With Christmas fast approaching, we catch up with some of our favourite writers to ask about the books on their wish list.
From eerie tales for Yuletide reading by the fire, crime thrillers to exciting new biography, poetry and nature writing, there’s something for everyone here. Just in time to nip to your local bookshop on that Christmas Eve dash – a present for someone else, or a sneaky bit of selfie present giving!
Rawblood by Catriona Ward
“Rawblood by Catriona Ward makes a powerful contribution to the British literature of the fantastic. It’s an epic family saga incorporating a great Gothic house, built upon a lyrically rendered regional landscape, from which the numinous rises as if it is a natural function of the setting.
There’s a touch of Ted Hughes here, Emily Bronte and M.R James in this eerie and by turns moving story that spans generations. It filled my head for several evenings, and will linger there too . . . A definite book of the year for me.“
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
“One of the delights of having had A Place Called Winter shortlisted for the Costa is the excuse it gives me to sit quietly in an armchair and read the other shortlistees to suss out the competition!
The word on the street is that The Loney may yet be debut novel that carries all before it when the Costa Book of the Year is decided later in January. Certainly its combination of suburban Gothic and midwinter chill sounds like the sort of book I love reading yet never seem to end up writing so I’m definitely hoping some kind soul leaves it under our tree.“
Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester before going to Oxford University. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. One of this country’s best-loved novelists, his most recent works are A Perfectly Good Man, The Whole Day Through, the Richard and Judy bestseller Notes From An Exhibition and now Costa nominated bestseller A Place Called Winter.
The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin
“The Axeman’s Jazz is out in paperback now and though I’ve already read it, if someone could slip a copy into my stocking I’d be very grateful. It’s set in New Orleans in the 20s and has a rich, overblown quality that captures the time and the place beautifully. If you know a lover of James Lee Burke, or even Gillian Flynn, this would make their Christmas.”
Ann Cleeves is the author behind ITV’s Vera and BBC One’s Shetland. She has written over twenty-five novels, and is the creator of detectives Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez – characters loved both on screen and in print. In 2012 she was inducted into the CWA Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame.
Charlotte Bronte: A Life by Claire Harman
“The book I’m hoping to get for Christmas is Charlotte Bronte: A Life by Claire Harman. The story of Bronte’s tragic yet brilliant life has been told many times but continues to haunt and Claire Harman’s new book promises an insightful and warm approach. For me the fascination began on a childhood visit to the Parsonage in Haworth and my first reading of Jane Eyre. Now I re-read it almost every year. Claire Harman is an acclaimed biographer and storyteller and I cannot wait to see how she brings Charlotte back to life.”
The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey
“Richard Mabey’s The Cabaret of Plants is the book I’m secretly hoping for this Christmas. He has a way of writing about plants and the natural world that combines the gravity of an expert with the wonder of a child.”
Philip Marsden is the award-winning author of a number of works of travel, fiction and non-fiction, including The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers, The Levelling Sea and Rising Ground. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and his work has been translated into fifteen languages. He lives in Cornwall.
Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland
“I’m hoping someone will give me Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland. I know he’ll offer fresh insights while taking me deep into the corrupt heart of Rome in lucid, compelling prose. Perfect for Winter reading.”
Imogen Robertson directed for TV, film, and radio before becoming a full-time author. She is the author of several novels, including the Crowther and Westerman series. Imogen was shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award 2011 and for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award 2012.
The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas
“The book I really really want is The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas. I love her previous novels, especially Our Tragic Universe, which combined all the things that I love – writing, art, science, philosophy, friendship – into a mesmerising, moving story.”
Tania Hershman is an acclaimed short-story writer specialising in very short stories and science-inspired fiction. Her first book The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008) was commended by the judges of the 2009 Orange award for new writers. Her latest book is My Mother Was An Upright Piano
The Appearance of Murder by John Nightingale
“I saw this reviewed somewhere recently and was intrigued. It seems to be a novel about a crime writer – and that very premise hooked me straight away! So I’ve asked for it to be placed in my Christmas stocking.”
Disko Bay by Nancy Campbell
“I’m excited about Nancy Campbell’s debut poetry collection Disko Bay because it has arisen from a residency she undertook in Greenland. Creating versions of Greenlandic songs introduces a world not many of us will ever be fortunate enough to visit. This book seems particularly timely in the way it shifts between past and present native stories and the topic of climate change affecting the region.”
Isabel Galleymore held a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2012 and her poems have appeared in magazines such as Poetry Review, Poetry London and The Rialto. She co-edits The Clearing, an online magazine of nature and place-based writing and is the 2016 Charles Causley Poet in Residence. Her collection Dazzle Ship is published by Worple Press.
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
“I read the first three Neapolitan Novels over the summer, and since then I’ve had to confine my reading to books I’m judging for various competitions, and am champing at the bit to get at this, the last book in the sequence. All four books are set in a working class district of Naples and narrated by the central character Elena Greco. They follow the lives of Elena and her brilliant best friend (and possibly alter ego) Lila from early childhood to old age. I’m not usually keen on translation but it’s done so well in this case. These books are completely absorbing, uplifting, frightening, brilliantly written and far juicier than any soap opera.”
Julia Copus lives in Somerset. All three of her collections are Poetry Book Society Recommendations. She has won First Prize in the National Poetry Competition and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her third collection,The World’s Two Smallest Humans, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. Julia's new book for children, The Shrew that Flew, is the latest in her 'Harry & Lil' series, and is due from Faber in April 2016
The Penguin Book of the British Short Story, 2 Volumes, edited by Philip Hensher
“Curating this body of work has clearly been a labour of love. Philip Hensher set himself the task of trawling through the vast repository of periodicals in which many of these stories first appeared. He eschews obvious anthology-crackers, and takes enormous care to dig out recherché writers who might otherwise have been overlooked or forgotten. Too many anthologies fall into the trap of being dutiful and predictable; this one – as evinced by the controversy it has already provoked – is neither, but does exactly what I’d want such a collection to do: re-ignite debate and interest in the short story as a form to be reckoned with.”
Jane Feaver is a novelist and short story writer. According to Ruth (Harvill Secker, 2007), was shortlisted for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award and the Dimplex Prize; Love Me Tender (Harvill Secker, 2009) was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize; her latest novel is An Inventory of Heaven (Corsair, 2012). Jane is a lecturer in creative writing at Exeter University.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
“I’ve missed the boat with so many poetry collections this year but this one sounds like a must. The poems I’ve read (and heard read by the author on radio) are beautifully judged and press on the nerves. I think it’s an important book and I’d like to own it. I’m also interested in her use of forms.”