it is so much more than that) deals with insecurity and introspection.
For the Student:
MOB Kitchen by Ben Lebus
5 Ingredients – Quick Easy Food by Jamie Oliver
The Student won’t have much time to read, but a cookery book is always a good shout. These two are perfect for fuss-free cooking: in 2017’s No.1 overall bestseller, Jamie Oliver only uses 5 ingredients in each recipe, whilst MOB Kitchen (my favourite food blog) promise that each recipe feeds 4 for under £10. Lots of delicious recipes in both, stunning and simple formatting and mouth-watering photos of every recipe.
For the Non-Fiction Lover:
(a) The Deep-Thinker Who Keeps Up to Date with Current Affairs
Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth
You don’t need to have studied economics to enjoy Raworth’s dissection, destruction and rebuilding of our economic structures, but it helps. Her main point is that, until now, the goal of economic theory has been growth – but, she asks, why? Instead of a never-ending upwards arrow, the new diagram she draws is doughnut-shaped. The inner and outer circles signify the boundaries of material comfort we should all be able to exist inside. Inside the doughnut’s hole lies poverty, and outside it we endanger the planet’s supplies.
(b) The Foodie/Social Commentator
Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
2013 Bake Off contestant now blocked on twitter by Paul Hollywood, food writer for multiple newspapers, author of two cookbooks and, now, a lovingly written homage to food and the pleasure of eating. Ruby Tandoh examines everything from prison food to packed lunches, binge eating to the ways that the wellness-diet industry mobilises the rhetoric of religion. In between this intelligent discourse are plenty of yummy-sounding recipes and descriptions of food written so reverently they nearly pass for creative writing. Also – and this is very superficial – this is a very beautifully designed book that will look gorgeous on your shelf/insta feed. Book review coming soon to this blog.
For the Book Lover:
A Literary Christmas: An Anthology ed. by The British Library
The Book Lover probably has plenty of ideas of their own, but if you want to surprise them, try this beautiful collection of poems and extracts from novels. Opening with Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘Twas the night before Christmas…’, we encounter D.H. Lawrence, Laurie Lee, Wordsworth, the Brontës, Dickens, Hardy, Saki, Christina Rosetti, Milton, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Pepys’s Diary, Trollope, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, Dylan Thomas, Louisa May Alcott, Shakespeare, Austen, Thackeray, Shelley, Tennyson and many more. The extracts range in subject matter – and there’s illustrations, too. A lovely gift.
The Fail-safe Book with a wide appeal:
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
In an excellent Goodreads review, Kelly writes: “This is it. THE delicious, curl up next to the fire under a blanket with tea book. THE windowsill on a rainy day with your pet book. THE stay up all night book.” There’s not much more to add. It is timeless, suspenseful, emotionally insightful, haunting, beautifully descriptive, perfectly paced and plotted, with a twist halfway through to end all twists.
Also try My Cousin Rachel by the same author, which I consider even better and count as one of my all-time favourites. A similar suspenseful masterpiece, expertly plotted with an ending that will haunt.
Merry Christmas, and happy reading!