Monday, 30 November -0001

The Christmas Book Guide 2016

Whether you are shopping for the bibliophiles in your life, or looking for the perfect read to escape the seasonal mayhem, we bring you our pick of this year’s best books



NUTSHELL by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape, £16.99)
McEwan is on top form in this tale of adultery, greed and murder with references to Hamlet, narrated by a baby boy in utero. While his mother and paternal uncle hatch their evil plans, said foetus muses on everything from consciousness to immigration and fine wines. social satire that wears its learning lightly.

THE NOISE OF WHAT by Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape, £14.99)
The life of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich is the inspiration for this brilliant study of the relationship between art and an oppressive regime. We see Russia through his eyes, as he goes from rising young talent to enemy of the people and disillusioned old man. A compelling depiction of the country’s history and a richly imagined close-up of the artist.

WHISPERS THROUGH A MEGAPHONE by Rachel Elliott (Pushkin One, £8.99)
A friendship between two misfits and the legacy of a toxic mother are at the heart of this incisive and original debut novel. Miriam has not left her house in three years and speaks only in whispers. Ralph, a dissatisfied psychotherapist, walks out on his wife and goes into hiding. An intense psychological drama lightened with humour and tenderness.

THE TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, £16.99)
A very Russian nostalgia and sense of narrative resonate in this story of memories and how we remember, that runs from Stalin’s purges to modern war-ravaged Chechnya. The lives of sympathetically voiced criminals, mercenaries, lovers and artists are interwoven in precisely crafted plotlines.

THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue (Picador, £14.99)
When an 11-year-old girl in rural Ireland is said to be living on air alone, the local community is determined to either expose a fraud or confirm a miracle. This is an expertly crafted tale of intrigue, faith and challenged certainties by the author of the acclaimed thriller room.

THE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty (Oneworld, £12.99)
A young man is told his father’s racially-charged studies will lead to a book and a way out of poverty. But then his father is murdered, and his small town is wiped off the map – propelling him on a bizarre legal battle, all the way to the Supreme Court. This year’s Man Booker Prize winner is a sharp satire of contemporary America and an irreverent but poignant take on the country’s racial tensions.



MARGARET THATCHER, THE AUTHORIZED AUTOBIOGRAPHY, VOLUME 2: Everything She Wants by Charles Moore (Allen Lane, £30)
The second instalment of Moore’s Iron Lady biography begins in June 1982 after victory in the Falklands, and ends with her third consecutive electoral win in 1987. Thatcher authorized this biography on condition that it be published after her death, giving the author access to private and government papers, archives and interviews with people who knew her. Whether you love her or hate her, it is a fascinating read.

EVELYN WAUGH: A LIFE REVISITED by Philip Eade (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £30)
This biography, drawing on 80 previously unpublished love letters written by Waugh to Bright Young Thing Teresa ‘Baby’ Jungman, reveals a softer side to the author of Brideshead revisited and explores the impact of his complex love life on his novels.

THE MISTRESS OF MAYFAIR: Men, Money and The Marriage of Doris Delevingne by Lyndsy Spence (The History Press, £20)
The great-aunt of model Cara Delevingne was a shocker of a bad girl, even by Roaring Twenties standards. A consummate courtesan who scaled, one bed at a time, the heights of society, her lovers are rumoured to have included both Churchills, père et fils. A witty and well researched account of her rise and fall – and a ringside seat to 1920s, ’30s and ’40s society scandals.

A HOUSE FULL OF DAUGHTERS by Juliet Nicolson (Chatto & Windus, £14.99)
Nicholson’s ambitious memoir explores the lives of seven fascinating women from her family, including her feisty flamenco-dancer great-grandmother Pepita, the writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West, herself and her daughters.

A LIFE IN QUESTIONS by Jeremy Paxman (William Collins, £20)
The former newsnight presenter, known for his merciless interviewing style, shows a gentler, more nuanced side in his memoir, as he looks back on his working-class childhood and rise to broadcasting stardom.

ALIVE, ALIVE, OH!: And Other Things That Matter by Diana Athill (Granta Books, £7.99)
The nonagenarian writer looks back on her colourful life in a series of witty, evocative fragments, from her Norfolk childhood to being presented at court as a debutante and her reluctant move into a retirement home.


Short Stories

Fen by Daisy Johnson (Jonathan Cape, £12.99)
A perfect blend of dark magical realism, social critique and psychological insight, set in the mist- blurred landscapes of East Anglia’s fenland. Eating, starving and transformation are recurring themes: a girl starves herself and turns into a fish; women devour their lovers; foxes and sea birds carry the souls of the dead.

BEHIND A GEORGIAN DOOR: Perfect Rooms, Imperfect Lives by Artemisia D’ecca (Phaeton, £18.99)
Dublin’s Georgian townhouses act as settings, characters and multilayered symbols in three compelling novellas, set after the financial crash of 2008. From grand colonial residences to desirable flats, meagre bedsits or modern mansions, their changed fortunes and those of their occupants mirror developments in Ireland’s history.

BLIND WATER PASS by Anna Metcalfe (John Murray Originals, £10.99)
Themes of displacement, isolation and failed communication run through these arresting stories, peopled by characters in transit or transition, from an English teacher in Beijing to an immigrant woman driving a taxi around Paris.



MURDER UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE edited by Cecily Gayford (Profile Books, £7.99)
There is nothing like a seasonal whodunit, and this killer selection is the icing on the (Christmas) cake, with classics from the likes of Dorothy l Sayers, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. From a spot of Boxing Day sleuthing to a lost jewel found in a festive location, this is all your christmases come at once for fans of the genre.

