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The Best Books to Go Under the Christmas Tree

Richard Hopton shares his edit of books

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Richard Hopton chooses books for Christmas to enlighten, inform and amuse…


A.N. Wilson’s Aftershocks is set against the backdrop of a devastating earthquake in a country that strongly resembles New Zealand. It’s a teasing, cerebral novel which has much to say about religion, death and loss. Atlantic Books, £16.99

A.N. Wilson’s Aftershocks


There are numerous biographies of the Queen, but Robert Hardman’s Queen of the World examines her role as an international figure against the background of 65 years of royal tours and state visits to all corners of the globe. Century, £25

Robert Hardman’s Queen of the World


If you pick one history book this year, let it be Christopher Andrew’s The Secret World, a monumental history of intelligence from biblical times to the present day. Intelligence has rightly been called the ‘missing dimension’ of history and it’s now more relevant than ever. Gripping. Allen Lane, £35

Christopher Andrew’s The Secret World


War Gardens by Lalage Snow is a remarkable book about gardens in Gaza, the West Bank, Afghanistan and Ukraine. It’s a powerful testament to the healing balm of gardening and the resilience of the human spirit in the direst of circumstances. Quercus, £20

War Gardens by Lalage Snow


Born to Ice is a stunning collection of Paul Nicklen’s photographs of the landscape and wildlife of the polar regions. Their serene beauty compels reflection on the environmental disaster gathering pace in these far-flung parts. teNeues, £80

Born to Ice


Arabia, Levison Wood’s account of his journey around the Middle East during the winter of 2017, gives a vivid picture of this ancient and beautiful but sad, war-torn and misunderstood region. Hodder & Stoughton, £25


Derek Pringle played cricket for England in the 1980s alongside titans of the game like Ian Botham and David Gower. Pushing the Boundaries is a rumbustious account of an era before training schedules, isotonic drinks and early nights. Hodder & Stoughton, £20

Pushing the Boundaries


Have You Eaten Grandma? is a pocket guide to good English. Gyles Brandreth is a witty and well-informed guide to the vagaries of English grammar. Heed his words; you won’t regret it. Michael Joseph, £9.99


The Borough Market Cookbook offers recipes which exemplify the benefits of seasonal market shopping. Hodder & Stoughton, £25

MasterChef: The Classics with a Twist is a must for lovers of the cookery show. DK, £25

The Borough Market Cookbook

10. WINE

Wine Reads, edited by Jay McInerney, is a compilation of wine writing from authors as diverse as Auburn Waugh, Roald Dahl and Roger Scruton. Perfect for the literary wine buff. Grove Press, £16.99

Wine Reads


Literary Landscapes, edited by John Sutherland, is a collection of essays which investigates the importance of the setting to a number of well-known novels. The settings are as diverse as rural Wales in Under Milk Wood and the seedy
New York of Bright Lights, Big City. Modern Books, £25

Dear Mr Murray, edited by David McClay, assembles letters from the Murray archive covering more than two centuries of publishing history from Lord Byron to the present day. John Murray, £16.99

Literary Landscapes


Christopher Lloyd’s Absolutely Everything! is a history of the planet, mankind and much else besides for younger readers. It’s informative and fun: my 10-year-old son loved it. What on Earth Books, £16.99

Absolutely Everything!


What I Lick Before Your Face by Jamie Coleman is a book of haikus for dog lovers. Bantam Press, £11.99

Whisky Made Me Do It by Lance Mayhew is a collection of 60 whisky-based cocktails, ideal for warding off any festive blues. Harper, £9.99

On This Day in History by Dan Snow gives you something to ponder or celebrate on every day of the year. John Murray, £14.99

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz is a treasure trove of information about the natural world in 2019. Octopus, £10


What I Lick Before Your Face by Jamie Coleman


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