One of our favourite things about the festive season is having time to curl up
with a book and a large plate of mince pies and enjoy a really good read. Here's our round-up of some of the best books to buy this Christmas. Fiction, non-fiction, food and more - there are great gift ideas for all your friends and family (or, indeed, for you - we like to operate on a buy-one-for-them-buy-one-for-yourself basis).
For the chance to get more book recommendations and the chance to win free copies sign up to Gransnet here...
Lies, Lies, Lies - Adele Parks. After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. A happy little family of three. And so what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes – Daisy’s used to it, she knows he’s letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And that happy little family of three will never be the same again.
Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo. From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, this Booker prize-winning novel follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. They're each looking for something - a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope . . .
Cilka's Journey - Heather Morris. Based on the heart-breaking true story of Cilka Klein, this is the sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz. 1942, and sixteen-year-old Cilka is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp and quickly learns that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival. But after liberation, she is charged as a collaborator by the Russians and imprisoned once again, this time in Siberia, where every day is a battle for survival.
The Giver of Stars - Jojo Moyes. Alice is stifled, bored, and misunderstood. Getting married and moving to America seems like a great adventure - but life as a newlywed in stuffy Baileyville, Kentucky, is not at all what she hoped for. Until, that is, she responds to a call for volunteers to start a travelling library, surprising herself by saying yes, before her husband can say no. But not everyone approves of this unlikely group of women. And when the town turns against them, will their belief in each other and their work be enough?
Agatha Raisin: Beating About the Bush - M.C. Beaton. Private detective Agatha Raisin is employed to investigate a case of industrial espionage at a factory where nothing is quite what it seems. The mystery soon turns to murder and a bad-tempered donkey turns Agatha into a national celebrity, before bringing her ridicule and shame. To add to her woes, Agatha finds herself grappling with growing feelings for her friend and occasional lover, Sir Charles Fraith. Will Agatha get her man at last? Or will the killer get her first?
The Lying Room - Nicci French. A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things. She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all. But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger. She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves? A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things. Could she be a murderer?
The Body: A Guide For Occupants - Bill Bryson. An exploration of the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, this is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up.
Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years - Julie Andrews. Picking up her story with her arrival in Hollywood, this chronicles Andrews' astonishing rise to fame as two of her early films - Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music - brought her instant and enormous success, including an Oscar. It was just the beginning of a career that would make Julie Andrews an icon to millions the world over.
Finding My Voice - Nadiya Hussain. From the moment she was born, Nadiya Hussain has been questioning her role in life. She never wanted to be a trailblazer. She just wanted to follow a 'normal' path. But life kept telling her 'you can't'. And so she found her own way, beyond anything she dared to dream...
The Last Stage - Louise Voss. At the peak of her career as lead singer of a 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now, when she has put her past behind her, a body is found in the manicured gardens of her home and a series of inexplicable and unsettling events begins to occur. It becomes clear that someone is watching, someone who knows who she is…someone who wants vengeance.
The Offing - Benjamin Myers. One summer following the Second World War, sixteen-year-old Robert Appleyard sets out on foot from his Durham village. In the former smuggling village of Robin Hood's Bay, he meets eccentric, worldly Dulcie. The two come from different worlds, yet as the summer months pass, they form an unlikely friendship that will profoundly alter their futures.
The Hero - Lee Child. In his first work of non-fiction, the creator of the multimillion-selling Jack Reacher series explores the endurance of heroes from Achilles to Bond, showing us how this age-old myth is a fundamental part of what makes us human. He demonstrates how hero stories continue to shape our world – arguing that we need them now more than ever.
Tall Tales and Wee Stories - Billy Connolly. Bringing together the very best of Billy's storytelling for the first time, this includes his most famous routines including; The Last Supper, Jojoba Shampoo, Incontinence Pants and Shouting at Wildebeest. With an introduction and original illustrations by Billy throughout, it is an inspirational, energetic and riotously funny read, and a fitting celebration of our greatest ever comedian.
An Economic History of the English Garden - Roderick Floud. Showing the extraordinary commitment of money as well as time that the English have made to gardens and gardening over three-and-a-half centuries. The book reveals the connections of our gardens to the re-establishment of the English monarchy, the national debt, transport during the Industrial Revolution, the new industries of steam, glass and iron, and the built environment that is now all around us.
