11 books to gift your family and friends this Christmas

Encourage your loved ones to snuggle up by the fire with a good book, by gifting them a top title for Christmas.

A book will give them the escapism they need away from the hubbub of the festive season. This eclectic mix of 11 titles has something to suit everyone, from the history buff to the avid cook…

1. For the thrill seeker… Never by Ken Follett (Macmillan, £20/€23)

At over 800 pages, this is one tank of a thriller from the award-winning writer who brought us The Pillars Of The Earth. It’s set against a series of crises putting the US and China at loggerheads, creating the imminent threat of World War Three.

The global events take the reader from turmoil in Africa to shady goings-on in China and North Korea, as the political arena becomes a hotbed of potential catastrophe. It’s Follett’s first contemporary novel in more than a decade – anyone who loves a real nail-biting page-turner will enjoy escaping with this over Christmas and beyond.

2. For the cook… Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury, £25)

When the excess of Christmas is over, this book from Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad (head of the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen) is all about rediscovering the simple ingredients you might find at the back of your store cupboard – including pulses, grains and rarely-used spices.

Middle Eastern flavours and vegetarian dishes abound, including chickpeas cacio e pepe and sweet potato shakshuka, as well as meaty delights such as sesame-crusted feta and black lime beef skewers. Turkey and stuffing it certainly isn’t.

3. For the literary fan… The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, £16.99)

Damon Galgut has been shortlisted for the Booker twice before, finally managing to clinch the award with this gem on South African apartheid and its aftermath. It begins in the mid-1980s when a white family promise to give their black maid a house of her own – but as the timeframe moves forward, we see that promise isn’t kept.

4. For the celebrity follower… And Away… by Bob Mortimer (Gallery UK, £20)

There are so many celebrity memoirs out this year, but this one from Bob Mortimer is arguably the best.

It’s alternately funny and incredibly sad as the historically shy comedian charts the highs and lows of his life – from his early years growing up in Middlesbrough and his biscuit salesman father’s shocking death in a car accident when he was seven, to quitting his job as a solicitor to take to the stage with Vic Reeves (aka Jim Moir). His adventures are interspersed with chapters on his dramatic triple heart bypass in 2015.

5. For the satire fan… Private Eye: The 60 Yearbook, edited by Adam Macqueen (Private Eye, £30)

Does a friend or family member love satire? This celebration of 60 years of Private Eye might suit. It’s not a history of the magazine; it’s everything else that’s happened in the years from 1961 to 2021, from the Profumo Affair to present day.

Inside are stories of the fall of two cabinet ministers, countless corrupt business figures and government misfires. It includes writing by satirical giants including Peter Cook, Auberon Waugh and Ian Hislop, and pictures from some of the world’s best cartoonists, including Michael Heath, Willie Rushton and Ken Pyne.

6. For the eco-warrior… Earthshot: How To Save Our Planet by Colin Butfield and Jonnie Hughes (John Murray, £20)

We could all leaf through this one over Christmas to learn how to do our bit for the planet, continuing the push from Cop26. This definitive book of The Earthshot Prize – including an introduction from Prince William and contributions from environmental heavyweights such as Sir David Attenborough – shows how we can work together.

It’s divided into three parts: the challenges facing us, inspirational stories about the incredible solutions already happening, and advice about how we can all make a difference. It’s thought-provoking for old and young alike.

7. For the games enthusiast… The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict (Zaffre, £14.99)

This one’s not for video gamers, but for those who like to get the family involved in board games over Christmas. This Cluedo-style book invites participants to follow clues to find the fortune and solve a mystery.

The premise is a treasure hunt that turns deadly – and there are 12 clues and 12 keys for the 12 days of Christmas.

8. For the romantic… The Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella (Bantam, £20)

Who doesn’t love Sophie Kinsella – author of Confessions Of A Shopaholic – as some light relief reading? Her latest yarn centres on Effie, whose parents have broken up and her dad seems intent on posting pictures on Instagram with his new girlfriend with the hashtags #viagraworks and #sexinyoursixties.

elling the house, they’re having a ‘cooling off’ party. Effie is reluctant to attend, but she wants to retrieve some Russian dolls so decides to go – only to bump into her ex-boyfriend, who she’s very much not over. It’s funny, light and fluffy – just the job after a heavy Christmas dinner.

9. For the history buff… Ask A Historian: 50 Surprising Answers To Things You Always Wanted To Know by Greg Jenner (W&N, £16.99)

This is definitely a ‘Did you know?’ dip-in, dip-out kind of book for the history aficionado in the family, who keeps bombarding you with fantastic facts. The author, historian and host of BBC podcast You’re Dead To Me answers conundrums such as, ‘Why is Italy called Italy?’ and ‘Who was the richest person of all time?’

10. For the royalist… A Queen For All Seasons by Joanna Lumley (Hodder & Stoughton, £20)

In the run-up to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, national treasure Joanna Lumley brings us A Queen For All Seasons, a collection of writings and insights into our longest-reigning monarch.

They come from an eclectic mix of people who have encountered her, from Tony Blair and Cliff Richard to Norman Hartnell and Noel Coward, as well as diarists, courtiers and family members. You’ll find out interesting snippets about protocol, fashion and events – it’s definitely one to pull out after the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day.

11. For the Christmas crafter… The Holly Jolly Christmas Activity Book by Abbie Headon (HarperCollins, £9.99)

This is a brilliant stocking-filler if you’re worried about having a lacklustre Christmas – it shows you how to do everything, from making Christmas outfits for your pets to producing an in-house panto. Simpler options include party games like ‘What’s in Santa’s hat?’ or craft ideas for festive makes and bakes.

For the frazzled, it has mindful activities to slow you down, while a section for grown-ups only – when the kids have gone to bed – should make the party last.

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