Christmas Gift Guide - Books for all interests

Halston image

Halston image - Credit: Archant

Books make the perfect Christmas gift. There’s something for every member of the family

The Fashion Book

If this is your chosen coffee table book, you’re going to need a strong coffee table. For at 576 lavishly-illustrated, high quality pages, the new hardback edition of this reference text for all things style-related is an absolute whopper.

The idea is simple and yet bewilderingly broad - to look at the fashion world and encapsulate the key players of the past two centuries. So that means Alexandre de Paris, who teased a young Elizabeth Taylor’s locks, gets a look in, as do the Beatles, Oscar Wilde, the Queen’s dress designer, Hardy Amies, Salvador Dali...and Topshop. Any list comprising those disparate elements begins to look intriguing.

So, yes, apart from all the many designers, photographers, models, retailers and cosmetics innovators you’d expect to find in a fashion bible, there is a page apiece for Kurt Cobain and Noel Coward, Herb Ritts and Johnny Rotten.

And so this book is about much more than fashion. It’s a peep at popular culture as depicted, inevitably, by pretty people, well dressed and artfully shot. The photography is just sublime, the words crisp and to the point. And that is as it should be in such a book, for every picture tells its own story.


Most Read


The Battlefields of the First World War

By Peter Barton

As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War next year, there will be a justified media pre-occupation with a dark period of our history to which none of the combatants now survives to bear direct witness.

Tour the battlefields of northern France today and you realise that the terrible slaughter which was trench warfare was conducted in some of the most beautiful and, now, seemingly peaceful landscapes in Europe.

It is the job of this book to remind us how these fields were in 1914 to 1918, and it does it through panoramic photographs which were often captured, at risk of the cameraman’s life, for strategic purposes. And yet, unexpectedly, some of pastoral beauty of this land is seen even in these pictures, the mud of the battlefield counterpointed by churches, fields of flowers and beaches.

This is a new edition of Peter Barton’s book and it features 30 recently discovered panoramas taken by the Germans.

To study these pictures is to see mankind in extremis, to realise the extraordinary terrors and discomforts of their daily lives and to marvel at their resilience. To dwell on these events is uncomfortable, but to forget they ever happened would be unforgivable.


Constable &Robinson

Cross and Burn

By Val McDermid

Another unputdownable book from the fearless imagination of Val McDermid.

‘He woke every morning with a prickle of excitement. Would today be the day?’

Yes, Cross and Burn hooks you from that very first sentence, whisking you into a world of murder, detective work and mind games.

It is the 27th novel from the writer, who divides her time between Heaton Moor, Stockport, and a home on the Northumberland coast. And it returns to the familiar figures of psychologist Tony Hill and ex-Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, now estranged by guilt and resentment after the grisly murder of Carol’s brother - a tragedy that Tony Hill, with his forensic knowledge of the murderer’s mind, should have anticipated.

Meanwhile, the fictional town of Bradfield has women going missing and another monster to contend with. Typically pacy stuff from a reliable wordsmith.


Little, Brown

Kirstie’s Christmas Crafts

By Kirstie Allsopp

Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom, Shirley ‘Superwoman’ Conran once wrote. Not for Kirstie, it isn’t. She finds time not only to glaze a ham, make her own mincemeat and magic up a Yule log, but also to fashion a Christmas wreath, DIY bunting, a quilted advent calendar and her own crackers. And then there’s the lavender bath bombes, the Boxing Day chutney, the gingerbread house, the chair-back herb bouquets, the gold leaf-encrusted pear table ornaments, the marzipan penguins..and on and on.

The success of TV shows such as Kirstie’s Homemade Home and Kirstie’s Handmade Britain suggests that we’ve got an appetite for good old-fashioned domestic crafts ...or at least an appetite for watching someone else doing them.

If you want Christmas the Kirstie way, however, be prepared to put some work in. As the book makes clear, the ‘key prepping dates’ for the big day begin in October.


Hodder and Stoughton

Through It All I’ve Always Laughed

Memoirs of Count Arthur Strong

A lot of people don’t ‘get’ the blundering showbiz legend-in-his-own-imagination Count Arthur Strong. And there was a certain amount of critical sniffiness about how well Steve Delaney’s character made the transition from radio to TV.

But for the millions of fans - and I’m definitely one - Count Arthur is a truly great character of English comedy, combining the bumbling slapstick of, say, Harry Worth, with the darker, delusional pained pomposity of Hancock.

