Got a family member you need to get a last-minute gift for? Why not get them a book – at least it’s easy to wrap!
This is Going To Hurt, by Adam Kay
Have a healthcare professional among your family and friends? Even if you don’t, they are sure to enjoy this hilarious journal by ex-doctor, current comedian Adam Kay. In the midst of clearing his old doctor possessions, Kay found a box of journals that he had meticulously written as a junior doctor, from the first day of work to the day he quit. These snippets of hospital life show the gritty, sobering reality of working in the frontlines of the NHS – a great way to give friends and family working in healthcare a warm hug to say ‘we know what you go through’.
Even for non-healthcare workers, this is a colourful, irreverent account of a public service that we all encounter at some point in our lives - one that gives an alternative perspective on the profession. However, be warned – the story does not end as lightheartedly as it began, a reminder that ultimately this is a profession that deals with life and death and the very essence of humanity. - JC
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
After years of watching BBC at Christmas time I have been taught to associate two things with fiction during the holiday: fantasy and the Victorian era. The Night Circus has the perfect setting for a Christmas read as it captures both these elements, but it also carries a winter warmth right down to its core. Two young magicians chose to create a circus as their arena for a life-long battle of skill which they demonstrate with wonderful illusions. A considerable portion of the novel is dedicated to simply describing Morgernstern’s beautiful inventions that it becomes a visually stimulating, cinematic experience. Every other sense is exploited as everything is given sumptuous detail. Les Cirque des Rêves is the perfect place to spend Christmas – a visit to the ice garden, warming your fingers by the bonfire, drinking hot chocolate and eating indulgent treats. I suppose reading this book is as close as you can get to the real thing. - AP
Staying Alive: real poems for unreal times, edited by Neil Astley
This is a brilliant gift for any occasion, be it Christmas or a birthday - and especially for loved ones who might be sailing a rough patch. The very title itself is encouraging, and very accurate - this is an anthology of poems of all kinds that keep one’s feet on the ground, even when the going gets tough. From typical choices like Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’ to fresh surprising finds like Amanda Dalton’s ‘How to Disappear’, the poems are organised into chapters that each address a different theme. For example, ‘Body and Soul’ addresses existential thoughts and meditations on the soul, ‘In and out of love’ sings of romance and heartbreak, while ‘Growing up’ addresses childhood, family and finding oneself, among other themes. There is definitely a poem for every emotion one might go through in life, and thus a versatile present indeed. - JC
Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks
The one book that I’m asking for this year is Uncommon Type. At first, I was slightly anxious that Tom Hanks wouldn’t be able to deliver some good writing, but then I read the first short story of the collection. ‘Three Exhausting Weeks’ is by no means the best piece of work I’ve ever read, but it managed to charm me anyway. It’s a mash of mundane things during a relationship without frills. The characters are entirely plausible and it’s here that I think Hanks will excel in the rest of the collection. Obviously, we know Hanks best as an actor, a job he does astoundingly well. Surely, in essence, writing is the same thing – bringing characters to an audience and making them believable – just by a different medium. Even if he falls short on one story, you can just skip to the next. Maybe that would mean the collection’s not perfect, but it’s a choice that is useful when giving a gift. The themes are broad, from the American Dream to Christmas during World War II: there’s something to interest everyone. - AP