Blue Moon by Lee Child (Bantam Press, £20)

A new Jack Reacher novel. The year’s most reliable literary pleasure. A chance to believe that there is one good, capable man out there looking out for us (though it helps if you live in the USA). Blue Moon takes in Ukranian and Albanian gangsters and the kind of clean, brisk violence Reacher fans require.

Agent Running in the Field by John Le Carre (Viking, £20)

Yes, it is a spy novel. But it’s also a bitter, angry attack on Brexit, Trump and Boris Johnson and suggests that its writer, at 88, has no desire to go gentle into that good night. Not that it skimps on the traditional pleasures of a Le Carre novel. He remains the go-to guy for a knowing, insider take on the grubby business of “tradecraft”.


Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99)

Joint winner of this year's Booker Prize (along with Margaret Atwood's The Testaments) Evaristo's novel prompted a Twitter rave from the First Minister: "Beautifully interwoven stories of identity, race, womanhood and the realities of modern Britain. The characters are so vivid, the writing is beautiful and it brims with humanity." If it's good enough for Nicola ...

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury, £18.99)

"There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you'd been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you're suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself." Set in Pennsylvania, Ann Patchett’s latest novel is a family story full of love and pain and insight.

READ MORE: The Herald review of The Dutch House


Dark Skies by Tiffany Francis (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

Subtitled "A Journey into the Wild Night", Tiffany Francis’s book is happily at home in the dark. You can get a sense of the book’s range by looking at the index. The letter B alone takes in badgers, the Battle of Watling Street, the Bayeux Tapestry, Boudicca, the Brontes, Lord Byron and Justin Bieber.

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Sort of Books, £12.99)

Alaska, Tibet, Stromness, eagles, Neolithic farmers. Time and distance are at the heart of Kathleen Jamie’s new book of essays. How close the past still is and how quickly it moves away from us. All of it recorded with a wonderful clarity of observation, thought and expression.

READ MORE: Kathleen Jamie: "I'm not an emotional person"

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Ebury, £16.99)

An unlikely friendship between four characters – boy, mole, fox and horse – is at the heart of Charlie Mackesy’s spellbinding illustrations across themes of mental health, grief, body image, kindness, hope, friendship and cake.

The Secret Life of the Cairngorms by Andy Howard (Sandstone Press, £24.99)

A majestic stag, battling black grouse and the raw power of bounding mountain hares within a snow-strewn landscape are among the breathtakingly beautiful images taken by wildlife photographer Andy Howard in the Cairngorms National Park over the past decade.

READ MORE: Andy Howard on the wildlife of the Cairngorms

Animals by Steve McCurry (Taschen, £50)

McCurry’s photographs are noted for their sometimes hard-won humanity. This handsome collection of his animal-based work shows he is just as clear-eyed and compassionate when it comes to the creatures we share this planet with.


Lucian Freud: A Life, edited by Mark Holborn and David Dawson (Phaidon, £150)

A sumptuous visual memoir of the great painter who may also have been a terror of a man. This collects photographs and paintings and the artist's own words to give you a texture of a life. The smell of the oil paint and charcoal dust floats off the pages.

Great Women Artists (Phaidon, £39.95)

The perfect accompaniment to the current Paula Rego retrospective at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, this Phaidon visual A-to-Z of women artists is a corrective to the testosterone-heavy norm of such books. Instead of Picasso we have Cornelia Parker, instead of Willem de Kooning we get his wife Elaine. The result is a fresh, inspiring romp through art history and the work of 400 artists. And there are lots of Scots to be found within, from Wilhelmina Barns-Graham to Maud Sulter.


Bibliostyle by Nina Freudenberger (Hardie Grant, £25)

Books, as the novelist Anthony Powell once noted, do furnish a room. That idea is celebrated in Bibliostyle, a handsomely illustrated, envy-inducing collection of images of book-filled spaces. Suffice to say, there aren’t many Ikea Billy bookcases to be found here.

