Christmas books list
Whatever the merits of Kindles and iPads, there is still a particular beauty and distinction to giving a stunningly produced book. All of our Christmas 2012 picks are objects that will not only give pleasure to the mind but also to the eye. Not just for Christmas, they'll make your bookshelves look beautiful forever.
For fiction fans
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The finest book of 2012. Tudor life laid bare, in stunningly original, gripping style. And a piece of history in more ways than one - the book made Mantel the first British writer to win the Booker Prize twice.
Translated from Welsh, and only 100 pages, this is a carefully crafted gem of understated, quiet power.
Describing life in a remote Welsh valley, where the same family have farmed for 1,000 years, Rebecca's story is a love poem to her home and family, especially her three blind brothers and her extraordinarily stoical mother. A beauty, and its rootedness and stillness are deeply calming.
Winner of the Guardian First Book Award and the aforementioned Hilary Mantel's book of the year (which is as good a reason as any to buy it). A raw, powerful, insightful novel about serving in the Iraq war and its impact on human nature. Written by a former US veteran and poet, it is on a par with All Quiet on the Western Front for that unflinching mixture of beauty and horror. Look at the Amazon page for reams of glowing reviews and quotes.
Nose to Tail Eating – Fergus Henderson
Brace yourself: the stunning cloth cover of this book hides a plethora of vivid photographic shots of giant pigs ears swimming like shark fins in soup and chefs cuddling whole cow hearts. But that's the beauty. The founder of St John gives us all the parts of the animal, from lambs' tongues and bacon to deep-fried rabbit and manages to make it look delicious. And there are heaps of non-offal recipes, including fabulous fish and vegetables, all simple and seasonal and stylish.
Best of all, there is the baking section, telling you the secret behind the most fabulous sourdough bread in the country. For looks alone, this will be a hit with any Masterchef, especially a male one.
Written by the wife of Fergus, and similar in its classic, unfussy approach but with the focus on gathering friends, cooking for others and making a warm, welcoming feast.
As well as the usual three courses, there are chapters on bread, soups, lunch, canapés, cocktails and menu suggestions. Margot is a calm and inspiring guide, offering invaluable tips and advice on how to make your event go with a swing, whether it is a summer picnic or dinner for ninety. And you'll want to eat everything on every page. Simply perfect.
For armchair adventurers
Patrick Leigh Fermor by Artemis Cooper
Men like Paddy Leigh Fermour, DSO, OBE, don't really exist anymore. He walked across Europe at 18, was a spy in wartime Crete and kidnapped a German general, wrote books that became classic bestsellers, could sing folk-songs in eight languages and translate PG Wodehouse into Greek, was perpetually penniless, smoked at least 50 cigarettes every day for half his life, and swam the Hellespont in his 70th year. This captivating biography pays tribute to a remarkable life, whilst also uncovering home truths about a legendary hero.
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis
Winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize, and an epic tale of exploration and endeavor. Davis weaves together the early attempts to scale Everest by Mallory and his group of adventurers with their experiences in the trenches. The bravery and determination are astonishing, as is the lack of equipment and preparation.
The author took 10 years to research his story and it shows: the book is packed with fascinating detail and a vivid sense of what it must have felt like to climb the unknown summit. Even better read from the comfort of the fireside.
For the enquiring child
Big Questions from Little People, Answered by Some Very Big People, edited by Gemma Elwin Harris in aid of NSPCC
All the brilliant but mind-bendingly challenging questions that children regularly ask, answered by the experts. So you can find out Why We Cook Food (from Heston Blumental), Are We All Related (Richard Dawkins), Why Do We Have Music (Jarvis Cocker) and Is It OK to Eat a Worm (Bear Grylls). There are also answers to the perennial favourites Why is the Sky Blue, Why is Water Wet, How Do you Make Electricity and Why Do I Get Bored.
Essential reading for any inquisitive young mind. And absolutely essential for their parents.
For teenage creatives
Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith
An anarchist's doodling book, each page has an instruction to alter/wreck the book in some way, letting go of inhibitions as well as unleashing your creative unconscious. Excellent for venting teenage angst, whilst also creating a mini-art installation.
For picture book lovers
Ernest and Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent
Reissued classic story with beautiful watercolour and ink illustrations and tells the moving story of Celestine the mouse who loses her toy penguin in the snow. Father Ernest then manages to create a replica just in time for Christmas.
For last-minute stocking fillers
Where's Mo? by Sara Cywinkski and Harry Bloom
A Olympotastic 2012 take on Where's Wally?, with a triumphant Mo to spot amongst the athletes in all the events. You also have to spot the Queen, Tom Daley, Bradley Wiggins and random animals. There are also lots of fun facts about the sports. Guaranteed to keep the competitive spirit going.
The Killing Handbook by Emma Kennedy
Walking tours of Copenhagen, tips on how to spot suspicious activity, a knitting pattern so you can knit your won Lund jumper - you'll find it all here. A very funny and detailed guide from a super-fan.