Xmas Book Guide

It’s the time of the year when instead of much deserved calm and peace you feel the anxious pressure of sending out cards in time, trying to figure out Christmas grocery delivery (when all the slots seem to have been booked back in October – who does that?!), and most stressful of all – finding the right gifts for the special people in your life. 


But don’t you worry, we’ve got the last one figured out for you. There’s still time to get the perfect book from our list of 2021’s best books – and we’ve organised them by personal traits to make sure we cater to all kinds of tastes. Enjoy!


For the one who’s into graphic novels

Alison Bechdel, whose memoirs, ‘Fun Home’, have just been adapted into a film featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, has written a new book about working out – ‘The Secret to Superhuman Strength’ (£16.99, Jonathan Cape).


She talks about her passion for exercising the body — it is the fire that feeds her creativity and keeps her warm and happy. She writes about karate, spin classes, Nordic skiing and all other kinds of modern healthy exertions, but draws the line at Peloton, preferring her actual bike instead.


For the FOODIE

No one has doubted Stanley Tucci’s cooking skills ever since Big Night (1996), where at the end of a magnificent feast Stanley Tucci’s character comes to the kitchen in the wee hours to make an omelette, and leaves you in no doubt that he as sure as eggs is eggs can cook.


Since then there have been two cookbooks and an Emmy award-winning series of Tucci munching his way through Italy. And now there’s Taste: My Life Through Food (£20, Fig Tree) – a memoir in which he shares dinner experiences, celebrity anecdotes and also what it’s like to go through chemotherapy and be deprived of the joy of eating well.



I wish I could hop into a time machine and take a copy of O Caledonia (£8.99, W&N) by Elspeth Barker to my 15-year-old self. It’s a heartbreaking story about a sensitive, fragile girl who’s born in the wrong family, place and time, and so is predestined to be unhappy.


She’s brilliant, witty and perceptive, and though it isn’t appreciated by the characters in the book, the reader would no doubt cherish some time spent in her company.

For the Movie Buff

Here’s a little seen trope: film-to-book. Swap film adaptation of books for this new formula, popularised this year by our favourite auteur-to-author.


The novelisation of Once Upon a Time in America (£8.99, W&N) has been well-received by both those who loved the movie and those who found it predictable and wondered if, after decades of pushing cinematic limits, Quentin Tarantino no longer held any surprises up his sleeve.


He’s proved them wrong. From pulp to plump 400-page fiction, Tarantino produces another smash hit in which he departs from the movie in ways that will delight cinephiles. There are new Manson family scenes, Cliff Booth’s movie insights disguising Tarantino’s own tastes, and plenty of movie criticism from just about every major character. His memoir, Cinema Speculation, is planned for the near future.


For the essay connoisseur

Joan Didion’s new book is a collection of twelve pieces that have been published before, but have been taken out of the drawer and polished to shine in quite a novel way.

Arranged under a bold cover with a picture of Didion smoking; dinner dish for an ashtray; eyes straight at the camera; hands poised as though about to make a searing speech. Hilton Als introduces the essays ‘that offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of this legendary figure’, published under the telling title Let Me Tell You What I Mean (£12.99, Fourth Estate).


For the Fashionista

Instead of a magazine subscription, or one of those colossal coffee table monsters of a book, give the fashionista in your life Glossy (£20, Quercus) by our very own Nina-Sophia Miralles.

It’s a large-scale research project on the history of the infamous fashion magazine, written in style, taking us through a succession of talented editors and their contribution to the development of the brand that Vogue and Condé Nast are today.

There are plenty of sparkling details and juicy stories to embellish conversation with your Christmas table neighbours… and enough dirt to excite Anna Wintour herself.


For the Avid Pub-Goer

As Stanley Johnson eloquently put it last year in the midst of lockdown (while his son, the prime minister, urged people to ‘avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues’), if you need to go to the pub, you go to the pub.


Fingers crossed, Stanley won’t have a reason to publicly question his son’s judgement over pub closure next year… so if you want to do an epic crawl across the drunken history of an entire city, you can get going with  ‘Liquid History: An Illustrated Guide to London’s Greatest Pubs (£12.99, Bantam Press) by John Warland.


Follow the garden designer turned pub tour guide around more than 50 history rich public houses around London.


FOR THE A-List Enthusiast

Will Smith is an incredibly versatile actor and producer, and above all he will always be the one Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It (isn’t it about time Adidas brought back that puffy tracksuit?)


The musician/actor/sex icon whose slo-mo running could rival Pamela Anderson’s Baywatch stints, teams up with Mark Manson (the author of the cheery self-help book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck), to produce Will (£20, Century) – an epic story of transformation and outer success, raw with honesty and revelations.


FOR Budding Bookworms

One of the best-loved children’s stories of all time has been reprinted in a beautiful 2021 edition.


The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by MinaLima (£25, HarperDesign) makes a beautiful gift as well as a collector’s item. The book is printed with interactive elements – a map of the Land of Oz, pop-up Yellow Brick Road, and you even get Dorothy’s silver shoes to remind you that there’s no place like home, especially at Christmas.

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