Because it doesn't matter how crazy your family are when you've got a cracking book for company - Anna Hart picks out the best of the bunch to enjoy over the holidays..
Letters of Note by Shaun Usher
£10.30 Kindle Edition, amazon.co.uk
The perfect dip-in-dip-out book to snuggle on the sofa with, this is a glorious anthology of witty, heartbreaking, intimate and inspiring letters of note by people of note. This volume includes Gandhi urging Hitler to reconsider war, Queen Elizabeth II's recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower and Iggy Pop's surprisingly heartfelt words of comfort to a young fan. The luxuriously designed hardback form, £30, is a failsafe Christmas gift for anyone with a soul.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
£6.99 Kindle Edition, amazon.co.uk
Tartt's The Secret History was a 1990s must-read, and The Goldfinch, her first novel in 11 years, is one of the most talked-about books of the year. A coming-of-age book at heart, the life story of New Yorker Theo Decker (who in the first chapter survives a terrorist attack that kills his mother) explores classic Tartt themes of contemporary lives hijacked by an obsession with the past and the human compulsion to impose some sort of meaning on both life and death.
Straight White Male by John Niven
£6.64 Kindle Edition, amazon.co.uk
If you're starting to feel a little bit suffocated by the unmitigated tweeness of Christmas, consider this blistering satire a lungful of cold, fresh air. Centering on the life of a spoiled, successful, sexed-up writer, Kennedy Marr, Straight White Male is a pointed, caustic takedown of the film industry, publishing and academia. But mostly, it's very, very funny.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
£6.30 Kindle Edition, amazon.co.uk
Author Eleanor Catton won this year's Man Booker for this lengthy, elaborate narrative centering on New Zealand's short-lived gold rush, and at just 27 she was the youngest ever winner. Catton names Victorian sensationalist Wilkie Collins as an influence, and The Luminaries is a curiously timeless creation, richly evoking a 19th century world and spinning together tales of gold, greed and grit.
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
£8.99 Kindle Edition, amazon.co.uk
This extravagantly beautifully-written debut novel by London-born, Yale-educated Ghanaian-Nigerian Selasi tells the story of the Sai family, torn apart by pride and love and then united in grief. It's a novel to be savoured; on every page you'll read something so gorgeous, you'll go back to the start of the paragraph so you can do it all over again.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
£7.99 Kindle Edition, amazon.co.uk
Ever wondered what become of Danny, the little boy at the centre of The Shining? Of course you did - just imagine the therapy bills. This year King put a stop to all our imaginings by writing this sequel, around an adult Danny Torrance, with psychic abilities he has long suppressed through drink. It's a more warm-hearted and entertaining novel than The Shining, but it IS Christmas, after all...
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
£6.99 Kindle Edition, amazon.co.uk
"What if we had the chance to do it again and again...until we finally get it right?" asks one of the characters of Atkinson's eighth novel. Life After Life is about being given that chance in life. This wildly inventive, consistently entertaining and often profound exploration of destiny, family and life in a changing, troubled, wartime Britain, will flavour your thoughts for much of the year ahead.
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