It’s that time of year when, should you pause for a moment in any shopping centre the land over, you’re bound to hear, in hushed, anxious tones, those awful four words: so-and-so is ‘difficult to buy for.’ If you can identify with that then hopefully the following suggestions provide inspiration. Remember; the answer to the question of what to buy for the person who already has everything is a book. Always a book.
A book for everyone THE FAMILY ECCENTRIC
Victor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders – Victor Wynd
Victor Wynd curates a small museum in East London that brims with strange and unusual objects, much like the menageries of old. This weird and wonderful book forms a catalogue of sorts, and would be perfect for that distant relative with a fondness for esoteric art; a grandmother with a few too many shell owls; or the Great Uncle you suspect can’t quite remember the 60s! Admittedly it will only give them ideas, but what ideas! Although full of taxidermy, shrunken heads, and medical curios this is an incredibly charming book, which bears testament to the warmth and wit of Wynd’s writing.
A book for MUSIC LOVERS
The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall – Steve Hanley
Mark E Smith, frontman-cum-despot of The Fall, disposes of band members like the rest of us go through pigs in blankets. Urban myth suggests that you’re never more than 10 meters away from an ex-member of The Fall, and while it’s possible I’m confusing that with something else, it’s undeniable that to be a musician in The Fall is to have all the security and staying power of a paper hat from a Christmas cracker. Step forward bassist Steve Hanley who, having survived for three decades at the epicentre of the maelstrom, is, as well as deserving a medal of some sort, in a unique place to tell tales of life in this most idiosyncratic of bands.
Atypical though The Fall may be, as an eye-opening account of the songwriting process and the claustrophobia of the tour bus, this is a must for all music fans. It’s also a source of insight into why, despite bust-ups, cigarettes flicked into eyes, and nightmarish recording sessions, anyone would dream of staying in a band years after the fun has stopped.
A book to stop people reading DAN BROWN
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane – Andrew Graham-Dixon
‘Thriller’ isn’t necessarily a word people readily associate with art history, but Andrew Graham-Dixon’s biography of Caravaggio is precisely that: A high-octane page-turner that comfortably matches The Da Vinci Code for fakes and forgeries, intrigue, stabbings, and romance—all with the added bonus of being written without prose stodgier than the worst of Christmas puddings. Conspiracy lovers drawn to Brown’s fantastical talk of ancient codes will enjoy reading about the signs and secrets Caravaggio really hid within his paintings.
A book for a MOODY TEENAGER
The Purple Cloud – M. P. Shiel
For moody teens the Home Alone films are a slice of festive wish-fulfilment, and M P Shiel’s classic apocalyptic novel works on a similar, albeit darker, principle. When humanity is destroyed by a cloud of poisonous purple gas survivor Adam Jeffson is left to his own devices, free to act as he pleases in a world shorn of grown-ups. Admittedly he does this by setting cities alight and watching them burn, rather than eating pizza and tormenting hotel staff, but Shiel’s story perfectly captures both the exhilaration and the tragedy of solitude. Sullen souls will love this marvellously bleak book, but don’t be surprised if, after 30 minutes in their room spent reading of a world with no electricity, nobody to do the washing, and no parental taxi service, they come down to watch the Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special with you.
A book for CAT/DOG LOVERS
Cat Sense/In Defence of Dogs – John Bradshaw
Cats versus Dogs. It’s an age-old divide that people tend to sit firmly on either side of, but happily enough biologist John Bradshaw has written a book to satisfy each camp. Neither Cat Sense nor In Defence of Dogs is an instruction manual for how to tame unruly pets, but rather a distillation of Bradshaw’s 25 year career into a treasure-trove of fact, history, and case studies of the incredible roles these creatures often play in our lives. At worst these books will entertain, but they could also radically alter the reader’s understanding of the way their pet experiences the world.
A book for THE FAMILY FILM BUFF
The Wes Anderson Collection – Wes Anderson
For fans of Wes Anderson’s work this is a real treat: 350 sumptuously illustrated pages, filled with storyboards, costume designs, colour palettes, and behind the scenes photographs. Anyone familiar with Anderson’s films won’t be surprised to find this fastidiously put together. These previously uncollected bits and bobs combine to provide a real insight as to how the director of classics like The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou turns his vision into film.
A book for the WANNABE MASTERCHEF
The Flavour Thesaurus – Niki Segnit
Anyone whose office Christmas party found them in a karaoke bar will be painfully aware that knowing all the words to I Will Survive Know doesn’t necessarily make someone Gloria Gaynor. In a similar vein, The Flavour Thesaurus is an ideal gift for a relative who owns all the Jamie Oliver cookbooks, but hasn’t quite hit the culinary heights of the Naked Chef. Much more than a standard recipe book, The Flavour Thesaurus contains entries for hundreds and hundreds of ingredients, and offers suggestions (ranging from the classic to the bizarre) as to what they can be combined with. An ideally timed gift that will offer guidance as what to do with that miscellany of leftovers Christmas guarantees.
And for YOUR RELATIVE THAT HATES BOOKS
A Terry’s Chocolate Orange
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