Wednesday 5 December 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas Week, Day 3: BOOKS

Next up in my Gift Ideas Week (which I should have given a funky name, now I think of it. DAMNIT) is BOOKS. Yeah, I was going to do a whole thing about 'What to buy Dad! What to buy Mum!' but every year I go 'Um, Mum, what do you WANT?' and 'Um, Dad, here is a Terry Pratchett book AGAIN.' (I'm so screwed when he stops bringing out a new one every year.)

I used to quite often get people those novelty books for Christmas - you know, Bunny Suicides, Great Lies To Tell Small Kids, Timewasters Letters, etc. They're all really funny and great to read... once. And I'd normally flip through them before wrapping them, and giggle, but one year I realised that I wouldn't actually want to RECEIVE one of these books. Why would you want a book you didn't want to read more than once? That's a HORRIBLE gift. Oh my gosh. I was a HORRIBLE person.

Is this you? IS IT? Mend your ways. It's not too late! Because books are easy gifts and you can still get a book, but get a book that MEANS something. I adore reading, and nothing makes me happier than talking books with someone else who loves books (it's one of the reaons I heart Amy so hard). Or reading a wonderful book and passing it on to someone else who loved it. So these are my favourites of the last few years. Read them, and I think you'll love them. Give them to your friends, and I think they'll love them. And if you don't, or they don't, well. You are all made of stone, you heartless freaks.

I Am The Messenger by Marcus Zusak
I could recommend The Book Thief by the same author, which is an incredible book that made me cry like a baby. But everyone talks about The Book Thief, and the book that I went on to buy everyone the year I read it was this book. I found it moving, life affirming and it made me want to be a better person.

Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
My friend Laura bought me the first book in this trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go, one year and once I finally picked it up, I couldn't put it down. It's so unusual, and the writing style might jar a little at first, but stick with it as it's about to get wonderful. I read the last book in the trilogy on the way back from Scotland in February, and was in floods of tears in the back of my friend's car. So. Amazing.

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
Now, I've seen a lot of hate for Caitlin Moran online recently, and I'm not going to weigh in on that right now. I have opinions, probably ill-informed, let's not go there. But this is a great book. It made me feel better about a lot of things that I didn't realise I was worrying about, and is funny and brilliant. Not everyone is going to agree with Moran's point of view, and if she rubs you up the wrong way now, I wouldn't recommend it. But if you like her a little bit, you'll probably like her book. I did.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by G.W.Dahlquist
This is a few years old, but I dipped into it again recently and remembered how compulsive it is. It's also a bit racy, but in a repressed Victorian kind of way... which somehow makes it SEEM racier than the more overt grey tinged books of recent publicity. So maybe not one for your Granny (I totally loaned it to my Granny, though) but I bet you have a girlfriend who'd love it.

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
Oh, I adore this book. It is actually quite old - I first read it over 12 years ago - and my copy is battered and dog eared from years of reading and re-reading, but it was a comfort blanket at university. It's short stories, so easy to dip into constantly. When I was struggling for inspiration in my creative writing modules, it would be the first book I picked up, and somehow it would always inspire me. Some of the stories are great, some are just okay, but I'm so, so, SO fond of it. It means a lot to me.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein
This might be making its way into a few friends' stockings this year. I read it in February on the recommendation of Twitter, and adored it. I think it was somewhat to blame for my birthday party theme. It was so tangible - I finished it, wishing that the night circus was a real place. The closest thing I've ever found is the late night spaces at Glastonbury, but even they are not QUITE the same.

Nation by Terry Pratchett
Like I said earlier, I always buy a Terry Pratchett book for my Dad every year. He knows it's coming, so there's no surprises there. He usually devours it by Boxing Day and hands it back to me to read. I like our traditions. Nation isn't one of Pratchett's Discworld novels, though, and that's partly why I'm recommending it, because it's a bit intimidating to start a new series, especially one as huge as Discworld. Nation is completely different. It's... interesting. If you don't think you like Pratchett, read this one, because it's beautiful and moving, and really shows off his incredible skill as a writer.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
I've always loved fairy stories, particularly their creepy, depressing origins - it's just so weird and interesting to see how these tales developed and got Disneyfied over the years. Well, this is a fairy tale about a child, intended for adults. It's twisted and scary and brilliant, and everyone I've ever loaned it to has loved it. I want to read it again, right now.

Actually, writing this has made me want to read ALL of these books again. They're just so GOOD. So buy a book this year for Christmas, for the perfect combination of simple, personal and wonderful.

Your turn, please. Recommend me books!



  1. I second How To Be A Woman - Catlin Moran is brilliant and I'm crossing my fingers that I get her second book for Christmas this year : )

  2. Love this post Sarah! I want to read all of these now! x

  3. I love The Glass Book of the Dreameaters, such a great book. And Caitlin Moran is brilliant, her book is hysterical. Although I'd suggest reading it a chapter at a time, inbetween other books.

  4. I always give books to kids in my family, I think they make the best gifts!

  5. The Night Circus is such a beautiful book!

  6. I can't recommend We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson enough - its amazing!

    Lauren x

  7. When asked by my family, what would I like for Christmas, the first thing that came to mind was books! Growing I always received books for Christmas, and birthdays, etc., and those were always the most cherished and exciting of all the presents, I still have most of them. I really don't know what I would do without the power of literacy. Thanks for the recommendations, I've read a few on your list and enjoyed them all. Now, it's time to return to 'Wolf Hall'.

  8. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes made me cry like a small child. Don't read it in public.

    I always used to get books for christmas growing up, loved it :)

  9. I also liked Circus, Messenger (so engrossing!), and Woman.

    I will be posting my Best Books of 2012 list at Bildungsroman tomorrow or Tuesday. :)


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