Primitive Technology by John Plant (Ebury, £16.99)

For anyone who aspires to being zombie apocalypse ready, this survivalist’s guide to tools, shelters and building things by hand is the very ticket. Learn how to make your own spear thrower, weave a basket and construct a kiln.

Cabin Porn: Inside by Zach Klein (Particular Books, £25)

Wash your dirty mind out. This gorgeous collection of photographs was initially created by a group of cabin-loving friends as an online scrapbook. Cabin Porn: Inside is the second volume, offering images of simple-yet-stunning interiors and architecture.


Bowie's Books by John O'Connell (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

David Bowie was an inveterate bibliophile. This was a man who took a portable library of some 1500 books with him to the set of The Man Who Fell to Earth. In 2013, three years before he died, he revealed the 100 books he considered the most important and influential during his reading life. In Bowie’s Books, journalist John O’Connell examines the titles on the list and uses them to take a fresh look at Bowie’s life and work. 

READ MORE: David Bowie: The Herald Obituary

Fierce Bad Rabbits by Clare Pollard (Fig Tree, £14.99)

An idiosyncratic, deeply personal, loving, yet critical exploration of the history of children’s picture books that takes us from Edward Lear and Der Struwwelpeter to The Gruffalo, via imperial colonialism, Nazi Germany, a surprisingly large number of suicides and Ladybird books.


I, Robot by Peter Crouch (Ebury Press, £20)

The great thing about Peter Crouch – beyond the sense of humour and self-awareness that marks him out – is that he clearly loves the game of football. And so in between all the Mickey Rourke anecdotes and stories about wife Abbey breaking her coccyx and throwing up into a bucket, there’s a pleasure and a fascination with the game itself. The result is funny, yes. But knowledgeable too.

The Three Kings by Leo Moynihan (Quercus, £20)

A reminder of Scotland’s contribution to the beautiful game as filtered through the working lives of three of football’s greatest managers, Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Jock Stein. Leo Moynihan’s inevitably elegiac book is both a memory box and a glimpse into a now lost world.

READ MORE: Hugh MacDonald on The Three Kings


The Little Book of Christmas by Joanna Gray (Quadrille, £6.99)

A tiny book full of Christmas quotations, games and facts. Will maintain your interest rather longer than the Christmas Crackers.

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay (Picador, £9.99)

Christmas comes but once a year. And thank Christ for that, according to former junior doctor-turned-comedian Adam Kay. A hilarious warts-and-all-guide to hospital life over the festive season with tales of black eyes from carelessly popped corks, flesh seared by roasting tins, fairy-light electrocutions, turkey bones trapped in tracheas and baubles stuck in places they shouldn’t be...

The Penguin Book of Christmas Short Stories, edited by Jessica Harrison (Penguin Classics, £20)

An idiosyncratic selection of short stories perfect for any looming Boxing Day boredom. The list of rather superior contributors includes the likes of Truman Capote, Shirley Jackson, Italo Calvino and Dylan Thomas.


Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly (Two Roads, £20)

Billy Connolly’s best routines brought together and put down on the page. They lack the pleasure of the facial expressions, the hair-flicking, the flashes of bad temper and the natural joy of the man himself, but the bubbling humour can’t be missed. Let’s cherish him while we can.

READ MORE: Billy Connolly: A very Scottish story

READ MORE: Ken Smith bids a fond farewell

Herald Diary 2019: A Quacking Good Read by Ken Smith (Black & White, £9.99)

Ken Smith, now, alas, late of this parish, returns with the latest collection of Herald Diary entries to keep you chuckling through to the New Year.

Please Stop Touching Me … and Other Haikus By Cats by Jamie Coleman (Bantam Press, £9.99)

Delightful poetry gems that deftly capture the inner-most secrets of our feline companions and their haughty disdain for the human condition.


