Christmas book recommendations from Picador

03 December 2014

After our love of reading, the next best thing is giving our favourite books to friends and family we know will love them too. Read on to see what we at Picador are giving this Christmas – and what we're hoping to receive!

THE STUNNING PATRICK MELROSE NOVELS
Chosen by Ansa Khan Khattak, editorial assistant

Patrick Melrose novelsThis year I discovered Edward St Aubyn and have, ever since, been pressing his books into the hands of everyone I know. (The Patrick Melrose Novels collection is also large enough to look nice and substantial wrapped up under the tree.) I’ll be giving Yes Please to my sister, whose love for Amy Poehler knows no bounds, and stealing a copy of Vivienne Westwood for myself – mainly for the chance to gain an insight into the Seventies from the point of view of someone so responsible for defining the style of the era, but also because, as an object, the book is a thing of beauty.

FASHION, POETRY AND BOOKS BY DOCTORS
Chosen by Kris Doyle, senior editor

I’m going to give a copy of Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly to my sister; she’s an art student and I think this book will appeal enormously. Part personal memoir, part biographical record of an extraordinary woman’s influence on the UK’s culture: popular, musical, political, visual – not to even mention the ongoing innovations in fashion. There are stunning pictures from across her career, too, so I know she’ll love this.

Vivienne Westwood

Poetry Notebook

Two books I’ve loved this year are In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman and Poetry Notebook by Clive James: one marks the beginning of what I’m sure will be a remarkable career and the other is a valediction of sorts. Clive is one of our finest minds and his combination of erudition, passion and felicitous prose makes Poetry Notebook an extraordinary tribute to a life spent in devotion to poetry; to share this book is to give the gift of unbridled and infectious enthusiasm. Rahman’s brilliant, capacious debut is a masterpiece for the moment. The scope of the novel’s canvas is complemented by the author’s penetrating exploration of the minds and souls of its protagonists; the result is an original, intelligent and emotionally powerful book.

Guest Cat

As a failed scientist, I’m looking forward to reading a couple of books by doctors this Christmas: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and Do No Harm by Henry Marsh. I’m also hoping to have my first encounter with the mysterious Elena Ferrante, the Italian novelist whose Neapolitan series has recently taken the literary world by storm.

The book that’s made my Christmas is The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. This beautiful and profound novel has become a word-of-mouth bestseller thanks to booksellers across the UK. To all of them, my thanks. 

SUBLIME NEW FICTION
Chosen by Sophie Jonathan, assistant editor

I’m giving multiple copies of The Miniaturist this Christmas. Not only because it’s gorgeous and atmospheric and thrilling and just the most delicious story, but because the special edition on sale from Waterstones is BEAUTIFUL. I can’t imagine anything more pleasurable than unwrapping such a lovely object!

Waterstones edition of The MiniaturistStation Eleven

There are very few people in my life who haven’t yet had Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel pressed upon them, but come Christmas I’ll be giving that to a couple of lucky friends. It is a stunning novel that asks what we would preserve if the world as we knew it were to be taken away from us. It’s full of art and beauty and some of the most sublime writing, but it’s also a page-turning thriller and one of the most easily recommendable books I’ve ever come across. Emily’s fans range from Liza Klaussmann to Samantha Shannon and Lauren Beukes, Patrick deWitt, Ann Patchett and Donna Tartt, so if you don’t believe me perhaps you will them!

And for a bit of Christmassy warmth and good feeling I think I’ll be spreading the love with a few copies of 2 a.m. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino. This novel is just wonderful. Effervescent and exciting and incredibly good fun to read – I can’t recommend it highly enough.

2 am at the Cat's Pajamas Not That Kind of Girl H is for Hawk

Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl is on my wish list after my sister sniggered her way through it when we were on holiday together in October. I can’t borrow her copy because she read the ebook, so I’d love to receive the hardback for Christmas. And I’m definitely going to be curling up with H is for Hawk this Christmas. I’ve actually already been given it (shh) but I think it deserves a deferral so I can properly snuggle up with it over the holiday.

PROFOUND AND POLITICAL FICTION
Chosen by Maddy Beresford, digital publishing executive

The book that really made me think this year was In The Light Of What We Know. It is an incredibly beautiful hardback, with a mottled, map-like cover that echoes the book’s global perspective, travelling as it does from Oxford academia to rural Bangladesh to corrupt NGOs in Afghanistan. Erudite, profound and sometimes cruel, it’s a thoughtful gift for anyone from the family mathematician (there’s uncertainty principles aplenty) to your political younger brother.

In the Light of What We Know

On a slightly different tack, one of the books that I will be giving liberally is Edith Olivier’s Wiltshire, reissued through Bello. For someone who grew up in the heart of ancient Wessex, Olivier’s exploration of Wilton, Stonehenge and the surrounding area is evocative and has a period charm all of its own. Pair it with one of Picador’s backlist, V.S. Naipaul’s brilliant The Enigma of Arrival, and you practically have a Wiltshire-themed gift set (admittedly a niche interest, but it’d serve just as well for anybody interested in the history of the English countryside, or a writerly Londoner considering a move to the country).

Under Milk WoodA CHRISTMAS TRADITION
Chosen by Sarah Blake, poetry editor

I have a tradition to suggest: read Dylan Thomas at Christmas. There’s something about the wistfulness of Under Milk Wood that makes it perfectly suited to the festive season. A long past time and place are memorialized in Thomas’s lilting, sea-inflected rhythms. Richard Burton’s reading is the definitive recording. A Child’s Christmas in Wales shares something of the dream-like, nostalgic, half-remembered quality of Under Milk Wood. Christmas is bound up with childhood and therefore, for adults, involves an element of looking back. Thomas seems to provide the right cadence for this time of year, measuring the present against the past and finding the past, perhaps inevitably, glowing enticingly, filled as it is with snowballs and moonlight, and the ‘two-tongued’ ‘carol-singing’ sea.

CLEVER, FUNNY AND INSPIRING WOMEN
Chosen by Francesca Main, editorial director

2014 has been a particularly glorious year for brilliant books by clever, funny and inspiring women, and Amy Poehler’s Yes Please is no exception. A memoir, an essay collection, a treasure trove of memories and a manifesto for life, it’s a joy on every page. I will be torn between giving the beautifully designed hardback and the star-studded audio edition, which features a cameo from Kathleen Turner and Patrick Stewart reading haikus about plastic surgery. I’ll also be wrapping up copies of Marie-Helene Bertino’s 2 a.m. At The Cat’s Pajamas, which is set on the magical night before Christmas Eve and features the most irresistible jazz-singing, menthol cigarette-smoking nine-year-old I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Whilst my relatives are distracted with those two, I’ll be delving into some of the riches Picador has in store for 2015, including Liza Klaussmann’s Villa America, Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways and Belinda McKeon’s Tender.

WATERSTONES BOOK OF THE YEAR
Lee Dibble, marketing director

Yes Please

Who doesn’t like Amy Poehler? She’s smart, funny, inventive and loves a comedy outfit. She’s essentially the perfect dinner party guest. Her book Yes Please takes a meander through her normal-interesting-inspiring life, with lots of laugh out loud episodes, some food for thought, scribbles and some seriously good photo action. It's a gloriously heavy tome so it feels expensive; I know lots of my London girlfriends will love it.

Do No HarmI’m going to give my mum a copy of The Miniaturist. She doesn’t read very often, but I think she’ll love this atmospheric mystery set in seventeenth century Amsterdam; it rips along at a good pace that will keep her hooked. If you need any more convincing, Waterstones named it their book of the year. (Last year was Stoner, so you know they’ve got good taste.)

I’d love a copy of Do No Harm in my stocking. It was a recommendation from a friend a while ago that I still haven’t got round to reading.

Euphoria

A MUCH-LOVED NOVELIST
Chosen by Rosanna Boscawen, picador.com editor

I have passed all the books in Kent Haruf's Plainsong trilogy onto my mum, and for Christmas I'll be giving her his first novel, The Tie That BindsThe lives of the characters are among the most moving I have ever read, and they are certainly the most beautifully drawn. Euphoria by Lily King is one that I'll be giving to friends - based loosely on the life of the famed anthropologist Margaret Mead and set among a tribe in Papua New Guinea, it's a story of three magnetic scientists who had a huge impact on each other and their field of study. My dad will be getting a copy of F*** You and Goodbye: An hilarious and illuminating collection of the most cutting, witty and spite filled resignation letters in history by Matt Potter. The subtitle says it all – it's hilarious.

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