Thursday, 11 November 2010


This year, as last year, I'm encouraging people to buy books as Christmas presents. But, where to start? I thought I'd ask a whole load of people for their recommendations and bring them to you. I divided my invitees into categories: published authors; industry commentators, bloggers and commenters on this blog. Today, it's the first category.

Oh, and don't forget that if you want to buy signed copies of my books, you can do that, in November only. Details are here.

Each author was asked for two nominations and also to say which book of their own they'd like me to mention. I said I didn't mind if the book hadn't been published in 2010 as I had no intention of checking, but most of them have been. I also told them that they couldn't nominate any of mine. (Stupid of me, eh?)

Here they are. Apologies for the fact that I haven't put links to the books but I am not your slave.

CAROLINE SMAILES (Like Bees to Honey)
One Day by David Nicholls - Filled me with nostalgia and is the novel that I most wish that I'd written. 
Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage - Made me feel peculiar, in a good way, as the language is twisty and unexpected and stunning.

JAMIE JAUNCEY (The Reckoning)
Monsters of Men, book 3 of the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness - Utterly gripping, furiously paced yet thought provoking story of Todd's love for Viola, against background of interplanetary colonisation with underlying themes of totalitarianism, feminism, gaia environmentalism - and one of the best plot devices since Philip Pullman's daemons.

The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness sextet by Michelle Paver (book six published last year) - In the deep forests and snowfields of stone age Northern Europe, hunter-gatherer Torak and his companion Wolf do battle with the Soul Eaters. Meticulously researched, utterly convincing and breathtakingly exciting.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. (Pocket books. Coming June 2011) A wonderfully assured and involving first novel by an American writer who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her third novel, OLIVE KITTERIDGE.  I've written about it at length here.

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott. (Windmill Books) She is a Canadian writer and this is a superb Anne Tyler-esque novel which deserves to be better-known. It's brilliant.

LUCY COATS  (Hootcat Hill)
Firebrand by Gillian Philip – A smouldering faerie hero, an edge-of-the-seat plot and superb writing skill which takes you right into the heather hills above the witchfires make this my Number One YA fantasy this year (or pretty much any year).

Pegasus by Robin McKinley – A mortal princess and a pegasus prince find they can talk to each other against all rule and tradition—but dark magical forces threaten them. Utterly beautiful writing, gripping plotting—my Number One adult fantasy for 2010 (only published in the US at the moment, but Amazon has it in the UK).    

TANIA HERSHMAN  (The White Road and Other Stories)
A Life on Paper: Stories by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, translated by Edward Gauvin. The first English translation of the writings of this very well-known French writer deserve great exposure - his stories written over the past 30 years are fabulous in both senses of the word, surreal and thought-provoking, entertaining and disturbing.

Miss Thing by Nora Chassler, a unique book-length work that defies easy labelling, perhaps a novel, perhaps not, written in compelling, astonishing prose, twisting and winding several characters' stories together. It took my breath away.

TOM VOWLER  (The Method and Other Stories)
The Source of the Sound by Patrick Holland - A beautiful, at times haunting, collection of short stories.

Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris - A dark and mesmerising tale.

ANDREW CROFTS   (The Change Agent, How to Create a Wonderful World)
The Ghosts of Eden by Andrew J.H. Sharp - A wonderful, evocative story about different people growing up in Uganda by an author who obviously knows and loves the country well.

Merchants of Culture by John B. Thompson (Polity Press) - A brilliant explanation of the book publishing industry and how it works.

KATIE FFORDE  (A Perfect Proposal)
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson - Beautifully written and evocative, following the lives of two women, separated by centuries but connected by embroidery and the desert, this is stunning!

Hungarian Dances by Jessica Duchan - Beautifully written, intriguing, romantic and yet realistic, there is also music!

CELIA REES (The Fool's Girl)
LOB by Linda Newbery and A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E. by Penny Dolan - A warm hearted and beautifully written, genuinely moving but never patronising, these two books carry on the proud tradition of British writing for children and go a long way to re-establishing excellence in fiction for the under twelves.

EMMA DARWIN (A Secret Alchemy)
Ghost Light – Joseph O’Connor. Powerfully, comical and exquisitely told story of Maire O’Neill, star of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and Hitchcock’s Hollywood, and her love affair with Ireland’s great playwright, John Synge.

Getting Published – Harry Bingham. Everything you always wanted to know, and some things you don’t want to know but must; and it’s even funny.

AMANDA CRAIG – (Times reviewer and author of Hearts and Minds)
My favourite picture book for the very young has just won the Caldecott Medal, and is Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse. He re-tells Aesop's fable about the biggest creature and the smallest having mercy on each other in a wordless glory of glowing pictures inspired by the Seringeti.

Beswitched by Kate Saunders - for readers of 7-11; enchantingly funny and touching tale about a girl who is sent to boarding-school and who magically switches places with her own grandmother, ending up in the 1930s. Here, everything from her knowledge of geography and grammar to her deportment is criticised by fierce teachers of the Angela Brazil breed - but if only she'd paid more attention to history lessons in her own time....

Firebrand by Gillian Philip - for 11+; a stunningly clever, thrilling and enchanting new fantasy. Set in seventeenth century Scotland at the time of the witch-trials, it involves two brothers exiled from their land - which mortals can't see, and which we gradually realise is that of the Sithe or fairies. Their disgust at and pity for our cruelty, filth, ignorance and superstition brings them into one sort of danger, but back home their evil Queen is playing an equally nasty game of politics that can only result in more bloodshed and exile.

ALINE TEMPLETON (6th book of the DI Marjory Fleming series, Cradle to Grave, out in hardback at the end of Nov 2010 and in paperback in Mar 2011)
Where the Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath - The first in the Fire and Ice trilogy, set in Iceland with a literary background of the Norse sagas and a link to Tolkein and a half-American, half-Icelandic Sergeant Detective. An original and intriguing book, and a new line for Ridpath after his hugely succesful financial thrillers.

The Adventures of Marjorie Allingham by Julia Jones (Revised edition)
As one of the Crime Queens of the Golden Age, Allingham has always been a great favourite of mine and this is a wonderful insight into the life of a seriously professional writer, from a writing family, with some fascinating things to say about the process. Complex, funny, dedicated and courageous, she's a perfect subject for biography and this is very readable too.

THE CAT KIN by Nick Green - A marvellous book that's been (unbelievably) out of print but is republished this year by Strident. It's a fantastic adventure about children in a gritty modern-day London who learn to use the ancient mystical powers of cats. Unusual and really gripping.
CASTLE OF SHADOWS by Ellen Renner - Another rattling adventure, featuring a sinister housekeeper and a villain who is all too easy to fall for. The gutsy heroine's moral choices are never clear-cut, and I loved the way the author constantly undermined my assumptions and predictions.
Next lot of recommendations next week. I'm also going to be linking to another writer's blog soon, because she's found several YA authors (including me) who are selling signed copies of their books.


Dolly said...

I always buy books for presents - Christmas, Birthdays, everything for as many people as possible. Even for the ones who don't read fiction, I buy a coffee table book or something. And children - well, if I don't encourage them to read, I fear their parents certainly won't :P so they get books too.

catdownunder said...

Oh, thankyou! This is much better than looking at what people are reading on the train or what is sitting on the returned books trolley at the library - or even looking at what I liked during the year. Now for a purrowl around my local independent bookshop purrhaps?

Anna Bowles said...

Ooh, thank you - Merchants of Culture wasn't on my radar and it looks like a complete must-have.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Great recommendations. I can think of some people, including me, who are going to have a reading-y-old-Christmas ;)

Dan Holloway said...

I'll certainly take a look at Tania's recommendations - sound right up my alley.

Second Katie's recommendation for Jessica's Hungarian Dances

Kate said...

Oooh thanks. I always like to buy people books for Christmas :-)

Suzie F. said...

Thanks for the recommendations!

I'll second Jamie Jauncy's recommendation of Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver. I've only read the 1st book but my book-loving 11-year-old daughter is currently devouring the series. She's already requested the set for Christmas.

Ann said...

Books are always on my list! I must jot down these recommendations and have a look out for them. Thanks

Rebecca Brown said...

What a very good idea. I'll be forwarding this on to my husband.

Really like the sound of The Cat Kin. And I notice Firebrand is on twice -deservedly!

Thanks for this!

kathryn evans said...

What a great idea Nicola - Firebrand is a fabulous read and if anyone is getting Ellen Renner's Castle of Shadows, be generous and give City of Thieves with it - am reading it now - it's fantastic. Some good ideas for my list, but really, your own Wasted should get a mention :O)

JO said...

Thanks for this - my neighbour and I always buy each other books we would secretly like to read ourselves and swap them. (Except we've done it for years so it's not a secret any more!) We're both at the 'heavy hinting' stage!