Best books for Christmas

PUBLISHED: 12:57 23 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:20 20 February 2013

Ben Keenan of Waterstones in Bury St Edmunds chooses titles for the county's Christmas stockings

Ben Keenan of Waterstones in Bury St Edmunds chooses titles for the county's Christmas stockings

1. Weeds by Richard Mabey (Profile Hardback, Waterstone's 15.99)

Anotheryear passes,another essential read from the county's finest Natural History writerwho has turned his attentionto that oh so misunderstood addition to the garden and the countryside, the weed.Mabey talks to botanists, gardeners. historians and artiststo delve deeper than anyone ever hasinto explaining how vital some weeds are to the planet and how one persons pest is another persons treasure.

2. Schott's Almanac 2011 by Ben Schott (Bloomsbury Hardback, Waterstone's 11.99)

Now in it's 6th year, the book which has been described as 'A social barometer of genuine historical value' is one of thosegifts which people can't wait to unwrap on Christmas morning.Featuring 14 excellentchapters including facts dedicated to Cinema, Art, Politics, Healthand Religion there really is something for everyone inside as Ben Schott's ability to cram more information into 351 pages than many do in a few thousand is completely remarkable as always.

3. The Small Hand by Susan Hill (Profile Hardback, Waterstone's 9.99)

The Queen of the classical scream returns with her latest reason to sleep with the lights on. When Adam Snow takes the wrong turn towards home late one evening, he finds himself standing before a crumbling Edwardian mansion.With curiosity gentlyprodding him, Adam moves towards the door only to feel the unmistakable grip of a small cold hand as if someone, or something had taken hold of it. Another classic taleand one of the best works of fiction released all year.

4. Map Of a Nation by Rachel Hewitt (Granta Hardback, Waterstone's 25).

Hands up who owns an Ordnance Survey map? Before those vibrant orange and pink covers made rambling and hiking so much easier and safer, Britain had been mapped by inaccurate Militarycartographers who stopped writingwhen they came to a mountain or a river.Thanks to new techniques and somepioneering individuals of the 18th and 19th centuries, every mile of our country has nowbeendocumented and this fascinating new book tells the story of those responsible for making it so. A fun and insightful biography which reads with the pace of a quality adventure story.

5. Buried In Books by Julie Rugg (Frances Lincoln Paperback, Waterstone's 9.99)

This is the book for those people whose love of literature is much, muchmore than just a nightly flick through the bookclosest to the bed. This fun and frothy homage to those amongst us who count a good book as one of our best friends will delight and enthral that member of your family whose always got there head stuck in a book. With passages from the classics and quotes from some of the worlds most famous authors, Buried in Books is a wonderful way to spend a freeafternoon.

6. Hix - Oyster and Chop House by Mark Hix (Quadrille Hardback, Waterstone's 25)

One of the best new cookery titles this year is the stunning new book by Great British Menu winner Mark Hix. His flagship Restaurant on the banks of the Thames has been heralded as one of the finest restaurants in the country by customers, critics and fellow chefs. This book is full of the delicioustrademark dishes which have made him one ofBritain's mostrespected chef's andis one of those must have cookery books which are as much fun to read as they are to cook from.

7. Never Eat Shredded Wheat by Christopher Somerville (Hodder Hardback, Waterstone's 12.99)

The synopsis of this quirky newtitle says thatit is a book for anyone who doesn't have a clue about the basic geography of the British isles or anyone who once knew it all, someor a bit of it but has forgotten, lost it or let it slip! I think it's also for anyone who likes to climb in the car and setoff on a sunny daytowards nothing specific, asthis is the perfect book to keep in the glove box.

8. The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking (Bantam Hardback, Waterstone's 18.99)

One of the world's finest thinkers has written his first book in a decade and for that reason alone it deserves to be a huge best seller this Christmas, but it is also a hugely enjoyable and fascinating story about how the Universe began. With beautiful illustrations and written with such breathtaking intelligence that the reader needs to take regular breaks, this is another masterpiece of scientific genius.

9. Villages Of Britain by Clive Aslet (Bloomsbury Hardback, Waterstone's 30)

Welcome to the history of the countryside told via five hundred of the finest settlements the country has to offer. With eloquent passages devoted to Long Melford, Lavenham, Bardwell, Bures, Clare, Peasenhall, Walberswick and many more located in Suffolk and Norfolk, this is a wonderful book which will educate and entertain in equal measure.

10. Art - The Whole Story by Stephen Farthing (Thames and Hudson Paperback, Waterstone's 19.95)

Of the thousands of book published this year, this one made me sit down in a comfortable chair and lose myself for an entire afternoon and evening. Art is such a personal medium to enjoyand dividespeople likehardly anythingelse can.What isone mans masterpiece is another's waste of canvas which is why this book is so good. It paints it's own vivid pictures and describes them without judgement or criticism allowing the images and history behind them to shine beautifully on each page. An amazing book!

11. A History Of Bury St. Edmunds by Frank Meeres (Phillimore Paperback, Waterstone's 14.99)

When I first started at Waterstone's I was told to never let a specific title have less than 15 copies available at all times. That book was Frank Meeres' outstanding history of Bury St. Edmunds which has continued to be a bestsellerwhich consistently outsells celebrity authors and media hypedfavourites. Finally available in paperback just in time for Christmas, this is a superbly researched book which will make a perfect gift for those in the area but be careful, they may already own the hardback edition so do check their bookshelves first.

12. Collins Beekeeper's Bible (HarperCollins Hardback, Waterstone's 30)

Never in the history of our planet has it been more important to take care of our buzzing friends, the Bee's. This loving tribute has been meticulously researched to include the history of the Bee, Practical beekeeping, understanding the Honeybee and a huge selection of household tips,home remediesand recipes whichwill inspire and influence all who read it.

