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Best books for Christmas

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, puzzles, 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).

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Best Christmas reads

Miss Marley - Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull. Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, in the shadow of the workhouse. When the chance to escape poverty comes their way, Jacob seizes it despite the terrible price. And so he is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. Only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart. 

The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker. There was a woman at the heart of the Trojan war whose voice has been silent - until now. Briseis was a queen until her city was destroyed. Now she is slave to Achilles, the man who butchered her husband and brothers. Trapped in a world defined by men, can she survive to become the author of her own story? Discover the greatest Greek myth of all - retold by the witness history forgot.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes - Ruth Hogan. Masha's life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds comfort in her faithful canine companion, and peace in the quiet lanes of her town's lido. Then a chance encounter with two extraordinary women opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again. But just as Masha dares to imagine the future, her past comes roaring back ...

Best Christmas reads

Melmoth - Sarah Perry. Long ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for. Now a strange manuscript has come into her possession, testimonies from the darkest chapters of human history, recording sightings of a tall, silent woman, with unblinking eyes and bleeding feet: Melmoth. Everyone that Melmoth seeks out must make a choice: to live with what they've done, or be led into the darkness. As Helen's past finally catches up with her, she too must choose which path to take.

XX - Angela Chadwick. When Rosie and Jules discover a ground-breaking clinical trial that enables two women to have a baby, they jump at the chance to make history. Fear-mongering politicians and right-wing movements are quick to latch on to the controversies and stoke the fears of the public. When news of Rosie's pregnancy is leaked to the media, she and Jules are forced to question the loyalty of those closest to them, and battle against a tirade of hate that threatens to split them apart.

Roar - Cecilia Ahern. Discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change. Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

Best Christmas reads

Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer - M.C. Beaton. As the village gets ready for the Bishop's visit, twins Mavis and Millicent Dupin get overly-excited at the prospect of ringing the special peal of bells created for the occasion, forcing the other bell ringers to rehearse and rehearse...so much so that retired lawyer Joseph Kennell yells at the sisters that he 'felt like killing them'. So when Millicent is found dead suspicion falls onto Kennell. Will Agatha unmask the real killer and clear Joseph's name?

One Day in December - Josie Silver. Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist. But then, through a misted-up bus window, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away. She thinks she'll never see him again. But a year later, her best friend introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus. Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

Nevertheless She Persisted - Jon Walter. Clara and Nancy, sisters working in Holloway Prison in 1913, find themselves face-to-face with imprisoned suffragettes: women fighting for the same freedoms they want for themselves. Soon Nancy is drawn to one inmate in particular and decides to follow her into the fight. But Clara is torn by the very laws her sister has chosen to try to change. How can she possibly choose between the two sides of her heart and not lose a part of herself?

 Best Christmas reads

Transcription - Kate Atkinson. 1940. Eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, she is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

Of Love and War - Lynsey Addario. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist returns with a stunning collection of more than two hundred of her photographs from across the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, alongside revelatory essays from esteemed writers, such as Dexter Filkins and Suzy Hansen, and public figures, like Christy Turlington.

The Truth About Archie and Pye - Jonathan Pinnock. Disillusioned junior PR executive Tom Winscombe finds himself sharing a train carriage with George Burgess, biographer of mathematicians Archimedes and Pythagoras, who both died in curious circumstances a decade ago. Burgess himself will die tonight in an equally odd manner, leaving Tom with a locked case and a lot of unanswered questions...

 Best Christmas reads

The Punk Factor - Rebecca Denton. Seventeen-year-old Frankie forms a punk rock girl band to attract her ex boyfriend's attention. But in her efforts to make the band a success and get him to notice her, Frankie starts to care less about what Doc thinks and more about how much she loves making very loud music. She finally feels a glimpse of who she can be, independent of anyone else. Then one day, Doc decides he is going to win her back.

Everything I Know About Love - Dolly Alderton. Journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton recounts her experiences of falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you've ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out.

Schadenfreude - Tiffany Watt Smith. Enjoying the pain and failures of others is an all-too-familiar feeling. Historian of emotions Tiffany Watt Smith offers expert insight and reveals how everyone, babies, nuns, your most trusted friends, is enjoying your misfortunes. But rather than an emotional glitch, she argues, Schadenfreude can reveal profound truths about our relationships with others and our sense of who we are.

