Shopping: Christmas presents

Books for impossible folk who read everything:

Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen. This tells you how to make butter and keep chickens and make the perfect roast potato. Bits of it are incredibly useful and bits of it are in the realms of fantasy for many of us, but all of it is wonderful reading. (£17 from

Ravilious in Pictures Sussex and the Downs by James Russell. A treasure of a book celebrating the wonderful English watercolourist Ravilious, and his paintings of the chalk downlands of southern England. (£23 from

The Poetry of Birds, edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee. This isn’t a brand new anthology (it came out in 2009) but it’s still up there with the best, and we bet that whoever you might think of giving it to, hasn’t got it yet. (£17 from

Dogs in Vogue by Judith Watt. Also not brand new. Also brilliant. Great photographs, great social history (Judith Watt is an academic as well as an extremely witty writer), and great dogs. (£22 from

Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A New Commentary by Don Paterson. Released last month, Paterson brings a fresh approach which makes for great dip-in and dip-out reading. (£9.35 on

The Selby is in Your Place by Todd Selby. Ultra hip Todd Selby’s photographs of ultra hipsters. You’d think then it would be too cool for school. But it’s great. More fantasy, of course. (£13 from

Life: Keith Richards by Keith Richards. The rock musician’s romp starts with getting arrested for taking drugs in Alabama and gets even funnier from there on in. A must for anybody who is the least bit interested in the ultimate rock’n’roller. (£9 from

The Lost Diaries by Craig Brown. Give this to someone and as soon as they unwrap it, they’ll start reading it out loud. You think you’ve found the funniest diary entry – JohnPrescott or the Duchess of Devonshire, but then you turn the page and it gets funnier still. (£8 from

Presents for just plain impossible folk:

Here is just a small selection of things from some of our favourite shops and websites, all of which are worth trawling through for presents for children, mother-in-laws, sisters, hostesses, our bosses and those folk who are just generally difficult to shop for.

Silver glass fish decorations from Few and Far Between, £10

Bag that says what’s what from the National Portrait Gallery shop, £4

The BBC’s Sherlock Holmes series on DVD, from Amazon, £13

Portrait Paperweight from Ben Pentreath, £25

Teapot from Summerill and Bishop, £89

Ffliff Carr ceramics, from £15

Paint Your Own Russian Dolls, from the V & A Museum Shop, £12

Hand Embroidery on linen Butterfly cushion, from Fine Cell Work, £85 – £150

Fashion Editors Finger Puppets, from Rubbish, £50

David Beckham fridge magnet from the National Portrait Gallery Shop, £3.50

Thornback and Peel cushion, £60

Melograno Bath Oil by Ortiga, £26 from Few and Far

Selection of nikky-nakky-noos from Cox and Cox, from £3

Hand made 18 carat yellow and white gold necklace by Sia Taylor, £525

Tiny, mobile Poloroid Pogo Digital Printer, £17 from

— Francesca
2nd December 2010