Christmas gifts: books

We love giving and receiving fabulous books for Christmas. But it’s also true that gift-wise, there aren’t many more disappointing things than the  lazily chosen book, hastily wrapped and plonked under the Christmas tree. Here is our guide to getting it right, whether it be for your father-in-law, teenage niece, mum or best friend.

Unseen London by Mark Daly & Peter Dazeley, £20 – £30. Photographer Peter Dazeley has spent four years photographing the hidden interiors of some of London’s most iconic buildings, from Big Ben to the Old Bailey, Henry VIII’s wine cellar to Battersea Power Station. A beautifully produced and fascinating book.


Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People by Hamish Bowles, £20-£30. The stuff of fantasy (the people, the frocks, the flowers, the table settings) combined with insightful essays into the exhibitions themselves, on subjects that range from Punk to Charles James.


Heads and Straights by Lucy Wadham, £5. We buy this coming-of-age book about growing up in Chelsea in the 1970s in bulk and give it to all our girlfriends. Just brilliant.


Stories in the Stars by Susanna Hislop, £13.20 – £20. Haven’t you always wanted to be able to spot star constellations and know the stories and myths behind them? This is just book for that. It’s a guide, an introduction and, most crucially, a seductive invitation to the glory of stargazing.


I Love Your Style by Amanda Brooks, £10 – £13. It’s not new, but still a perfect book, chock-a-block with photos of people with fab style wearing great clothes, for any young (or old) fashion lover.


A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry, £13 – £25. Our favourite cookbook of 2014. Brilliant recipes for food you want to eat all the time, great writing and lovely photographs.


Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan, by Marella Agnelli and Marella Caracciolo Chia, £40. An interiors book, rather than a book of society photographs, but all the better for that. It tells the story of one of the 20th Century’s chicest and most glamorous women (one of the richest too) through her private homes and gardens.


Owls: Our Most Enchanting Birds by Matt Sewell. £7 – £10. Artist Matt Sewell captures our most enchanting birds, indeed, in a few brushstrokes. The text in this little treasure of a book is informative and idiosyncratic too.


Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles, written by Cecil Beaton, edited by Hugo Vickers, £20 – £30. A perfect package. This book combines Beaton’s photographic portraits from the 1920s to the 1960s with his gossipy written descriptions of each subject, taken from his diaries and profiles pieces.


A History of the 20th Century in 100 Maps by Tim Bryars and Tom Harper, £21 – £25. A British Library book, and they always do them so well. A hundred maps – one for each year – many of them rare, have been chosen by the authors to tell the story of the 20th Century. As well as the maps you’d expect – the official depictions of war and ‘tribal maps’ carried by British security forces – this book includes more unusual choices too, such as a map of Tolkein’s Middle Earth. Fascinating stuff.


Middle Class Problems by Benjamin Lee, £7. The subtitle of this book says it all. And Lee hasn’t made a single ‘problem’ up, but instead collected them from Twitter. Great to read aloud while you eat your Christmas dinner. Example: “I’ve heard the kettle boil 3 times now and not once have I been brought a cup of tea. WORST CHRISTMAS EVER.’

For further inspiration do read textile designer and interior decorator Luke Edward Hall’s Guest Blog on his favourite big books, here. We’d be thrilled to unwrap any one of his choices.

More specifically: for more cookbook inspiration, click here. Go here for our favourite ‘reads’ of the year, and for more general book ideas, click here.

— Daisy
10th December 2014