Best Christmas reads

Snow: the Biography - Giles Whittell. Snow has a lot in common with religion. It comes from heaven. It changes everything. It creates an alternative reality and brings on irrational behaviour in humans. But unlike most religions, snow has never had a bible, until now and this anthropology and travelogue for everyone from ski addicts to the millions of people who have never even seen it.

Property: A Collection - Lionel Shriver. This first collection of stories from a master of the form, explores the idea of "property" in both senses of the word: real estate, and stuff. It illustrates how our possessions act as proxies for ourselves, and how tussles over ownership articulate the power dynamics of our relationships. In Shriver’s world, we may possess people and objects and places, but in turn they possess us.

Dramatic Exchanges: The Lives and Letters of the National Theatre - editor Daniel Rosenthal. There has been always as much drama offstage as on at the National Theatre, and much of it is to be found in the letters, telegrams, scribbled notes and colourful postcards of its main players. This book brings together the most inspiring, dramatic and amusing letters and reveals the stories behind some of the most lavish, triumphant, daring and disastrous productions in the theatre's history.

Best Christmas reads

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland - Heidi Swain. After calling off her engagement, Hayley wants nothing more than to return to her no-strings fun-loving self, avoiding any chance of future heartbreak. Gabe also has a reason for turning his back on love, one that seems intent on keeping them apart. Under the starry winter skies, will Gabe convince Hayley to open her heart again once more? And in doing so, will he convince himself?

Christmas at Liberty's - Fiona Ford. September, 1941: Mary arrives in war-torn London nursing a broken heart and a painful secret. When she is offered her dream post as an assistant in the fabric department at Liberty store, she knows this is the fresh start she needs. But not everyone will give Mary a warm welcome, and the trauma of her past will soon catch up with her.

A Christmas Gift - Sue Moorcroft. Georgine loves Christmas. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, she’s struggled to make ends meet. When she meets handsome Joe Blackthorn, there’s something about him she can’t quite put her finger on. Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

Best Christmas reads

Erebus - Michael Palin. HMS Erebus was one of the great exploring ships, a veteran of groundbreaking expeditions to the ends of the Earth. In 1848, it disappeared in the Arctic, its fate a mystery. In 2014, it was found. This is its story.

Brief Answers to Big Questions - Stephen Hawking. The final book from one of the greatest minds in history; as we face potentially catastrophic changes here on Earth, Stephen Hawking turns his attention to the most urgent issues for humankind. A personal view on the challenges we face as a human race, and where we, as a planet, are heading next.

The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book - Ordnance Survey & Dr Gareth Moore. Track down hidden treasures, decipher geographical details and discover amazing facts as you work through this unique puzzle book based on 40 of the Ordnance Survey's best British maps. 


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Best Christmas reads

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free - Andrew Miller. 1809. Captain John Lacroix is home from Britain's disastrous campaign against Napoleon's forces in Spain. Gradually he recovers his health, but not his peace of mind. When the command comes to return to his regiment, he runs for the Hebrides, unaware that he has far worse to fear than being dragged back to the army: a vicious English corporal and a Spanish officer with secret orders are on his trail.

The Hoarder - Jess Kidd. Maud Drennan - underpaid carer and unintentional psychic - is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, she is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home and must uncover what lies beneath Cathal's decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself. If someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?

The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths. Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. Holland story by her body. The investigating detective is convinced the writer's works somehow hold the key to the case. Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn't hers...

Best Christmas reads

Shell - Kristina Olsson. Sydney, 1960s: newspaper reporter Pearl Keogh has been relegated to the women’s pages as punishment for her involvement in the anti-war movement, and is desperate to find her two young brothers before they are conscripted. Axel Lindquist, newly arrived from Sweden and haunted by his father's acts in WWII, is set to work as a sculptor on the Sydney Opera House. Pearl and Axel’s lives orbit and collide, as they both struggle in the eye of the storm.

