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Looking for some book recommendations for this festive season? Hannah Stephenson asks some bestselling writers to share their top picks.
As the festive season approaches, there are so many new books to put on those wish lists, from cookery inspiration to the latest nail-biting page-turners.
And whether you’re shopping for gifts or looking to stock up your own reading pile, who better to ask for inspiration than top authors themselves?
Here, nine top authors (whose own latest books may well be on your wish list too) reveal the books they’ll be gifting, along with the titles they’d most like to find in their Christmas stockings this year…
1. Barbara Taylor Bradford
“The book at the top of my list is Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts (Allen Lane, £35). Aside from the fact that Winston Churchill is my great hero, I have always been a fan of Andrew Roberts. I love his historical biographies, and I can’t wait to get my head into his latest. It has been called ‘the greatest single volume book about Churchill ever written’, and has had rave reviews everywhere.
“I am always entranced by the historical novels written by Bernard Cornwell, and just in time for Christmas I have received his new one, War Of The Wolf (HarperCollins, £20) as a gift. Once again Uhtred, the legendary warrior, comes to life.”
Master Of His Fate by Barbara Taylor Bradford is published by HarperCollins on November 29, priced £16.99.
2. John Boyne
“The book I’m most looking forward to is Jonathan Coe’s Middle England (Viking, £16.99). 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, £18.99) 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.
“Zusak writes with incredible emotion and raw honesty of five brothers and the father who abandoned them. It’s a novel filled with loud, angry, loving Aussie boys, none of whom can contain their exuberance. Zusak is of course best known for The Book Thief, and readers of that classic novel will not be disappointed by this one.
“I’m also looking forward to Kate Bush’s How To Be Invisible (Faber & Faber, £18.45). 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. I’d like to read them as poetry and see what different emotions they release in me.
A Ladder To The Sky by John Boyne is published by Doubleday, priced £14.99. Available now.
3. Jacqueline Wilson
“Anne Tyler is my all-time time favourite writer, so wise, subtle and truthful. I’ve read all 21 of her novels with huge enjoyment. Her latest, Clock Dance (Chatto & Windus, £18.99), looks one of her best.
“The Letters Of Sylvia Plath, Volumes 1 and 2 (Faber & Faber, £35 each) would be an enormously big and heavy parcel! I’ve long admired Plath and her poetry and her one novel The Bell Jar. I’ve read a shorter volume of her letters, but these would keep me absorbed for months.
“I love reading about bookshops, especially second-hand specialists. I’ve had a browse in Shaun Bythell’s The Diary Of A Bookseller (Profile, £8.99 paperback) already and love his wry style. I’m going to have to make a trip to his bookshop in Wigtown after Christmas.”
My Mum Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson is published by Doubleday, priced £12.99. Available now.
4. Frederick Forsyth
“Journalist Frank Gardner was a senior foreign correspondent with the BBC when disaster struck. He was shot by terrorists while reporting in Saudi. He sustained very serious injuries but he was not defeated. Still a roving reporter, he has turned to novels, and Ultimatum (Bantam, £12.99) is his second.
“Once again, the bad guys are as bad as they come – the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran’s lust to become a nuclear power is unabated but now a new ‘ultra’ group has appeared and our hero, tasked to stop them, is Luke Carlton of MI6. Lots of twists and turns and a surprise ending. Good stuff.
The Fox by Frederick Forsyth is published by Bantam, priced £20. Available now.
5. Cecelia Ahern
“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, £20). 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 onto 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, £25). 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, priced £12.99. Available now.
6. Jenny Colgan
“This year I wanted the new CJ Sansom, Tombland (Mantle, £20), 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, £16.99). 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, £30). It looks absolutely beautiful and so special.
An Island Christmas by Jenny Colgan is published by Sphere, priced £12.99. Available now.
7. Tom Fletcher
“The books on my Christmas list include This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay (Picador, £8.99 paperback). 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, £7.99 paperback) 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, priced £6.99. Available now.
8. Jodi Picoult
“I just go out and buy books when I see them, but the books I would give as presents include Markus Zusak’s Bridge Of Clay. He’s a phenomenal, beautiful writer, really a poet in long form. Another book I read which blew me away because of the beauty of the language is The Seas by Samantha Hunt (Corsair, £8.99).
“It’s a crazy book about a woman in a small fishing town in the north, who may be a mermaid or may just be schizophrenic. I found myself highlighting about 85% of the book for the language. It is so beautifully written.
A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £16.99. Available now.
9. Susan Hill
“A very quiet Christmas will be followed by the arrival of my daughters, son-in-law and grand-daughter, piles of presents and loads of books all round. I will read The Ice Monster by David Walliams (HarperCollins, £14.99) to Lila, age six, though she reads perfectly well herself now. But I do the voices better.
“It’s his best children’s book so far. A Victorian orphan called Elsie learns that there is a woolly mammoth at the North Pole and determines to find it.
“Also on my wish list is The Light In The Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare (Elliott & Thompson, £12.99). He dreads winter, I look forward to it, it depresses him, whereas hot summer depresses me. But Horatio Clare comes to learn through sensitive careful observation in this beautifully written book that the natural world has life and light on even the coldest darkest days of winter and that is his salvation.”
The Comforts Of Home by Susan Hill is published by Chatto & Windus, priced £18.99. Available now.