Wednesday, 25 November 2009

BOOKS SAVE LIVES

'Tis the season for some of us to be thinking about Christmas. 'Tis also the season in which a few years ago I had a bit of an issue with Oxfam. Now, I know that Oxfam does a great job. Obviously. Thing is, they made a Big Mistake and so now I choose to support other charities that help in just the same way.

So, obviously you want to know a) why and b) what the hell it's got to do with books and writing.

Well, what happened was that I bought a goat. As you do. One of those goats that helps (I hope) familes who have horribly little in places in the world that even my writerly imagination finds it hard to handle. So far so good.

Then Oxfam wrote to thank me. Which I wish they hadn't done because a) I didn't need thanks and would rather they'd spent their [my] money on helping people and b) that's when they made their Big Mistake.

OK, I forget the exact words of the beginning of their letter. But it was something like, "Congratulations for not choosing a boring present such as..." - wait for it  -  arghhh -  "a book token." NO! How is a book token boring? A book token allows the recipient to enter any world of his choice, to have his mind opened, heart inspired, soul thrilled, world changed. And I thought that Oxfam, which is supposed to see education as a key to surviving and thriving in this unfair world, viewed books as the key to that key. Books, although hugely pleasurable, and even mainly pleasurable, are much more than that.

For Oxfam to think that the possibility of choosing a book was boring was absolutely enough to stop me giving them a penny ever again. Sorry. Someone else can have my penny and I hope it ends up in the same place, doing the same job, but not through the hands of someone who thinks that books are boring. I realise I am over-reacting and of course I absolutely hope that Oxfam continues to thrive in its excellent work, but I have to make choices about whom to support and it is on such things that my choices hang.


Now, this brings me to my original point: 'tis the season for some of us to be thinking about Christmas. And my Christmas wish is that we should all buy books for as many people as possible. For everyone from babies to retired people, books offer lifelines and life changes. They are humanity personified. They can save the world. I have been lecturing about this to librarians, after reading some fascinating neuro-stuff about what fiction does to the brain, the persona, the person. I could explain [at length] about this, but you'll be glad to know that I won't. If you're interested, go to the On Fiction blog, written by neurosciency people who love fiction, and click on Academic Journals in the links on the right. Most especially, find this amazing and mind-widening article  -  but brace yourself for a serious title: "Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds." It will make you want to prescribe fiction to everyone. Or inject it forcibly into their veins. Seriously. Read it. If you click on the Academic Journals link, you'll find the downloadable pdf file. (Don't forget to come back).

But, forget my lectures. [HOORAY!] What I'd like is for you to start inspiring each other with books to buy for friends and loved ones at Christmas or any other time of the year, by putting your recommendations in the comments beneath this post.

The only rule is that you can't recommend something that someone else has already recommended. Just give us title, author, who would like it and briefly why. Recommend up to five. Doesn't matter if they were published this year or not.


Me first, me, me, me first!

  • For women  -  The Device, The Devil and Me by Stephanie Taylor  -  and please buy it from The Linen Press website  -  an emotional rollercoaster, a raw and honest look at mothers, daughters, loss and love. And, I should warn you, cancer. I was so gripped that I read it in two sittings.
  • For men or women who love lit fic but also quite like it when it's short and has a bit of interesting history attached to it  -  The Falconer by Alice Thomas. Again, if you could buy it from the independent publisher's website, Two Ravens Press, that would be fab. AND they offer discounts. Hooray  -  independent, fabby AND discounty. I am reading it at the moment and it's goooood. Strange, ethereal, but good.
  • For young people over 11  -  The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird - a poignant look at life during the gruesome religious hatred of the Killing Times.
  • For anyone who loves short stories of the absolute classiest order  -  a choice (you could buy both...): The White Road by Tania Hershman or (and???) Words from a Glass Bubble by Vanessa Gebbie. (Buy both from Salt Publishing).
Over to you: get recommending please. Books change lives. This Christmas, if you love someone, buy them a book. Or a book token. Boring? Pah!

39 comments:

lyuba said...

I recently bought four great wee books from Oxfam. Called "Oxtales" and individually titled "Earth", "Air", "Fire", "Water":£5 each. They're little anthologies of short stories contributed by such luminaries as Sarah Waters,Ian Rankin, Marina Lewicka, Kate Atkinson etc.
You can buy them at http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/ethical-collection-books-and-stationery/HN287881

Wholeheartedly recommended!
I've some other new books I'd like to suggest but will need to check out isbns etc.

lacer said...

