‘Tis the season for many delights, but perhaps the best way to spend the holidays is cosied up on the sofa with a good book in hand. So whether you’re planning on gifting someone – or yourself – a book for Christmas, here are our top books to gift in 2020. Even better, this year, we’ve been far and wide and gathered an assortment of suggestions from a variety of book industry members. We’ve also included links throughout to either bookshop.org or to a local bookshop as a reminder to shop local this time of year. Christmas can never come soon enough, and especially so if this year it’s all wrapped up in a cosy book-shaped parcel.


Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other is one of the most talked about books of the last couple of years, and has won numerous awards (deservedly so), including our very own Indie Book Award for fiction. I loved it so much I had to read more of Bernardine’s work immediately! I bought my copy of Mr Loverman from my local bookshop (Beckenham Bookshop). The Guardian describes it as ‘[a] rip-roaring, full-bodied riff on sex, secrecy and family’, which sums it up perfectly. I loved it. Bernardine is incredible and I look forward to reading even more of her books.

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The Quick Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer

Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know I rave about this book on a regular basis. Cooking recipes from it is part of what kept me sane throughout lockdown. The recipes are all easy to follow, very quick and, most importantly, delicious! I’ve made 17 of the recipes so far. The fish dishes have definitely been my favourites, but there isn’t a bad one in the book. I bought my copy from Jaffe & Neale on a pre-COVID trip to the Cotswolds.

When doing your bookshop shopping this Christmas, please support your local high street and #ChooseBookshops. You can find your nearest bookshop here.

Recommendations by Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the Booksellers Association.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

It is a very poetic novel. But more importantly, I loved the relevant/telling title – especially in these Covid times!

Find it here.

Recommendation by Aynur M.

HOW TO BE A ROCK STAR by David Ambrose with Lesley-Ann Jones

Because we all need to be a bit more rock star, I’m recommending the fab new memoir from former Fleetwood Mac bass guitarist turned EMI Executive David Ambrose. HOW TO BE A ROCK STAR is a first-hand account of life as a musician and evolution to become the man behind the band, having enjoyed a successful career discovering many influential bands of popular culture – including Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and The Sex Pistols. Read about what life was really like working in the music biz with a forward from Mick Fleetwood. This is a must for rock aficionados and music lovers alike.

Find it here.

Recommendation by Helen Clifford, Marketing Manager at The London Book Fair.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t read this book in a number of years, but it is calling to me from the bookshelf and is a must Christmas read. Based in a tiny straight-laced French village, this book is beautifully unassuming as village life is disrupted by a chocolatier determined not to follow the straight-laced rules of the community. You cannot help but be fascinated by the mundane and diverse range of characters, as each of them are drawn out of their shells by the vivacious newcomer and chocolatier Vianne Rocher. With pagan traditions and the solemn festival of Easter looming ever closer and in clear competition with each other, it is a fascinating battle between church, tradition and chocolaterie. The imagery alone in this book is stunning and will make any chocoholics mouth water. But in any case, I declare that Chocolat by Joanne Harris is a scrumptious delight, a chocoholics dream and a beautiful escape.

Find it here.

Recommendation by Ellie F.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Beautiful illustrations and just the kind of book I think we all need in 2020, to remind us that even the smallest step is an achievement!

‘Experience the world of a curious boy, a greedy mole, a wary fox and a wise horse who find themselves together, in sometimes difficult terrain, sharing their greatest fears and biggest discoveries about vulnerability, kindness, hope, friendship and love.’

Find it here.

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Ottolenghi FLAVOUR by Yotam Ottolenghi

A Christmas unwrapping a new Ottolenghi cookbook is a Christmas well-spent!

Ottolenghi FLAVOUR combines simple recipes for weeknights, low-effort high-impact dishes, and standout meals for the relaxed cook.’

Find it here.

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Firewatching by Russ Thomas

I picked this one up randomly the other day and am really looking forward to reading it over the Christmas break. I love a book that keeps me guessing, and it certainly sounds like this one will do that.

‘One wrong move will ignite the city . . .’

Find it here.

Recommendations by Amy W.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I have a confession to make; I was given this book a few months ago and have barely gotten halfway through it. My excuse? Where does the time go? But I am desperate to make time and read it properly this Christmas! Having already read Circe by Madeline Miller, I know that her book The Song of Achilles will be just as beautifully written, with stunning descriptions and complex characters. I can only say that the plot is a retelling of the Achilles myth, where he is the son of a sea nymph and is trained to fight by a centaur, but I can’t say more than that because I don’t want to ruin the story, not only for you but for myself as well! But I’d definitely say it is a must-read this Christmas.

Find it here.

Recommendation by Ellie F.

A Thing Called Snow by Yuval Zommer

This is a fantastic picture book for Christmas. Yuval is one of our favourite authors/illustrators. This book is the story of Fox and Hare who – both born in the spring – come winter find snow a new and remarkable thing. They need to investigate what snow is and go on an Arctic journey to discover it. A story of family and friendship, and gorgeously illustrated.

Find it here.

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STRATA by Oxford University Museum of Natural History

In 1815 William Smith produced his ground-breaking geological map of England. Starting as a survey near/around Bath to identify where coal could be found, Smith ultimately mapped the whole country. He realised that the landscape was arranged in layers or strata that had been built up over time. This revelation was extraordinary, as it could identify not only where coal could be found but also fossils and ultimately dinosaurs. His map proved the land was millions of years old, not thousands, as the church decreed. This book gorgeously reproduces the ‘map that changed the world’.

Find it here.

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Troy by Stephen Fry

Part three of Stephen Fry’s Greek Mythology series, possibly what Stephen was born to write. He manages to retell the familiar and unfamiliar myths with intelligence and wit. Here we have the stories of Helen, Agamemnon, Achilles, Ajax, Hector & Paris et al. Told in Stephen Fry’s inimitable way, Stephen brings these famous names to life once again.

Find it here.

Recommendations by Adam Hewson, Owner of Hewson Books.

Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

This Christmas, I’ve bought my whisky-loving, history buff brother-in-law Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish after hearing an interview where the authors described the riotous journey they had whilst writing the book before and during lockdown.

I love that the two actors described becoming so immersed in their roles in the series “Outlander” that they wanted to understand more about their homeland, and along the way, they learn so much more about themselves and each other.

I’m hoping that he reads it in a few days so that I can enjoy it this winter with a wee dram.

Find it here.

Recommendation by Andy Ventris, Director of The London Book Fair.

The Constant Gardener by John le Carré

In memory of master chronicler John le Carré, we thought it apt to include one of his most beguiling novels, The Constant Gardener, in our top books to gift in 2020 list. Combining detailed character study with exquisite plotting, this masterpiece tracks a bereaved husband’s path as he investigates what happened to his wife, during which he unearths some disturbing revelations.

‘The book breathes life, anger and excitement’ – Observer

Find it here.

Recommendation by Jennie M.


And that’s a wrap. We hope you have a Merry Christmas and be sure to enjoy as many peaceful book moments as possible over the holidays.

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