The Lives and Loves of E. Nesbit - Eleanor Fitzsimons. Edith Nesbit is considered the inventor of the children’s adventure story. But who was the person behind the best loved classics The Railway Children and Five Children and It? Fascinating revelations show a woman who railed against inequity, social injustice and state-sponsored oppression and incorporated her avant-garde ideas into her writing, influencing a generation of children.
The Binding - Bridget Collins. Emmett Farmer is summoned to work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse. He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded. Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.
The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley. In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather. The beautiful one. The golden couple. The volatile one. The new parents. The quiet one. The city boy. The outsider. The victim. Not an accident – a murder among friends.
Me - Elton John. In his first and only official autobiography, music icon Elton John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life. The result is Me - the joyously funny, honest and moving story of the most enduringly successful singer/songwriter of all time.
Christmas Every Day - Beth Moran. When Jenny inherits her estranged grandmother’s cottage, she has nothing to lose - no money, no job, no friends, no family to speak of, and zero self-respect. Things can only get better... When Jenny is welcomed into a rather unusual book club, life seems to finally be getting more interesting. Jenny can’t resist joining in, and soon a year of friendship and laughter, tears and regrets unfolds in the most unexpected ways.
Letters from Tove - Tove Jansson. Out of the thousands of letters Moomin creator Tove Jansson wrote, a cache remains that she addressed to her family, her dearest confidantes, and her lovers, male and female. Into these she spilled her innermost thoughts, defended her ideals and revealed her heart. To read these letters is both an act of startling intimacy and a rare privilege.
The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Tour of Britain - Ordnance Survey & Dr Gareth Moore. Map your way around Britain in 40 new regional maps, with hundreds of puzzles, mind-boggling brainteasers, navigational tests, word games, code-crackers, anagrams and mathematical conundrums to keep you occupied as you go!
Breaking & Mending - Joanna Cannon. In this powerful memoir, Joanna Cannon tells her story as a junior doctor. We walk with her through the wards, facing extraordinary and daunting moments: from attending her first post-mortem, sitting with a patient through their final moments, to learning the power of a well- or badly chosen word. These moments, and the small sustaining acts of kindness and connection that punctuate hospital life, teach her that emotional care and mental health can be just as critical as restoring a heartbeat.
The Education of an Idealist - Samantha Power. Power transports us from her early years in Dublin to the streets of war-torn Bosnia into the White House Situation Room and the arena of high-stakes diplomacy. Laying bare the searing battles and defining moments of her life, she illuminates the intricacies of politics and geopolitics, and reminds that in the face of great challenges there is always something each of us can do to advance the cause of human dignity.
My Name Is Why - Lemn Sissay. At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in a foster family and care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth. This is his story: a story of neglect and determination, misfortune and hope, cruelty and triumph.
East - Meera Sodha. Drawing from her 'New Vegan' Guardian column, this stunning new collection also features plenty of brand-new recipes inspired by a wide range of Asian cuisines. There are noodles, curries, rice dishes, tofu, salads, sides and sweets, all surprisingly easy to make and bursting with exciting flavours.
Mary Berry Cooks Up a Feast - Mary Berry & Lucy Young. In this extra-special updated edition of Mary Berry's popular entertaining cookbook, with lavish new photography and bonus festive recipes, Mary makes cooking for gatherings of family and friends easy, with over 160 recipes that work well for both small and large numbers of guests.
The World That we Knew - Alice Hoffman. Berlin, 1941. During humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive. What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, these remarkable characters take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.
All the Rage - Cara Hunter. A distressed teenage girl is found on the outskirts of Oxford. The story she tells is terrifying and DI Adam Fawley is doing the best he can to investigate, but the teenager refuses to press charges. All he can do is try to ignore the sickening feeling he's seen something like this before. But when another girl goes missing, Fawley knows his time is running out.
Gone - Leona Deakin. Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read: Your gift is the game. Dare to play? The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all. And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.
