Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 7 March 2015

The 50 Best books for Christmas

Snake Ropes by Jess Richards Sceptre, £17.99 "The ghost of Angela Carter drifts through this outstanding debut novel, my book of the year, which recasts language," says Jonathan.
Snake Ropes by Jess Richards Sceptre, £17.99 "The ghost of Angela Carter drifts through this outstanding debut novel, my book of the year, which recasts language," says Jonathan.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka Fig Tree, £12.99 "Otsuka combines many perspectives into one mesmerising voice as she follows Japanese picture brides," says Jonathan.
HHhH by Laurent Binet Harvill Secker, £16.99 "A true story of two Czech parachutists sent on a mission by London to assassinate the head of the Gestapo. The standout novel of the year for me," says Kate.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel HarperCollins, £9.99 "The book may look like a doorstopper but Mantel writes with absorbing pace, and you will find yourself at the end all too soon," says Kate.
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson Doubleday, £18.99 "The picaresque story of a North Korean spy obliged to take on the persona of a military national hero," explains Jonathan.
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann Picador, £12.99 "For anyone needing a dose of sunshine on a gloomy grey winter's day, this is the book for you," says Kate. "An evocative debut novel."
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya Hogarth, £16.99 "This shocking novel set in the Afghan conflict is about an American unit preventing a woman from honouring her dead brother," says Jonathan.
A Division of the Light by Christopher Burns Quercus, £16.99 "Burns' insightful, menacing edge, is reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro, who creates a similar dialogue in 'Nocturnes', says Jonathan."
Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin Orion, £18.99 "Rebus is back and brings with him a seamlessly crafted whodunit," says Kate. "This is a treat of a novel."
What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank by Nathan Englander Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99 "This collection tackles the essence of modern Jewishness with empathy," says Jonathan.
On the Map by Simon Garfield Profile Books, £16.99 "This homage to the map is an excellent read," says Kate. "Entertaining stories and anecdotes examine the importance of maps to our world."
Paper: An Elegy by Ian Sansom Fourth Estate, £14.99 "This is a joyous celebration of a 2000-year-old invention that genuinely changed our world," says Jonathan. "Topics include tea bags, cigarette papers and banknotes."
Patrick Leigh Fermor by Artemis Cooper John Murray, £25 "A superb biography of the adventurous travel writer and war hero, draws on years of interviews and complete access to his archives," says Kate.
Dickens at Christmas by Charles Dickens Vintage, £15 "A beautiful gift edition of not only all of Dickens' Christmas novels but also his festive stories, written for the special seasonal editions of his periodicals," says Kate.
The Richard Burton Diaries edited by Chris Williams Yale University Press, £25 "These previously unpublished diaries give an intimate account of the acting legend's tempestuous career and private life," says Kate.
The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction by Nate Silver Penguin, £25 "An insight into the almost magical quality of using statistics," Kate says.
How Music Works by David Byrne Canongate, £22 "Byrne touches on the evolution of the mixtape and the swapping of MP3s, along with quirky titbits from his Talking Heads days," says Jonathan.
Ivory, Apes & Peacocks by Alan Root Chatto & Windus, £20 "Alan Root combines tales of filming hippos underwater with reflections on the beauty of the African savannah," says Jonathan.
Injustice by Clive Stafford Smith Harvill Secker, £20 "Any young firebrand will be inspired by this shocking indictment of the fatal flaws in America's use of the death penalty," says Jonathan.
Constellation of Genius by Kevin Jackson Hutchinson, £20 "Jackson's diary format record puts the birth of Modernism in context with fascinating little details," explains Jonathan."
My Best Friend And Other Enemies by Catherine Wilkins Nosy Crow, £6.99 "Properly funny," says Marianne, of Catherine Wilkins' hilarious tale of childhood friendship.
Constable & Toop by Gareth P Jones Hot Key Books, £5.99 Prepare to be spooked by this "darkly delicious London ghost story" says Marianne. A chilling tale set in a Victorian-era funeral parlour.
How To Change The World With A Ball Of String by Tim Cooke Scholastic, £9.99 "Curious young minds will revel in this romp through the history of civilization," says Marianne.
Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton Simon and Schuster, £6.99 "This will soon become a bedtime favourite," predicts Marianne. "Boynton's book is a real pleasure to read out aloud."
Atticus Claw Breaks The Law by Jennifer Gray Faber and Faber, £5.99 "He's a cat burglar on a mission… young readers will adore Atticus Grammaticus Cattypus Claw," says Marianne.
All The Wrong Questions by Lemony Snicket Egmont, £8.99 "A snappy slice of noir," says Marianne. "American novelist Snicket returns with a new series, and he is better than ever."
