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Christmas Books: Your essential gift guide


With the festive season fast approaching and books a popular gift for friends and family, TCWDF’s Literary Editor presents a selection of past and present offerings that will leave no one disappointed.

BOOKS written by and about politicians are a rich seam in the literary mine, offering valuable insights into a world inaccessible to most. Many will be familiar with works by Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher, but it is sometimes manuscripts penned by parliamentarians about subjects outside Westminster which offer unique glimpses into their personalities and what drives them.

Theresa May’s The Lost Art of Charisma (self-published) is an admittedly slim volume – almost a booklet, in which ex-Prime Minister May delivers simple-to-learn tips and tricks on engagement with people in social and business situations.

Readers might find certain suggestions a trifle obvious, particularly the proposal that shaking someone’s hand at a first meeting and asking, ‘How are you?’ is a good icebreakerMore practical is the chapter on dealing with people who have a differing opinion from your own. Aficionados of dinner parties might well like the idea of hiding the car keys of truculent guests as punishment. A perfect stocking filler for Christmas.

In the hotly contested field of children’s books, Diane Abbott’s classic Fun with Numbers (Abacus Publishing) cannot be bettered for parents whose offspring struggle with the rudiments of arithmetic. Recommended for age 5 and under.

New to novels is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with his recently published Mike and The Magic Money Tree (Fantasy Publishing). The story revolves around the young Mike who sees a world which can be improved only by spending money. In the enchanted forest he discovers a large tree groaning with £50 leaves. Plucking the notes and taking them home he is determined to ‘do good’ for his friends and family. Younger readers might find the book’s ending – the ruination of Mike’s village, Jeremy the Giant’s ascent and the enslavement of its people – slightly upsetting.

Boris Johnson is no stranger to authorship and his exemplary study Rules, Regulations and Regimes (Phoney Publishing) examines the role of government in promulgating a framework for society to live within. Much of the first half is given over to historical references and in particular, analysis of a raft of Victorian legislation. The second half is a far easier read, delivering an entertaining overview of when rules can be ‘bent’ to suit political needs. Younger readers will find the 3D pop-up map of Barnard Castle and the accompanying ‘miracle spectacles’ quite enchanting.

There has been much anticipation and speculation surrounding the Duchess of Sussex’s autobiography Me, Myself, Personally (Virtue Publishing). This lengthy (987 pages) volume is from the start a completely riveting read. Her early career is well covered, particularly the struggles she endured on Deal or No Deal.

She chronicles in unstinting detail the agonising difficulties in learning lines for her role in Suits, while her revelations gleaned from her long service to the British Monarchy are of particular pertinence.

Meghan (as she likes to be called) is a gifted and talented observer of people and places. In reading parts of this book, one is reminded by her astuteness and sharpness of admired diarists such as Clark and Channon, yet some disclosures come as a real surprise. Who would have known that the Duke of Kent prefers sandwiches with the crusts removed?

The Prince of Wales is an admired activist for climate change, and he has co-authored an important book with national treasure Sir David Attenborough. You’re All Going To Be Burned Alive (Doom Publishing) is a thoughtful and somewhat provocative read for parents and children alike. It is packed with awe-inspiring aerial photography, graphs, charts and a host of irrefutable data from the IPCC. On finishing this book the reader will immediately set the sat-nav for Beachy Head.

Greta Thunberg, despite her advancing years, has not slowed down her indefatigable output and authored two terrific books which will go down a storm with eco-conscious consumers.

Eat Your Way to Net Zero (Crackers Publishing) is a compendium of advice, recipes and calorie counting which if followed correctly will see you shed seven kilos in seven days – or, as she calls it, seven days to save your figure.

Her equally important manual Make Your House Carbon Neutral, NOW! (Barking Publishing) will appeal to DIY enthusiasts eager to do their bit in the climate emergency fight. Chapters offer practical advice for all members of the family. Constructing your own earth toilet is an endeavour that children will happily take part in – whilst erecting a wind turbine on the roof is best left to the head of the household.

Finally, it’s hard to imagine a world without the BBC and this year the much-loved institution celebrates its centenary. 100 – NOT OUT!  A Century of Brilliance (BBC Books) is a detailed history of the Corporation from its early days as a radio broadcaster to the behemoth it is today. Chapter One quotes from a survey undertaken across a broad spectrum of society to gauge what the BBC means to the population. We learn that the BBC is recognised across the land as ‘honest, impartial, vital, informative, campaigning, important, relevant, innovative, supportive and above all outstanding value for money’.

This authoritative study tells the BBC’s story, as one distinguished former Director General correctly called it a ‘journey of continual improvement’, from Civilisation, The Ascent of Man and Play for Today to Strictly Come Dancing, The Voice and McIntyre’s Big Night.

The BBC’s lauded radio output is comprehensively annotated, and whilst some older listeners might find fault with the institution and wistfully recall presenters such as Jack de Manio and Cliff Michelmore, the more important younger audience lap up the dynamic offerings of Radio 6 Music.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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