From Eamonn Magee to The Christmasaurus – writers' Christmas recommendations
After book recommendations for this festive season? We asked authors (whose own publications may well be on your wish list too) to reveal the books they'll be giving as presents and the titles they'd most like to find in their Christmas stockings this year...
"All the promotion for my new book ends in December, and that's when I binge-read. I love crime fiction and on my wish list is Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher novel, Past Tense (Bantam). I'm a huge fan of Jack Reacher. I've read every single book.
"I started reading them when I was on maternity leave with my first child, read them in order, and every two days I was on to the next book. He's an amazing character but what I love about the books is that there's always a really brilliant female character that he pairs up with. He writes women really well.
"Another one on my wish list is Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming (Viking). I adore her. She's so inspiring. She's always encouraging people to have their own voice and go on their own journey. I just think she's a people person, emotional, passionate and smart."
:: Roar by Cecelia Ahern is published by HarperCollins.
"The book I'm most looking forward to is Jonathan Coe's Middle England (Viking). Coe has been one of my favourite writers for decades. His stories are always so original and witty, and this one, which centres around Brexit, is sure to have a political twist to it. Anyone who follows Coe on Twitter will know that he has very strong views on this topic!
"I'm spending December and half of January in Sydney, Australia, and I'll bring Markus Zusak's Bridge Of Clay (Doubleday) with me. I read it a few months ago but it's my favourite novel of 2018, and I'd like to immerse myself in it again when I'm in the city.
"I'm also looking forward to Kate Bush's How To Be Invisible (Faber & Faber). She has been my favourite singer and songwriter for my entire life. I'm so obsessed with her that I even have a tattoo devoted to Hounds Of Love on my right arm. I know her albums inside out but this is the first time she's released a book of her lyrics.
:: A Ladder To The Sky by John Boyne is published by Doubleday.
First on my list is The Silence Of The Girls (Hamish Hamilton), by Pat Barker. A brilliant take on the Iliad, but told from the point of view of Briseis and the Trojan women taken captive in the aftermath of the Trojan war.
Another must read is David Park’s Travelling in a Strange Land (Bloomsbury), a quietly devastating study of grief. Ian Sansom’s December Stories 1 (No Alibis Press) is full of surprises, little treats and prickly observations.
My favourite poetry collection of the year is Maureen Boyle’s The Work of a Winter (Arlen House) – lyrical, moving, thoughtful. Paul Maddern’s The Tipping Line (Templar Poetry) is just out. Always thought-provoking.
I bought The Hidden Lives of Wolves (National Geographic) for Sofia, a 10-year-old friend of mine, who’s going through ‘a wolfie moment’. Beautiful photographs. She loved it. Ended up ordering a copy for myself.
:: Walking Wounded by Sheila Llewellyn is published by Sceptre.
WHEN I was young, Christmas was special because it was the only time of year that books ever crossed the threshold of our house. There’d be library books, but they came and went. At Christmas, books came and they were there to stay – until my mum had a clear-out, or my sister or one of my cousins was away with them. I can picture them even now, those long-since vanished books: The Hobbit, Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do.
This year, if anyone wanted to buy me a book – and feel free – I would happily receive Born to be Posthumous (William Collins, £18.99), Mark Dery’s biography of the American writer and illustrator Edward Gorey, Paul Gibson’s The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee (Mercier, £14.50), and anything by the Chinese novelists Lu Min and Liu Yu.
Also, if you have my Hobbit or the Bruce Lee, I’d be happy to have them back, no questions asked.
:: Ian Sansom's December Stories I is out now published by No Alibis Press. Ian will be reading from the book this evening at Seamus Heaney Homeplace at 7.30pm, tickets via Seamusheaneyhome.com
ANTHONY J QUINN
William Ryan, using the pen-name WC Ryan, continues his grand experimentation with the historical crime novel in A House of Ghosts (Zaffre). This time he eschews the darker introspection of his previous books for a well-researched, finely tuned yarn that is steeped in the lore of classical ghost stories.
My mother-in-law describes Andrea Carter's mystery novels as 'lovely murders', and her latest, Murder at Greysbridge (Constable) lives up to that paradoxical billing. Carter deftly moves between the macabre and the reassuringly prosaic in a manner reminiscent of the great Ruth Rendell.
In No Turning Back, (BonnierZaffre) Sam Blake takes the reader on a heart-pounding journey into the world of the Dark Web. Packed with crime fiction forensics, the book also gives an intriguing glimpse of the internet's terrifying reach into our personal lives.
:: The Listeners by Co Tyrone crime fiction writer Anthony J Quinn, is published by Head of Zeus on December 13.
“This Christmas, I’ll be gifting copies of one of my favourite books of the year, The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). Set on Arranmore, it’s a wonderful mix of ancient magic and contemporary problems – fast-paced, fun and heart-warming in equal measure.
“For teens, it has to be Flying Tips For Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain (Walker Books). Fresh and quirky, it has everything from twin trapeze acts to first love.
“My real love is picture books and this year I will take great pleasure in buying Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins) for new parents and new grandparents in my life. With beautiful illustrations and a thought-provoking message, this New York Times bestseller is a special conversation-starter. Now also available in Irish as Anseo Atá Muid (Futa Fata).”
:: Rita Agus An Chailleach by Máire Zepf, who is the Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland, is published by an tSnáthaid Mhór.
“I really enjoyed Laura Purcell’s pitch black Gothic ghost story The Silent Companions. I’d love to read her follow-up, The Corset (Raven Books, £12.99). Another Gothic chiller, it’s described as a classic Victorian tale of murder most horrid, with an unusual supernatural thread. Definitely my kind of thing!’’
“I heard Damian Le Bas being interviewed about The Stopping Places: a Journey Through Gypsy Britain (Chatto & Windus, £14.99) earlier this year. To better understand his Gypsy heritage, Damian set out on a journey to discover the ‘stopping places’ – the old encampment sites known only to Travellers. It sounded like he had quite an adventure, and I’m keen to find out what he learned and how his quest changed him. I think other people’s adventures can inspire us and help us open up to life’s possibilities.”
:: The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories by Jane Talbot is published by Blackstaff Press.
"This year I wanted the new CJ Sansom, Tombland (Mantle), but in the end I couldn't wait and bought it straight away. I just believe everything he writes.
"So I shall take instead, please, the new Posy Simmonds book, Cassandra Darke (Jonathan Cape). Simmonds is a copper-bottomed genius, I have absolutely no idea why she isn't a baroness. I think she isn't taken seriously because she draws, and because she focuses on the middle classes. But everyone else is wrong; she is as brilliant a writer as Britain has; a Thackery.
"I also want Fortnum & Mason: Christmas & Other Winter Feasts by Tom Parker Bowles (Fourth Estate). It looks absolutely beautiful and so special.
:: An Island Christmas by Jenny Colgan is published by Sphere.
"The books on my Christmas list include This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay (Picador). This isn't my usual type of read, but I have heard SO much about this book from people whose opinions I trust, so it's time to give in to peer pressure and see if my friends' opinions are utter rubbish, or if this book really is as gripping as it sounds.
"La Belle Sauvage: The Book Of Dust by Philip Pullman (Penguin and David Flickling Books) is more my usual kind of read. It's another book that has had an incredible amount of hype, but I fell in love with the universe of His Dark Materials many years back, and have been waiting to find a moment of relative calm in my life so I can revisit it and give it the time it deserves."
:: The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher is published by Puffin.