It’s official- Christmas panic around the globe has set in. With many websites highlighting their final shipping dates in an aggressive neon and sold out signs lighting up shop windows, plenty of people are seeing red, and not in festive sentiment. What does one get for the person who has everything? How does one appear to be thoughtful whilst sticking to a stern budget? What is heavy enough to take up some heady room in a stocking? Take a breather, and read this word for an overwhelming sense of calm: books. With a genre and format to suit everyone, literature has never been more accessible- be it a swift click of an Amazon button, a Waterstones dash, a find in your local charity shop or a mess-free Kindle read, provide your loved ones with some literary wealth this year and be patted on the back for your efforts. In a family and partner paradigm, I have tried to condense the multi-million mass market into the good, the great, and the downright brilliant.
DISCURSIVE SHOCKER: Many of these works are so good because they appeal to a reader regardless of age range and gender. Please feel free to experiment with the recipients mentioned below and delight in the satisfaction on their faces.
What to get for Grandma…
Poetry: King Wenceslas by Carol Ann Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy is Britain’s current poet laureate who never fails to pack a punch. Her breadth of work boasts reworked Greek legends, tales of love, loss, madness, and the feminist perspective behind the coveted icons of Elvis and Shakespeare. Although I readily implore you to check out her work, in particular her exalted sonnet Anne Hathaway, there is not a better time of year to take heed of King Wenceslas. In true Duffy fashion, the adaptation fleshes out the original narrative in such a vigorous manner that it is hard to imagine that the poet was not the originator of the story itself.
Fiction: Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
It would be a crime to leave this year’s Booker Prize winner out of the gift guide list now, never mind back in Tudor England, where the tale is set. Following the life of Thomas Cromwell, the book resumes where prequel Wolf Hall left off, with Henry VIII’s secretary at the height of his power. Following the pursuits of Thomas with force and fury, the historical perspective is brought together in a convincing autobiographical novel that it, ironically, takes no prisoners. On a more debased note, the tome is absolutely massive, so Grandma will definitely be getting some worth for her money.
Non-fiction: A Day In The World by Daphné Anglès et al
They say you cannot teach an old woman how to suck eggs, so improving an elder’s cultural knowledge has to be done with sensitivity. This is where A Day In The World comes in. As the title suggests, this picture-encyclopedia documents one day in the universe with just a snapshot. The book allows you to ogle at base jumping in Utah, huskies flagging in the immeasurable white of Greenland’s snow and to observe the busy streets of Mumbai in the comfort of your own home. And if broadening a stubborn individual’s horizons is not satisfactory enough, perhaps you’ll be won over by Richard Branson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words on the topic.
What to get for Grandad…
Poetry: Collective Poems by Sean O’Brien
Sean O’Brien offers the perfect marriage between gritty Northern sentiment and the ethereal realm of literary valour. As a fellow Hullian, I would argue that my poetic appreciation is somewhat biased, but his EM Forster and Forward Prizes argue otherwise. Currently teaching Creative Writing at the University of Sheffield, the scholar’s “best of” collection will offer dystopia, dramatics, underworlds aplenty in an impressive mastery of tone and landscape.
Fiction: A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks (Hardcover)
In his latest, Sebastian Faulks comprehends how a sense of self is created through history, and how a sense of memory comes into communal purpose. Meandering through a Victorian work house, concentration camp in the Second World War and the 1970’s music scene, Faulks ponders the human memory in the not-too-distant future.
Non-fiction: Brazil by Michael Palin
In a world far beyond his current court case troubles, Michael Palin had a passport gap to reconcile. In his 25 years as a travel expert, the comedian-turned-writer realized that Brazil had remained an unsolved enigma for the BBC. Ranked as the sixth biggest economy and fifth largest country in the world, the Olympic 2016 host has plenty to boast about. Offering intriguing insight into the ever-constant development of the South American paradise, Michael recounts his successful TV show on the country in an appealing literary format.
What to get for your son…
Poetry: The Language of Cat by Rachel Rooney
CLPE poetry award winner Rachel Rooney divides her time between writing heavily crafted poetry and teaching in Brighton. In a game of word play and riddles, this engaging collection will reward the most reluctant poetry reader.
Fiction: The Works of David Walliams by David Walliams
Roald Dahl Funny Prize and Red House award nominee David Walliams has put pen to paper and churned out a series of children’s books that boost his comedic reputation. Gangsta Granny, The Boy In The Dress, Mr Stink and Billionaire Boy have been united in one appealing, present-handy format for the childish rebel within.
Non-fiction: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not !
In a (possibly even weirder) take on the Guinness World Records, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! annual is one for curious minds. The creators of the Believe It Or Not and Guinness World Records museums have compiled a list of the most bizarre facts of the year into one annual for eyeball popping fervour. Warning: do not combine with sugar or anticipate hyperactive explosion.
What to get for your daughter…
Poetry: Julie Andrews’s Treasury For All Seasons
Celebrating the year in poetry, this collection of poems celebrates an American literary history in verse form, but naturally, is never too far removed from its English cousins. With a foreward by our very own Julie Andrews, this one is a top pick for an introductory sample of what the world of poetry has to offer, without Dick Van Dyke’s questionable cockney accent.
