Gift suggestions

Buy Me a Book for Christmas 2018

It’s that time of year again.  Well actually it’s a bit late (again) but what’s new.  This year at least I have the cast iron excuse of the Washington trip to explain my tardiness.  Anyway, here’s my annual look at which books I’d like to find under the Christmas tree this year.

Non Fiction

I mentioned Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly’s book in yesterday’s gift suggestion post – but another Parks and Rec alum has a book out that I want to read too.  I tried to get Retta’s So Close To Being The Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know from the library while I was in the US without any joy at all and I still *really* want to read it.  It’s her autobiography, and a lot of the reviews that I’ve seen are variations of “I chose it because I loved her in Parks and Rec but didn’t know much more about her than that, and it turns out she’s just as smart and funny as you’d hope.

Another book that I didn’t have any luck getting hold of while I was in America is Beck Dorey-Stine’s From the Corner of the Oval, which his her memoir of how she ended up as a stenographer in the Obama White House after answering an ad on Craigslist.  As you may remember, I read a lot of books on US politics before I went to DC, but my favourite ones – that left me wanting more – were the more personal memoirs rather than the more serious “proper” analysis, so this looks right up my street.

On the history front, there have been a lot of great new books out this year.  Fern Riddell’s Death in Ten Minutes, about the suffragette Kitty Marion has been sitting in my online shopping cart since it came out waiting for me to get the to-read list down a bit, as has Agnès Poirier’s Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-1950. I also love reading about Old Hollywood, and one of my podcast discoveries of this year has been You Must Remember This (which has been going for ages, I’m just late to the party) and Karina Longworth, who writes and presents it, has a new book, Seduction: Sex Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, out this Christmas which I also really want to read.

Regular readers here know that I love a good group biography and often use them as jumping off points to find new topics and people to find out more about.  There are two that I’ve got my eye on this Christmas: firstly there’s Michelle Dean’s Sharp, which is about women writers with opinions, from Dorothy Parker through Nora Ephron.  Slightly older is Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed The World by Lydall Gordon, which came out last autumn and so is now in out in paperback.

Even older still is Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, which has been on my radar for ages as a classic about the space race that I should really read but which jumped up my list earlier this year after he died and then again after I did the Air and Space Museum and the Air and Space Museum annexe while I was in Washington.  It still boggles my mind that that we explored space back when we had so much less technology than we do now and the people who were prepared to strap themselves to a giant rocket absolutely fascinate me.

Fiction

The non-fiction part of this list is always the easier one for me to write – because there are so many hardback books that I really want to read, but can’t justify buying, whereas so much of my fiction reading starts off in paperback or is available from the library.  And most of my kindle purchases tend to be fiction (they seem to get better discounts than non-fiction) as well so things just don’t hang around on my to-buy list as long. That said, there are a few novels that I’ve got my eye on.

I’ve been quite lucky with reading new romances as they came out this year, but the the lists of best of the year are out now, and Alexa Martin’s Intercepted is the one that keeps popping up on all the lists that I haven’t read.  I didn’t get a chance to buy it while I was in the US (and had no suitcase room for it anyway) so maybe if I’m really good Santa will bring it for me on the 25th.

On the crime front, I quite fancy reading A Talent For Murder, by Andrew Wilson, which is a mystery with Agatha Christie as the detective.  I have a somewhat mixed record with books like this – including a slightly love-hate relationship with the Josephine Tey series – hence why I haven’t bought it for myself yet (because it’s in hardback and expensive for something I don’t know if I’m going to like) but if someone were to buy it for me that would be different…

Curtis Sittenfeld had a collection of short stories out this year – You Think It, I’ll Say it – which I would love to read.  I’ve really enjoyed her novels (Eligible was one of my top picks of the year a couple of years ago)  I’ve also had Lucia Berlin’s short story collection A Manuel for Cleaning Women in the shopping basket for ages .  I don’t often buy short story collections for myself so either of these would be a real treat.

I’ve been hearing about Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ for years now and haven’t got around to reading it, but the movie version is out on Netflix now so perhaps there might be a tie-in edition that someone could buy me for Christmas?  Also not new is Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan, the last of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.  I’ve read the first two books and I still haven’t seen the film (it came out in the UK after I went to the US and had already left cinemas in the US when I arrived) and a dose of the insanity of the superrich is exactly what I’m usually in the mood for in the lull between Christmas and New Year!

