Not to try and force any ennui about the passing of time onto our lovely readers, but I hate to inform you that it is in fact time once again for the Cultured Vultures Book Christmas Gift Guide. If it’s even possible, 2021 has been a weirder year than 2020 – but at least through it all, we’ve still had books. And said books are still the best gifts – easy to wrap, easy to post, and there is something available for almost literally anyone.
Best Books For Secret Santa
101 Things To Do Instead of Playing on Your Phone – Ilka Heinemann
If you don’t know the person you are assigned for Secret Santa very well, then you can at least safely bet they spend too much time on their phone.
Give them the gift of this light-hearted book which wants to cure us all of our phone addictions as well as providing opportunities for creative outlets.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe
Munroe is the brain behind the super popular and hilarious comic, xkcd.com. In What If?, he addresses such important questions as how long a nuclear submarine could last in orbit, or if we can build jetpacks from downward-firing machine guns.
If your Secret Santa has a curious mind, this is the book for them.
The Last Bear is a debut novel from Hannah Gold, and one that focuses on the key issue we are facing right now; climate change. But it is also a cracking adventure, and one that middle grade kids will thank you for sending their way.
April finds the last bear on Bear island, starving and alone, and decides it is up to her to help him. Set in the freezing Arctic, this is the perfect Christmas-time read.
You Are A Champion – Marcus Rashford and Carl Anka
Marcus Rashford is much more than just a footballer; political campaigner and people’s champion, there is much to admire about his work ethic and his dedication to a cause. This book, written for older kids, sets out to inspire them with his story.
Rashford was once a kid in Manchester, just like any other kid, and he’s teamed up with journalist Carl Anka and performance psychologist Katie Warriner to show young people how they can be just like him.
The chances are that your bookworm might not have heard of Lore Olympus – the graphic novel started its life on the free comic app, Webtoon. It’s a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, and it is a delight.
Give your bookworm a new fave with the brand new first volume in book format for the very first time.
The Cat Who Saved Books – Sosuke Natsukawa (Translator: Louise Heal Kawai)
There is little bookworms love reading about more than books – and this little book is perfect for people who know books are worth much more than the paper they are printed on.
Rintaro has just inherited his grandfather’s bookshop, and it appears he will have to close it down. Then a cat called Tiger appears and charges Rintaro with a secret mission that shows the value of caring for others – and books.
After the enormous success of her first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Clarke basically disappeared for over a decade. But then she came back with Piranesi, a book that stormed the Women’s Prize.
Make sure that your bookworm has read this latest masterpiece from one of the most interesting authors of her generation.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
Another TikTok favourite, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has been explosively popular. If your friend doesn’t read very much, this might be a book to change their mind. And for good reason too – it’s a cracking, low pressure, compulsive read.
Golden Age movie star Evelyn Hugo suddenly comes out of obscurity to give an interview about her life – and what a life she has led.
Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 – Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the biggest movie of the season is Dune. If your friend is into movies too, this graphic novel might be the thing to get them into reading – after all, the book is a little bit intimidating if you don’t read much.
The illustrations in this volume are a feast for the eyes, and you know Frank Herbert’s magnum opus is safe in the hands of his son.
If your friend is looking for some low-pressure reading then it doesn’t get much more fun than this team up comic featuring Mr Batman himself alongside the Mystery Inc. gang. Pop culture fans of all ages can enjoy this comic.
In volume one, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby travel back in time to help solve the mystery of Batman’s missing iconic purple gloves.
Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography – Billy Connolly
Perpetual British Boomer fave comedian Billy Connolly is one of the now typical Christmas autobiographies coming out in 2021. If you have an older relative who is into comedy, or autobiographies in general, this could be the book for them.
Connolly’s had a pretty interesting life, and his writing is bound to be as full of character as his comedy.
This Much is True – Miriam Margoyles
On the other hand, you also have the autobiography of Miriam Margoyles, who honestly might have a much wider appeal than Connolly – if you’ve watched any moment of an interview with her, you will know she has some stories worth telling and some opinions worth hearing.
Margoyles is a national treasure, and she would probably be the first to admit she is a just a little bit weird. But all the best people are, and her autobiography is guaranteed to be a good time.
If your non-fiction fan has anything more than a passing interest in geography or geopolitics, then the chances are they already know Tim Marshall’s work. This book, the sequel to Prisoners of Geography, is guaranteed to be a good read.
In this book, Marshall looks to the future, beyond the limits of geography he explored in the first volume. He’s a sharp and witty author with a real knack for boiling things down to the essentials.
If the past 20 months of virus talk has sparked an interest in the subject for your non-fiction fan (and I am sure such people do exist!) then Immune is the book for them. Philip Dettmer is the man behind a hugely popular science YouTube presence, so you know he knows how to entertain a crowd.
Immune is an illustrated guide to the immune system, one of the biggest mysteries in the human body. The writing is witty, the science pleasingly digestible without being patronising, and anyone with an interest in popular science will be pleased with this book.
Interesting Stories For Curious People – Bill O’Neill
If your non-fiction fan likes a bit of everything, then this is the perfect book for them. It covers history, science and pop culture – which you will agree is just about everything that non-fiction fans are usually interested in.
If you want to know exactly what a chupacabra is, or whether Cleopatra actually died from a snake bite, or whether half the things you learned in school were actually wrong, then this is the perfect Christmas gift of a book.
The Dark is the perfect Christmas gift for your thriller and mystery fan. Emma Haughton’s debut novel, a locked room mystery set in an Antarctic research facility cut off from the outside world during winter, is a deeply paranoid and atmospheric novel.
Kate is a doctor assigned to the facility for the winter. She rocks up to find that all is not as it seems; the previous doctor died in an accident, there is a lot of self-medicating going on amongst the inmates, and then people start being picked off one by one. And there is no escape.
Monkey Around – Jadie Jang
Monkey Around is a riotous urban fantasy novel that any fan of fantasy is likely to thank you for gifting them. It’s an original and very bold book, funny and political in equal measure, and the sort of thing your fantasy fan will be shouting about.
Maya is a shapeshifter who lives in San Francisco, able to transform into any animal at will. There’s a lot of shapeshifters in town – any such shapeshifter who features in any world mythology turns up in this story. When someone starts murdering shapeshifters, it is up to Maya to figure out what’s going on.
If you have a fan of historical fiction, or romance, to buy for, then you can’t go wrong with The Fair Botanists. Even better, it’s a perfect book for readers who like both of those genres. Sara Sheridan is a safe pair of hands, and here she brings 1822 Edinburgh to life.
Elizabeth Graham is newly moved to Edinburgh, where she becomes involved with the work of William McNab, a gardener in charge of the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. He’s also caring for a North American aloe plant, due to seed for the first time in 100 years. Elizabeth soon realises that some of the people interested in the rare plant have more on their minds than scientific curiosity.
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