It was my idea of heaven yesterday when I joined Lesley Dolphin on the Afternoon Programme at BBC Radio Suffolk to present my recommendations for books for Christmas!
And this year I think the selection of titles is exceptional. There were too many to mention, of course, so I hope people will get in touch if they want to know more. But Lesley dedicated lots of time for me to chatter on about my shortlist of 12 and I hope I gave a broad enough spread for listeners to have some of their Christmas gifts sorted.
So here's top of my list: 'The Poetry Pharmacy' by William Sieghart. A beautiful, bright orange, cloth bound pocket book with a short essay about a 'complaint' on one side and a remedial poem on the other. It's just wonderful!
'Secret Gardens of East Anglia' by Barbara Segall is the most glorious coffee table gardening book! There are 22 houses and gardens here and accompanying the beautiful photography are accounts of the owners, the designers and the histories of these properties and grounds. Beautiful!
'Another Year with Plumdog' by Emma Chichester Clark is a year in the life of a children's illustrator with her beloved dog, Plum. This is such a lovely book. I'm not a dog-owner but I can pore over the pages of this book for hours - the detail of the drawings, the colours, the designs, and the adventures of lovable, mischievous Plum.
'50 Things to do with a Penknife' by Matt Collins. A beguiling bright hardback packed with ideas outlined in clear instructions and illustrations. Lots to keep you busy if you feel like doing some whittling!
'The Secret Life of Cows' by Rosamund Young is a surprise hit. Beautifully written, first explaining the pros and cons of different types of farming livestock, and then relating delightful anecdotes about the funny goings on of cows on Rosamund's family farm. I giggled when I read about a cow playing hide and seek, darting behind trees as she spotted Rosamund walking through her field!
'This is Going to Hurt' by Adam Kay. I have to confess that I haven't yet read this book, but I've heard such good things about it that it's currently top of my list. It's about life as a junior doctor. It's a funny but also shocking account, and has proved a bestseller.
'Moonrise' by Sarah Crossan is something for young adult readers, and particularly something to try for those who struggle to invest the time in reading a novel. It's a stunningly packaged small hardback about a young man on death row in America. He's been estranged from his family but his younger brother moves to the town nearby to be able to visit in the prisoner's last days. Sounds grim but it's amazing! And not least because the story is told in free verse! So quick and easy to read, but so powerful. Everyone should read this book!!
For young children, there are so many books I could mention, but I opted to highlight the titles illustrated by Emily Sutton, because I love her work. In picture paperback there is 'The Christmas Eve Tree' by Delia Huddy, and in hardback, new out is 'One Christmas Wish' by Katherine Rundell. Adults will love them too!
A couple of novels would make lovely gifts this year. 'The Maid's Room' by Fiona Mitchell is set in Singapore it looks at the ex-pat community and their maids. It's rather like 'The Help'. It has a beautiful cover and is a great read but is also quite disturbing as this is based on the author's experience. And 'The Music Room' by Rachel Joyce - the author of 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' has written another delightful saga, this time set in a record shop!
'WTF' by Robert Peston. As I'm looking forward to hosting the author, the tv journalist Robert Peston when he speaks to us in Woodbridge in the new year I can't miss this book off my list. It's his interpretation of the events that have led to our current turbulent political situation in the west, and how he sees things looking forward. It's very readable, and fascinating. Each time I read a chapter I bombard friends and family with all I've learned!
So many other books I could mention, but that's all for now. But get in touch if you have a specific request!