Tis the season to be jolly… as they say. Ordinarily, I’m not the biggest subscriber to the Christmas consumerism culture, a luxury I’m afforded by correct condom usage and a subsequent lack of children. This year’s a little different though (I mean – obviously) and I think everyone needs to get out there and give everyone else a bit of win.
With that in mind, I thought I’d draw up a little list of Christmas book suggestions, picking out a random book from some of the genres I cycle between. With any luck, they may give you an idea for gift or two for the readers in your life this holiday season.
I’ve avoided recent releases for the most part (because you’re going to see them on the first shelf as you walk through a door / or page one of your Amazon search), obvious classics (such as Dune, LOTR, Catch-22, etc.) and tried to pick out some books which have a little extra sparkle.
Non-Fiction – ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ (Jon Ronson)
So, the key thing to remember about The Men Who Stare at Goats is that this book is non-fiction.
Whoever you gift this too is going to pick it up, love it and then, in the fashion of grateful readers everywhere, they’re going to tell you why they loved it.
You’re not going to believe them, but let me also assure you that this book is non-fiction, and beautifully written for that matter.
I’m a huge fan of Jon Ronson and to my mind this is his funniest book; and its certainly a great way to introduce the readers in your life to his wonderfully cutting, comic style.
Science Fiction – ‘The-Three Body Problem’ (Cixin Liu)
The Sci-Fi fan in your life is either going to have heard of the The Three-Body Problem or not, and if you know them well enough to be considering gifting them a book for Christmas, then I can assure you they’d definitely have mentioned Cixin Liu if they have.
For those of you in the know, TTBP is hard Sci-Fi and you really appreciate the level of thought and detail that’s brought to the plot, which more than justifies the epic page count.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of books in translation, and the Chinese perspective on the Sci-Fi genre and the world to come adds an extra dimension to this book, that I suspect all true fans of the genre will really enjoy (it’s also part one of three – so that’s next year’s present sorted too).
Fantasy – ‘Magician’ (Raymond E. Feist)
At one time this book was absolutely everywhere, and certainly one of those books that most readers of the fantasy genre would’ve at least heard of (if not read).
Magician is the better part of 40 years old now, and perhaps may have gone under the radar with younger and new (post MCU) inductees into the fantasy genre.
It has everything you can want in it though: magic, mystery, dragons and swords, and it even goes so far as to have a plot underpinned by some fairly well written political intrigue.
And, the best part (for real lovers) is that there’s at lest 20 follow up novels in the series.
Crime / Thriller – ‘Sphere of Influence’ (Kyle Mills)
It really doesn’t get anymore ‘airport fiction’ than Sphere of Influence, except that the book is so old now you’ll do well to find anywhere outside of online book-sellers.
From page-1 it’s cheesy, full of cliques and a certifiable guilty pleasure – it’s, simply, a lot of fun.
This isn’t the book to buy someone who knows their Bronte from their Bronte’s, or their Amis from their Amis – but to the right sort of mind Kyle Mills writes in a way that’s both memorable and entertaining, which is all you really need from a Christmas present.
Graphic Novel – ‘Watchmen’ (Alan Moore)
I’m far from an expert on Graphic Novel’s (or Comic’s, as I believe Alan Moore prefers) but Watchmen rates up there with the very best of the 1000+ novels that I’ve read.
The MCU has really changed what people expect from their cinema experience (although perhaps COVID will change that again), and the greater part of that success, even beyond the epic special effects budgets, is the source material.
Watchmen, is darker and deeper than readers new to the genre will likely expect, but accordingly it is better.
Anyone’s who’s read Watchmen is fully aware of what spoiler I’m absolutely bursting to share, but I’m gong to hold back. Believe me though, this is the sort of gift that could change a readers life.
Contemporary Classic – ‘Inherent Vice’ (Thomas Pynchon)
I said I was going to try and pick books that were a little off the radar, which is rather tough when they (or their author) can be correctly labelled classic.
Thomas Pynchon is at that sort of level, in his own small way he has actually further refined what we mean when we use the word classic in connection with literature.
Inherent Vice is assuredly not his best work, which should raise and eye-brow, given that I’m recommending it as a Christmas gift, but I totally stick by my word.
Unlike most Pynchon’s, its reasonably accessible, and a perfect gateway into the great man’s inimitable style.
These books are just the first ones that spring to mind from the genre’s that I most commonly read, and I could recommend a dozen others from my own lockdown reading list.
My one honest piece advice to anyone thinking of buying somebody a book for Christmas, is to remember that you are looking for a book that they are going to want to read, rather than a book that you want them to read.
It might seem like a small/silly distinction, but over the years I’ve been gifted more books than most and every one has carried with it a certain weight of expectation, so make sure you’re giving your audience exactly what it wants.
(If you happen to have read any of the above books and want to share your thoughts with me, I’d love to hear them. I’m on twitter@LCross137 or you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org)