Gift suggestions

Buy Me a Book for Christmas: 2017 edition

I always love writing this post.  It’s the easiest of the Christmas book posts for me to write, because I always have a big old list of books that I want but can’t justify buying.  And given that I’ve been being really disciplined about not buying books as I try and shrink the to-read bookshelf down, this year the list is bigger than ever.

After my trip to the cinema to see Death of Stalin, I’ve got a yen to read more about Soviet Russia and I saw someone reading Frances Spufford’s Red Plenty on the train the other week and I would love to find that in my stocking, but Stalin and the Scientists by Simon Ings also looks like it might scratch that itch.

Copy of The Book of Forgotten Author
I may have gone to Foyles just to take pictures for this post

I’ve also been staring enviously at The House of Fiction by Phyllis Richardson which looks – as you might expect – at houses in fiction and how authors’ life experiences influenced the houses they created in their novels.  Also on the bookish front, I would be happy to find The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler under the tree.  And, although it might make me blush when I unwrap it, I really want to read Fern Riddell’s Victorian Guide to Sex. We all know that I read a lot of historical romance novels, and I would love to read some actual historical research into what people were really up to in the Nineteenth Century.

I’ve been lucky with managing to get my hands on a lot of the current-affairs-y nonfiction that I’ve been looking for this year, but I still haven’t managed to get a copy of Anne Helen Peterson’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise of the Unruly Woman

There aren’t a lot of memoirs on my list this year, but if you’ve been reading a while, you’ll know that I loved the Tales of the City series, so it’s probably not a surprise that Armistead Maupin’s memoir Logical Family is one of them.  As far as biographies go, I keep staring at Tatiana de Rosenay’s Manderley Forever about Daphne Du Maurier, but I’m not sure I’m enough of a Du Maurier fan to get the most out of it.

Copies of Logical Family and Manderley Forever
These two were even on display right next to each other – I didn’t set this up!

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Short Stories by Lucia Berlin, which sounds like it might be right up my street.  In terms of authors I love who have new books out that I haven’t been able to justify buying, I really want the new Sarah MacLean, Day of the Duchess, but only in the cheesy US mass market paperback edition or it won’t match the others in the series!

We’re (slowly) working our way through a complete rewatch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I heard The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A Lee Martinez described as being a book with a Buffy-ish feel, so that went straight on my Christmas list!

If you want to buy me something pretty for my bookshelf, I’m still lusting over a couple of the Virago Designer Modern Classics –  the Daphne Du Maurier short story collections (which would go nicely with the de Rosenay wouldn’t they, wink wink) The Birds and Don’t Look Now, and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. I can’t justify buying them for myself just to add to a pretty bookshelf, but they would look nice.  And if Virago did any more of these lovely clothbound babies, I would be first in line to buy!

Virago Designer Hardback editions of Daphne Du Maurier short stories.
I did pull these out form the shelf for the photo though…

I’m coming up a bit short on other bookish ideas – I’m well stocked for notebooks and pens – and I think if I get given any more book bags Him Indoors will throw a fit.  As with last year, I still have a Literary Review subscription* and Vanity Fair and a bunch of newspaper subscriptions and I don’t have a lot of other ideas, unless someone wants to buy me Private Eye for a year or pay for another year of Fahrenheit Press (if they do a subscription again in 2018).

Anyway, that’s what I’m hoping to see in my stocking this year – and I’ll keep you posted on whether any of my wishlist actually appears!  And in case you missed them, here are my Books for Him and Books for Her posts for ideas for what to buy your nearest and dearest this year!

Happy Shopping!

*It’s very good, the nonfiction reviews help me work out what I want to buy and the fiction reviews mean I can sound knowledgable about the latest literary fiction without having to read it thus giving me more time to devote to reading romance and cozy crime!

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.

books, Gift suggestions

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.