13. The Extraordinary Cookbook by Stefan Gates (Kyle Cathie Hardback, Waterstone's 19.99)

This exceptional new cookery book is everything a budding gastronome would want for Christmas. By creating dishes specifically based on their wow factor, Stefan has created the sort of food that guests talk about at other dinner parties which fail to live up to his own excellent creations. Full to the brim with seriously impressive dishes, this is an awesome publication and deserves to be embraced by a wide and hungry audience.

14. The Finkler Question by HowardJacobson (BloomsburyHardback, Waterstone's 14.99)

Throughout a night of tearful reminiscing, thoughts of better times and significant amounts of wine, Julian Treslove, a failed radio producer, Sam Finkler, A Jewish Television personality and Libor Sevcik, their old teacher and friend find themselves uplifted by the sharing of sad stories. When one of them leaves for the nightand is viciously attacked in the street outside the countries oldest Violin shop, thethree friends livesare suddenlylinked in aseries of unusual and deeplybeneficial ways. This is a funny and touching novel which won this years Man Booker Prize for fiction.

15. The Hidden History Of Orford Ness by Paddy Heazell (History Press Paperback, Waterstone's 14.99)

Did you know that the National Trust property and Nature reserve Orford Ness helped winthree of the worlds most significant wars, the First and Second world wars and the Cold wars respectivelythanks to its advancements in weaponry and Atomic technology? Nor did I but thanks to this superb new history book, the lid has been well and truly lifted and the truth can now finally be revealed. This is a fascinating story told by a master historianwhichwillgrip the reader form the first page to the last.

16. The 12Days Of Christmas by The Hairy Bikers (W and N Hardback, Waterstone's 13.99)

In their own inimitable style, Si and Dave take the stress out of Christmas entertaining with their latest book which isfullof delicious new recipes guaranteed to put a smile on your face and leaveno room whatsoever in your stomach! With celebration feasts planned and timetabled for maximum ease and written in their clear and concisemethodologies, the Hairy bikers have delivered there best book yet and just in time for Christmas!

17. Storyteller - The Life Of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock(Harper Press Hardback, Waterstone's 25)

Widely regarded as the king of Children's literature, thebooks of Roald Dahl continue to entertain young and old alike twenty years after his death. Although a household name to millions, very little was know about his private life until Donald Sturrock unearthed hundreds of unseen documents and personal correspondence belonging to Dahl himself. This is nowthe definitive biography of one the giants of twentieth century Children's fiction.

18. The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry (Penguin Hardback, Waterstone's 9.99)

The regions favourite brain has finally decided tofollow up the story he began to tell in Moab Is My Washpot, his first autobiography. Thisbook tellsthe story of Fry's university days when he met Hugh Laurie and went on to star in classic shows likeA Bit Of Fry And Laurie, Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, and how he went on to become a bestselling novelist, an award winning film and theatre star and a T.Vhousehold name thanks to the world's cleverest game show Q.I.This is a warm, honest and sparklinglyintelligent biography.

19. The Official Ipswich Town Quiz Book by Chris Cowlin (Apex Hardback, Waterstone's 9.99)

If you count yourself a hardcore fan of the Tractor boys then this is the perfect book for you. Full to bursting pointwith questions which will tax even the biggest brains the supporters clubboasts and withOne Thousand questions spread over One Hundred differentrounds, this could replace Trivial Pursuit this Christmas in some households!

20. A Gentleman's Bedside Book by Tom Cutler (Constable Hardback, Waterstone's 12.99)

This splendid new book has been marketed as entertainment for the last 15 minutes of the day for those gentlemen who prefer not to be crushed under the weight of a book or find glossy magazines muchto slippery! With chapters dedicated to Science, the Arts, Derring-Do and Adventures and a fantastic one about Relationships, this is the ideal gift to buy for the man in your life who alreadyhas everything!

21. Just Jill by Jill Allen-King (Apex Hardback, Waterstone's 9.99)

JustJill is a trulyinspirational book which by page ten makes youfeel as though Jill is a close friend and by the end ofwill definatly make youthink she is a truly amazing woman. Jill was completely blind by the ageof twenty four and spent much of her young life indoors but thanks to her first guide dog, she overcame every challenge that faced her in order to regain her independence, herconfidenceand the dedication needed tolive a normal life. An incredible account of an inspirational life.

22. At Home by Bill Bryson (Doubleday Hardback, Waterstone's 15.99)

Having tackled almost every genre of book available, Bill Bryson was struck by a thought that most history books deal with the battles and wars that have shaped our world when nobody had written aboutwhatwe strive for most...Aroof over our headswhere we eat, sleep and exist in the comfort that comes with the word 'Home'. This is a stunning read and one of the most original books you will ever read!A Masterpiece.

23. Noma by Rene Redzepi (Phaidon Hardback, Waterstone's 35)

For the last three years, Spain's Elbulli restauranthas beenconsistently voted the best in the world until this year when a small eatery in themiddle of Copenhagen took it's crown and probably a few of it's customers. The approach to culinary excellence shown by Rene Redzepi has earned him a reputation as a true master chefwhose dishes define the Nordic way of life and have reinventedwhat it means to eat in a restaurant. The book of the year in my opinion!

24. MooredMan by Kevin Crossley-Holland (Enith Armon Hardback, Waterstone's 25)

This exquisite collection of poems have been inspired by North Norfolk and evoke a glorious sense of time and place. From the salt marshes to the beaches and the flat shingle ridges, these are some of the finest poems I've read and when placed next toa series of breathtakingwatercolours and etchings by Norman Ackroyd, this book becomes one of thefinest currently available.

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