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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Your Indispensable Christmas Books Guide

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With the festive season fast approaching and Christmas commercials dominating TV ad breaks, it is time for the annual burden of choosing presents for friends and relatives. With books a perennial favourite, TCWDF’s literary editor picks three offerings that are sure to find favour across the board.

POLITICAL and non-political observers alike cannot fail to be impressed by the sartorial prowess of the UK’s popular Prime Minister. Elegantly attired whatever the occasion, his style was exemplified on Remembrance Sunday, where in his trademark Max Wall ensemble of half-mast drainpipe trousers and over-sized shoes, he laid a wreath with due solemnity.

First choice therefore must be Rishi Sunak’s A Brief History of Trousers (Ineptus Publishing, £20) an altogether fascinating trawl through the history of this important garment.

Fashion lovers will be thrilled to read the intriguing chapter about jeans, particularly the merits of slim fit over skinny fit, and how to avoid the deadly faux pas of boot cut. Traditionalists are well catered for with an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of fish-tail trousers, and why braces might be making a welcome return. In a contributed  chapter, ‘Let The Braces Take The Strain’, former Conservative MP Lord Soames traces the historical role these indispensable accessories have played.

The book finishes with an engrossing look at how trousers have shaped social attitudes via 20th century music. For me, this is a real eye-opener. There are some songs that one would expect, such as Madness’s Baggy Trousers and Andy Stewart’s haunting lament Donald Where’s Your Troosers? But who knew the real meaning behind Procol Harum’s lyrics for Homburg and the mysterious reference to ‘your trouser cuffs are dirty’?Or indeed Derek and the Dominos’ classic Bell Bottom Blues? Riveting.

Anyone lucky enough to receive this tome at Christmas will be thoroughly delighted.

Verdict: Belt and braces book

Motorists are sadly a disappearing breed – assailed by legislation and financial penalties, the carefree days of happy unfettered motor travel are almost a distant memory. That is why Sadiq Khan’s timely volume, Days Out For Under A Tenner (Tyrant Publishing, £50) is a welcome launch.

Some readers might quibble at the price of the book compared with the content which, by any yardstick, is meagre. However, in these straitened times, Sadiq Khan has given those on a tight budget a long overdue helping hand.

Ingenious and packed with ways to entertain inquisitive children of all ages, this guide will, I confidently predict, be a top seller in the Christmas charts.

For instance, Chapter One, ‘Enjoy your doorstep’,is full of helpful tips and tricks as to how you can maximise your day out by taking advantage of this often-overlooked gem – literally, as Mr Khan says, ‘on your doorstep’.

Chapter Three, ‘Down my way’, is an exploration of the street where you live. Once again, the author’s exhaustive research shines through on every page. Youngsters fond of exploration and games are well catered for with puzzles such as ‘Heads you win, tails ULEZ’, ‘Spot the Camera’ and the interactive ‘Spray It Now!’(The latter pastime is best suited to older children. It should be noted that spray paint is not included.)

Verdict: You Khan do it!

My third choice, and one that I think will capture the attention of those wealthy enough to travel is Sir Keir Starmer’s No Through Road (Janus Publishing, £35).

Although sharing the same title as the voluminous AA Reader’s Digest collaboration, Sir Keir’s tome is an altogether different proposition.

This must be the definitive reference work on cul de sacs, dead ends and road blocks. The absorbing account of how cul de sacs (French for bottom of the sack) came to form such an important part of suburban road planning will leave readers enthralled.

Sir Keir is the perfect navigator for such a journey. With his wry sense of humour, forensic brain and a keen eye for abstract observations, he knows his way down blind alleysbetter than anyone else currently writing in this genre.

His encyclopaedic knowledge of these highways is admirable. With effortless ease he recalls his favourite dead ends where he has enjoyed executing swift reverse manoeuvres. These include:

Nationalise Alley

Outsourcing Crescent

Universal Credit Gardens

Corbyn Drive

Tuition Fee Lane

What is unexpected, though, is how Sir Keir has woven important literary references into this commanding work. The opening lines of Sylvia Plath’s Gigolo are quoted almost reverentially:

Pocket watch, I tick well.

The streets are lizardly crevices

Sheer-sided, with holes where to hide.

It is best to meet in a cul-de-sac,

A palace of velvet

With windows of mirrors.

Perhaps the last words should go to former civil servant and fellow Knight of the Realm Sir Thomas George Barnett Cocks: A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled’.

Verdict: U turn if you want to!

Happy reading!

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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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