THERE is, as Morrissey in the days before he became persona non grata, once sang, more to life than books, you know. But, as he always added, not much more.

This is especially true at Christmas when a good book can save you from the misery of another pair of socks under the Christmas tree. And you don’t really rneed that 15th Toblerone bar, do you?

So, give as you’d wish to receive and buy your nearest and dearest something that will have a shelf life. Literally.

Here are our suggestions of books that would grace any Christmas day, from fiction to food writing and from football to fashion


The Fell by Sarah Moss

Picador, £13.99


Yes, it’s a lockdown novel. But this slim book overcomes any qualms about the subject matter thanks to the vivacity of the writing and the depth of feeling it taps into. The Fell tells the story of Alice who breaks Covid quarantine and goes for a walk up a hill and the consequences of that simple decision. A perfect cure for Boxing Day blues.

Judas 62 by Charles Cumming

HarperCollins, £14.99

You don’t have to be the new John Le Carre to write a good spy novel. And Scottish-born author Charles Cumming knows how to write a good spy novel. Judas 62, his follow-up to Box 88, jumps between 1990s Soviet Russia and Dubai in 2020.

READ MORE: The 50 best books to give this Christmas: Susan Swarbrick on thrillers, crime and coffee table tomes

The Haunting Season, Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights by various authors

Sphere, £12.99

This collection of eight original stories by contemporary authors provides a fresh twist to familiar spooky pleasures. Bookended by Bridget Collins’s chess-themed haunted house story A Study in Black and White and Elizabeth Macneal’s Monster, a delirious neo-Victorian take on fossils, death and sexuality, it’s perfect reading for a winter’s night. Candlelight optional.

Blank Pages and Other Stories by Bernard MacLaverty

Jonathan Cape, £14.99


Can we just accept that Bernard MacLaverty is one of the greats now? In this, his latest collection of short stories, the Glasgow-based Northern Irish writer reminds us of his range and power.


The Female Chef by Clare Finney & Lizzy Seabrook

Hoxton Mini Press, £28


Both a recipe book and a call to arms, Clare Finney’s interviews with 31 women in the UK food business tackles gender imbalance in the industry and the difference between being a chef and being a cook. Photographer Lizzy Seabrook adds mouth-watering visuals.

A Cheesemonger’s Compendium of British & Irish Cheese by Ned Palmer

Profile Books, £14.99


This is a very dangerous book. Read cheesemonger Ned Palmer’s descriptions of the 158 British cheeses therein and you’ll want to buy all of them. Lanarkshire’s own Corra Linn (“a moist fudgey texture and notes of honeycomb and caramel”) sounds particularly good. Claire Littlejohn’s illustrations are very moreish too.


And Away by Bob Mortimer

Gallery Books, £20


Bob Mortimer further cements his national treasure status with this memoir full of funny lines, surrealist imagery and a line in Alan Bennett-flavoured regret translated to a Middlesborough childhood. It charts his rise to comedy fame via a childhood marked by the death of his father. And then there’s the story of his heart surgery in 2015. You’ll like him even more by the end of it (if that is even possible).

Spinning Plates: Music, Men, Motherhood and Me by Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Coronet, £16.99


Not entirely what you might expect. Yes, Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s autobiography is full of joie de vivre, kids and glitterballs. But it also deals with pre-eclampsia, music biz sexism, questions of sexual consent and the horror of controlling relationships. As a result, you cheer all the harder for her when things start going right.

READ MORE: From the Archive: Sophie Ellis-Bextor talks to The  Herald Magazine


The World According to Colour by James Fox

Allen Lane, £25

Taking in everything (alphabetically speaking) from Aboriginal Australians to Zoroastrianism, via James Bond and JMW Turner, James Fox’s account of colour and how we think about it is a wide-ranging survey of artistic, scientific and cultural history.

Ask a Historian by Greg Jenner

W&N, £16.99

Greg Jenner’s new book sees him answer questions he’s been sent from members of the public. Questions like: “Who invented maths?” “Why do Greek statues have small penises?” And “Did Anne Boleyn have three nipples” (she didn’t). The result is huge fun.

Greek Myths by Charlotte Higgins

Jonathan Cape, £20


Beginning with Athena, Charlotte Higgins pushes women to the front in this latest retelling of the Greek myths. A beautifully designed book, with Chris Ofili’s accompanying drawings giving it an extra sparkle.

The Penguin Modern Classics Book by Henry Eliot

Particular Books, £30

Featuring every title published under the Penguin Modern Classics legend between 1961 and the present day, this chunky, entertaining book is the perfect gift for the bibliophile in your life. Browse this and your reading list for 2022 will be well and truly sorted.


