Children - calling adults by first name?
Grandson - counting my blessings
Rabbits - how can I deter them?
One of the best things about the festive season is having time to curl up with a book
and a tin of Quality Street and enjoy a really good read. But with so many brilliant books around at this time of year, what to choose? We've rounded up some of the very best books this Christmas for your delectation. Note: we've found buying them on a 'one for me, one for brother/sister/neighbour/friend* basis works a treat. *delete as applicable.
The House by the Lake - Thomas Harding. A groundbreaking work of history, revealing the story of Germany through the inhabitants of one small wooden building. The long-awaited new work from the bestselling author of Hanns and Rudolf.
Where My Heart Used to Beat - Sebastian Faulks. On a small island off the south coast of France, Robert Hendricks, an English doctor who has seen the best and the worst the twentieth century had to offer, is forced to confront the events that made up his life.
A Place Called Winter - Patrick Gale. An illicit affair forces Harry Cane to abandon the golden suburbs of Edwardian England and travel to the town of Winter in the newly colonised Canadian prairies. There, isolated in a beautiful but harsh landscape, he embarks on an extraordinary journey, not only of physical hardship, but also of acute self-discovery.
The Fishermen - Chigozie Obioma. In this dazzling debut novel - which was shortlisted for the Booker - four young brothers in a small Nigerian town encounter a madman, whose prophecy of violence threatens the core of their family.
According to Yes - Dawn French. Manhattan's Upper East Side has its own rigid code of behaviour, a code strictly adhered to by the Wilder-Bingham family - until Rosie Kitto, an eccentric thirty-eight-year-old primary school teacher from England, bounces into their lives.The consequences are explosive. Because after a lifetime of saying no, what happens when everyone starts saying...yes?
The Good Son - Paul McVeigh. Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn't a good thing in his part of town. He dreams of going to America, taking his sister, Wee Maggie, and Ma with him, to get them away from Belfast and Da. Mickey realises it's all down to him - and sometimes, you have to be a bad boy to be a good son.
The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett. Eva and Jim are 19, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future - together, and apart - as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra - Vaseem Khan. On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries. Mumbai, murder and a baby elephant combine in a charming, joyful novel for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Rachel Joyce.
Church of Marvels - Leslie Parry. On a single night, these strangers' lives will become irrevocably entwined, as secrets come to light and outsiders struggle for acceptance. From the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular sideshow to a desolate asylum, Parry brings life and magic to turn-of-the-century New York.
The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson. On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth. But their game turns a little darker when they become embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive.
Honey & Co The Baking Book - Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich. The husband-and-wife team, who together run Honey & Co in London's Fitzrovia, return with more Middle Eastern soul food magic - this time baking, with everything from sticky buns to pastries to cookies.
Ripley's Believe It or Not! 2016. This latest edition offers a completely new compendium of strange but true facts and amazing stories, ranging from the woman who married a Ferris wheel to exploding cow farts, and from the girl who cries stone tears to the pizzeria that delivers its customers' orders by drone.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome - Mary Beard. A new look at Roman history from one of the world's foremost classicists, exploring not only how Rome grew from an insignificant village in central Italy to a power that controlled territory from Spain to Syria, but also how the Romans thought about themselves and their achievements, and why they are still important to us.
Christmas on Primrose Hill - Karen Swan. It's not parties and presents that Nettie Watson wants for Christmas, a time which only serves as a stark reminder of the life she used to have. One day she made a promise to never leave home, and so far she's stayed true to her word. But does she still want to keep it?
Lamentation - C.J. Sansom. Summer, 1546. King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying and Queen Catherine Parr's secret confessional book has inexplicably vanished. Matthew Shardlake's investigations take him into the dark and labyrinthine world of the politics of the royal court; a world he had sworn never to enter again.
Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories - Thomas Grant. Jeremy Hutchinson was the greatest criminal barrister of the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The cases of that period changed society for ever and Hutchinson's role in them was second to none. Here his most remarkable trials are examined, each one providing a fascinating look into Britain's post-war social, political and cultural history.
Easily Distracted - Steve Coogan. Written with distinctive humour and an unexpected candour, Coogan's autobiography travels from a noisy childhood surrounded by foster kids via his attention-seeking teenage years to his emergence as a household name with the birth of Alan Partridge.
