I’ve been forcing books on people for Xmas for as long as I can remember, which to be fair is only the last six years or so, but still, it feels like an eternity (I was a bloodshot and bleary-eyed student prior to that so most things are a bit hazy). It all started when I was working in a bookshop and true to the student stereotype everything was about saving money, and getting a healthy discount certainly helped. Nowadays it’s not so much about saving money, it’s more about the belief that there is a book out there for everyone and I want to find it for those dearest to me.
As this is the time of year that everyone is publishing a list of some sort, I thought I’d better jump on the bandwagon and compile one myself. Below, then, is a little list of books that you might not come across elsewhere which I think would make for a perfect last minute Christmas stocking filler.
This action packed techno-thriller should appeal to a wide audience, its gripping and twisting story captivating the reader from the first page. Terrorism, monks and chess all feature heavily in this intelligent and crisp page-turner. The parallels with a certain Dan Brown are there for all to see but the differences are telling and really this book shouldn’t be mistaken as being a mere suspense-romp full of cliff hangers. Although cliffhangers drive this book along, the author Adrian Dawson is an accomplished author and one reads the book not only to find out how the story ends, but also to enjoy how the story is told and written. Where the Da Vinci Code looks cheap, Codex looks clean and stylish, where the editorial work in the former was shoddy to say the least, the latter seems pristine, and where Mr Brown’s characters are superficial and often unbelievable, Mr Dawson’s are well developed and believable. If you are looking for an exciting, exhilarating and engaging book for some sofa surfing over the Christmas period, this book ticks all the right boxes.
I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since the 2010 Man Booker shortlist was announced. In a Strange Room, which may or may not be a novel, is about the writer’s attempt to remember three different journeys he undertook with three different individuals. His premise is to try and convey how memory works. For Galgut memory is fiction: a set of moments, disparate perceptions without a narrative thread. This book is very clever and challenges the reader’s preconceptions of what a novel and writer is/should be. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially for those people with the traveller’s bug this unique take on a travel diary is a must read.
This audacious debut is one of my favourite books of the year and was my pick for the Guardian First Book Award. The story centres around the narrator ‘Fishy’, a collector of Nazi memorabilia, boxer Seth ‘Sinner’ Roach and eugenics obsessed scientist Philip Erskine. Beauman expertly manages to interweave the story of these three characters, moving between the present day inhabited by the narrator and the 1930’s when Erskine’s and Sinner’s paths cross. Beauman’s writing is original and absorbing, some of his metaphors pure class and the story is both brave and bold. It really doesn’t get any better in terms of entertainment.
Everyone knows the Twelve Days of Christmas, but not as rewritten by John Julius Norwich in this delightful correspondence, which records the daily thank-you letters from one increasingly bemused young lady to her unseen admirer. Illustrated by Quentin Blake, one of Britain’s finest illustrators, and best known for his own picture books and his collaboration with Roald Dahl, this hilarious debacle of birds, maids and the full percussion section of the Liverpool Philharmonic creating mayhem in the calm of the English country Christmas is the perfect Xmas gift.
Bristol Short Story Prize is an exciting, international short story competition open to all writers that publishes an annual anthology as well as presenting cash prizes. The stories in this anthology are incredibly wide ranging in their subject matter, covering everything from Napoleon to being a mother, and are incredibly good. Valerie O’Riordan won last year’s award with her sinister and foreboding story, ‘Mum’s the Word’, which is one of the most concisely and beautifully written stories I have come across in a long time. This book is full of gems and should be read by any short story aficionado.
First posted on The Ran$om Note which covers everything from cutting edge music reviews to dog walking blogs, art, culture and new world musings.