Fiction: Hogwarts Box Set by JK Rowling
And, for the present that needs no introduction, but will have to be given one for the sake of format. For a collection that transcends genre, gender, age group and the world itself, look no further than JK Rowling’s Harry Potter collection. An absolute must for book lovers, experience the magic for yourself as the child before you enters a realm of silent contentment over the Christmas period.
Non-fiction: Children Around The World by UNICEF
As a huge fan of its previous publication of the same vein, I present Children Around the world as one of the best Christmas gifts a child could possibly receive. Learn about other children from Bangladesh to China as they share their life stories in a (far more touching) Encyclopedic format- and the proceeds go to a great cause, too.
For the Dad of the family…
Poetry: Walking Home by Simon Armitage
Okay, so Simon’s latest may not fall into the poetry category, but as a memoir so heavily based around his art it would be impossible to place it anywhere else. The Yorkshire-born poet’s latest records his journey through the Pennine Way, leading him to encounter Marsden, the village where he was born. In commemoration of the layman landscape that surrounds him, the poet considers the remote land he travels through, stopping for poetry readings along the way.
Fiction: Toby’s Room by Pat Barker
In a follow up from Life Class, First World War period drama Toby’s Room seeks to uncover what exactly happened to Toby, resulting in a compelling drama that unravels the pain behind identity, memory and loss. Not one to disappoint, the fascinating weave of fact and fiction makes for an irresistible read.
Non-fiction: The John Lennon Letters
John Lennon biographer Hunter Davies has compiled one of the most intimate collections of Lennon’s work to date. The musician, artist and writer has been encapsulated in the letters that he wrote throughout his life, giving the reader insight into a genius’s mind at work. Praised by Jarvis Cocker and Simon Mayo, the work is an apt dedication to one of, if not the biggest musician of the 20th century.
And for Mum…
Poetry: Ice by Gillian Clarke
The National Poet of Wales’s latest effort meditates on the extreme winters of 2009 and 2010. Arguing that the winter season and the path of nature paves way for creative renewal, Gillian’s regenerative force soars in her latest collection, leading her to ponder ecological concepts from folklore, her childhood and the present day.
Fiction: Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French
Comedienne-turned-novelist Dawn French certainly knows her way around a piece of paper. Her latest tour de force follows the story of coma patient Silvia Shute, who has left her life of hedonism behind for a prolonged stay in a hospital bed. As her secrets unravel through the people who surround her, the interesting take on her life story echoes tones of Nick Hornby.
Non-fiction: Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart
Comedienne of the hour Miranda Hart has invited her chums to take part in her spiral of humiliation from childhood to the present day. In a humorous confessional, Miranda transforms into the adult-friendly equivalent of Louise Rennison.
For the boyfriend…
Poetry: Poems on the Underground
Oh, the underground. Small, dank, and rife with perspiration, it is a wonder how it became Britain’s most-loved transportational device can be a possible cartel for London’s book lovers. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the underground, Penguin have released an attractive hardback edition of the collection, which boasts works inspired by British life, including that of Wendy Cope, Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott.
Fiction: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Not one to disappoint, Ian McEwan’s mystery Sweet Tooth examines the 1970’s through the eyes of a spy. Full of romantic sentiment, Serena Frome falls victim to the literary abandon of Tom Haley, leading her to blur the boundaries between her love of literature and the love of the man. Pondering on betrayal and the invented self, Ian’s witty latest lives up to critical acclaim.
Non-fiction: My Time by Bradley Wiggins
Hailed as the Olympian of all Olympians, Bradley Wiggins’s autobiography is hard to pass up in such a year of patriotic fervour. Determined to celebrate his victories without becoming another cog in the celebrity machine, Bradley’s honest confessional is a heartwarming tale that celebrates 2012’s national hero.
And for the girlfriend…
Fiction: The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
Proving that Harry Potter was not just a lucky whim, JK Rowling sets the country idyll of Pagford to rights as she uses the microcosm to examine grim themes that are affected by the dislocation of social class and the self. Full of metaphorical tropes and scenes that demand thought, attention and a very sugary cup of tea, her adult offering seems to be a logical extension of the murky depths that surrounded Harry’s Hogwarts adventures.
Non-fiction: Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
Caitlin Moran is the envy of most British journalists. Staking out her career as a hack at the age of 16, Caitlin stopped off at Melody Maker, NME, presented her own television show and became a columnist at The Times in lightning speed. Her feminist-inspired memoir How To Be A Woman unsurprisingly turned out to be a bestseller, and her latest views on a plethora of topics from Boris Johnson’s hair to party bags are topping the book charts too.
Poetry: Deep Thoughts And Wise Words by The Sixth Form Poet
Arguably the pinnacle of any Twitter user’s timeline, the rhetorical mastery of The Sixth Form Poet, aka Matt Be, is sickeningly impressive. Capturing life in a series of quotable and witty snapshots, The Sixth Form Poet’s work is full of laugh out loud moments that capture the ironic mundanity of urban Britain.