Richard Hopton shares his top books to gift this Christmas from Joseph Roth to one of David Attenborough’s early biographies.
1. The World Atlas of Street Food by Carol Wilson and Sue Quinn
Part travelogue, part guide book and part recipe book The World Atlas of Street Food by Carol Wilson and Sue Quinn will appeal to every armchair traveller and gourmet in search of variety and novelty in the world’s most foodie cities. (Thames & Hudson, £24.95)
2. Britain’s 100 Best Railway Stations by Simon Jenkins
Simon Jenkins’ sumptuously illustrated new book, Britain’s 100 Best Railway Stations, champions the astonishing variety of this country’s railway architecture and the efforts made to bring it back to life. This book will make the most jaded commuter look around.(Viking, £25)
3. Real Nordic Living by Dorothea Gundtoft
Dorothea Gundtoft’s source book, Real Nordic Living, goes beyond the homely glow of hygge (thank goodness), providing a wealth of detail, beautifully illustrated, explaining the Scandinavian way in design, food, art and travel. (Thames & Hudson, £19.95)
4. Red Famine by Anne Applebaum
In the centenary year of the Russian Revolution, Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine is a shocking and important reminder of the murderous brutality of Stalin’s regime. In 1932–3, the Soviets, for political reasons, deliberately starved to death around four-million Ukrainians. (Allen Lane, £25)
James Ravilious’ photographs of rural life in north Devon, taken in the 1970s and ’80s, are a moving evocation of an almost completely vanished world. The Recent Past (Wilmington Square Books, £30) is accompanied by A Life (£16,99), a biography by his wife, Robin.
6. Darling Pol by Mary Wesley
Mary Wesley achieved fame as a novelist in her seventies. In Darling Pol, letters between Mary and her husband, Eric Siepmann, illuminate her earlier life, much of which later informed her novels. (Harvill Secker, £20)
7. Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906 by David Cannadine
David Cannadine’s rigorous, entertaining book offers a fresh perspective of Victorian Britain, an important if familiar period of our history. (Allen Lane, £30)
8. The Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough
Long out of date, The Zoo Quest Expeditions (Two Roads, £25) records David Attenborough’s expeditions to South America and Indonesia in the 1950s.
9. What We See In The Stars by Kelsey Oseid
What We See In The Stars is an appealing guide to the night sky mixing science and mythology.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, travel writer and war hero, is widely known but his wife, Joan, has hitherto been all but invisible. Simon Fenwick’s biography, Joan tells the story of her remarkable life as a talented photographer who shunned the social conventions of her class and time. (Macmillan, £25)
11. The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst
Alan Hollinghurst’s The Sparsholt Affair is about family, friendship and the passage of time, a wry commentary on the changes in society since 1940. A wholly enjoyable novel, beautifully written and acutely observed. (Picador, £20)
Joseph Roth’s tainted elegies of human frailty and imperial decline in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are among the most poignant in European literature. The recently resurfaced Weights and Measures is a good introduction to his work. (Penguin Modern Classics, £8.99)
13. The Ugly Five by Julia Donaldson
Julia Donaldson has charmed and bewitched millions of children and her new book, The Ugly Five will no doubt delight many more. Their appeal lies as much in the rhymes and cadences of the lines as in Axel Scheffler’s wonderful illustrations.
(Alison Green Books, £12.99)
Spice up your festive conversation with Judith Flanders’s Christmas: A Biography (Picador, £14.99), a repository of information about Christmas.
I’m sure I speak for many others… by Colin Shindler (BBC Books, £9.99) is a collection of letters of complaint to the BBC from the 1940s onwards.
Mark Forsyth’s A Short History of Drunkenness (Viking, £12.99)is a light-hearted romp through the history of man and excessive boozing. Quite apt, you may feel.