If you buy into the Count’s persona, then you will hear that voice declaiming the words as you read these memoirs, the giddy fantasies of showbiz crumbling up against the mundane realities of life. This is bathos writ large, and with lots of amusing annotations in the margins.


Faber and Faber

All These Years: The Beatles

Volume One: Tune In

By Mark Lewisohn

All these years? Isn’t that, at first sight, a rather banal title for a magnum opus, of which this 946-page tome is but the first of three volumes? Well no, for we are reminded here of the huge span of social and cultural history during which the Beatles have remained pre-eminent, from post-war austerity to the age of the internet.There is even, for the benefit of the under-50s, an introductory explanation of pre-decimal currency, pointing out that a pound in 1962 was the equivalent of £18.45 today.

Do we need yet another book about the Fab Four? Only if that text is authoritative, and Mark Lewisohn is certainly the man for that. Drawing on his vast knowledge from earlier Beatles books, and adding to that with hundreds of new interviews and delvings into the archives, Lewisohn produces the first instalment of an epic, telling the story only as far as the end of 1962.

Not just another pop biography; this trilogy is destined to be the reference text for all Beatleologists.


Little, Brown

The Walker’s Anthology

compiled by Deborah Manley

Walking; it’s the most mundane human activity, and yet so much happens while we are doing it, whether that be William Wordsworth’s imagination filling up with poetry while walking the Cumbrian hills or Ernest Shackleton treading where no man has trodden before in the Antarctic, fuelled only by Bovril and a can-do spirit.

Those are two of the many names whose writing is extracted in this anthology. We also get Agatha Christie describing Hercule Poirot digesting all he sees while walking through a village, and Daniel Defoe telling of Robinson Crusoe’s walk along the shoreline of his supposedly desert island and seeing a footprint.

These are bite-sized chunks of prose, spanning the best part of five centuries and in which fact and fiction jostle. A good Christmas gift for the rambler in your life.


Trailblazer Publications

Shirley Williams: The Biography

By Mark Peel

Shirley Williams still seems such a present force in public debate that it seems odd to recall that it is fully 30 years since she made her exit as an elected politician, her short spell as SDP MP for Crosby put to an end by the 1983 general election.

Before that she held ministerial office in James Callaghan’s Labour government, and was predicted to be the first woman prime minister. But in joining the rebels who formed the SDP, Williams instead helped define the centre ground where so many politicial battles would be waged in the decades which followed.

For 20 years, Williams has been a life peer, preferring the ambience of the House of Lords, says Mark Peel, to the more tribal nature of the Commons. With full access to her papers and those of her parents, the author recounts a life which began in the shadow of famous parents - writer Vera Brittain and political scientist Prof George Catlin - and which proceeded through the bear pit of British politics while still maintaining her humanity.


Biteback Publishing

Wild Tales

By Graham Nash

The road to stardom is so often described in that awful cliche of ‘journey’. That word is particularly apposite in the case of Graham Nash, however. He grew up in post-war Salford in a small home with an outside loo and no hot water, the family diet including boiled cow’s heart and his playground being the slag heaps. But, via chart fame with the Hollies, Nash found himself in a freewheeling Californian community in the days of the counter culture, among creatives who would spend their evenings strumming guitars and smoking dope. Quite a journey from Salford!

As he explains in the first page of this autobiography, completing that journey entailed ‘leaving my country, my marriage, my bank account and my band - all at once’.

Today, Nash lives in Hawaii and is almost as well regarded as a photographer as a musician. He tells a good tale, and has lived a life which gives him plenty of raw material.



The Darkness of Love

By Catherine Green

Catherine Green, from Middlewich, is a mother of two and ‘shaman in training’ with a fascination for the supernatural world. Her latest is the tale of Lord Gregory Stockton, a Victorian tycoon with a manor house and a beautiful young wife, but no heir. Why? Because he is a vampire. Downton mets Dracula.


Chances Press

David Beckham

By David Beckham

He is now retired from professional football, but taking the boots off does not necessarily mean divesting himself of charisma. Much more than just a sports star, Beckham is to his era what George Best was to his, except that Beckham is extremely unlikely to ever tarnish his reputation in the same way.

Beckham kicks off his non-footballing career with a book of 150 of his favourite images from a career which was surely at his height during the decade that he was playing for Manchester United and, with wife Victoria, adding star quality to Cheshire’s Golden Triangle.

This coffee table book, which also features family photos from David’s childhood, is a guaranteed seller. It’s a tidy full stop to the playing days of one of the world’s most beloved sportsman. The really intriguing question is what Beckham does next.