How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr Usborne, £6.99 A new arrival threatens to make a terrible situation even worse for Jill, whose dad has died. "A marvellous, heartrending read for tortured teens," says Marianne.
This Moose Belongs To Me by Oliver Jeffers HarperCollins, £11.99 "Gorgeously beautiful illustrations and a lovely story," says Marianne. Jeffers' books include The Great Paper Caper, and are contemporary classics.
Jepp, Who Defied The Stars by Katherine Marsh Hot Key Books, £7.99 Jepp is an itinerant dwarf who travels around Europe. "Marsh's elegant historical fiction has a moving message," says Marianne.
Gods And Warriors by Michelle Paver Puffin, £12.99 "Boys and girls will be transported by this Bronze Age adventure," says Marianne. Gods and Warriors is the first instalment of a five-book series.
The World of Popagami by Philip Craik Ettes Publishing, £4.99 Something to keep the little ones quiet on Boxing Day: Popagami is an incredibly fun book of illustrated animal origami sheets.
1,227 QI Facts to Blow Your Socks Off by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson Faber and Faber, £9.99 "An amalgamation of the best facts from QI's first ten years," says Kate.
Grammar for Grown-Ups by Katherine Fry & Rowena Kirton Vintage, £10.99 "An informative and witty guide to grammar by two editorial supremos," says Kate.
Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown Chronicle Books, £9.99 "This hilarious comic tale charts the pitfalls of Darth Vader's attempts to raise a young Luke Skywalker," explains Kate.
The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World by Alexander Armstrong & Richard Osman Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99 "The must-have present for any student in your life," says Kate.
Science Tales by Darryl Cunningham Myriad, £11.99 "The graphic novel has come of age and is now being used to attract a new audience to all manner of heavyweight topics," says Jonathan.
Pulp Head by John Jeremiah Sullivan Vintage, £9.99 "These charming, insightful profiles of America will intrigue fans of David Foster Wallace's essays," says Jonathan.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by John Julius Norwich Atlantic, £9.99 "The perfect choice for anyone wanting to drop a hint about ill-considered Christmas presents," says Jonathan.
Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe Peirene Press, £10 "This is based on the life of artist and calligrapher Bada Shinren, who was forced to flee when the Ming Dynasty was toppled," says Jonathan.
Haiku for the Single Girl by Beth Griffenhagen and Cynthia Vehslage Meyers Canongate, £7.99 You don't need to be single to find this collection of incisive haikus hilarious.
A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield Canongate, £25 April Bloomfield is the chef who showed New Yorkers how we Brits roll with her infamous gastropub The Spotted Pig, along with the Breslin and the John Dory.
Polpo by Russell Norman Bloomsbury, £25 If you can't make it to one of his restaurants in the capital and wouldn't know where to start in Italy, cook Norman's Venetian snackettes at home from the first Polpo cookbook.
At Home on the Range by Elizabeth Gilbert and Margaret Yardley Potter Bloomsbury, £16.99 This new edition, with foreword by Gilbert, brings together traditional recipes and their wonderful histories.
Hugh's Three Good Things by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Bloomsbury, £25 Never over-complicate a meal again with Hugh's brilliant lesson in what makes a decent dish. An exercise in how to match flavours and eat well.
Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop Bloomsbury, £25 Every Grain of Rice makes the cooking Dunlop found in southern China, where fresh vegetables are more common than unhealthy fried dishes, attractive and almost easy.
London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by Tom Knight and Sybil Ruscoe Wiley, £14.99 Squeeze those final drops of Olympic fever out of 2012 with this glossy production.
Safari by Dan Kainen & Carole Kaufmann Workman, £16.99 "Lenticular technology allows you to watch eight beautiful animals race through motion pictures simply by turning the pages," says Kate.
The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen Hutchinson, £8.99 This beautiful new edition comes in green and gold, with enchanting images by Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka.
Building Stories by Chris Ware Jonathan Cape, £30 Much more than a book – this graphic novel about the inhabitants of a Chicago apartment block comes in the form of 14 illustrated books.
Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland: with Artwork by Yayoi Kusama Penguin Classics, £20 A mesmerising production of this classic tale for new and old fans.

From last-minute stocking fillers to weighty tomes to curl up by the fire with, Sophie Morris has great gift ideas for the literature lovers in your life

The experts:

Marianne Levy - The author of ‘Ellie May Would Like To Be Taken Seriously For A Change’.

Jonathan Ruppin - Foyles web editor.

Kate Skipper - Waterstones buying manager.

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