by Lee Cross
Right about now the high street is doing its annual ramp up, and the bookshops are no exception.
One glance at the shelves is enough to tell you that pretty much every big-ticket thriller writer has a book out, and if you take a closer look you’ll notice a few of the truly great writers have been brought out by their publishers this festive season.
There would probably be more fiction out too if cookbooks weren’t taking up half the bloody space available: “One-thousand ways to cook a Turkey”, or, “roast a potato” – and crap like that.
[Before moving on, can we all just be clear on one thing; there are not a thousand way to cook a bird or a bake a goddam potato. There just isn’t. End of.]
ANYWAY. what I mean is, it’s the middle of November, and it’s that time again… it’s Christmas.
So, what book do you buy for the loved ones in your life, when you have so many to choose from?
Well, I’ve been around the block and might be able to light your way towards getting the right present, for the right person, this Christmas time.
Here are the best 17 options out this silly season…
The Midnight Line
by Lee Child
“Jack Reacher is BACK!” – honestly, I haven’t even picked up this year’s Jim Grant book, and I don’t need too; those very words will be written on it somewhere.
The plot of The Midnight Line is a complete mystery to me, but I have read a dozen Reacher’s, which is more than enough to know that big Jack is going to kick some arse, and you’re going to turn the last page and need a cigarette in bed to truly saviour the moment. (metaphorically though kids – smoking is bad for you).
This is a perfect gift for: The occasional, or novice, reader. It will be easy to pick up, keep you interested and entertained throughout, and is perfect for people who are only prepared to commit part-time concentration to a novel.
by Stephen and Owen King
One glance at this cover was enough to intrigue me, my first thought being, “dear god, is this the ultimate expression of vanity”, which is some thought because Stephen King has written himself into one of his novels as God (if you don’t know what I mean, he has… but it is complicated).
I won’t hang Owen King though, I don’t know the first thing about him or his writing style – and the blurb on the back of Sleeping Beauties looks like it might be good. And with that, I’ve read Stephen King collaborations before (Black House and The Talisman), and he understands how to make them work.
Worst case, your gifting someone half a Stephen King book – best case, you’re introducing someone to another potentially great writer.
This is a perfect gift for: fans of the king, naturally / late teenagers. But it’s not a gift for the novice; the page count is an intimidating number, and you need to understand pacing and plot development, to tackle it unafraid.
The Rub of Time
by Martin Amis
If you’ve heard of Martin Amis, then you’ve read him, and if you’ve read him, just by typing the name of this collection of articles, I have peeked your interest.
If you’ve not heard of MA, you only need to know three things; he’s a genius, he is arrogant, and his Dad will always remain the superior writer (to be fair, that’s like comparing one of the worlds great postmen with Santa… doesn’t matter how fast they go, Santa does the whole world in a single night before he drops the mic).
Amis writes fiction and non-fiction, and it does matter which you pick up, it’s always compelling.
This is a perfect gift for: well… me. However, as I’m probably not on your Crimbo list, get it for people who like to read, don’t own a telly, and aren’t afraid to have their opinions challenged. [I probably should stress that this is a non-fiction]
Every Single Sports Bio – by multiple writers, ghost writers, re-writers, editors, and ghost editors
Bold and sweeping statement time; The average man would not consider themselves to be a reader, so if you’re buying them a book, with any hope of it being read, it’s going to have to look like sex on a stick to them.
Sport Bio’s are the way to go at Christmas time – that is, after all, why they are everywhere right now, and so bloody expensive.
This is a perfect gift for: Fans of sport, I mean, obviously – right? Just make sure you pick the right team.
The Golden House
by Salman Rushdie
The latest offering from the man who wrote Midnights Children and The Satanic Verses; the former of which holds the title of Best Booker Prize winner ever, with the later being deemed worthy of Fatwa… which is a fair old achievement for a novelist.
Mr Rushdie writes in a way where you always feel like something else is going on, at a deeper level, and that makes you focus all the more – it’s superb gift to be blessed with, and he is a truly great writer.