Vogue on Location by Vogue Editors (Abrams, £45)

As the title implies, a gather-up of sumptuous imagery from the likes of Irving Penn, Helmut Newton and Annie Leibovitz, accompanied by words from Jan Morris and Truman Capote amongst others. A coffee table book to make you wish your holiday trips could look as good as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Penelope Cruz’s do here. Be warned. Your coffee might get cold because you’re too busy turning the pages.

Issues by Vince Aletti (Phaidon, £75)

Writer and critic Vince Aletti gives us a glimpse into his vast collection of fashion magazines in a book that reproduces layouts from the 1920s to now. Taking in spreads from Harper’s Bazaar, French Vogue, The Face and Arena Homme+ among many others, it’s a vivid, sensuous reminder of the shimmering appeal of glossy pages.

Shoot for the Moon (2019) by Tim Walker (Thames & Hudson, £85)

Christmas is a time for fantasy and no one does it better than fashion photographer Tim Walker. Beautifully designed by Irma Boom, Shoot for the Moon is a startling, often strange, and always seductive smorgasbord of imagery that seems to have been beamed directly from the farthest reaches of Walker’s imagination.

READ MORE: The Wonderful World of Tim Walker


The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (Doubleday, £25)

The author of A Short History of Nearly Everything takes us on a head-to-toe tour of the human body, offering enthralling insight into the intricacies of our physical and neurological design.

Murder Most Florid by Dr Mark Spencer (Quadrille, £16.99)

From unearthing decomposing bodies among bramble bushes to dissecting the vegetation of a shallow grave, forensic botanist Dr Mark Spencer shares the ways that plants can unlock surprising clues to help solve crimes.

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (Little, Brown, £16.99)

If you like puzzles, then this mesmerising novel has them all: human, historical and gloriously mathematical. It charts the life of a woman who seeks to conquer the Riemann hypothesis, a quest that could reveal the truth about her own identity and hidden deeds from the Second World War.

Letters From An Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson (WH Allen, £14.99)

Sure, he may have killed Pluto, but we can forgive him that. Through 101 handpicked letters, Neil deGrasse Tyson reveals his engaging and entertaining correspondence with those who seek him out in search of answers about our place in the cosmos.


Be More Dog by Alison Davies (Quadrille, £7.99)

Wouldn’t life be much better if we were all a little more like dogs? This little book is packed with tongue-in-cheek musings about how to tap into your inner canine.


Frost Fair by Carol Ann Duffy and David De las Heras (Picador, £7.99)

Set in the Great Winter of 1683, Carol Ann Duffy’s latest Christmas poem (evocatively illustrated by David de las Heras) is a vision of a frozen Thames spelled out in words icy sharp. A tiny, glittering extra for Santa’s sack.

The Star in the Forest by Helen Kellock (Thames & Hudson, £11.95)

Glasgow-based illustrator Helen Kellock made her picture book debut this year with The Star in the Forest, a lovely ode to sisterhood, a sense of adventure and the strangeness of woodlands after dark. Kellock is clearly a star in the making herself.


Face It by Debbie Harry (HarperCollins, £20)

Wry, louche, gossipy (you want a story about David Bowie exposing himself? Here you go), emotionally semi-detached, Debbie Harry's memoir is full of rock 'n' roll detail but skimps on the self-analysis. It's also padded out with fan art. Never mind, the text has all the punch and flavour of a Blondie single. There is no better recommendation.

Wham! George and Me by Andrew Ridgeley (Michael Joseph, £20)

"Bad boys stick together ..." Andrew Ridgeley's pop memoir flags up the importance of friendship and reminds us that Wham! had conquered the world and then split up by the age of 23. We're feeling quite inadequate now.


The Sky Atlas by Edward Brooke-Hitching (Simon & Schuster, £25)

One for the curio lover in your life. An illustrated treasury of celestial cartography featuring the greatest astronomical discoveries alongside stories about ancient UFO sightings, winged lunar creatures, a sea above the clouds and an Edwardian aristocrat who mapped alien life on Mars.

The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton (Simon & Schuster, £25)

This inspiring mother-daughter duo list 100 women who have inspired them. Some well-known in the modern era – such as climate activist Greta Thunberg and comedian Ellen DeGeneres – and others from history such as Rosa May Billinghurst, the suffragette who lost the use of her legs and campaigned on a tricycle for the right of women to vote.

Warriors and Witches and Damn Rebel Bitches by Mairi Kidd (Black & White, £14.99)

Another one for lovers of gutsy women, as Mairi Kidd shares stories about determined, brilliant and spirited Scottish women including the polymath and science writer Mary Somerville, doctor and suffragist Elsie Inglis, and the indomitable Lady Agnes Randolph who successfully defended her home, Dunbar Castle, from a siege led by the Earl of Salisbury in 1338.

READ MORE: Mairi Kidd on the Scottish women who stood their ground



Ghostland by Edward Parnell (William Collins, £16.99)

A journey through the landscapes of the British ghost story, as Edward Parnell ventures out to Britain’s moorlands, woods, cemeteries and remote shores in search of the ghosts of authors such as MR James, Arthur Machen and William Hope Hodgson. Robert Burns and The Wicker Man also get a look in along the way. It’s a journey that takes him into his own childhood and circles around his own grief. The result haunts like a glimpse of something seen out of the corner of your eye.

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt (Pushkin Press, £12.99)

A dark, wintry fairy tale about getting lost in a forest. Full of snow and shadows and wolves, it’s best read beside a roaring fire.

Superstition by Sally Coulthard (Quadrille, £12.99)

We all know someone who is forever saluting single magpies, touching wood or throwing spilled salt over their shoulder. An enchanting book that delves into the history of common folk beliefs.


Super Sourdough by James Morton (Quadrille, £20)

Sourdough isn’t just a type of bread; it is akin to a religion. The Great British Bake Off star has written a must-have guide with more than 40 sourdough recipes including loaves and rolls, baguettes, bagels and buns alongside step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting advice.

READ MORE: Face to Face with baker James Morton

Street Food Scotland by Ailidh Forlan (Black & White, £20)

Putting a fresh spin on the notion of meals on wheels, Ailidh Forlan journeys Scotland in search of the best street food, sharing little-known gems and tasty recipes alike.

Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland (Hardie Grant, £25)

John Lewis may have recently stopped selling fish kettles due to lack of demand, but don’t let that be a deterrent. Seafood chef Josh Niland believes we should treat piscine cuisine with the same nose-to-tail reverence as meat.

Where the Wild Cooks Go by Cerys Matthews (Particular Books, £25)

Turns out 6 Music DJ Cerys Matthews is as keen on world cooking as she is on world music. This beautifully presented book collects her “go-to, everyday recipes” collected over a lifetime of travel.

Aran by Flora Shedden (Hardie Grant, £22)

Another Great British Bake Off alumni doing exciting things, Flora Shedden shares simple, modern recipes from her artisan bakery in Dunkeld.

READ MORE: Cate Devine talks to Flora Shedden


My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay (Canongate, £16.99)

“Memories in care are slippery because there’s no one to recall them with as the years pass.” Lemn Sissay’s memoir of a childhood in foster care and care homes, separated from a mother whom, he learns later, had been pleading for his return is heartbreaking, often painful and yet full of forgiveness. Remarkable.

Between The Stops by Sandi Toksvig (Virago Press, £20)

The comedian, broadcaster and activist uses the meandering route of the number 12 bus, winding its way from her home in Dulwich, south-east London, to the BBC headquarters at Broadcasting House, to share a series of wonderful vignettes about her life.

Me by Elton John (Macmillan, £25)

Glorious, obviously. Even those of us who can happily live without hearing the majority of Elton's back catalogue, can't hate a man who can write a line like “I sat around, wanking, in a dressing gown covered in my own puke.” To be fair he has had help from his ghost writer Alexis Petridis, but Me is very much told in his master's voice; over the top, camp, often hilarious.