The ten best Christmas books (so good you won’t want to give them away)

Looking for a page-turner to keep your loved ones entertained over the festive season? Jeremy Taylor scours the bookshelves for the best Christmas read for everyone on your gift list

I Will Marry George Clooney by Christmas.  Best Christmas books
For your wife

I Will Marry George Clooney By Christmas by Tracy Bloom (Arrow, £6.99)

No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday was Bloom’s best-selling first novel; her latest has an even more eye-catching title. Michelle is a single mum working in a chicken factory. With an annoying teenager, little money and no light at the end of the tunnel, she starts dreaming the impossible. It’s a fun, light read, even though the author couldn’t have guessed that Clooney would get hitched earlier this year.

Stocking filler The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Pan McMillan, £12.99) This literary thriller set in 17th-century Amsterdam is Waterstones’ book of the year and best-selling debut hardback of the decade.


Snow and Steel.  Best Christmas booksFor your husband

Snow & Steel: Battle of the Bulge by Peter Caddick-Adams (Preface, £25)

Not a reference to his festive indulgences but a heavyweight insight into Hitler’s last major offensive, 70 years ago. Caddick’s attention to detail reveals a battle far more intense than first thought. He blends scholarly analysis with interviews that bring events in the freezing Ardennes forest chillingly back to life.

Stocking filler Revolution, Russell Brand (Century, £20) Love him or hate him, Brand has made the transformation from loathsome lothario to social commentator with ease. This is his take on the failing fabric of society.


For your wife or friend

The Widow’s To Do List by Stephanie Zia (Blackbird, £8.99)

Sally Lightfoot is a widowed rock chick at 50. Getting back on the dating scene seems like hell – until she stumbles across a man who awakens parts of her she’d forgotten about. It’s a coming of age story for the 50+ generation, packed with emotion and giggles. A lot more fun than the title suggests.

Stocking filler The Country House At War (Pavilion, £20) A fascinating history of the First World War through the great houses of the National Trust. Poignant and personal.

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For your father

Some Desperate Glory by Max Egremont (Picador, £20)

We’ve all heard of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen but there were many other Great War poets, now long forgotten. Historian Egremont unravels the story of the First World War through the verse of poets you are unlikely to have read. Many were killed in the trenches but this chronological anthology brings the pain and pride of battle to the fore.

Stocking filler The World of August Strindberg, Bjorn Meidal & Bengt Wanselius (Max Strom, £41) A photographic biography of Sweden’s most influential author and playwright, a major influence in theatre, literature and photography.

Hockney The Biography Part 2. Best Christmas books

For the culture vulture

Hockney: The Biography Vol. 2 by Christopher Simon Sykes (Century, £25)

The colourful and controversial Hockney is Britain’s most popular living artist, with a career spanning five decades. This second volume of his life story starts in 1975. Hockney flits between Notting Hill and California, which provide the inspiration for his swimming pool series of paintings. It reveals the glamorous circles he moved in and his often stormy personal relationships.

Stocking filler Shoetopia, Sue Huey & Kathryn Kenny (Laurence King, £25) Know your Jimmy Choos from your Prada? This is the ultimate book for shoe fetishists, showcasing the talent of top fashion houses and emerging designers.


For the cook

The Street Food Journal.  Best Christmas booksThe Street Food Journal (Laurence King, £9.95)

An A-Z of street cuisine facts and food sketches. What’s the difference between tacos and burritos, ever tasted a Japanese dango, or are you more partial to a kenkay? (That’s a sourdough dumpling, served with stew or sauce, in Ghana). From acaraje in Brazil to zapiekanka in Poland, here is everything you need to know about food on the move.

Stocking filler Paul Hollywood’s British Baking (Bloomsbury, £9.99) The Great British Bake Off cook reveals how to make your honey buns rise, and an oven-full of other recipes.


For the coffee table

Sounds of the Wild by Jan Pedersen (Max Strom, £25)

Wasted on kids! This hardback is an illustrated guide to 100 animals, including what they sound like: press a button and a speaker plays the appropriate recording. Learn how to identify a hippopotamus from an African bullfrog, or a scarlet macaw from a hummingbird. It also doubles as a great ‘sound-a-like’ quiz book 

Stocking filler The World Atlas of Whisky, David Broom (Mitchell Beazley, £35) The award-winning whisky writer pens a colourful guide to more than 200 distilleries around the world.

My Cook Motorcycle.  Best Christmas booksFor the petrol head

My Cool Motorcycle by Chris Haddon (Pavilion, £11.99)

Bikers are more willing to customise their machines than car drivers. The results can be seen in this colourful guide, focusing on 60 iconic bikes and the stories of their owners. Whether you are just starting out on a motorbike or a Born Again Biker, My Cool Motorcycle is a ride through bike culture from the First World War onwards.

Stocking filler 20th Century Classic Cars, Jim Heinmann (Taschen, £12.99) A lush visual feast for car nuts, that traces the history of the automobile over the last 100 years.

For a teenager

War Horse Battle Poster (Spineless Classics, £34.99)

Want your children to look at a book every day? Spineless Classics are the full text of a novel on a poster. Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Paddington Bear – they’re all available as art prints on a single sheet. Fifty-somethings might need a magnifying glass to read the print but everything is there, with the words forming an iconic image from each title.

Stocking filler Excess All Areas, Sue Richmond (Backbeat, £19.99) Inflatable sumo outfits, ice without corners, a boa constrictor… a collection of bizarre items, or ‘riders’, requested by bands at tour venues.

The Only Quiz Book You Will Ever Need.  Best Christmas booksFor brainiacs
The Only Quiz Book You Will Ever Need (Century, £9.99)

Once you’ve exhausted Christmas TV, reach for this brain-munching life-saver. The book is packed with more than 3,000 questions set by the National Quiz Team, winners of the European Quizzing Championships 2013. General knowledge, pop, literary – this paperback will be a hit long after the turkey has gone.

Stocking filler 100 Diagrams That Changed The World, Scott Christianson (Pavilion, £18.99) The most significant plans, sketches and drawings in history, from primitive cave drawings to the complicated DNA double helix.