TIME OF FLIGHT by AC Koning (Arbuthnot Books, £9.95)
An atmospheric thriller set in the glamorous world of 1930s aviation, when flying exploits captured the public imagination and pioneers’ feats were constantly in the newspapers. A blind war veteran thinks he is immune to the craze, but is plunged into a tangle of jealousy, betrayal and murder after meeting a famous pilot.

SPARE ME THE TRUTH by CJ Carver (Zaffre Books, £7.99)
An amnesiac with no recollection of his past as a spy, a disgraced policewoman with razor-sharp wits and a mercurial temperament, and a young GP mourning her mother’s sudden death are brought together by a tragic chain of events in this high-wire act of a thriller.

GET EVEN by Martina Cole (Headline, £7.99)
A cocktail of high life, underworld dealings – and of course, murder – from the modern-day queen of crime. Former childhood sweethearts Lenny and Sharon seem to have it all, but their comfortable life, bankrolled by Lenny’s shady occupation, comes to an abrupt end when he is brutally murdered – and sharon becomes one of crime fiction’s most memorable avenging widows.



THE OUTRUN by Amy Liptrot (Canongate, £14.99)
Liptrot returned to her childhood home on orkney while recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, and found a newly discovered strength and purpose engaging with and observing nature: orca sightings, wild swimming, the Northern Lights. Her account of that year is a highly original take on nature writing.

A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE HEDGEROW by John Wright (Profile, £16.99)
Hedgerows are a distinctive feature of the British landscape, but according to some studies we have lost 50 per cent of them in the last 60 years. Humorous and informative, this is a field guide cum natural history, tracing their origins to Mesolithic times.

BEING A BEAST by Charles Foster (Profile, £14.99)
The barrister, vet and academic takes empathy to a new level and sets out to live (and at times, worryingly, eat) like a badger, otter, fox, deer and swift. This deliciously barking experiment delivers pertinent insights on consciousness, language and what it means to be human.



VOGUE 100: A Century Of Style by Robin Muir (National Portrait Gallery, £40)
Since its launch in 1916, British Vogue has kept its finger on the nation’s fashion and lifestyle pulse. Published as part of the magazine’s centenary celebrations, this stylish book features iconic images from leading photographers.

THE FASHION OF FILM: How Cinema Has Inspired Fashion by Amber Jane Butchart (Mitchell Beazley, £30)
From silver screen to catwalk and women’s wardrobes: with fashion photography, film stills and essays, this is a glorious celebration of how cinema style has influenced fashion design through the decades.

1920s JAZZ AGE: Fashion & Photographs by Martin Pel (Unicorn, £25)
Fans of the Roaring Twenties will love this exquisite book featuring swoon-worthy garments and accessories from the period, and portraits of style icons Nancy Cunard, Mistinguett and Clara Bow.



THE ROYAL RABBITS OF LONDON by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore (Simon & Schuster Children’s, £10.99)
A runt-of-the-litter bunny becomes an unlikely hero protecting The Queen from an evil plot in this enchanting book, the first children’s work by the literary power couple. Kate Hindley’s illustrations are a treat.

THE RACEHORSE WHO WOULDN’T GALLOP by Clare Balding (Puffin, £10.99)
Pony-mad children will love this tale. The 10-year-old daughter of a farmer in financial straits accidentally acquires an uncooperative racehorse: can the pair save the day? national velvet meets The Archers – too good to give away to the youngsters.

MARY POPPINS: Up, Up And Away by Hélène Druvert (Thames & Hudson, £14.95)
An imaginative, enchanting picture book for children aged five and over, featuring laser-cut images of scenes from PL Travers’s novels.



LOVERS THE GOODNESS OF DOGS: The Human’s Guide to Choosing, Buying, Training, Feeding, Living With And Caring For Your Dog by India Knight (Fig Tree, £14.99)
An eloquent hurrah for our four-legged best friends and the joys of dog ownership, and a comprehensive manual packed with eminently sensible advice, all delivered in Knight’s signature style: warmly humorous, no-nonsense and witty.

PENGUIN BLOOM: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved A Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive (Canongate, £14.99)
A rescued injured magpie brings hope and purpose to a woman who is left paralysed after an accident, and her family. A moving true story, adorable bird pictures: what’s not to love?

A STREET CAT NAMED BOB: The Amazing True Story Of One Man And His Cat by James Bowen (Hodder, £8.99)
Reissued in paperback this year, the best-selling true story of a homeless man who strikes up a life-changing friendship with an injured ginger cat is set to become a classic.



THE LADYBIRD BOOK OF THE MEETING by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris (Michael Joseph, £6.99)
Part of the tongue-in- cheek Ladybirds For Grown-ups series, this is a hilarious take on the mind-numbing ordeal of workplace meetings. Time is wasted, ambitions are thwarted, but the big question is – will there be biscuits?

ENGLISH HUMOUR FOR BEGINNERS by George Mikes (Penguin, £8.99)
Hungarian by birth but English by choice, mikes, a keen observer of British life, identifies the three pillars of our native wit: understatement, self-deprecation and plain cruelty.

FASHION QUOTES: Stylish Wit & Catwalk Wisdom by Patrick Mauriès and Jean-Christophe Napias (Thames & Hudson, £12.95)
A compendium of hundreds of catty put-downs, sharp- clawed witticisms and venomous one-liners from the world of fashion: a must for the intelligent fashionista’s dressing table.

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