David Bowie: Icon edited by Iconic Images ACC Art Books, £50

Here he is, the prettiest star in all his guises. From hippy to Ziggy, thin white duke to ageing gentleman of rock. A gather-up of the greatest photographs of the man by some of the best photographers, David Bowie: Icon is a reminder that Bowie always thrilled the eye as much as he did the ear.

When We Were Young by The Anonymous Project Hoxton Mini Press, £18.95


This is a glory of a thing. Nothing less than time travel between hard covers. This is how we once were: the cars we drove, the clothes we wore, the holidays we went on. Drawing on a collection of Kodachrome colour slides that date back to the 1950s, When We Were Young is a window into a Britain that was not so very long ago, yet now out of reach. Captured in vivid colour, these are images of other people's memories and yet they have the texture of our own. Within these pages is all the sad sweetness of days past.


Dolly Parton Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton Hodder & Stoughton, £35


"It's possible that Jolene and I Will Always Love You were written on the same day," Dolly Parton writes in her new book. Match that. Dolly Parton Songwriter tells her story through the words of 175 songs she has written over the years (only a selection of roughly 3000 in total), accompanied by Parton's commentary and publicity and personal photographs. Worth it for Dolly's 1960s look alone, we'd say.


Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes Picador, £20

Broadcaster, comedian and author Natalie Haynes reclaims the women we know from Greek myth – Pandora, Helen of Troy, Medusa, Eurydice and the Amazons – from the accretions of misogyny that have become attached to their stories down the centuries. The result is the best kind of academic writing; engaged, engaging and fun (Beyonce, Ray Harryhausen and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all turn up within).

Read More: The 50 best books to give this Christmas (Part 1)


Antlers of Water edited by Kathleen Jamie Canongate, £20

In her introduction to this sparkling collection of nature writing, Kathleen Jamie succinctly sums up the form in the phrase "this noticing". That's what this book is full of; forms of noticing the world around us, whether it be wild swimming on Orkney (as recorded by Amy Liptrot) or human bones and radioactive contamination in the Firth of Forth (Gavin Francis). The result is urgent and attentive, not blind to the problems the natural world faces but open to its pleasures too.

Spirit of Place by Susan Owens Thames & Hudson, £25

The influence of the British landscape on artists and writers is at the heart of Susan Owens's book, which takes in everything from old English poetry to Andy Goldsworthy's landforms. Scotland is in there, too. "I am return'd from Scotland charm'd with my expedition," the English poet Thomas Gray wrote in the summer of 1765. "It is of the Highlands I speak: the Lowlands are worth seeing once, but the Mountains are ecstatic & ought to be visited in pilgrimage once a year."


The Golden Age of British Short Stories 1890-1914 edited by Philip Hensher Penguin Classics, £25


Kipling, Wilde, Katherine Mansfield, EM Forster and Arthur Conan Doyle all turn up in this beautifully bound compilation of Victorian and Edwardian short stories. A perfect companion for those post-Christmas days when central heating seems a preferable option to a walk outside.


The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M John Harrison Gollancz, £20

The winner of this year's Goldsmiths Prize, Harrison's haunting novel is also a haunted one; haunted by conspiracy theories and things happening out of the corner of your eye. Harrison's writing is beautifully precise yet trembles with unspoken meaning. The perfect novel for those unsettling days after Christmas.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare HQ, £12.99

Set in London in 1950, Louise Hare's debut novel follows jazz musician Lawrie Matthews around the dens and dives of Soho. Hare doesn't shy away from the horror and racism of post-war London, but she also finds solace and music in its darkened streets.

Xstabeth by David Keenan White Rabbit, £14.99

Into the mystic, once more. Travelling from St Petersburg to St Andrews, David Keenan's third novel contains golf, music and angelic visitations. The Airdrie-born, Glasgow-based novelist writes like no one else.


Flake by Matthew Dooley Jonathan Cape, £18.99


If Alan Bennett made graphic novels, they might look like this. Matthew Dooley's debut Flake, the story of an ice-cream war in a fictional town in northern England, has a very British sense of humour to it. But Dooley deserves to be recognised for his own talents and they are all on display in this fine, funny graphic novel that is full of sly humour and facial hair, set against a world of pub quizzes, crazy golf and crosswords. His flat drawing style has a deadpan comedy all its own, but it's the world he conjures up that stays with you. Lovely.


The Dead of Winter by Nicola Upson Faber & Faber, £12.99

In the latest of her Josephine Tey crime novels, Nicola Upson plays with the conventions of the Golden Age Christmas mystery. Set in 1938 on St Michaels Mount, it combines, murder, wild weather and, oh yes, Marlene Dietrich, to satisfying effect.

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99

A Bronte Sisters murder mystery? Well, why not? This, in fact, is the second in the series by Bronte devotee Rowan Coleman (writing under a Bronte-inspired pseudonym). There's a child's skeleton uncovered within the walls of a house near the Bronte parsonage and Charlotte, Emily and Anne attempt to find out what happened.


Ridley Scott: A Retrospective by Ian Nathan Thames & Hudson, £30


"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe ..." These days the director Ridley Scott is often dismissed as a perfectionist craftsman and little more. But that rather ignores the delirious potency of his image-making. "His eye," as Ian Nathan points out in this retrospective on Scott's film career, "has its own rules."


Let's Do It by Jasper Rees Trapeze, £20


This memoir of comedian Victoria Wood is based on hundreds of interviews and recordings Wood made herself about her own life. What emerges is a portrait of a complicated perfectionist who could be hard to work with but was also loved. Oh yes, and she just happened to be a comedy genius.

Warhol by Blake Gopnik Allen Lane, £35

Gopnik's wrist-straining biography of the pop artist (weighing in at 900-odd pages) is a measured and very readable account of Warhol's life that begins with a thrilling account of his fight for life after being shot by Valerie Solanas in 1968. It is also, in passing, an account of post-war American art and gay life in New York in the same period.


Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval Trapeze, £25


Imagine the world through the eyes of the director Wes Anderson, creator of Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums. Actually, as Wally Koval proves, you don't have to. Just look around. Accidentally, Wes Anderson is a book of images of places in the world that seem to have stepped straight out of one of the director's films but are, in fact, real places. Here is Thrumster Station in Caithness, Dhow Palace in Zanzibar and Hotel Moskva in Belgrade, all ready for their close-up.


Red Sands by Caroline Eden Quadrille, £26

A follow-up to her award-winning book Black Sea, Caroline Eden's new book is an account of her trek through central Asia, as she visits Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Like Black Sea, it's a fascinating fusion of travel and food writing. "There are parallels," she writes, "between travelling curiously, " she writes, "and trying out a recipe." Eden writes evocatively, deliciously even, about the people, places and food she encounters. It's a book haunted by Soviet cosmonauts, poets and dictators, that leaves you parched and hungry and wanting to taste everything she did. We're going to try Chingiz's Apple Vanilla Vodka recipe on page 167 this Christmas.

Scoff by Pen Vogler Atlantic Books, £20


Behind Dan Mogford's scrumptious cover, is an equally tasty investigation of the crossover between food and class in Britain. Pen Vogler is a smart, waspish guide to our national cuisine and what it tells us about ourselves. In short, sharp essays, she looks at, among other things, the class status of avocados and the revolutionary origins of vegetarianism. Her chapter on the social history of tea drinking is a particular delight. In this house it's always MIF (milk in first), by the way.

Hungry by Grace Dent Mudlark, £16.99

Food and class are also at the heart of restaurant critic Grace Dent's memoir. It's a funny-sad account of growing up in Carlisle and then entering London's media classes (via Stirling University). It's also a book about working-class lives, chip butties and love.


Word Perfect by Susie Dent John Murray, £14.99

Hello. Did you know that particular word is only a couple of hundred years old? The Anglo-Saxons might have greeted you with a "Hal" – meaning "be healthy" in one variant – but hello didn't turn up until the 1800s and it was really the invention of the telephone that sealed its popularity. The first telephone operators called themselves the "hello girls." That's one of the revelations of Susie Dent's Word Perfect. Channel 4's word expert on Countdown, has written a book of mini-essays, one for each day of the year, about words familiar and strange; everything from crambazzled to kalopsia. Full of learning and humour, it will keep you busy between Boxing Day and the New Year.


Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin Allen Lane, £30


At the start of the fifth century the city of Ravenna in the Po estuary became the capital of the Western Roman Empire. Over the next four centuries it would become the centre of Byzantine power in Italy. Historian Judith Herrin's book reclaims the city's importance in early Christian history.


The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt Hodder & Stoughton, £20

Were you aware there was a Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals? Or that in Japan green lights have a blue tinge because in the Japanese language blue historically encompassed green? And, as a result, Japan is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention? Based on the 99% Invisible podcast, Mars and Kohlstedt's book pulls back the cover on our towns and looks at what's underneath. A fascinating insight into things we probably never think about: electricity meters, revolving doors, even street names (Second Street is the most common street name in the US. Third comes second).


Paul Smith edited by Tony Chambers Phaidon, £49.95

This book is a quirky, stylish, exquisitely produced vision of the fashion designer Paul Smith's life and work (told through 50 objects chosen by the man himself), one that takes in everything from tailoring to, umm, seed packets (the inspiration for his floral patterns).

Read More: The 50 best books to give this Christmas (Part 1)


Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie Arena Sport and Nutmeg, £14.99


A love letter to the beautiful game, just as at home at Shielfield Park, Berwick as it is at Ibrox or Celtic Park (actually, maybe more). Alan McCredie's photographs and Daniel Gray's essays offer a window into a world of football at grass roots level (often literally).