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All I want for Christmas is a good book

PUBLISHED: 12:26 04 December 2013 | UPDATED: 12:27 04 December 2013


Catherine Larner, of Browsers in Woodbridge, gives her choice of books to give as gift this Christmas

In this era of technological wizardry, there is a reason why the book hasn’t gone out of fashion.

With ingenious, creative and inventive presentation, beautiful images and illustration, beguiling and fascinating fact and fiction, books continue to unlock the reader’s boundless imagination, unleashing magic within every page. What could be a better present to give this Christmas?

★ Return to Aldeburgh in the 1950s with the recollections of Ronald Blythe in Time By the Sea. Visiting the coast as an aspiring young writer, Blythe had started working for the music festival and became immersed in a thriving cultural set. He was befriended by Imogen Holst and EM Forster, visited ancient churches with Benjamin Britten, and investigated shingle beaches with botanist Denis Garrett. A fascinating account.

★ There are a multitude of good biographies and autobiographies to choose from, not least the chart-toppers from Alex Ferguson and Mo Farah, but for anyone interested in sport, why not try Katherine Grainger’s account of achieving gold in rowing at her fourth Olympics, after three silvers. Her book Dreams Do Come True was longlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

★ Always achieving plaudits for his astonishing history books, Max Hastings’ latest title Catastrophe: Europe Goes To War 1914 has been released to mark the centenary next year. A moving account, passionately argued, there will be many more books on the subject, but you’ll go far to better this one.

★ The diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich also achieves 100 years in 2014 and a marvellous small book has been produced called 100 Churches, 100 Treasures: A Celebration of Suffolk Churches. A notable feature of each church is described alongside a full-colour photograph and accompanied by tips on what else to see. Very cleverly and enticingly presented and, priced at £5, an excellent stocking filler!

★ For those wanting to stay at home, but who still have a sense of adventure and spirit of fun, what could be a better gift than Gardening in Pyjamas by Helen Yemm. A beautiful cover, an enticing title, and a laudable goal of providing encouraging, humorous, non-intimidating gems about gardening.

★ Of course, for those of us inspired by the macaroons, profiteroles and ganache on tv’s ‘Great British Bake Off’, a beautiful book to browse as well as inform is Patisserie at Home by Will Torrent. Glorious full-page pictures and detailed step-by-step guidelines provide a mouth-watering invitation to create delicious and spectacular cakes and biscuits.

★ Making a hefty parcel under the Christmas tree, with its 700-plus pages, is the much-awaited novel by Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch. Theo’s mother is killed and the young boy is left to rely on the kindness of strangers as he tries to rebuild his life. The one constant is a painting, which reminds him of his mother but draws him into a life of deceit. A vivid, gripping, all-consuming tale which you won’t want to end.

★ Where’d you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple is a quirky and funny book presented as a series of letters, phone messages and emails. Bee’s mother, Bernadette has disappeared and Bee is trying to piece together what has happened. It is a clever presentation of identity and the relationship between mothers and daughters, and speaks on many different levels in an inventive and accomplished narrative.

★ The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker is an astonishing story spanning continents and generations. Julia is bewildered when her father disappears and travels to Burma to try to solve the mystery. The narrative moves from modern day New York to village life in Burma in the 1950s telling the story of terrible loss, sadness and suffering, but also the ability to overcome, to love and to hope.

★ The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson is the latest of her novels based on the real-life crime writer Josephine Tey. This time Josephine has inherited a cottage in the village of Polstead, Suffolk where she unearths a secret about the infamous Red Barn murders. Is it ghosts or a real, present danger threatening the novelist? An eerie and wonderfully atmospheric tale, set in the 1930s.

And for younger readers . . .

★ The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers is a very funny concept, imaginatively executed. The crayons in a little boy’s pencil case have gone on strike. Each colour has written a letter to their owner highlighting their grievances – red is over-used, beige is under-represented. Can he find a solution to keep all the crayons happy?

★ The Promise by Nicola Davies will appeal to older readers, although as a picture book it is aimed at children aged three years and above. A young girl steals a bag from an old lady but it contains only acorns. Planting them, she sees her urban landscape and its downtrodden residents transformed by the colour and life of the young trees. This is a powerful, moving and inspiring story to treasure.

★ In Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff a girl called Mila travels to America with her father but arrives to find the family friend they are due to visit has disappeared. Their holiday becomes a road trip and a quest in which they discover much about themselves, relationships, love and loss. Aimed at children aged 12 upwards.

★ The bestselling novelist, Jodi Picoult has written her first book for teenagers by teaming up with her daughter, Samantha Van Leer. Called Between the Lines, the book is about Delilah who enjoys reading a fairytale time and again. One day Delilah opens the book to find the prince begging her to help him escape! This is a romance, a coming of age, and a celebration of books, stories and reading.


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