A book lover's gift guide


The writer, broadcaster and revered bookworm on the page-turners to give friends, family, colleagues, secret santas – anyone, really. 

Style and Substance by Bay Garnett For the fashion lover.

A Vogue Stylist and an early pioneer of second-hand, Bay Garnett’s beautifully packaged little book contains essays and interviews from some of the most stylish and debonair: Stanley Tucci, Bella Freud, Chloe Sevigny, Sienna Miller and Zadie Smith. The best thing about the book is that it distinguishes style (as much about charm and wit as it is clothes) from fashion (slavishly buying into every trend, each season). Some, like Virginia Woolf, even speak to us from beyond the grave.

Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn  For the romantic.

This book came out a few years ago, but it’s an evergreen gift because it’s not just about romantic love, it’s about all forms of love: parental, filial, platonic, self. It intersperses words from Lunn (who is a journalist at Red magazine and published the book off the back of a popular newsletter) with interviews she’s done with writers (including Lisa Taddeo, Dolly Alderton, Alain de Botton and Diane Evans) about what love means to them. Contains moving morsels aplenty.

The Golden Mole by Katherine RundellFor the animal lover, storyteller but really, for anyone.

One of my favourite books to gift is Katherine Rundell’s illustrated book about 22 of the earth’s most astonishing creatures. It is restorative and warm and funny and profound. The Greenland shark can live 500 years. The wombat could outrun Usain Bolt. The eponymous golden mole is blind, unaware of its own iridescent beauty. This blissful book achieves something that for me, no other book has ever done: there is not one person that I would not buy it for.

The Book You Want Everyone You Love To Read by Phillipa Perry For, well, everyone you love.

The follow-up to her cult The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read from the Observer agony aunt and psychotherapist, Philippa Perry, is every bit as helpful as you’d hope it would be. (My copy already has dozens of pages folded down.) It’s a book about changing your belief systems: because while we can’t control the actions of others, we can change how we react and respond. Gentle, compassionate and galvanising, Perry is a real heroine of the now.

The Iliad by Homer, Translated by Emily Wilson For the antiquarian.

For a dad or a grandparent or an erudite uncle, look no further than this highly anticipated translation of Homer’s epic, from translator superstar Emily Wilson. (Her 2017 translation of The Odyssey was hailed as a masterpiece.) It’s not a small book, nor is it easy reading, but for lovers of myth and battle, Wilson’s modern interpretation of an ancient poem will be a joyously fresh read. The cover is also extremely dad friendly (or maybe that’s just my dad.)

Wordperfect by Susie Dent For the wordsmith.

This is my dream book; I read it daily. It’s an almanac of etymology, with an entry for every day of the year, by Countdown’s lexicographer and logophile Susie Dent, who wears her fierce intellect so lightly – it’s a fun book, full of her enthusiasm and love of language. One of my favourite revelations is that the word ‘muscle’ derives from the Latin for little mouse (‘musculus’) because a flexed bicep gives the impression of a mouse scuttling under the skin.

The One Day Box by Flora Soames For the maximalist.

I cannot get enough of coffee table books about decor. They’re the perfect thing to idly flick through on a winter’s eve, when your brain is half awake, with a glass of wine. I like to buy second hand ones online, but this new one from popular interior designer Flora Soames is delightfully colourful and chintz-laden. It’s mainly pictures but there are also surprisingly intimate pieces of writing: about her great grandfather, Winston Churchill, and her late husband, Ant.

Good Material by Dolly AldertonFor the novel guzzler.  

Christmas demands a rollockingly good novel, and I couldn’t not recommend the second novel from my High Low co-host, Good Material, which is a funny and spry book about Andy, a heart-broken comedian in his mid-30s and his ex-girlfriend Jen. It’s about love and loss but also family, friendship, ambition and the painful business of growing up. It really busts the mould on women being obsessed to settle down and men being eternal bachelors.

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