Best non-fiction books for Christmas 2014
If you're looking for a few minutes of peace amidst the Christmas festivities, or you're after the perfect present for a loved one, then we're on hand to help with our guide to the best non-fiction titles of 2014 - perfect for curling up with over the Christmas break.
A Curious Career Lynn Barber
Each chapter of Lynn Barber's fabulously entertaining new memoir is focused around one of her famously acerbic interviews, as she ruminates on the nature of fame, the allure of artists and the pomposity of actors. A delicious cocktail that mixes memories (starting off in journalism at Penthouse) with priceless anecdotes (Salvador Dali's hotel suite, Shane McGowan's drinking den).
The Most of Nora Ephron Nora Ephron & India Knight
An anthology everyone should have on their shelves, this collection of Nora Ephron's writing is the gold standard for witty women everywhere. There are pieces on food, feminism, growing old, divorce and love, as well as extracts from the When Harry Met Sally screenplay and Ephron's bestselling book, Heartburn. Like a wise best friend, but who never takes anything too seriously.
Playing to the Gallery Grayson Perry
Man of the moment Grayson Perry is now almost better known as a broadcaster and commentator than as an artist. His relaxed, approachable style shines through this excellent manifesto, a version of his hugely popular 2013 Reith lectures. He argues for a move away from the conceptual art that has become business, and the freedom to lose oneself in making and sharing a vision.
H is for Hawk Helen Macdonald
Winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize, this elegiac story of training a goshawk is one of the year's most enthralling books. Helen Macdonald acquires a goshawk after the death of her father, and she writes about the relationship between humans and the natural world with poetic beauty and deep feeling. An inspired account of bereavement that is joyous and fascinating too.
Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography Paul Merton
As sharp and intelligent as you would expect from the HIGNFY regular. Merton candidly describes his working class childhood, Catholic schooldays, struggle on the comedy circuit and eventual breakthrough into the 1980s alternative scene, before his hard-earned success is threatened when he is sectioned. A journey into the mind of a much-loved comedian, and one of the best memoirs of 2014.
What We Wore: A People's History of British Style Nina Manandhar
Nina Madandhar's book comes from her blog of the same name and offers a nostalgic trip back to the street fashion of the last 50 years. Filled with fabulous pics culled from the personal photo albums of the British public, What We Wore is a collection that feels both private and public - a rich, honest and hilarious look at the history of British fashion. The perfect gift for any fashion lover.
Please, Mister Postman Alan Johnson
Following on from Johnson's critically-acclaimed first book This Boy, Please, Mr Postman picks up the story in the late 60s when he's 17. Alan's dreams of being a rock star are quashed when his girlfriend Judy becomes pregnant. The pair are forced to move out to Slough and he finds a new job with the Post Office - where his political awakening begins.
Life, Love and The Archers Wendy Cope
A wonderful mix of poet Wendy Cope's prose, uncovered from the archives of The British Library. Find hidden gems such as extracts from an abandoned memoir and unpublished essays Billy Graham, smoking addiction and more. The book also comprises published prose, including a hilarious collection of TV reviews written for the Spectator in the 80s. Perfect to dip into over the hols.
Soundtrack To My Life Dermot O'Leary
Dermot's memoir is just like him: easy, effortless, charming, with a self-deprecating slant. His memories of childhood and his early career are linked to a playlist of songs, some absolutely terrible (when he first auditioned for TV, the Macarena was playing everywhere) and others a bit cooler (Morrisey, the Housemartins, as often played on his Radio 2 show).
How To be a Husband Tim Dowling
A very funny and genuinely touching anatomy of self-deprecating Guardian columnist Tim Dowling's 20-year relationship with his wife, and a wider look at the joys and perplexities of family life, from division of labour to bodging a DIY job. Watch our video of Tim reading his wife's answers to Mumsnetters' questions here, filmed when he joined us for a webchat earlier this year.
Six Poets Hardy to Larkin: An Anthology Alan Bennett
A beautifully chosen collection of the poets that inspire Alan Bennett: Hardy, Housman, Betjemen, Auden, MacNiece and Larkin. Bennett reveals details of their lives, as well as his response to the poems and his own ideas on writing. A little gem that will last a lifetime.
A collection of Mitchell's journalism that investigates the absurdities of current British life. Mitchell is a master at exposing the nonsense within politics, big business and the press. These weekly columns for The Observer are pithy and observant, with some killer lines.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari
A history of humankind that will, as John Carey put it, 'blow cobwebs out of your brain'. In clear and vivid style, Harari explains how homo sapiens became the dominant human species, and came to create cities and kingdoms, believe in gods and be enslaved to consumerism. An engrossing, bold bestseller that's bound to kickstart a few lively discussions over the Christmas pud.
The ultimate Christmas gift for dog lovers. Thinking of getting a puppy or just want the best out of your faithful friend? Top Dog offers all the advice, tips and treats you may need. Fresh, fun and in full colour, with specially commissioned cartoons by Off the Leash illustrator Rupert Fawcet, it tells you everything you need to know to make your mutt marvellous!
Last updated: almost 2 years ago