I can’t be the only person whose Christmas list is quite often just a huge list of books?
Admittedly I have a bit of a problem, in that my house is stuffed full with books. In fact, stack them up around the walls and I could very well brick up the house with them. But still – inspecting a pile of my newest books for the next world to dive into is one of my favourite feelings.
I’ve pulled together 5 books that should be on your Christmas list for lots of different reasons. Some of these I’ve just started and I already heartily recommend, and the others are on my Christmas list too. There’s a mix of poetry and fiction, so hopefully you’ll find something to please you…
Second Place Rosette: Poems about Britain
Edited by Emma Wright and Richard O’Brien
This poetry anthology is firmly on my Christmas list, along with a few others from The Emma Press too. I already have several books from this independent press, and I can’t get enough of their quirky covers and even quirkier innards. Every book I’ve had has been utterly unique and feels like you’ve found something special.
‘Second Place Rosette’ is a collection of poems about the customs, rituals and practices that make up life in modern Britain. From maypole dancing and mehndi painting, to medical prescriptions – I’m looking forward to delving into the weird and wonderful customs of Britain and thinking about my own.
How to Stop Time
by Matt Haig
‘How to Stop Time’ by Matt Haig was a bit of an early Christmas present to myself, so it’s a book I’ve already started. Like all Matt Haig books, I was expecting to learn some sort of life lesson, in a soft and cushion-y sort of way. And so far, the book’s feeling like an adventure and a hug all at once.
‘How to Stop Time’ is a love story told across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live. It’s a novel with a huge heart, that explores losing and finding yourself, coping with change, and how we have to keep learning in order to find happiness.
I hear don the grapevine that Benedict Cumberbatch is attached to the film rights for this. That’d definitely be something worth seeing.
High Spirits: A Round of Drinking Stories
edited by Karen Stevens & Jonathan Taylor
This new release is one I’m really looking forward to reading. Who doesn’t have a drunken story of their own to tell? These are stories with surprise twists, slapstick endings, or with settings that can hit you like a punch to the gut (and I don’t just mean the inevitable hangover afterwards).
This collection of short stories has the capacity to uplift and make you think. These contemporary short stories are written on and about bottles – exploring the comedies, tragedies, pleasures, pains and horrors of alcohol – all of which can be downed like (and perhaps with) a glass of vodka. These stories promise to induce a sense of drunkenness in the reader, which I’m very interested to experience. I do love an immersive reading experience! Perhaps it can be summed up by this quote about the book:
‘An intoxicating cocktail of stories. Drink deep, but be warned: there is darkness in the cup.’ Will Buckingham
by Anna Burns
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2018, ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns is 100% on my Christmas wish list. I’m currently torn between reading the book or listening to the audiobook (I have an Audible addiction as well as a physical book addiction). I always try to read a few of the longlist, and this one will be the 6th I’ve read.
So, while I can’t review this book, I can tell you WHY I want to read it. I love reading works that are a little experimental, and the style of Milkman seems to induce that marmite sensation in most people. Some people love the twisty prose while others are turned right off. But life’s all about experiencing something new and different, and art should be the same too. How dull life would be, if all we looked at was a watercolour of the same landscape, over and over again. One way in which Burns is unusual is that all the characters are referred to by their descriptions, rather than their names. Jury’s out on the exact reason, but most think it’s due to the atmosphere during the ‘troubles’ in which the novel is set. Everyone is watching each other, and names give too much away.
Some of the blurb is as follows:
‘Set in an unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.’
‘Milkman’ is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. If anything, the novel explores how inaction can lead to the most enormous consequences, something I’ve been exploring in my own latest prose and poetry.
Oy Yew (Waifs of Duldred #1)
by Ana Salote
From one of my favourite indie presses, Mother’s Milk Books, ‘Oy Yew’ by Ana Salote is firmly on my wishlist. The book’s made the Times/Chicken House prize longlist, was a Wishing Shelf finalist and an Eric Hoffer award finalist.
Suggested as suitable for readers from 8 to 108, this book tackles serious issues but through the quirky eyes of the waifs of Duldred Hall. I’ve only read reviews by adults, and the books seems to have really moved them all. The blurb for the book reads:
”Lay low and grow’ is the motto of the waifs of Duldred Hall. The only way to escape their life of drudgery is to reach the magical height of 5 thighs 10 oggits, yet Master Jeopardine is determined to feed them little and keep them small. When the Master’s methods grow more sinister the waifs must face their doubts. What is kept in the Bone Room? Why is Rook’s Parlour locked? A new waif arrives and the fight for survival begins. But this child brings another mystery. Who is Oy?’
From what I can tell, Salote evokes the style of so many incredible authors to create her own, utterly idiosyncratic world; Jasper Fforde, Charles Kingsley, and Roald Dahl, all with a shade of Gormenghast in the setting of Duldred Hall. I can’t wait to be there and see it for myself.
by Pascale Petit
I shouldn’t be swayed by a book cover, but BY GOD I am. Look at it. It’s beautiful! One day I’ll have to do a blog post about the psychology of book covers, and the techniques that go into creating them. But for now, I’ll focus on the delicious pages within…
Winner of the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018, shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2018, and a Poetry Book Society Choice – ‘Mama Amazonica’ is set in a psychiatric ward and in the Amazon rainforest, an asylum for animals on the brink of extinction. Among a bestiary of untameable creatures, Petit writes about heart-breaking trauma and the beauty of the wild, and amongst the leaves and branches of this mythic rainforest always exists a woman battling for survival.
I’m an absolute sucker for metaphor rich texts. Layers upon layers of meaning with a philosophical truth at its centre. I think it’s quite probably that one day I may well turn into a Riddler-esque character who can’t speak straight, infuriating everyone I meet. (I apologise in advance).
There you go! Which one’s your favourite? 🙂