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5th December 2023

The ultimate Gift Guide: Books edition

Books are the ideal present for anyone, but faced with the overwhelming amount of choice, we offer a few suggestions from the most popular genres.
The ultimate Gift Guide: Books edition
Photo: Aaron Burden @ Unsplash

As Christmas approaches, so does the sometimes tiresome prospect of buying presents. A book can often be the ideal gift to buy as they are not too expensive but can also be meaningful. So, whether it’s an unfortunate Secret Santa, or simply a family member who you have no idea what to get, this gift guide should help. The Book section has curated a list of their favourite books from the most popular genres, so there’s something for everyone.

Contemporary Fiction – Eleanor Duke

If you’re looking for a contemporary book to give to a loved one this Christmas, I would highly recommend Khaled Hosseini’s second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Like all of Hosseini’s novels (such as the award-winning The Kite Runner), this devastatingly beautiful story is set in Kabul where Hosseini was born, he then moved to Paris and eventually to the US due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Through Hosseini’s stunning but heart-wrenching narrative, he tells the tale of the intertwining lives of two women in Kabul, Mariam and Laila, who have both faced huge challenges and losses over the years. Mariam is married to a man 30 years older than her, and Laila is forced to join her household at the age of 15. I found the book incredibly powerful and emotional, but it is also a very beautiful read. Hosseini is a master when it comes to immersing his readers in the worlds he creates, but the text is also really accessible!

At its core, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story about the strength of female relationships, love, and family. If you’re buying for someone who likes tearjerking and powerful reads, this is a great choice!

Historical Fiction/Gothic – Em Tarasenko

Maybe it’s all about the tradition of telling creepy stories during gloomy winter nights, or maybe we just haven’t enjoyed Halloween enough. For all of you who are tired of sparkling reads, we have the perfect atmospheric gothic novel.

Laura Purcell has a solid reputation as a modern gothic writer and always masters the ‘something here is wrong’ feeling. The Shape of Darkness is no exception, and arguably just an ideal fit for the winter season. Set in the Victorian winter in Bath, it’s got gorgeous architecture and crippling unknown included.

It follows a silhouette painter Agnes, who struggles to keep her art because of the rise of photography. But suddenly, one by one, her rare clients are found dead. Is she cursed? Or maybe someone is targeting her? Is it an unsettling past or a twisted present? She reaches a medium called Pearl to find out, but they might open the door to something they can never put back.

Readers will find out everything with them. This book never spills a secret before it’s time. Not quite a horror, but a page-turning murder mystery with well-written characters and unexpected plot twists, kept for the very last pages of the book. Yes, the very last pages. But it’s atmospheric, picturesque and covered in snow, which makes it the perfect gothic match for the chilly winter season.

Romance – Belle Lewes

Talking at Night is the ultimate book for a Christmas present – something cosy, with a long line of tragedy but a beautiful resolution.

This tragic romance was a 2023 release from Claire Daverley, and I wish more people spoke about it. The novel first meets Rosie and Will when they are both teenagers, completely different but quietly deeply connected. In the wake of tragedy, the two must enter their own directions of life apart from one another, while still staying in contact through letters, long summers together, and heartbreakingly intimate, muted conversation. To me, this novel feels like One Day mixed with Normal People, and Love Rosie.

The connection between the two characters runs far deeper than a superficial teen romance. The duo grows older together even while leading entirely separate lives, connected in the agonising task of facing the world in grief, and negotiating the impossibility of their love. While in parts beautifully sad, this book is a complex, comforting read that thankfully ends in a hopeful resolution. It is exactly what you need over the Christmas period. It’s filled with yearning and unwavering love – an absolute must-read.

Classic – Alice McQuail

If you know someone who has read and loved Rebecca, or who simply enjoys a classic, why not get them Daphne Du Maurier’s 1951 novel My Cousin Rachel? Although not as popular as Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel embodies many of the same themes but with an added layer of intrigue.

Set in Cornwall, the novel follows the young and impressionable Philip after the mysterious death of his beloved older cousin Ambrose. Having inherited his cousin’s estate, Philip reluctantly welcomes Ambrose’s elusive new wife Rachel to come and stay with him, intent on discovering the truth behind his cousin’s death.

In a novel wrought with passion and suspense, Du Maurier expertly creates a fantastically vivid narrative that renders it impossible to stop reading. Like her counterpart Rebecca, Rachel is a particularly beguiling character who, from the moment she is introduced, charms and manipulates both Philip and the reader. It is the perfect present for any classic reader who wants to escape into the beautiful countryside of Cornwall to discover all that Du Maurier’s illustrious characters have to offer.

These novels offer everything from love and friendship to mystery and suspense. So, why not take a trip to your local bookstore to find a gift for your loved ones?

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