The Silent Patient - Alex Michaelides. Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release - and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can't bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain. Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots him five times and then never speaks another word. Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, although his discoveries suggest her silence goes far deeper than he first thought. And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?
Blood Orange - Harriet Tyce. Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise - she's just been given her first murder case to defend. But she also drinks too much, is neglecting her family and is having an affair with a colleague. Her client wants to plead guilty, yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself. But someone knows Alison's secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she's done, and who won't stop until she's lost everything...
The Starless Sea - Erin Morganstern. When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Determined to solve the puzzle within, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover. They guide him to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth. And when the labyrinth is threatened, Zachary must race through its twisting tunnels and crowded ballrooms, searching for the end of his story.
Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope, Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church - Megan Phelps-Roper. Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters. Yet from her first public protest, aged five, she believed she was preaching God's truth. But in 2012, aged twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind. A fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief.
The German House - Annette Hess. Frankfurt, 1963. For twenty-four-year-old Eva Bruhn, World War II is a foggy childhood memory. She dreams of starting a new life, but her plans are turned upside down when an American investigator hires her as a translator for a war crimes trial. As she becomes ever more involved in the Frankfurt Trials, Eva begins to question her family’s silence on the war. Propelled by her own conscience, she joins a team of fiery prosecutors determined to bring the Nazis to justice - a decision that will help change her country forever.
The Oceans Between Us - Gill Thompson. A woman is found wandering injured in London after an air raid. She remembers only that she has lost something very precious. A little boy waits in the orphanage, hoping his mother will return, but then he finds himself on a ship bound for Australia, the promise of a golden life ahead. How will she find him in a land across the oceans? In Perth, a lonely wife takes in the orphaned child. But then she discovers the secret of his past. Should she keep quiet? Or tell the truth and risk losing the boy who has become her life?
Do Not Feed the Bear - Rachel Elliott. Sydney is a cartoonist and freerunner. Feet constantly twitching, always teetering on the edge of life, she's never come to terms with the event that ripped her family apart when she was ten years old. And so, on a birthday that she doesn't want to celebrate, she returns alone to St Ives to face up to her guilt and grief. It's a trip that turns out to be life-changing - and not only for herself.
Woman on the Edge - Samatha M. Bailey. In a split second, Morgan's life changes for ever. A stranger hands her a baby, then jumps in front of a train. When the police question Morgan, she discovers none of the witnesses can corroborate her version of events. And when they learn Morgan longs for a baby of her own, she becomes a suspect. To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically tries to retrace the last days of the woman's life. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia? Or is something much darker going on?
One False Move - Robert Goddard. Joe Roberts has a brain that seems able to outperform a computer. To a games company like Venstrom that promises big profits, so they send Nicole Nevinson to lure him from his current boss and make him an offer too good to refuse. But Nicole crosses an invisible line into a world where the game being played has rules she doesn’t understand and where no-one can help her win. But win she must. Because the battle now isn’t just for Joe’s mind, it’s for Nicole’s life.
A Gift in December - Jenny Galdwell. Jane has given up on love after being dumped by boyfriend Simon. Now her boss wants her to go to Norway to cover the story of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree. She'd much rather wallow at home, but as she throws herself into the trip and starts to enjoy herself, it seems that love hasn't quite given up on her just yet...
Last Christmas - Greg Wise & Emma Thompson. When you think back to Christmases past, what (if anything) made it magical? Looking towards the future, what would your perfect Christmas be? What would you change? What should we all change? This is a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.
Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year - Beth Kempton. Inspiration for a new kind of holiday season - one where you radiate calm and cultivate delight. Spanning late November to early January, Calm Christmas embraces the festive build-up, the celebrations and the turn of the year in a holistic, nurturing way. It will whisk you away from the frenetic energy of the high street and invite you to come sit awhile by the fire, pausing to explore what a more mindful festive season could mean for you.
The Dutch House - Ann Patchett. Danny and Maeve Conroy grow up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion with a distant father and absent mother. Life is coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house's former owners in the frames of their oil paintings. But, with the arrival of Andrea, the siblings are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own exile is that of their mother's: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known.
Bone China - Laura Purcell. Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft's family. But her doctor father is convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, and arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. Forty years later, Hester Why has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.
