Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Books I'd Recommend for Christmas Gifts

Every year, the literary pages in our newspapers here publish big double page spreads where well-known Australian writers give their recommendations of what to read (or give) for the holiday season. And every year I look at their lists and wonder if they are serious. They nearly always list the most literary or obscure books possible, which makes me wonder if they're being honest or just trying to sound intelligent! Occasionally, someone (often a crime writer) will list books that actually sound both readable and enjoyable.

My big thing this year is to try and encourage as many people as possible to give books as gifts, instead of lawn mowers or scented candles or plastic toys. So I thought I'd better give my recommendations, which I have simply picked off my pile of books I've read this year and enjoyed. And if you aren't sure what a person might like, try giving them a book voucher/card instead. If you want to buy online, fine, but maybe also try to buy at least one book from an independent bookseller.

Crime/mystery - A Beautiful Place to Die - Malla Nunn - set in South Africa in the 1950s, it is a great portrayal of life there at that time as well as being a good mystery
61 Hours - Lee Child
Blood Moon - Garry Disher (set on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne)
The Broken Shore - Peter Temple (I know Truth won all the awards but I liked The Broken Shore better)
Blood Sunset - Jarad Henry (also set in Melbourne but with bushfires as a backdrop)
Bleed For Me - Michael Robotham
Much as I would like to, I can't recommend the latest Val McDermid, Trick of the Dark. Waaay too slow.

Fantasy - I discovered Joe Abercrombie's books a while ago - I guess they're fantasy but they feel historical - great warrior action scenes and fascinating characters.

Historical - if you love details and descriptions totally based in great research, Conn Iggulden's books about Genghis Khan are terrific. The first in the series is Wolf of the Plains.
I'm also halfway through Bernard Cornwell's Azincourt but the detail and descriptions overpower the characterisation a bit too much for me. Others will disagree.

This year I have also fallen in love with Kate Atkinson's novels. I read Case Histories because it was labelled 'crime' at the library, but it's so much more than that. The recurring character, Jackson Brodie, appears in all four books, but shares the stage with a wonderful range of other characters. The plots weave in and out, and I'm never disappointed. Now I'm heading for her other novels.

YA fiction - If you want something really unsettling and creepy, Mice by Gordon Reece just blew me away. One book I could not put down.
With the ongoing, neverending hype about Meyer's vampires, I was very hesitant about Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, but it completely won me over and even made me cry. Leaves Liar by Justine Larbalestier for dead.

That's enough for now. I'll consult my book pile and add more another day!


Anne E. Johnson said...

Thanks for all the great suggestions, but especially thanks for promoting the idea of books as gifts. Here are a couple I've loved recently: David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Frank Cottrell Boyce's Cosmic.

Sherryl said...

Thanks, Anne. I loved Boyce's 'Millions' (although the movie was disappointing) so I'll keep an eye out for 'Cosmic'.

Michelle Douglas said...

Ooh Sherryl, I just love Kate Atkinson -- Started Early, Took My Dog is on the very top of my to-be-read pile. Behind The Scenes At The Museum is one of my all-time favourite books.

Mice sounds very interesting.

My Christmas book recommendation for the year would be The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society -- utterly charming!

Sherryl said...

Michelle - I enjoyed the Guernsey book too. I was a bit hesitant about the letter format (often it can be boring) but this worked really well!