Aerial image of Greek Myths, Sapiens and The Secret to Superhuman Strength laid out on a wooden table surrounded by natural Christmas decorations.

Image: Aashfaria A. Anwar T/A Studio Aash

Never underestimate the book as a gift: within the covers of every book is an expansive world ready to entertain, amuse, or edify.

Whether you’re searching for a Christmas present for a loved one or just looking to treat yourself in the winter months, the 12 books below are all perfect for the festive season. All that’s left for you to do is wrap them. 

The Swan by Stephen Moss (2021)

The huge and stately swan is a national treasure, a bit of a mystery and something which inspires both awe and fear. In The Swan, Stephen Moss delves into the facts and fiction around this bird – from their seasonal life cycle to showing how they feature in our history and our art, literature and more. He also includes stories about ‘wild swans’ – Whooper and Bewicks – that visit in winter, and the Black Swan of Australia. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a bird-lover, or just want something unique, this gorgeously illustrated book is perfect for under the tree.

Sapiens: A Graphic History, Volume 2 by Yuval Noah Harari, David Casanave and David Vandermeulen (2021)

Subtitled The Pillars of Civilisation, this book follows on from The Birth of Humankind, the first graphic novel adaptation of Yuval Noah Harari’s bestselling Sapiens.

In this volume, Harari and his companions, including Prof Saraswati and Dr Fiction, discover how the Agricultural Revolution changed society forever, and look at the history of inequality through a superhero detective story. This is an exciting and witty gift that can be read as a standalone, but why not get both volumes for the curious and questioning person in your life?

Greek Myths by Charlotte Higgins and Chris Ofili (2021)

You may think you’re familiar with the Greek myths, but this new reinterpretation shows some of the most enduring stories of all time in a new light. Charlotte Higgins, chief culture writer at the Guardian, tells the stories of Heracles, Theseus, Perseus, the Trojan War and more, all with illustrations by Chris Ofili. But in this collection, it is the women – from Athena and Helen to Circe and Penelope – who take centre stage. This book is a treasure trove of tales about love, magic and adventure that any lover of stories would be thrilled to unwrap on Christmas Day.

Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson (2020)

If you’re looking for a cookbook that everyone will love, a cookbook that inspires warmth and togetherness, then there’s only one author you need to turn to: Nigella Lawson. Her latest book is not just a collection of recipes – although those recipes for things like fish finger bhorta and chocolate peanut butter cake are delicious. Cook, Eat, Repeat is also an ode to food and our relationship with it; a wise look at the art of cooking and eating together and apart. With chapters celebrating brown food, the humble anchovy and family dinners, this is the type of cookbook that gets well read and well consulted.

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (2021)

At the beginning of 2021, a young woman called Amanda Gorman inspired not just a nation, but also people the world over, when she performed a poem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Gorman’s words invoked a new appreciation and enthusiasm for poetry among many. In her debut collection, which includes the inauguration poem ‘The Hill We Climb’, Gorman explores history, language, identity and erasure, shining a light on a moment of reckoning. 

The Biscuit by Lizzie Collingham (2020)

From the humble digestive devotee to the discerning Garibaldi guzzler, we all have our opinion on which biscuit is the best, and more biscuits are bought and eaten in Britain than in any other country. This gorgeously illustrated book takes us from Roman times up to the present day as Lizzie Collingham traces the history of our favourite snack. It’s the perfect thing to read while munching through a bumper selection tin on Boxing Day.

Christmas Angels by Rowan Dobson (2020)

After being forgotten in the attic for eleven months of the year, it’s time for our favourite festive companions to take the spotlight once more. Christmas angels come in a wonderful variety of styles, from the sublime to the ridiculous to the better-suited-to-Halloween, each with personalities and foibles of their own. Rowan Dobson celebrates these timeless tree-toppers with a collection of portraits and the personal stories that go with them.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (2021)

Looking to be inspired, or to inspire, this Christmas? Then turn to Alison Bechdel's third graphic novel memoir, which focuses on her relationship with exercise. It's a funny, and touching, look at Bechdel's obsession with fitness over the years, and how her perspective of her body has changed as she has aged. Whether you get this book for a fitness fanatic or for someone who prefers a more sedate lifestyle, this will change the way you view exercise.

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff (2020)

What could be more festive than a good murder mystery? In this debut from Ada Moncrieff, the assembled friends and family at Westbury Manor wake to discover a body in the snow on Christmas morning. Although it initially appears to be a suicide, amateur detective Hugh Gaveston is not so sure. Brilliantly plotted, witty and atmospheric, this is the perfect next read for fans of Agatha Christie and James Runcie.

The Roasting Tin Around the World by Rukmini Iyer (2020)

Rukmini Iyer, the genius of easy one-tin recipes, is back with a new Roasting Tin cookbook that reinvents our favourite dishes from around the globe. With everything from all-in-one paella to s’mores rocky road, weeknight dinners, vegan options, family lunches and desserts, it’s the ideal gift for any foodie – or anyone tired of all the Christmas washing up.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg (2020)

Before they invented Heathcliff or Mr Rochester, Wildfell Hall or Wuthering Heights, the Brontë children had the imaginary world of Glass Town, a collaboration that took them far from the parsonage in Haworth. The New York Times bestselling Isabel Greenberg weaves history with fantasy in a stunning reimagining of their childhood, questioning the relationship between creators and creation. For the Brontë buffs in your life, it’s the ultimate gift to go under the tree.

They Don’t Teach This by Eniola Aluko (2019)

In 2020, Eni Aluko announced her retirement from professional football after an illustrious career. With 102 caps for England and 33 goals to her name, she’s one of England’s most decorated female players, as well as the first female pundit on Match of the Day, an ambassador for UN Women and a Guardian columnist. In her memoir, which was shortlisted for the Telegraph Sports Book Awards, she relives her journey along with the challenges and life lessons that met her along the way.

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