Also sitting in the shopping cart, hoping that one day I’ll be able to justify buying them is Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp and a selection of my favourite Terry Pratchett novels in the beautiful cloth-bound hardback editions.  I don’t currently have copies of many (any?) Pratchetts – as my dad has the family set – but I would love Going Postal, Making Money, Mort and Monstrous Regiment.  The trouble is that I know as soon as I get one, I’ll want the whole set…

Let me know which books you’re hoping to get for Christmas in the comments, and Happy Reading.

 

Gift suggestions

Christmas Book Ideas 2018

Yes I know.  It’s only 10 days until Christmas Day and I’m late posting this again.  But to be honest, you wouldn’t expect anything less from me would you?  I’m only writing one post this year though – but there are plenty more ideas in my posts from the last couple of years if you need them.  Some of these are books that I’ve read, some are books that I want to read and have heard good things about.  Coming tomorrow: the books that I want for Christmas!

Fiction 

First of all, if you have a Peter Grant fan in your life, the new Rivers of London book, Lies Sleeping, came out in hardback midway through last month.  (If you don’t have a Peter Grant fan in your life, you could try to convert them, but do start at the beginning with Rivers of London or it’ll all make no sense to them).  I’m working my way through Carl Hiaassen’s books at the moment – and if you’ve got someone who likes darkly funny mystery-thrillers, then that would be a good place to go – I’m reading Star Island next – about a drug-addled starlet and her double – but Skin Tight is excellent, if gross.

Novels based on real people can go either way, but I think they make a solid choice for book gifts – because you sort of know what you’re letting your giftee in for.  I’ve got Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott on my to-read shelf, which looks like a promising choice as a gift.  It tells the story of the events that led up to Truman Capote’s professional and social suicide, a decade after In Cold Blood Made him a literary star.  The only reason I haven’t read it already is the fact I couldn’t take it with me to Washington!

I read Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys over the summer – and although it’s set on the French Riviera in the summer, I don’t think a spot of sunshine in the middle of winter is a bad thing.  If you’re buying for someone who likes historical fiction and mysteries, this would be a good choice.  For some reason I’m struggling to think of a really good comp for it – but it’s a bit Lauren Willig, Beatriz Williams-y, but with more tension.

And it was a Book of the Week back in the summer, but Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient would make a good pick for someone looking for a romance to get lost in.  What’s not to love about a gender-flipped Pretty Woman, with a heroine with Asperger’s?

Non Fiction

I’ve heard good things about Megan Mullaly and Nick Offerman’s book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, which as the title suggests tells the story of their love story – and how a carpenter and an actress fell in love and made it work, despite their differences.  If you have someone to buy for who loves Parks and Rec (and especially Ron and Tammy 2) then this could be the genius Christmas book you need to buy.  Although I hear it’s even better on audiobook… In other celebrity memoirs that might make good gifts, 2018 has been very much the Year of Tiffany Haddish and her book The Last Black Unicorn would make a good Christmas gift for the film fan in your life.

I’m midway through (as you know from the Week in Books posts) Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood – which I’m really enjoying when I’m sufficiently caught up on my podcasts to have some free listening time.  It tells the story of Lockwood’s own life growing up up in the Mid-West with a Catholic priest for a father (he got the call after he was already married with kids) and what it’s like when you have to move back in with your parents when you’re married yourself and 30.

If you want to buy someone something historical, I’ve got my eye on A Lab of One’s Own, about pioneering suffragist scientists in the First World War.  I heard the author, Patricia Fara, interviewed on History Hit earlier in the year and it sounds like a good choice for the end of this cententary year of the end of the Great War.

For Kids

I’ve had a bit of a struggle coming up with fresh children’s ideas this year – because most of my non-adult reading has been series that I’ve already talked about (at length) like the Wells and Wong books or old Girl’s Own stories that you really can’t give to children today.  The good news is that Katherine Woodfine has started a new series – following Sophie and Lillian from the Sinclair Mysteries as they turn their hand to spying.  The first book, Peril in Paris, sees them heading across the channel.

I’ve also bought the first in the Rosewood Chronicles series, Undercover Princess,  and The Secret Key, the first in the Agatha Oddly series, for some of the younger readers in my life, and am busy resisting the temptation to keep them both for me.  I would also suggest Howl’s Moving Castle if they haven’t already read it, because I loved it when I finally got around to reading it this year – more than a decade after I first saw the film version (which is also good, but different).

So there you go.  Coming up tomorrow – the books that I’m hoping might appear under the Christmas tree this year.  I hope Santa is reading.

Happy Shopping!

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.