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Holiday reads: Books to enjoy and gift this Christmas

Holiday reads: Books to enjoy and gift this Christmas

Maaza Mengiste

Featuring Hilary Mantel's stunning conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, several Booker nominees and riveting Scottish fiction

Technological advancements have changed the way we do a lot of things – but we still like to sit with a good book the old fashioned way. They've proven to be wonderful companions in 2020, whether its page turning fiction, bone-chilling crime, or reflective non-fiction. We run down some of our favourite titles from this year, whether you're looking for presents for loved ones or something for yourself.

Holiday reads: Books to enjoy and gift this Christmas

Hilary Mantel


Hilary Mantel – The Mirror and the Light
Hotly anticipated, to put it mildly, the final part of Mantel's trilogy (which follows the Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies) covers the tragic, final years of Tudor politican Thomas Cromwell's life. It is to historical fiction what Harry Potter was to books about wizarding schools.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon.

Abi Daré – The Girl With The Louding Voice
This is a remarkable novel, even more so when you consider that Daré's harrowing tale of forced marriage, domestic slavery and corruption in her native Nigeria is her debut effort. An important statement, grounded in facts and true stories, from a bright new talent.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library
Haig's optimistic brand of speculative fiction has won him legions of fans and he's admired as much for his writing as for his openness in talking about mental health issues. The Midnight Library is fantastical in its premise but grounded in the everyday struggles of millions. Ultimately it's a celebration of life and all its possibilities.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

David Mitchell – Utopia Avenue
Mitchell's eighth novel documents the rise and fall of a fictional psych-rock band called Utopia Avenue, and with great enthusiasm for the revolutionary creative spirit of the 1960s he brings to life. You'll believe in everything about this band, with all their personal flaws, occasionally trite lyrical content and undeniable passion for their craft.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

Maaza Mengiste – The Shadow King
Nominated for this year's Booker prize (and endorsed heartily by previous winners Salman Rushdie and Marlon James), Mengiste's powerful exploration of womanhood during wartime, set during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, is beautiful and horrifying by turns.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

Holiday reads: Books to enjoy and gift this Christmas

Douglas Stuart

Scottish Fiction

Andrew O'Hagan – Mayflies
A book that perfectly describes non-romantic love, the bonds formed over films, music and hedonistic nights out, and the many forms that grief takes. Up there with the best of O'Hagan's books, you'll laugh heartily and shed a tear or two by the end.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon.

Kirstin Innes – Scabby Queen
Immersive, ambitious and big-hearted, Innes' second novel follows the folk-singer and political firebrand Clio Campbell and weaves her story amidst the backdrop of five turbulent decades in the United Kingdom. A sharp, fiercely funny novel with a protagonist you won't forget in a hurry.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon.

David Keenan – Xstabeth
Following This Is Memorial Device (finally, someone documented the post-punk history of… Airdrie and Coatbridge) and For The Good Times (which found the darkest comedy from the depths of the Northern Irish conflict), Keenan's hot streak continues with this bold effort that travels between St. Andrews and Russia, taking in on the metaphysics of golf and the power of art and music.
Available from Amazon.

Douglas Stuart – Shuggie Bain
You know you've written something great when the First Minister chooses your work to read (and praise) with the limited downtime she has. Born in Glasgow, now based in New York, Douglas Stuart's novel goes back to 1981 and is a love letter to his home city at a troubled moment in time, a ruthless depiction of poverty and, also, a stirringly hopeful text.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon.

Ali Smith – Summer
The concluding entry in Smith's seasonal quartet (each book written and published in just a few months) is one of the first substantial works of fiction to respond to the myriad crises of 2020. Like the preceding entries in the quartet, Summer is about time. Both the changing of the seasons, but also the unique moment we're living in. A special end to a uniquely pioneering series.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon.

Holiday reads: Books to enjoy and gift this Christmas

Ian Rankin

Crime and Thrillers

Ian Rankin – A Song For The Dark Times
Detective Inspector John Rebus is retired from the police force now, and Rankin's new book - the 23rd in the series – talks you through his new routine, golf, horticulture, baking… just kidding. Rebus is still solving mysteries, and his latest is one of his most personal investigations to date.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon.

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club
Mr Pointless himself joins the growing list of celebrities diversifying into the world of crime fiction. His debut has all the sharp wit you'd expect based on his TV persona, and within the pages of this offbeat mystery there's an important message we'd all be wise to heed – don't underestimate the elderly.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon.

Francine Toon – Pine
Winner of the McIlvanney Prize at this year's Bloody Scotland, Toon's sinister gothic novel, which recalls both the haunting work of Shirley Jackson and the thrillingly plot-driven work of Gillian Flynn, was worthy of the coveted prize. Set in the Scottish highlands, the bleak landscapes are a character in themselves and the suspense is expertly built.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

Andrew J Greig – Whirligig
Also shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize was Whirligig, Andrew J Greig's take on tartan noir. It's a story of secrets, lies and corruption in a sleepy Highland community, a poetic yet gritty read from a newcomer to the genre. This is unlikely to be the last we hear of DI James Considine and his close-knit team.
Available from Abe Books

Tana French – The Searcher
Born in Vermont but based in Ireland since 1990, French's excellent stand-alone The Wych Elm showed a bright future outside of her acclaimed Dublin Murder Squad series. The Searcher is another accomplished slice of crime writing, where small-town secrets coax a retired detective out to investigate – against all of his instincts and better judgement.
Out Thu 5 Nov

Holiday reads: Books to enjoy and gift this Christmas

Barack Obama


Barack Obama – The Promised Land
Two years ago Michelle Obama's Becoming was so popular that everyone seemed to get three or four copies for Christmas. Now it's her husband's turn to have the most talked about book of the winter, and we expect similar results. The first of a two-part memoir, it's a frank and extraordinary intimate account of his rise to the U.S presidency and life in the White House.
Out Tue 17 Nov

Raynor Winn – The Wild Silence
An unflinching follow up to the bestselling phenomenon The Salt Path, a moving book about terminal illness, homelessness and the natural world. The Wild Silence is another beautifully poignant read about triumph over adversity, and adjusting to life after immense change.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

Lee Lawrence – The Louder I Will Sing
A vital story about an important, and lesser known, moment in British history. Lee Lawrence was 11-years-old when his mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police, sustaining injuries that meant she would never walk again. The incident sparked the Brixton riots. This powerful memoir follows Lawrence's fight for justice, both for his mother and for racial equality in his country.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

Deborah Orr – Motherwell
The final work from the late Scottish journalist is aptly titled, documenting the complexity of her relationship with her mother, reflecting on her own experiences of motherhood, and depicting life in the working-class town in which she grew up. Brash, bold and brilliant, it's a fitting legacy for a phenomenally talented writer, a book that'll be read and re-read in years to come.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

Bob Woodward – Rage
Whether you want to read Rage will depend on how much more you can stomach hearing about the commander-in-chief. If reportage on the chaos of the Trump administration is your thing, look no further. Woodward, a legend of political journalism, has uncovered some incredible material during hundreds of hours of interviews – and the result is an essential document of an extraordinary four years.
Available from Abe Books and Amazon

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