Bold As Brass - Isabel Rogers. When players in Stockwell Park Orchestra fear they may be getting out of touch with the community, they invite children from two nearby schools to join them for a season. Supercilious, rich Oakdean College pupils have never mixed with the rough Sunbridge Academy kids, and when things go missing and rumours spread, the situation threatens to turn ugly. Can music heal social rifts? Who has been stealing and why? And will the orchestra’s newly-composed fanfare turn out to be fantastic… or farcical?
Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice - Michelle Obama. In writing Becoming, Michelle Obama shared her own extraordinary journey to help create space for others to tell their stories and to give people the courage to discover the power of their own voice. With this journal, she now provides you with the encouragement to find value in your own personal journey of becoming.
Shelf Respect - Annie Austen. Do you alphabetise your books or organise by genre... or (heaven forbid) colour? Have you merged your collection with your other half's? (And do you write your name inside the cover, just in case?) Do you keep all the books you've read, or only the most cherished? Is there such a thing as too many books? (No.) A charmingly illustrated book in defence of towering TBR piles and overflowing shelves... no matter how you choose to organise them.
Stronghold - Tucker Malarkey. An enthralling account of an unlikely visionary, Guido Rahr, and his mission to protect the world's last bastion of wild salmon. As Guido befriends and navigates scientists, conservationists, corrupt officials, Russian oligarchs, unexpected allies, and impenetrable bureaucracies, he reveals the astonishing natural history of the endangered salmon, a species whose demise will reverberate across the planet. And he sets into motion a plan that can secure their survival.
A Perfect Cornish Christmas - Phillipa Ashley. After last Christmas revealed a shocking family secret, all Scarlett wants this Christmas is to know who her real father is. She heads to the Cornish town of Porthmellow, where she believes the truth of her birth is hidden. But she didn’t bargain on being drawn into the Christmas festival preparations – or meeting Jude Penberth, whose charm threatens to complicate life further. Can she have the perfect Christmas this year, or are there more surprises on the way?
Dinner With Edward - Isabel Vincent. With its delicious food and stunning views of Manhattan, Edward's home was a much-needed refuge for reporter Isabel Vincent. But over long, dark evenings where they both grieved for their very different lost marriages, Isabel realised that even a shared bowl of chowder could transform loneliness and anxiety into friendship, freedom, and a pure, simple pleasure she had not known she could find again.
The Christmas Invitation - Trisha Ashley. Meg is definitely not in the Christmas mood. Yet when she’s invited to spend the run-up to Christmas in the snowy countryside, rather than dreary London, she can’t refuse. But just as she’s beginning to settle in, she spots a familiar face, Lex. Despite the festive cheer, Meg suddenly wants nothing more than to get as far away from him, and their past secrets, as she can. But if she stays, could this be the year she finally discovers the magic of Christmas...?
Animal Languages - Eva Meijer. Dolphins and parrots call each other by their names. Fork tailed drongos mimic the calls of other animals to scare them away and then steal their dinner. In the songs of many species of birds, and in skin patterns of squid, we find grammatical structures... A fascinating and philosophical exploration of the ways animals communicate with each other, and with us.
Sanctuary - V.V James. To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Then the rumours start. Bereaved mother Abigail will stop at nothing until she has justice for her dead son. Her best friend Sarah will do everything in her power to protect her accused daughter. And the women share a secret that could shatter their lives. As accusations fly, it falls to Maggie to find out the truth before her investigation spirals out of control.
The Wisdom of Old Dogs - Elli H. Radinger. A dog is for life, but an old dog's wisdom is for ever. Full of practical advice, uplifting stories, and scientific expertise, this book reveals how dogs can be a constant source of wisdom, comfort and love in their old age.
Eat Yourself Healthy - Dr Megan Rossi. Drawing from the latest research and a decade of experience as a dietitian and consultant at The Gut Health Clinic, Dr Megan Rossi explains how to feed your gut for a happier, healthier you using simple, delicious and gut-boosting recipes. Also includes expert advice on how to deal with common complaints such as IBS and bloating, diagnose food intolerances, and manage good gut health with sleep and exercise routines.