Katherine Carlyle - Rupert Thomson. In the late 80s, Katherine Carlyle is created using IVF. Stored as a frozen embryo for eight years, she is then implanted in her mother and given life. A novel about where we come from, what we make of ourselves, and how we are loved, using the modern techniques of IVF and cryopreservation to throw new light on the myth of origins
The Dark Night of the Shed - Nick Page. There's a point in a man's life where he looks around him and asks whether this is really where he wants to be. Nick Page has been there, and he decided to build a shed. Not to answer the question, but so that he'd at least be able to get some peace to think about it properly.
The Dust that Falls from Dreams - Louis de Bernieres. In the brief golden years of King Edward VII's reign, Rosie McCosh and her sisters are growing up in an eccentric household in Kent, with their neighbours the Pitt boys on one side and the Pendennis boys on the other. But their days of childhood adventure are shadowed by the approach of war that will engulf them on the cusp of adulthood.
Rogue Lawyer - John Grisham. Sebastian Rudd takes the cases no one else wants to take: the drug-addled punk accused of murdering two little girls; a crime lord on death row; a homeowner who shot at a SWAT team. But when murder suspect Arch Swanger asks Sebastian to represent him, he lets him in on a terrible secret...one that will threaten everything Sebastian holds dear.
A Merry Mistletoe Wedding - Judy Astley. Sean and Thea are getting married on Christmas Day. Neither wants a big fuss - but before they know it, things begin to get complicated and as one challenge after another comes their way, the happy couple begin to wonder if they'll ever make it down the aisle.
Shopaholic to the Rescue - Sophie Kinsella. Becky Brandon is determined to get to the bottom of why her dad has mysteriously disappeared, help her best friend Suze and even bond with long-time enemy Alicia Bitch Long-legs (maybe...). As Becky discovers just how much her friends and family need help, she comes up with her biggest, boldest, most brilliant plan yet.
Murder on Sea - Julie Wassmer. The last thing Pearl expects for Christmas is murder but soon the bodies are piling up. Can she possibly solve the mystery in time to make 25th December an unforgettable day - or will the murderer contrive to ensure her goose is well and truly cooked before then?
Conditional Love - Cathy Bramley. A takeaway, TV and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets for thirty-something Sophie Stone. But when a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is one big catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.
Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith. When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, knows of four people who could be responsible. He and Robin take matters into their own hands but as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them...
Whispers Through a Megaphone - Rachel Elliott. Miriam hasn't left her house in three years, and cannot raise her voice above a whisper. But today she is finally ready to rejoin the outside world. Meanwhile, Ralph has discovered that his wife Sadie doesn't love him, and has decided to run away. Their chance meeting marks the beginning of a restorative friendship as each of them seeks to better understand their own hearts, timidly refusing to stand still and accept the chaos life throws at them.
The Changing Room - Jane Turley. Sandy Lovett's confused mother and chaotic life are having an effect on her waistline. She knows she needs to change her life but doesn't know how until she buys a risqué dress which sets in motion a sequence of life-changing events.
Killing Eva - Alex Blackmore. Eva Scott is the female Jason Bourne, and in her world everything has a price. Her DNA has once again tethered her to intense danger. She is trapped by circumstance, targeted by science, faced with an anonymous, shifting enemy neither she nor anyone else can name. Fighting is futile. Escape is impossible. Survival is everything.
Unbecoming - Jenny Downham. Three women - three secrets. Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal. Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her. Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of anything', despite suffering from Alzheimers. A celebration of life, and learning to honour your own stories.
Spirals in Time - Helen Scales. Seashells are the sculpted homes of a remarkable group of animals: the molluscs. But watch out. Some molluscs can kill you if you eat them. Some will kill you if you stand too close. Though that hasn't stopped people using shells in many ways over thousands of years. Spirals in Time is an exuberant aquatic romp, revealing amazing tales of these undersea marvels.
Smaller and Smaller Circles - F.H. Batacan. Cited as the first Filipino crime novel, this harrowing murder mystery, follows two Catholic priests on the hunt for a serial killer in the notorious Payatas dump city of northern Manila. A sensitive depiction of a time and place and a fascinating story about the Catholic Church and its place in its devotees' lives and communities.
Mr Mac and Me - Esther Freud. A tender and compelling story of an unlikely friendship and a vivid portrait of a home front community during the First World War, and of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a man who was one of the most brilliant and misunderstood artists of his generation.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - Katarina Bivald. Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it's time. But when she arrives, there's a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman's house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.
