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Books of the Year: another chapter

If our annual Books of the Year selection wasn't enough in itself to satisfy your literary hunger, here - exclusively online at HeraldScotland.com - are a few more recommendations from Herald writers, columnists and regular reviewers.

Martin Wishart, chef and Herald columnist

Another year that seems to have passed far too quickly has not hindered chefs from publishing more of their favourite recipes. Tom Kitchin has written a wonderful collection of recipes in his latest book called Kitchin Suppers (Quadrille, £20). I particularly like the way Tom has used a lot of Scottish ingredients and all the dishes are served on crockery that's been made in Scotland.

Another great cookbook book of 2012 is titled The Square: The Cookbook Vol 1 Savoury (Absolute Press, £40). It's written by my good friend Philip Howard, chef and owner of the fabulous two-Michelin-starred restaurant in London called The Square. Phil has written a extensive repertoire of his dishes from 21 years' service at the stoves from the kitchen. The Square's kitchen has thundered along relentlessly in that time producing some of the best food in London.

The book itself has some simple and easy to follow recipes to satisfy the fussiest of friends. For example - wild salmon with broad beans, asparagus and Jersey royals. It also has some complex and daring dishes to intrigue the family epicure.

Chris Dolan, author

Paul Preston's Spanish Holocaust (HarperPerennial, £9.99) is an extraordinarily meticulous chronicling of the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and a quantum step forward in our understanding of that conflict. Despite the shocking numbers and blood dripping from every page, Preston's writing and scholarship holds you in a tight if horrified grip.

Another scrupulously documented and compelling history is Andrea Stuart's Sugar In The Blood (Portobello, £18.99), tracing her own family back through indenture in the Caribbean (a subject close to my heart) while exploring the barbarism of colonialism and the troubled relations between black slave and white servant.

In this short-list last year I said I was saving up Jane Harris's Gillespie And I (Faber, £7.99) for the holidays. I'd loved The Observations so much I worried that the follow-up couldn't possibly be as good. It's better. Richer in tone, more ambitious and complex, Harris pulls off that Scottish literary trick of being both popular and masterly.

But the event of the year must surely be the publication of Alasdair Gray's Every Short Story 1951–2012 (Canongate, £30). It's a beautiful thing, packed with his illustrations, it contains 16 new tales. Gray claims they are his last. But reading this book makes you an optimist – I don't believe him.

Harry Reid

Author and former editor of The Herald

Not all economists write lucidly, but Dambisa Moyo certainly does. In How The West Was Lost (Penguin, £9.99) the brilliant Harvard- and Oxford-educated Zambian indicts, with succinct power, the way the West has frittered away a sumptuous legacy. She tells a sorry story of greed, over-consumption and the reckless piling up of debt. Even now, we are complacent about the coming cataclysm. Her short book is an urgent, eloquent wake-up call.

Meanwhile, the Irish-American novelist Dennis Lehane stalks that chancy territory between fine literature and classic crime fiction, ground once splendidly occupied by the likes of Dashiell Hammett and James Crumley. He's a worthy successor to them both. His Live By Night (Little Brown, £16.99) is less impressive than his masterpiece The Given Day (2008), but it's still a smashing read. The dialogue crackles, the pace is relentless and it's genuinely poignant.

Ruth Wishart, journalist

You might imagine, given his experiences, that the Middle East is not territory in which John McCarthy wanted to spend much more time. In fact the region continues to exert a powerful fascination for him. You Can't Hide The Sun (Bantgam, £20) tells of his extensive travels in Israel and Palestine. The most arresting sections are conversations with Palestinians who chose to remain in Israel following partition.

It makes an interesting companion piece to Ilian Pappe's earlier The Ethnic Cleansing Of Palestine (One World, £11.99).

David Maranis's exploration of the Barack Obama back story, The Making Of The Man (Atlantic, £25), amongst much else, puts paid to the ravings of the US "birther" movement which denies the President's American credentials. There's a danger of being subsumed by detail, but it's worth the effort.

Rather more accessible for political junkies is the very new e-book from Washington Post staffer Dan Balz. Obama Versus Romney: "The Take" On The 2012 Election (Diversion Books, £3.20) is really a stitching together of his campaign dispatches and backstage interviews, but none the worse for that.

Rodge Glass, author

I've tried to read more for pleasure this year, so have finally got round to some ones I've been meaning to get to for years – like Bulgakov's The Master And Margarita (Penguin, £8.99); also Roberto Bolano's short story collection Last Evenings On Earth (Vintage, £7.99). But my favourite books of 2012 were received at random from the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

This year I chaired several writers including Howard Jacobson, whose Zoo Time made me laugh more than any other book I can remember in years. But my favourites were those of Jeet Thayil (recently shortlisted for the Booker) and Teju Cole, both authors appearing at the one event in Charlotte Square Gardens. Thayil's Narcopolis (Faber, £12.99) showed Bombay in all its corrupt, addictive chaos, Cole's Open City (Faber, £7.99) showed New York's own particular chaos as experienced by a cultured, thoughtful Nigerian immigrant walking through its streets, eyes upwards, moving slowly and taking it all in.

I wouldn't have known about either of these novels, both of which have been hugely successful, if I hadn't been sent them by EIBF – so for my fix of international, quality fiction which has made me rethink my own view of the world, I'm thankful to them. Good books make writers rethink the kind of writers they want to be.

Hugh Macdonald, chief sports writer, The Herald

The story of Barack Obama enters another chapter with his re-election, and it is to be hoped that it spurs David Maraniss to continue the extraordinary biography that he started with Barack Obama: The Making Of The Man (Atlantic, £25). This prodigious work of reporting stretches to 700 pages yet leaves the future president on the steps of Harvard Law School. Maraniss now has the opportunity to treat Obama with the same historical and intellectual rigour as Robert A Caro afforded Lyndon B Johnson.

The Lower River by Paul Theroux (Hamish Hamilton, £18.99) is a novel full of menace and broken dreams, both American and African. Like all Theroux's writing, it seems intensely personal but is informed by universal human concerns. A very honourable mention, too, to Alex Danchev's Cezanne: A Life, a work of purpose and subtlety (Profile, £30).

Keith Bruce, arts editor of The Herald

Airily dismissed as "a pamphlet" when he was in Glasgow to address the Chamber Music Matters conference this summer, Music As Alchemy by Tom Service (Faber, £18.99) is another very thoughtful interview-based primer to set beside Thomas Ades: Full Of Noises. Six of the world's finest living conductors are under the spotlight here, and Service brings real depth of insight into what makes each of them important and quite distinctly gifted. If you have often wondered whether the chap (usually) on the podium is entirely necessary, here is the explanation.

In a different part of the forest, Mark Fisher's The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: How To Make Your Show A Success (Methuen, £9.99) pulls off the remarkable trick of being entirely truthful and authoritative and still making the whole mad idea of competing in the bear pit sound a sane notion.

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