The best books to give (and receive!) this Christmas

09 December 2013

Google

We've picked out our favourite books from 2013 (and some golden oldies as well) to make your present buying a little easier. Have you got any more suggestions?

Room, chosen by Stacey Hamilton, International Sales

Room by Emma Donoghue

I would like to give my sister a copy of Room. She doesn’t really read as she says that all books get turned into films eventually (sad, I know). I think that while Room will probably get turned into a film one day, I don’t think it will ever capture the power of the novel, which looks at an awful situation through the eyes of an innocent five year old who doesn’t understand what is going on. It is gut-wrenchingly sad and beautifully written, while being a completely captivating, read-in-one-sitting type of book. 

A very long list compiled by Kris Doyle, Editor

All That Is by James Salter The Heretics by Will Storr Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)

The writer whose books I’ve been giving out most this year is James Salter. I don’t think he’s as widely read or appreciated as he ought to be and I’ve been on something of a mission to share my love. I fully expect this will continue over Christmas. His latest novel All That Is and his Collected Stories both make a good introduction to the work of this American master. The other book I keep pressing upon people is The Heretics by Will Storr. Will’s investigation of why the facts sometimes just aren’t enough to convince someone of the problems with their point of view was a fascinating exploration into how irrational all of our beliefs are, even those that seem irrefutable. It made me doubt everything I thought about everything I thought. It’s the perfect present for the know-it-all in your life.

I’m hoping to use Christmas to catch up with some books I’ve wanted to read all year and just haven’t gotten round to, particularly novels by some of my favourite contemporary writers. I’ve asked for Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday), The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Hamish Hamilton), and The Circle by Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton). I also bought myself The Son by Philipp Meyer (Simon and Schuster) the other day because I want to read it so much that I can’t wait until the big day and have allocated it for the train ride home.​ 

Germania, chosen by Maddy Beresford, Digital Publishing Executive

Germania by Simon Winder

One of my favourite Picador (or any) books ever is Germania by Simon Winder. I like Germany so much I went on holiday there in February. And Winder loves it even more than I do. This is a ramshackle, personal, diversionary tour around the vague area of Europe that we now (somewhat arbitrarily) call Germany. It features excellent dissections of architecture and art, recommendations for castles to visit, rulers who had pictures painted of themselves made of vegetables, skeletons dressed in jewels on altars, very strange Bishops and Free Imperial Cities aplenty. It’s a particularly good gift for those relatives you’ve already given all the Bill Bryson to. And then you can give them Winder's next book, Danubia, next year, which kills two birds with one stone. 

Burial Rites, chosen by Sarah McLean, International Sales

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I’d like to give Burial Rites by Hannah Kent to my mum, because she barely ever reads, and this could be the book that changes that. It’s a story that is ‘other’ to almost everyone, and yet regardless of age, gender, or nationality, it draws you right in to Agnes’s world and keeps you there. The language is pure poetry, the narrative is gripping, and you even learn a little bit of Icelandic along the way. 

Dirt Music, chosen by Sophie Jonathan, Assistant Editor

Dirt Music by Tim Winton

I’d give Dirt Music by Tim Winton to my friend Katharine who has just moved to Western Australia. Partly because I know how much she has been awed by the landscape there (and there is no one who writes into the landscape and soil of Western Australia, or indeed anywhere, like Tim Winton) and partly because I know she has never read him before and it will set her off on the most incredible journey: I am impossibly envious of anyone who gets to read Tim Winton for the first time! Presuming she starts Dirt Music on Christmas day, she can work her way through all of his other novels – and probably a few of the short story collections – in time for the May 2014 publication of Tim’s latest novel Eyrie

2666, chosen by Rosanna Boscawen, Web Editor

2666 by Roberto Bolano

I’d like to give my brother 2666 by Roberto Bolano because he keeps threatening to steal my copy. I know I’d never see it again because he’s obsessed with South American literature and this is THE South American book to read. It has some of the most exciting writing, the most subversive characters and plot lines and the most alluring and dark mysteries of any book I've ever read. It has convicts and academics, an American sportswriter and a reclusive, elusive, ‘missing’ author, as well as hard-hitting social and political commentary. 

Have you got any recommendations for us and for other readers? Leave a comment below – we might well take your advice and let you know how it went down!