This is a perfect gift for: Real Bookworms. There’s a lot of layers to this man’s writing, and it takes experience to understand that. I assure you though, it’s a gift that will be treasured by any reader.
by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon and some interchangeable woman, do X-Y-Z, for blah blah blah reason, and nobody stops to question that he is the John McClane of the religious symbology world… or even that there is a religious symbology community.
Sounds like I’m slagging him BUT, you know what, Dan Brown didn’t become a successful writer because of the lunacy surrounding his fourth book (*note – fourth book), he can spin a tale.
His notable gift is that he has managed to capture time in his novels, which for me is pretty much the hardest thing to do in writing; and not something you do that without talent… although he does it with blunt force trauma (you keep bashing away with a hammer, you’ll end up nailing something eventually).
Not to sure what Origin is about, I have read blurb on it, and it seems wildly outlandish, but I’m sure it will be thrilling; and I’ll probably read it myself (I’ll just wait until next year and buy it from a charity shop – Mr Brown is quite rich enough).
This is the perfect gift for: Someone you don’t really know. Sure, if you are buying a present as a shot in the dark, then go for this – it’ll be easy to read, the recipient will have heard of the author and have a formed opinion… and even if they hate it, it’s a Christmas present, they’ll unlikely to tell you!
by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (Paul Howard)
Know who this is? Yes – well you’re almost certainly Irish. No – well, right from the name of the author, the whole thing is one long tongue-in-cheek piss take.
I won’t pretend to like the books, nor will I pretend that I’ve read them all; but they’re really successful, they come out like clockwork year after year, and are always well received by critics.
This is the perfect gift for: Any friends you may have around the world, who’ve done a summer in Dublin, and can appreciate the quirks of language here, and the way the city sees the world. Look at it this way, if they love the books (and a lot of people do), there’s a whole series, and you’ve got your Christmas presents boxed off for years to come.
by Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes latest book is sitting at number two on the best selling list here (in Ireland) at the moment, which is above any of the other new releases I’ve mentioned, and I think speaks volumes for how well she’s liked and her talents as a writer (while I’ve seen her name many, many times; I’ve not indulged – I’ve only so much time alas, and they’ll always be too many books to read)
I’m at the age where I know a lot of mum’s and aunties, Marian Keyes name comes up a lot when we talk about books, and I trust the opinions of my friends.
This is the perfect gift for: well, everyone knows mums and aunties.
by Tom Hanks
This is a collection of short stories by one of the most universally liked, not to mention commercial successful, actors around today.
Is it any good? I have no idea. But, I’ve brought the book, and I’m going to give it a go.
This is the perfect gift for: Any reader over the age of thirty. They’ll appreciate that an artist, one they feel they know so well, has stepped beyond their comfort zone to try and paint pictures with pen and ink.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Illustrated Edition)
by JK Rowling
The third HP novel has now been converted into a beautifully illustrated edition; I’ve stopped into Eason’s (the big Irish book chain) half a dozen times to flick through the pages, and the pictures wonderfully compliment the story.
It’s worth saying that this illustrated edition, like the two proceeding it, is incredibly expensive and is not the copy you should be buying for a younger child unless you were planning on reading it with them (which I would recommend with all of my heart).
This is the perfect gift for: The children in your life. Every child should be given the chance to read Harry Potter, and given the nature of today’s world, a book with such wonderful pictures will surely help them to do so.
So, this a part two to my Christmas list suggestion, part one was all about what’s being sold on the high street at the moment; but the following are all books I’ve read in 2017, and can honestly recommend for my fellow bookworms….
The Blade Artist
by Irvine Welsh
Francis “Franco” Begbie returns, only this time he’s right at the center of the story; and as you can imagine (if you are in anyway familiar with TRAINSPOTTING) this is a story centered around violence.
On a deeper level, is it about redemption? could it be about how a Leopard can never change its spots? or maybe it’s about the sins of the Father being passed forward? …honestly, I don’t know. I kept it shallow with this book; and enjoyed it in the same way.
There’s a lot to like about The Blade Artist, but for the fans of Mr. Welsh the enjoyment will mostly come from seeing one of THE great supporting characters being let of the leash.
This is the perfect gift for: Bookworms / those who like fast moving stories, with deeper currents underneath / readers not put off by the quirks of vernacular.