Totally agree! I'd love it if I got all book tokens this Christmas!

Anyway, my recommendations -

For young kids - pretty much anything by Lauren Child, but try exploring something other than Charlie and Lola. The big little kid in my life will be getting lots of Lauren Child this Christmas and I'm trying very hard not to read it first! My pile includes the first Clarice Bean book, which has the most heart warming message from Child on the inside front cover for anyone trying to get published, about how she sent out the manuscript for the book for years, some people liked the story, some people liked the picture and almost everyone didn't like the font, she got a job as a receptionist and then one day she got that letter that said "Yes".

For people who like to make stuff: the Cath Kidston Sew! book, so you can be all um Cath Kidston like.

For people who like to cook: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls River Cottage Everyday, that book has literally not left my cookbook stand.

And finally for people who like to read, where could I start? So instead I'm just going to recommend the one book that has stayed with me the most recently after reading it, plus I met the author at an author event recently and he came across as a very young man, which always helps. It's The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin, one of those Swedish crime books, it's incredibly atmospheric and spooky, being in part ghost story, as well as crime novel and set in the run up to Christmas, it's perfect for this time of year.

lacer said...

Oops, teaches me to try and type whilst simultaneously being bothered by two young children. I should have written Johan Theorin is a very NICE young man.

Nicola Morgan said...

Lacer - That was a very funny omission! A very young man does indeed help!

Am def going to look out for The Darkest room. And yes, if I knew any young enough children all the Lauren Child books are such fun.

Dayspring said...

Ooh. "The Book Thief" by Marcus Zusak for any artistic types that like unusual style; it's about WWII, so your older folks might like it too. Though to be honest, I think just about anyone who loves books would love it.

For nonfiction/historical types, John Julius Norwich's 3-volume History of Byzantium (there's also a Short History which isn't quite as satisfying). I know it doesn't sound compelling, but I've never before read a history book that kept me turning pages in the same way - Lord Norwich is a fabulous writer and Byzantine history is rather glamorous.

Literary Citizen said...

As a bookseller, I've been handselling my favourite 2009 fiction reads by the bagful to organised Christmas shoppers who are willing to let me boss them around!

However, my favourite 'present find' so far has been the ReproDepot pattern book:
http://reprodepot.com/rdbkfl.html

(I'm linking to the US-based publisher's website but it seems to be available in UK too, and indeed Australia where I am.)

It's made up of page after page of beautiful vintage patterns drawn from ReproDepot's own design collections - they produce fabric -which you can also download as pdfs from the enclosed CD for your own crafty projects.

Included are plenty of ideas ranging from the idiot-proof (download pattern, print onto white card, et voila, new stationery) to the more challenging (lightswitch covers, anyone?).

It's just gorgeous and would be the perfect present for someone who loves arts and crafts in the Cath Kidston vein (as mentioned above by lacer) but already has all Cath's books.

Gemma Noon said...

For the Chick Lit lovers out there:

Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

For anyone who likes quirky stuff like Terry Pratchett:

Triumff by Dan Abnett

People who like historical fiction but with a bit of a twist:

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
(first of the Warlord Chronicles)

For anyone over the age of 18 who likes the concept of Twilight but, you know, wants more sex in their fiction:

The Darkhunter Series by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Fantasy Lover is the first)

People who like off-the-wall stuff:

Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith

Anyone with young kids:

The Magic Paintbrush by Julia Donaldson


Heh, sorry, I'll stop now, I'm just listing my favourite books, and I can think of at least another twenty :-S

Delia Lloyd said...

What a great idea!

1. For self help types, I can't recommend enough The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin which is coming out on Dec 29th. It's based on her insanely popular blog about how she spent one year deliberately trying zillions of strategies to make herself happier and what worked. You can pre-order on Amazon.

2. For chick lit-I don't normally read it, but thought that Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch was very well done. Funny but with a sad underbite and very easy to relate to.

3. For more serious types, I really liked The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga which offers a funny but tragic take on contemporary Indian politics.

4. If you like memoir and/or are obsessed with modern state of Israel (I am), def. read Amos Oz' heartbreaking and historically rich autobiography, A Tale of Love and Darkness.

Delia Lloyd
www.realdelia.com

Anonymous said...

Hi Nicola, I regularly read your blog as one of your invisible followers (I don't have a google account) and think it's awesome!

I've just read The little stranger by Sarah Waters which was really good.

I'd also recommend anything by Milly Johnson for Chick Lit. The Birds and the Bees and Spring Fling are my favs. I love her books, they're a bit predictable, but they always really cheer me up!

Kim

Harry Markov said...

As a genre writer I am offended that books are boring. My friends still can't fathom why I would be dramatic over not being employed on the foreign [read as English] SFF book department, cause you know it's books.

On my recommendations:

1) For those that love wonderful prose - "Lolita" by Nabokov

2) For people that enjoy good classics - "The Picture of Dorian Grey" by Oscar Wild.

3) For the hopelessly romantic - "Pride and Prejudice"

4) For wine lovers - "Flesh and Fire" by L.A Gilman.

5) For fantasy lovers with a taste for big bangs - "Seaborn" by Chris Howard

Tania Hershman said...

First, I am deeply honoured to be on your list, Nicola! And to repay that, here are some of my recent favourites that I highly recommend:

For lovers of short short stories and fantastic writing:
Feeding Strays by Stefanie Freele - Freele's stories may be very short but they pack a terrific punch, hard to read more than one at once without having to stop and absorb.

For those who like to mix their readings with some positive action:
The Freedom anthology from Amnesty International - a host of moving and varied stories to commemorate the anniversary of the declaration of human rights.

For those with no problem reading about post-apocalyptic wastelands:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Wow.

For lovers of beautiful, tragic writing with maths themes:

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. I read this quickly, i couldn't stop, it is so wonderful, much less about maths than about what it is to grow up deeply flawed, and about the connections between people.

Thanks, Nicola, for asking!

JaneF said...

A great selection so far. I am taking notes!

In our family we traditionally give true crime books at Christmas – the more disturbing the better – but I have refrained from going down that sick road here.

Fiction – (1) Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson – both great stories, beautifully told. (These will appeal more to women than to men, I think.) (2) Anything by Nicci French for a page-turning thriller (OK they are all a bit similar, but who cares!).

Popular science – Genome by Matt Ridley. This is a sort of ‘tour’ of the human genome. The author uses fascinating examples culled from each of the human chromosomes (thus 23 chapters) to explain how life works and has evolved. It’s as much a history book as anything – amazing that our DNA tells us so much about our past. Everyone should read this!

History – The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury. This is harrowing but wonderful: the story of what really happened to the dauphin after the French Revolution. Very well written, I think, and unputdownable. (OK, so I managed to sneak in some true crime... ish.)

HelenMHunt said...

Great idea - and as I will have no choice but to do all my Christmas shopping on-line this year - books all round seems like a good plan.

Someone has beaten me to it with Cally Taylor's Heaven Can Wait, so I'm going for -

One Apple Tasted by Josa Young - beautifully written, inspired and quirky.

Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown - tragic, lyrical and evocative.

The Cloths Of Heaven by Sue Eckstein - vivid, humorous and emotional.

And for anyone interested in intelligent, well-written crime fiction - Cut Short by Leigh Russell

My full reviews of all of the above are on Bookersatz book review blog if anyone is interested.

Catherine Hughes said...

I am guilty of forcibly injecting fiction into my kids - they have humungous shelving structures in their bedrooms so as to house the books I buy (for myself which I then pass onto) them!

For anyone with a homicidal, hormonal teenage girl, consider Sarah Dessen - who has the most beautiful voice and writes about teenage girls with alarming clarity.

Anyone who likes their sex scenes as part of an awesome plot, and has a love of the supernatural, read anything by Eileen Wilks or Anne Bishop.

If you love literary fiction, try reading something a little sideways - Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. Brilliantly awesome!

And don't forget Neil Gaiman for 12-15's and anyone who wishes that they still were. I have just started The Graveyard Book, but adored Stardust long before it was a movie and Neverwhere even after it was a TV series.

I could go on - and on and on - but shall stop there!

Rebecca said...

For the elementary age reader just getting interested in longer fiction: The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, because this is the first middle grade fiction book that got my son really interested in reading.

For teen girls that enjoy fairy-tale romance: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (and pretty much anything else written by her). Her books are beautifully written, adventurous and anything but shallow!

For women who enjoy Christian fiction: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It is a beautiful love story, but with adult themes and situations. NOT for young girls.

Two of my favorites for anyone who enjoys speculative fiction: The Giver by Lois Lowry and Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

Rebecca said...

Oh, just have to add that The Monster at the End of this Book is a must have for any family with young kids, especially toddlers!

Nicola Morgan said...

Yes, Book Thief is brill.

Catherine - oh, sarah dessen is a fabulous YA voice. I loved Keeping the Moon. Her work is essential reading for anyone who thinks that writing for teenagers must be simple or teenagery. And I love The Graveyard Book too.

Kin - hello! And you have reminded me about The Little Stranger - I'm putting on my list for Santa Claus

Helen - I'm going to try Leigh Russell, on your recommendation. I am looking for intelligent crime (in the fictional sense...)

Tania - you've reminded me that I wanted to read The Solitude of Prime Numbers, too. Too much to read!

Jane - some great ideas there. I like the sound of the Lost King of France.

Gemma, Delia and harry - thank you for your ideas, too. I'm running out of space!

Thanks all. Looking forward to more

Nik Perring said...

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant idea. (I was only talking about recommending like this with someone earlier today - her idea, not mine I should add). I'll definitely be doing this.

(And I like your lectures.)

Rebecca Knight said...

What a wonderful idea! I've already written down some suggestions from your fabulous commenters.

My suggestions:

For Kids:

--Bruce Coville's JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER, THE MONSTER'S RING, and GOBLINS IN THE CASTLE. These are some of my all time favorite books, and I'll still pick them up from time to time and read them :).

For Young Adults:

--Cindy Pon's SILVER PHOENIX (a fantasy novel based on ancient China), Kristin Cashore's GRACELING (lady assassin w/ superpowers.)

For Adult Sci-Fi readers:

--Dan Simmons' HYPERION (gorgeous writing/fascinating plot), and Joan Slonczewski's A DOOR INTO OCEAN (thoughtful, intricate biology-based sci fi.)

And now I've officially gotten carried away and have to stop typing. I have reviews of some of these picks on my blog for those who are interested:

http://rebeccaknightbooks.blogspot.com/2009/11/giving-books-for-christmas.html

Thanks for all the recommendations!

HL said...

There are a ton of wonderful books out there for the under 11 crowd that aren't picture books.

Check out

The Center for Children's Books Gift list--it's current new books that will entice all ages.

http://bccb.lis.illinois.edu/gb2/index.html PDF is available to print.

Suzie F. said...

Great post and wonderful suggestions. I love to both give and receive books for Christmas. Here are a few of my favorites.

1) Gossamer by Lois Lowry - upper middle grade/YA. A beautifully written story about creatures called dreamgivers who give positive dreams and night mares who do the opposite, and the three people they affect.

2) Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis - upper MG/YA - Oh, to be an adolescent again. This story is humorous, touching, and real.

3) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (YA probably 14+) - Riveting and horrifying. My heart pounded the whole time I read this story of survival in the most ghastly of circumstances.

4) The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks by E. Lockhart (YA) - A sophomore girl at an elite boarding school takes on a group of senior boys who belong to a secret society. Great girl power book.

catdownunder said...

Oh miaou! I won't add any specific books to the list but, if you want to keep the little darlings quiet and productive, find a book that will teach them how to do something as well as the reading matter. n.b. This is in addition to the other reading matter. (Origami is good - just supply plain paper cut into squares as well.)
If you do that you and the household pets will get in a well deserved post-prandial nap!

Flixton Mum said...

Goodness, five books. Well...

I'll have to say for eight year old boys - Danny Baker Record Breaker (although I don't think it's been released yet).

For a wonderfully gentle and satirical look at life The Beiderbecke Trilogy by Alan Plater (although I think it's out of print), it is my return-to book when things get out of kilter.

And to continue with the obscure and unattainable theme of my list, I'm hoping someone will buy me The Complete Miss Marple, one day I hope to be as refined as her.

For young children then Jane Hissey's Old Bear books are always winners.

And for great characterisation and fast paced action then Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

Catt said...

Ooh! 'The Late Hector Kipling' by David Thewlis. A man's book, about an artist and the stuff going on in his life right now. Not saying too much - READ IT!
Also, 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood. The thing with Atwood is each book is different, and you are never disappointed. The Handmaid's Tale is set around a lady in a dystopian society, providing an insight into the life of a woman within that society. There is both great writing and a great plot. I throughly enjoyed it.
& for the over 18s, 'Cock and Bull' by Will Self. I can't tell you how much I loved this book. It's 2 novellas, 'Cock' and 'Bull'. Some lovely imagery slipped between great lines and believable characters. =)

Michael Malone said...

So many books so little time... lit crime - RJ Ellory A Quiet Belief in Angels...more crime...anything you can get your hands on by James Lee Burke...someone who should be more famous in crime writing circles, Deon Meyer (south african)

Others - Chris Cleave, The Other Hand or Incendiary. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Jackie Kay, Trumpet...Grace Notes by Bernard McLaverty

right I have to stop I could go on for ever

Fantasy - anything by Fiona McIntosh, she's such a compulsive read

Carole Blake said...

So many wonderful books read over a lifetime, the experience of reading every one is something I'd like to share. These picked at random from memory.

None of my own clients here, because as I've chosen to represent them, I'd obviously recommend every one!

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier: hopeless yearning lost love. Heartbreakingly wonderful. Only novel he ever wrote: died young in first world war.

Every single word published by Diana Athill: the absolute mistress of memoir, never a word wasted. A brilliant publisher before she became a writer in her later years.

March by Geraldine Brooks for all those women captivated by L M Alcott's Little Women quartet, as I was. I dared this to enthral me and it did.

A Simple Plan by Scott Smith: a deceptively simple beginning that ensnares so completely as life unravels for the protagonist: there but for the grace of god ...

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston + Mario Spezi: read it as a novel and it's unputdownable, literally; realise it's a true story and it's almost unbelievable. And it throws an shocking light on a policeman turned novelist himself ..

Ooops: that's my 5 done already!

No Google account and it won't seem to let me create one so here's my Twitter identity: caroleagent

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Just caught this on Twitter and see that my lovely agent has responded with her list. I always buy my nearest and dearest books as stocking stuffers for Christmas.
My husband is a massive Lindsey Davis Falco fan but has read all of her oevre, so this year I have bought him Ruso and The Demented Doctor by Ruth Downie, because it's of a similar ilk.
For my mum who likes her cosy detectives, I've bought Murder at the Laurels by Lesley Cookman.
For my dad, to go with his surprise of a set of dowsing rods, I have bought Adventures of a 21st Century Dowser by John Baker. I intend reading it when dad has done! Younger son is a Terry Pratchett fan, so it will be Unseen Academicals for him. His girlfriend loves Peter James novels, so no problem there. His new one Dead Tomorrow is out just about now. Not that I've read any of these (although doubtless I will do so as they are passed around the family), but I know this is what will suit the reading tastes of the recipients involved.

Jen Campbell said...

Oh dear, another reason to glower at Oxfam. They do brilliant work, obviously, but their bookshop near my bookshop is crushing us, and they pay their staff! *mutters*

I had to stop giving money to WaterAid; they kept on calling me on my mobile to tell me where my money was going and guilt tripping me into giving them more. I was well aware of where my money was going - on them bloody calling me once a fortnight on my mobile! Grrrr.

Anyway, recommendations....


1. For lit. fic. lovers: Ali Smith: Hotel World.


2. For children 10-13: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr.

3. Poetry, poetry, poetry out this yea: Kate Kilalea/Ross Sutherland/Richard Tyrone Jones.

4. For anyone who loved Mark Haddon's 'Curious Incident' or want something quirky, funny and touching to read then please please check out Alan Bissett's 'The Incredible Adam Spark.'


5. 'When I was Five I Killed Myself' Howard Buten. Beautiful, beautiful book. <3

Jan said...

I remember being six or seven and discovering "big" books for the first time. And the world they opened up to me. The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien) and The Sword in the Stone (TH White) were revelations. I'd always recommend them :) Thanks for the memories Nicola!

P.S. Oh, can't stop - I also love introducing kids to Diana Wynne Jones (such imagination!) and adults to The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith - those always make me feel better about people.

Kate Mayfield said...

Just saw this on Twitter and think it's a fabulous idea.

1. HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY. Audrey Niffenegger is wildly imaginative and fearless. A ghost story, a love story and a story of loss.

2. For short story fans A.S. Byatt's LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF STORIES is unusual and slightly disturbing.

3. One of the American queens of storytelling, Marilynne Robinson's HOME and also GILEAD. Exquisitely written. She holds you in her firm grasp before you know what's happened. These books are family laments, subtle, but powerful.

4. Another queen of American storytelling Donna Tartt's THE LITTLE FRIEND. One of those books that stays with you. Let's see, I read it how many years ago? Harriet, the young narrator searches for her brother's murderer. A young-adult novel for grown ups.

5. James Joyce's DUBLINERS. Good grief, what a way with words. Joyce transports you to the turn of the 20th Century Dublin. Brief scenes in the life of a Dubliners commanded by Joyce's deft hand in these short stories.

Colette said...

1/ For anyone who likes chick lit AND crime fiction, then Helen Fitzgerald is a great pick. Her books Dead Lovely, My Last Confession and Bloody Women are really dark and violent but also very funny with lots of sex and some shoe-shopping.

2/ Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) for people who like books that demand a night light all the way to the end.

3/ Grinny by Nicolas Fisk or Chocky by John Wyndam are both really scary kids books and any child who likes Dr Who would really enjoy these. The Owl Service by Alan Garner is also ace.

Seconding The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins!

Camille said...

One of my absolute favorite books, for any fiction readers, is Being by Kevin Brooks. It is a wonderful book, beautiful written, exciting, somewhat romantic, and absolutely original. However, if you are looking for a story to read on Christmas eve with your lover, this is probably not the best book to choose.
Really though, anything by Kevin Brooks is amazing.

SF said...

I'm on a bit of a classics binge at the moment, so can't go past Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (for everyone) and Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for young and young at heart.

Also for younger readers, Terry Pratchett's Nation is great, and for those who like literary story-telling, try Eucalyptus, by Murray Bail.

I could go on and on. But won't.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thank you for such a lovely endorsement, Nicola. And thrilled to be recommended alongside Tania Hershman, whose collection is among my favourites, and who is a great buddy.

I have been thinking what books to talk about. And I am going to stay in Ireland. Storytelling seems to be in the psyche of the Irish, so much so that even if you ask the way on the road, you’ll be told a story about the road you are on.
So my road will include the following books by Irish writers:

‘The New Irish Short Stories’ series, published by Faber, edited by David Marcus. A stunning anthology each two years. Nice and big, chunky to hold, and chocca with quality writing, telling superb stories.

‘We Are Little Kingdoms’, a collection of stories by Kevin Barry, published by Stinging Fly. An award winner, Barry is funny and poignant and whiplash-sharp.

‘Nude’ by Nuala Ni Chonchuir. Published by Salt, this is a collection of sensual stories beautifully told, as one might expect from an acclaimed poet.

Then I will whiz across the sea back to England for a novel choice, and tell you how much I love the work of Jim Crace. Especially ‘Quarantine’. Thought-provoking, maybe even controversial, and always vibrant.

Kate said...

Great post and very true - book tokens are a wonderful gift.

Polly said...

Heck - coming in late to the game, so many choices have been snapped up already. So:

Long before Harry Potter was the far superior: 'A wizard of Earthsea' by Ursula le Guin - a Christmas must for HP fans adult or child (and there are four in the series)

Fantasy: The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb.

Poetry of any kind - I just re-discovered Auden having not liked him when young.

How can anyone call a book token boring? I looked forward to my regular tokens with glee as a child. (Still do even now I can buy my own)

Jean said...

I won't suggest specific titles but I want to mention that many libraries sell books at very cheap prices. The ones in my area (central Florida, U.S.) are charging no more than $3. Goodwill stores are another good source.
I mention this because our military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan can always use care packages, to include books.
Plus... our U.S. post offices have 'flate rate' boxes available (for free) that can hold as much as twenty pounds weight and will priority ship to an APO/FPO address for $11.95.

That's a very good deal and would do a world of good in boosting morale.
Just a thought.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, everyone, for your great suggestions - loads of genuine book lovers out there, as I'd expect.

Jesse Owen said...

I'm late to the party again but I would recommend:

For anyone who knows the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (WOO for short) by Fran L Baum (from the film or book) check out Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - the best way I can describe it is as a re-imagining of the characters in WOO showing them in a very different light. Then the remaining two books in the Wicked Years Series (Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men).

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella for anyone who loves chic lit (would you believe me if I told you have my book shelf is full of chit lit (and that's after I donated some of it to a fair)).

A bit of a well known one now but it hasn't been mentioned yet, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman - wasn't keen on the film adaption of it but the book is brilliant.

P.S Yay, I got my blog address right this time :)