On a Wing and a Prayer - Sarah Woods. As a young child, Sarah Woods imagined going on epic voyages to exotic, illusory lands filled with bizarre creatures and other-worldly forests. As soon as she was old enough she packed a bag and set off to see the world for real. This book tells the incredible story of one woman's adventure into the heart of the rainforest.
A Christmas Tail - Cressida McLaughlin. Cat Palmer realizes that bringing an adorable puppy into work is a bad idea, especially when it gets her the sack. Still, it's the perfect opportunity to launch her dog-walking business. With her talent for misadventure, Cat’s new life starts to show some cracks - but she has never given up on anything and this is one Christmas that's definitely worth saving.
A Few of the Girls - Maeve Binchy. A glorious collection of the very best of Maeve Binchy's stories, full of the warmth, charm and humour that has always been an essential part of all of her writing.
The Lady of Misrule - Suzannah Dunn. Escorting 'nine days queen' Lady Jane Grey across the Tower of London from throne room into imprisonment is Elizabeth Tilney. As Jane's captivity extends into the increasingly turbulent last months of 1553, the two girls learn to live with each other, but at the turn of the year, events take an unexpected and dangerous direction and Elizabeth's newfound loyalties are put to the test.
I Go By Sea, I Go By Land - P.L. Travers. The fictional diary of Sabrina Lind, an eleven-year-old English girl who, with her little brother James, is sent on the long voyage across the sea to her aunt in America to escape the war.
My War Gone By, I Miss It So - Anthony Loyd. Born to a distinguished military family, Loyd longed to experience war from the front line. After serving in the Gulf War he went to Bosnia as a war correspondent. Addicted to the adrenaline of combat, when he returned home he found no more peace than in battle, and so began a longstanding battle against drug abuse. An uncompromising look at the terrifyingly seductive power of war.
A Paris Christmas - John Baxter. The charming tale of how a man who was raised on white bread – and didn't speak a word of French – unexpectedly ended up with the sacred duty of preparing the Christmas dinner for a venerable Parisian family.
Sweet Caress - William Boyd. From the internationally bestselling author of Restless and Any Human Heart comes a compelling story of one woman's extraordinary life - and a heart-wrenching tale of love and war in the twentieth century.
Steph and Dom's Guide to Life. A guide to life from 'the posh couple from Gogglebox'. Steph and Dom offer their unique take on how to get the most out of pretty much everything life throws at you.
Delicious Gluten-Free Baking - Howard Middleton. A book that aims to show that gluten-free baking can be as delicious as ordinary baking, and suitable for sharing with even those not on a gluten-free diet. The baking is for all occasions, including parties, weddings and Christmas
Charlotte Bronte's Secret Love - Jolien Janzing. Secret Love shines a light on a tantalising episode in the lives of two of the greatest nineteenth century authors, Charlotte and Emily Bronte.
Charlotte Bronte: A Life - Claire Harman. Another offering for Brontë fans. On the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë's birth, Penguin is publishing the definitive biography of this extraordinary novelist, by acclaimed literary biographer Claire Harman
My Hour - Bradley Wiggins. For 60 minutes this summer, the British public stopped what they were doing, switched on their radios, their TVs, refreshed their Twitter feeds and followed Bradley Wiggins’s attempt to break one of sport’s most gruelling records: The Hour. This is how it happened.
A Manual for Cleaning Women - Lucia Berlin. With extraordinary honesty and magnetism, Lucia Berlin invites us into her rich, itinerant life: the drink and the mess and the pain and the beauty and the moments of surprise and of grace. Her voice is uniquely witty, anarchic and compassionate. Celebrated for many years by those in the know, she is about to become - a decade after her death - the writer everyone is talking about.
Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither - Sara Baume. A misfit man finds a misfit dog. Both are accustomed to being alone, unloved, outcast – but they quickly find in each other a strange companionship of sorts. As spring turns to summer, their relationship grows and intensifies, until a savage act forces them to abandon the precarious life they'd established, and take to the road.
A Snow Garden - Rachel Joyce. The perfect gift: a collection of seven Christmas stories from the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.
When Christmas Bells Ring - Katie Flynn. Liverpool 1938. It's Christmas in the Courts, and single mother Rosheen Clarke and her mischievous twin daughters April and May have no idea of the cataclysmic events which will soon overtake them. A new Christmas story from the UK's bestselling saga author.
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