City of Mirrors
by Justin Cronin
This is the finale to The Passage Series and, as these things go, it’s pretty good; certainly an improvement on the ‘The Twelve’ (book two).
Obviously, it’s only a good present if someone has read the first two parts, but if they haven’t it’s actually a bit of a win, because ‘The Passage’ (book one) is a genuine top notch read – and would be a brilliant present in it’s own right.
What is the story about? – well, it’s about a virus… and that’s all I’m telling. There’s actually a couple of original thoughts here, and there’s a twist to Mr Cronin’s retelling of this classic story type, which I’m not prepared to spoil (I’m sure they’ll be a movie out sooner or later that will happily do that).
This is the perfect gift for: Bookworms / later teen readers / fans of horror.
by Kurt Vonnegut
I had a blitz on Kurt Vonnegut this year; the only reason being, I’d never read him before (you can’t read everything; right?), and Slaughterhouse Five was about his best book, although I’d readily recommend his entire works – given that I plan to read all of them myself.
This particular book spirals around the fire-bombing of Dresden by “The Allies” during the Second World War, which is something I happen to know the (shameful) history of, and apparently something KV experienced first hand.
The book is interesting and insightful, blurs the line between fact and fiction, and is filled with a lot of pain.
This is a perfect gift for: Bookworms / students of history / readers who enjoy questioning the line between right and wrong.
Ham On Rye
by Charles Bukowski
Holy shit! Now, this Is A BOOK! I’ve read plenty of Bukowski before (I actually keep a collection of his love poetry on my desk at work), so I’ve no excuses for only reading this book in my 35th year upon the earth.
Ham On Rye is the story of Hank Chinaski’s early years, and it’s a blast. It tells you about the world as it really is, and not how we wish it to be.
It’s one of THOSE books for me, I’ve already given away my copy, and have seriously considered buying another; just so I can give it away again – hell, if I was rich, I’d stand on high street corners giving away copies; I honestly believe that this book could make the world a better place (of course, I’ve been wrong before).
This is the perfect gift for: Bookworms / readers who like writers with “a voice”(…because Bukowski’s is deafening) / fans of dry humour.
The History of Bees
by Maja Lunde
I picked this book up nude, I had no idea what it was about, or the wonderful writer who produced it – I bought it because there is a fellow at work who keeps bees, and was given away honey the week before (seriously – his name is Paddy, and he’s great), so I had bees on the brain.
Bee’s is a beautiful book, it’s well written, superbly paced, and has plucked a story out the air that’s really rather original.
What’s it about? …well, it about the history of bees of course!
This is the perfect gift for: Bookworms / pretty much everyone else (it’s a beautiful read).
Forge of Darkness
by Steven Erikson
This one is going out to my homies in the FantSci community.
Forge is the first book in The Malazan book of the Fallen prequel series; and should only be read by those who’ve read the first ten books (while I’m sure it’s a fine read coming in nude, if you choose to do so, you’d be denying yourself so many extra layers to plot).
Trust me, if you have a real and dedicated fantasy reader in your family, or circle of close friends, they will thank you for introducing them to Erikson (as a quick FYI: the first book of the fallen is call ‘Gardens of the Moon’).
This is the perfect gift for: FantSci Head Bookworms only (it really is that hardcore).
by Alan Moore
In the reading world, this book should be considered as nothing less than a weapon of mass destruction.
It’s incredibly long, spirals out of control, has literally pages of utter gibberish in it, is written in conflicting and contradicting styles… it’s not an exaggeration to say, that you could read this entire tome, and still not have a bloody clue what it’s about.
And for all those reasons, it’s an excellent book!
I can’t even begin to explain the plot; trying would be like explaining blue to a blind person, or the appeal of NASCAR racing to a non-fan (aren’t they just cars driving around in circles??). Jerusalem is just one of those books you have to choose to read; and you need to be sure of your choice, because it’s one of the longest books every written in the English language.
This is the perfect gift for: the Bookworm who claims they will read anything / FantSci heads / followers of graphic novels.
[And that’s all of my book suggests for Christmas 2017; if you’d like more, I blogged last year with suggestion for 2016, which I’m sure would still make good presents – unless you brought them already of course.
Have a happy Christmas everyone… in six weeks time, I mean.]