Dark Water - Elizabeth Lowry. 1833. Hiram Carver takes up his first position as ship's doctor. He struggles in this brutal floating world until he meets William Borden, the Hero of the Providence. What happens on the Orbis binds the two together forever. When Carver recovers, and takes up a role at Boston's Asylum for the Insane, he will meet Borden again - overwhelmed by madness. Carver devotes himself to Borden's cure, but though he raises up monsters, they will not rest. So Carver must return once more to the edge of the sea and confront the man - and the myth - that lie in dark water.

The Scarlet Nightingale - Alan Titichmarsh. It is the late 1930s when Rosamund Hanbury leaves behind her Devonshire home for high society London. And when the enigmatic Harry Napier sweeps her off her feet she could almost forget that Britain has declared war. But Harry is posted, London reels from the first bombings of the Blitz and Rosamund suffers a devastating personal loss. Joining the Special Forces she is sent to work on a top secret mission in France. It is here that her courage and loyalty are truly put to the test and she learns that no one is what they seem: at home or abroad ...

Best Christmas reads

The Spy and the Traitor - Ben Macintyre. July 1985. A middle-aged man stood on the pavement in the heart of Moscow, holding a carrier bag printed with the red logo of British supermarket Safeway. The man was a spy for MI6. A senior KGB officer, for more than a decade he had supplied his British spymasters with a stream of priceless secrets. The bag was a signal: to activate his escape plan to be smuggled out of Russia. So began one of the most extraordinary episodes in the history of espionage.

Speeches of Note - compiled by Shaun Usher. Discover speeches that altered the course of history, like Nelson Mandela's on the day he became South Africa’s first black President. Expect the gloriously unexpected, as Kermit the Frog takes to the podium. Celebrate lives well-lived. And while some speeches are heard by millions, others in this collection remain unspoken, such as the secret draft prepared for the Queen during a military exercise for World War III.

One Enchanted Evening - Anton du Beke. London, 1936. Inside the Grand Ballroom of the Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers. Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear. Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, dreams of joining the dancers but soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham has something to hide. The storm clouds of war are gathering, and beneath the glamour of the ballroom lurks an irresistible world of scandal and secrets.

Best Christmas reads

Prue: My All-time Favourite Recipes - Prue Leith. Delicious, fuss-free dishes that Prue has cooked countless times for family and friends. This is her first cookery book in twenty-five years, and she has woven intimate and witty stories from her life around many of the recipes. Celebrating the food we all want to make at home, Prue gives an unparalleled view into the cooking life and style of one of the nation’s best-loved cooks.

The Great British Bake Off: Get Baking for Friends and Family - Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and the Bake Off team. The brand-new official Bake Off book with more than 100 mouth-watering sweet and savoury bakes and helpful hints, tips and tricks, and easy step-by-step instructions and photographs throughout.

Best Christmas reads

The 4 Pillar Plan - Dr Rangan Chatterjee. Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep your way to a longer, healthier and happier life. This book is the solution to help you feel better than you ever have before. Based on cutting edge research and his own experiences serving as a doctor for nearly 20 years, this provides a simple actionable plan to help you feel fantastic.

Dog Personalities. We all know that dogs have personalities as colourful and unique as any human. They can be confident and dominant – born leaders – or shy and timid. They can be obedient, laid back, cheeky or stubborn. They can be prima donnas, stroppy so-and-sos or lazy sods – just like us. Based on the Instagram account, this collection reveals our canine counterparts, all with imaginative backstories and photographs guaranteed to make you smile.

Best books for Christmas

Sea Prayer - Khaled Hosseini. On a moonlit beach a father cradles his sleeping son as they wait for dawn to break and a boat to arrive. He speaks to his boy of the long summers of his childhood, recalling his grandfather’s house in Syria. He remembers, too, the bustling city of Homs in the days before the sky spat bombs and they had to flee. When the sun rises they and those around them will gather their possessions and embark on a perilous sea journey in search of a new home.

She is Fierce - Ana Sampson. A collection of 150 bold, brave and beautiful poems by women – from classic, well loved poets to innovative and bold modern voices. From suffragettes to school girls, from spoken word superstars to civil rights activists, from aristocratic ladies to kitchen maids.

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace - Vaseem Khan. For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world's elite. The last thing it needs is a murder... When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Inspector Chopra, accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, is called in - and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.


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