Top Ten Books I’d Give as Gifts

“September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying.”

Catherynne Valente

…or, you know, just press into someone’s hands and run off cackling.

  1. A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cosse. It’s a lovely, atmospheric, gentle book about books, and book-love, and how reading can save us, and it’s a contemporary with wide appeal. Plus, people are unlikely to have run across it before as it’s a translation (from the French).
  2. Jack Glass – Adam Roberts. Murderers and locked room mysteries IN SPACE! I can imagine some people who wouldn’t like this, but NOT THAT MANY.
  3. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell. I think this is pretty much self-explanatory. It’s brilliant, moving fiction that’s also very accessible (well, barring the long stretch of dialect in the middle, which admittedly takes some getting used to), and there’s a genre in there for everyone.
  4. Collected Poems 1909-1962 – T.S. Eliot. I just think the brown-paper Faber edition is beautiful, with its high-quality creamy pages, and Eliot is a classic (if not the easiest of poets to read).
  5. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett. Or, you know, any of the pre-Snuff Discworld books: they are funny and humane and clever and there’s a whole world waiting to be discovered there and I am literally insanely jealous of anyone who gets to discover them for the first time.
  6. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente. Everyone should read this book: it is just such a wonderful, original fairytale, written in luminous, beautiful prose, casting sharp shadows against marshmallow brightness.
  7. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier. Another classic, hypnotic, disturbing and involving, an apparently realist novel with a darker undertone.
  8. Temeraire – Naomi Novik. A solid fantasy novel, exactly the kind of thing you want to give as a gift: well-characterised, carefully period-specific without being dull, full of adorable baby dragon, and not too weird.
  9. The Gormenghast Trilogy – Mervyn Peake. You can get some beautiful editions of Peake’s work, and they’d make great gifts to the right person – heady, all-encompassing and intensely compelling Gothic fiction.
  10. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens. As we all know, a good Dickens novel makes a great gift, and Our Mutual Friend is, I think, his best, for its anger, its humour, its sentimentality and the careful links it weaves between all its characters.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

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