Architecture by Barnabas Calder

Pelican, £20

“This book tells the story of how fossil fuel made the world a much better place for humans,” is how Barnabas Calder begins this provocative, enlightening account of the story of architecture “from prehistory to climate emergency.” Calder is the perfect guide around some of mankind’s most substantial achievements, but never swerves away from asking hard questions.

Living by the Ocean by Phaidon Editors

Phaidon, £29.95


Property porn from far-flung places, mostly. To be fair, there are a couple of Scottish properties in Living by the Ocean (the Tinhouse on Skye and the Clifftop House in Portpatrick), but you may prefer to fantasise about living in an ocean home in the Maldives fit for a James Bond villain.

READ MORE: Christmas Books 2021: Richard Osman, Schitt’s Creek, Barack Obama and more

Chatsworth, Arcadia Now by John-Paul Stonard

Particular Books, £50

Say what you like about the British upper classes (and there’s plenty to say), but they did know how to build a house. Chatsworth, Arcadia Now is a brick of a book dedicated to the Derbyshire home of the Duke and Duchess of Devon. A survey of the house and its contents, photographer Victoria Hely-Hutchinson’s images take in its broad vistas and tiny, often bejewelled, details, while art historian John-Paul Stonard puts it all in context


Wonderland by Annie Leibovitz

Phaidon, £69.95


A gather-up of Leibovitz’s fashion photography, this gorgeous compilation is exactly what you’d expect of her work: sumptuous, often extravagantly staged dream visions with a side order of insider access to the rich, the powerful and the beautiful. Here is Katy Perry dressed up to the 10s in Paris and Lady Gaga wearing nothing but a pair of high heels and Gucci glasses. The pornography of luxury, perhaps, but you can’t deny the sheen of it.


Captivate! Fashion Photography from the 90s by Claudia Schiffer

Prestel, £49.99


Colour, excess, celebrity, exclamation marks. Claudia Schiffer offers her insider take on the fashion industry in the 1990s and the rise of the supermodel. Eye candy of the first order.

NUNO: Visionary Japanese Textiles edited by Naomi Pollock

Thames & Hudson, £50


Remember those touch-and-feel books you bought for your kids? Flicking through the pages of NUNO, you kind of wish this was the adult equivalent. Still, the images are a decent substitute in this gorgeous catalogue of the innovative Japanese textile studio NUNO.

Vogue Paris 100 Years by Sylvie Lecallier

Thames & Hudson, £45


Celebrating a centenary of the French edition of the fashion magazine with photographs Man Ray and Mario Testino, appearances by Catherine Deneuve and Audrey Hepburn and fashion labels such as Chanel and Dior.


The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster

Little Toller, £15


Behind one of the covers of the year (courtesy of artist Jonathan Pomroy), this is Charles Foster’s account of his obsession with swifts. They swoop and soar through the pages of this small book, nature’s gift to the eyes and heart.

The Art of Wild Swimming: Scotland by Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan

Black and White Publishing, £14.99


The Herald Magazine’s own wild swimmer Vicky Allan joins photographer Anna Deacon in this celebration of taking the plunge in the great outdoors. Both a gazetteer to the best places to swim in Scotland and an evocative hymn to the pleasures they offer.

British Boutique Hotels by Gina Jackson

Hoxton Mini Press, £20


Travel blogger Gina Jackson’s recommendations for the country’s best hotels from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall will have you straight onto Tripadviser.


An Editor’s Burial, Journalism from The New Yorker edited by David Brendel

Pushkin Press, £10.99

“Inspirations for Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch,” it proclaims on the cover, but you don’t have to like that creme brulee of a movie to enjoy this collection of New Yorker magazine journalism, featuring some of the great journalists associated with the publication writing, mostly, about France.


The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse edited by Kathleen Jamie, Don Paterson and Peter Mackay

Canongate, £30


Boasting some 500 pages (and more than a 1000 years) of Scottish poetry, this doorstop of a compilation should keep you busy into the New Year. It begins with James Hogg and ends with Allan Ramsey and in between everyone from Lord Byron to Mary, Queen of Scots make an appearance. A glory of a thing.

READ MORE: The 50 best books to give this Christmas: Susan Swarbrick on thrillers, crime and coffee table tomes


The Immortals by Arrigo Sacchi

Backpage Press, £9.99


One for the football hipster in your life. Arrigo Sacchi’s own account of his time in charge of the legendary Milan side of the late 1980s and the players who played under him, including Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard.