It’s the run up to Christmas and you’re looking for the perfect present that isn’t plastic toys, socks or alcohol? Well, maybe I can help. When it comes to books that are being read by the people around me, particularly those closest to me, I like to keep my ears and eyes open. So the last few months I’ve done just that, I’ve watched what people have been reading and what customers have been buying at the large bookshop where I work part-time. I’ve got book recommendations from myself, friends, family, bookshop owners and complete strangers, so without further ado, here are my book recommendations this Christmas…
Young Children’s Fiction: The Smartest Giant In Town by Julia Donaldson.
If my three year old cousin were to pick a favourite book then this would be it. I’ve lost count on how many times he has asked my aunt to read this book to him at bedtime, and we all know that children tend to go through phases with books, so it’s little surprise that adults are desperately searching for a children’s book that won’t be too painful to read again and again and again. The Smartest Giant In Town is easy to read, features fun illustrations, kids seem to love it, and most importantly it’s not too boring for us adults either. This story is all about giving to others who are in need, following a polite and kind Giant on his journey to and from town and a host of furry townsfolk who all need his help. It may not be a Christmas book but it does contain the essence of what Christmas is really all about. If your little ones haven’t spotted this book yet then I definitely recommend it.
Older Children’s Fiction: Wonder by R. J. Palacio
A book about a ten year old boy called Auggie who was born with a terrible facial abnormality. Auggie is being sent to a real school for the first time and he is dreading it. After being home-schooled all his life and stared at by people wherever he goes, he just wants to be accepted but fears his new classmates may not like him or how he looks.
Wonder has easy to read, short chapters and a 4.8 star rating on Amazon and 4.4 stars on goodreads. It covers topics such as personal identity, bullying, friendship, kindness and compassion. Wonder is not based on a true story but it is authentically written and shows how cruel the world can be. Other readers have described Wonder as an inspiring story with both humorous and tearful moments.
Wonder has been released as a movie and you can watch the trailer here.
YA Fiction: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
Recommended by a friend, few will be surprised to see John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down on this list. Described as an ‘existential scream’, Turtles All The Way Down follows the story of sixteen year old Aza Holmes who suffers from OCD. Aza often gets trapped within her own negative thoughts, spiralling down and obsessing over them to the exclusion of everything else that is going on around her. Aza’s friend Daisy convinces Aza to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett with a hundred thousand dollar reward. Together they track down Pickett’s son Davis and Aza who feels disconnected from the microbiomes in her own body, learns to accept herself as a whole.
Fictional Mystery/Thriller: Origin by Dan Brown
Another recommendation from a friend, Origin is a thought provoking, existential page turner about life as a species. Dan Brown’s Origin’s follows Robert Langdon who arrives at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, where his friend Edmond Kirsch claims he will announce a revelation that ‘will change the face of science forever’. However, before the big reveal can be made Langdon and the other guests are forced to flee for their lives. Langdon and the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal travel to Barcelona to uncover hidden history, ancient symbols and cryptic clues in order to find the key that will unlock Kirsch’s secret. But not everyone wishes for their success, and Langdon and Vidal must evade a dangerous enemy who will do anything to keep these secrets hidden.
Crime Fiction: Frieda Klein Series by Nicci French
Recommended by one of my employer’s, a five year old boy has been kidnapped and psychotherapist Frieda Klein thinks that she might have some useful information. One of her patients describes dreams of a boy being kidnapped who looks exactly like the missing child. Afraid that the police will dismiss her claims, Frieda ends up being drawn into the case. After investigating a similar abduction from twenty years ago, Frieda picks up a new lead and must face her fears to hunt down an intelligent, ruthless murderer.
Classic Fiction: The Non-existent Knight and The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino
Recommended by another one of my employer’s, this book is actually two short novella’s in one. Calvino masters both fantasy and the absurd in these two charming novella’s.
The Cloven Viscount tells the incredible story of a viscount who is bisected by a cannonball in a war. Both halves of the viscount survive and one becomes extremely bad and the other becomes good to a fault. It has been described as quirky and witty and is a loose prequel to Calvino’s Our Ancestors.
The Non-existent Knight has been described as highly entertaining and humorous, the story revolves around a suit of armour with nothing inside except the non-existent knight. It covers philosophical topics and the nature of existence.
Horror: The Haunting of Highdown Hall by Shani Struthers.
Recommended by my sister, she describes this book as an eerie paranormal horror and highly rates the author. Ruby and her team of freelance psychics receive a call from the troubled new owner of Highdown Hall. Cynthia Hart, a film star who died in 1958 is still residing at Highdown Hall and insists that the devil is blocking her from moving on to the other side. However, as Ruby and her team investigate they realise that Cynthia’s past and personal life is the key to helping her move on, but first they will need to uncover the truth behind Cynthia’s untimely death. As Ruby and her team delve deeper into the past, Ruby is left questioning whether or not evil really does exist.
Non Fiction: The Wainwrights In Colour by Andy Beck
I’ve seen this book in the flesh and I can say that it is beautiful and a must have for Lake District lovers and Wainwright enthusiasts. The Wainwrights In Colour faithfully follows the original Wainwrights and features all of the 214 Lakeland Fells and 1500+ watercolour sketches which Andy has produced to complete this body of work. Andy details the differences in the scenes from how they were when A.W. illustrated them in his guides. The book is signed by the author and includes a 17 minute DVD on how Andy completed just one of the fells in this major undertaking. There are only 5000 copies of this book and it is not available on Amazon. You can order a copy here.