Gift suggestions

Buy Him a Book for Christmas: 2017 Edition

I’ll admit I’m struggling slightly for Man Books this year.  And by Man Books, I mean books that the men in my life would like.  As you know, every year I buy books for Him Indoors, my Dad and my little sister’s partner and, although my dad reads a lot of my mum’s books when she’s done with them, I do try and get him something he wouldn’t be able to pick up off my mum’s pile.  For years his book was the latest Terry Pratchett, but as that option is no longer available to me, I’ve had to me more creative. Him Indoors likes Bill Bryson and I’ve had success with Guy Martin’s books previously, but some of the other autobiographies he’s been given have sat unread on the shelves, and that makes me sad.  Little Sister’s partner is a fascinating enigma and I have to pick her brains for ideas every year.  But between the three of them it usually gives a good cross section of stuff that I wouldn’t be buying for other people (or myself).  But this year is tricky.  Very tricky.

Cover of How to Build a Car

So the obvious choice for the Formula One fan in my life would be Jenson Button’s autobiography Life to the Limit, but there are a couple more behind the scenes-y books out this year too – Adrian Newey (legendary car designer) has one out – How to Build a Car – which looks like it’s full of designs and technical details and there’s also Mechanic: The Secret Life of the Pit Lane by former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestly.  I’m going to have to go to Foyles and have a flick through them before I can decide which it’ll be.

In other nonfiction terms, Timothy West and Prunella Scales have written a book to accompany their TV series: Our Great Canal Journeys which might make a nice coffee table book for older relatives.  There’s a book accompanying Blue Planet II which looks lovely as well and of course there’s David Attenborough’s own memoir Adventures of a Young Naturalist.  There are also two space-related books out this Christmas – the patriotic choice is obviously Tim Peake’s Ask an Astronaut, but I’m actually more interested in Scott Kelly’s Endurance – although he didn’t come across as the chattiest of people during his media round promoting this, the reviews I’ve seen have been excellent and  I’ve been fascinated by his story for ages.  In case you didn’t know, he’s the American astronaut who spent a year in space – his identical twin brother is also an astronaut (now retired, he’s married to former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and one of the things the year in space was able to do was compare the differences between the the two men and see what space was doing to him compared to earth.

The cover of the word is murder

I found the fiction picks this year really hard, but eventually I’ve come up with a few.  I read Anthony Horowitz’s The Word is Murder the other week and I think it would make a great Christmas read – it’s a modern day Sherlock type story, but very, very meta.  Perfect for reading in front of the fire on Boxing Day.  Although (as previously mentioned) there are no new Pratchetts anymore, there are lovely new hardback editions of his books coming out, if you’ve got someone who hasn’t got them all – the one of Good Omens, which he wrote with Neil Gaiman, is particularly nice – and there’s a TV adaptation coming soon, starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, so now is the time to read it if you haven’t already.  Talking of Neil Gaiman, his Norse Mythology would probably be a good choice – I know I want to read it!

So there you go, a stack of book suggestions that veer towards the sciences, technology, sci fi and mystery.  If you’re still short of ideas, here’s last year’s post for more ideas – I’ve read Mary Roach’s Grunt since I wrote the post and can now endorse her fully, ditto Ready Player One which has a movie out soon too.  And if you’re looking for books about history, cooking and a stack of fiction picks, try my Books for Her post.

Gift suggestions

Buy Her a Book for Christmas: 2017 Edition

Here we go again, it’s the Christmas gift suggestion post marathon. I’m starting with books for her, then there’ll be books for him, books for kids and what *I* want for Christmas.  And this is separate from books set at Christmas – newly published and not so new – I have recommendations for that coming soon too.  And I’ve even got myself in gear this year, so this first batch are coming to you earlier than usual – and at a point when Foyles are doing 20 percent off everything for Black Friday, which is really useful for the stuff that’s not on a big release (and thus not discounted by Amazon.

Rarely a Christmas goes by without me buying someone a cook book.  This year, my pick is The Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer, which bought for my sister for her birthday after seeing some of the recipes on a weekly cooking email that I get.  I’ve cooked a recipe from it* (and want a copy myself) and Little Sister has given it a glowing review too based on the recipes she’s tried.

I pretty much always buy my mum a big old biography of a historical figure for Christmas – she tends to prefer stuff  from the Georgians onward – tending towards women, royalty and society figures.  In that vein this year I’ve been eying up Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking  by Deborah Cadbury (which I actually have an e-proof of still waiting be be read as part of the Noirville backlog) and Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown, but if you’re buying for someone who likes Tudor history, Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys by Nicola Tallis also looks quite good and although I need to have a look at it in a shop before I’ll buy it for anyone, Lettice is someone who has popped up in Philippa Gregory novels so that could make a nice choice if you have a Gregory reader to buy for.

If you want to do current affairs, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened seems like a bit of an obvious choice, so how about White House photographer Pete Souza’s Obama: An Intimate Portrait which would look great on a coffee table.  Depending on how woke the person is that you’re buying for, you might also want to consider Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years In Power, which is waiting for me on my bookshelf at the moment after I read Between the World and me earlier in the year.

Yes, mine is a proof copy from the magic shelf at work. The hardback will look smarter.

To lighter things now, and Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively looks like it would make a lovely pick for the gardner in your life – it’s billed as a memoir of her life in gardens as well as a look at gardens in literature.  Both of my parents are gardners, but I’ve put this in here because I know that my mum likes Lively’s adult books (I’ve read some of her children’s novels but none of her adult stuff).  I read Sweetpea Slight’s Get Me the Urgent Biscuits a few weeks back, and whilst it’s not quite as satisfying as I wanted it to be, if you have a theatre geek in your life, the story of life as an assistant to a theatrical impresario in the 1980s and 90s is still fascinating.  There’s also The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 – 1992 telling the story of Tina Brown’s time as the editor of the legendary magazine (I wouldn’t mind this myself to be honest, but I’ve got so many things on my own list I decided to be generous and include this here!).

In fiction, I’ve added Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler to my list of books to give based on what I’ve read so far.  I always worked in retail when I was younger, not hospitality or catering, but having read this I feel like I may have missed out.  Although as I’m terribly clumsy I would have been a terrible waitress!  You may remember be going mad over Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers earlier this year – and as I love Rich People Problems books I think that would make a great gift, as would The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang (although I didn’t love it as much as some others have). There’s also a second book out now in the Dandie Dinmont murder mystery series – I enjoyed the first one earlier this year and if it’s anything like the first one Resort to Murder would make a great stocking stuffer: a lady journalist in 1950s Devon solves mysteries that she comes across during the course of her reporting duties.

And it was a BotW a few weeks ago, but To Bed With Grand Music would make a great Christmas book for anyone who needs to sit and spend a few hours with a fascinatingly awful woman in wartime Britain to take them away from whatever chaos they’re living with.

So, there you have it.  Part One of my Christmas book suggestions for this year.  Part Two will follow tomorrow, but in the meantime you can always check out last year’s post – as well as last year’s suggestions for books that I wanted to receive.

Happy shopping!

*The recipe we tried was this one – it was excellent, as were the leftovers.

fiction, Gift suggestions, non-fiction

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.