What we’re reading this Christmas

Christmas is coming and here at Faber that means we’re on the hunt for new books. We’ve asked our authors and staff to list books to get lost in this winter, books to gift and their books of the year. From festive fiction to remarkable poetry, we’ve got your holidays wrapped up.

Here is the Faber Christmas reading list . . .

 

Peter Carey, author of A Long Way From Home

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Since seeing Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War I have read Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried). Now I am ready to revisit the elegant unflinching Tobias Wolff (Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War). By Christmas morning I will be ready for the almost hallucinogenic Dispatches by Michael Herr.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
I have a passion for the work of James C. Scott, an ethnologist, geographer, anarchist and sheep farmer. His latest (Against the Grain: a Deep History of the Earliest States) looks at the much maligned ‘barbarians’ who avoided state control and that familiar friendly grain (wheat) which provided the mechanism of enforcement. A page-turner.

What’s your book of the year?
I’ve had a quarrelsome relationship with all those new translations of the Russian greats so I was delighted to discover Oliver Ready’s new translation of Crime and Punishment (Penguin Classics). God knows how it relates to the original Russian, but it is brimful of a young man’s rage and energy and bullshit. I adored it.

               

Emmie Francis, Assistant Editor

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream
by Sue Prideaux. While hankering after the current Munch exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum in New York, I’ll be reading Sue Prideaux’s magisterial biography of the artist (Yale, 2005). We are publishing Prideaux’s life of Nietzsche next year – her ease in evoking the worlds of quite misunderstood famous figures is remarkable, and I’d let her guide me on whichever subject she chose.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (Fitzcarraldo Editions). A sweeping, steady view of a cross-American system of racial privilege from one of our most outstanding essayists and non-fiction writers. It was my favourite because in a year in which events seem to make one – horrifyingly – increasingly numb to the ramifications of injustice, it woke me to an alertness that seems more imperilled today than ever before.

(Lighter, perhaps, but no less damning about certain issues, is Widening Income Inequality by Frederick Seidel, published in a particularly pleasing pink paperback Faber poetry volume.)

What’s your book of the year?
The Idiot 
by Elif Batuman. I love Batuman’s perspective: she seems to be a wary reporter from the field of The Novel, always testing out its status in contemporary literature, often in touchingly wry ways. Her criticism is one of a kind. With her own novel (Jonathan Cape), she riffs, digresses, and completely seduces this reader with her story of Selin, a college student at Harvard trying to figure out love, literature and life.

 

   Widening Income Inequality   

Wendy Cope, author of Christmas Poems

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe. This is on my wish list, so I’m hoping to be given it. I loved her earlier books, so I’ll probably finish that quite quickly. I’m also hoping to be given Munich by Robert Harris.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré. My mother-in-law will want this but I’ll have to check that none of her other relatives are planning to give it to her. She likes poetry, so I may also buy her Fleur Adcock’s new book Hoard.

What’s your book of the year?
Conclave by Robert Harris. This is as compelling as a good detective story but without any murders. I couldn’t put it down. Another possible present for various relatives. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. A terrific American novel set in the mid-west. A couple of my friends have read this and they loved it too.

             

Hannah Marshall, Marketing Manager

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
The book I’ll be reading over Christmas is Transit by Rachel Cusk, which is a book I’ve had recommended to me many times this year and which has been on my reading list for a while. I love Cusk’s writing, in fact I don’t think there are many contemporary writers who are funnier and smarter than her, and Transit is meant to be one of her best novels to date.

I also want to read Women and Power by Mary Beard, which promises to be fascinating and timely manifesto on the way that powerful women have been treated and perceived throughout history, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, which, if the reviews are anything to go by, could be a late contender for one of my best books of 2017.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
I have a couple of massive Craig Thompson fans in my life so this year I’m planning on gifting them a copy of Blankets each.

What’s your book of the year?
There are so many books I’ve loved reading this year: Conversations With Friends, Homegoing, The End We Start From, First Love, First Time Ever . . . 

However, if I really have to choose, I’d say Emily Berry’s beautiful, deeply moving second collection, Stranger, Baby and the NYC rock oral history Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman (most fun I’ve had reading a book in recent memory).

I do in fact have two other favourite reads this year – but as they are not published until next year it feels like a bit of a cheat to mention them . . . still, I’d say there is a good chance that Hannah Sullivan’s debut collection, Three Poems, and Viv Albertine’s memoir, To Throw Away Unopened, will both be on my list of favourite books in 2018!

 

         

Sarah Ward, author of A Patient Fury

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
After listening to extracts of Philip Pullman’s Daemon Voices on BBC Radio 4, I bought the hardback to read over Christmas. Pullman is such an excellent storyteller and his essays are full of warmth and insight into the craft of writing. I can’t wait to read it in full.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
I read Nicola Upson’s Nine Lessons and I think it will make an excellent Christmas present for relatives. It’s an atmospheric tale with her series detective, Josephine Tey, and so well written. With its sumptuous cover, it’s a perfect gift.

What’s your book of the year?
I think it has to be The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler. It’s full of short essays on authors who, for one reason or other, are no longer as well known as they once were. I devoured it from cover to cover and it brought back memories of my teenage reading. It’s a gem of a book.

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Joey Connolly, Faber Academy Operations Manager 

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Alright, it’s not the obvious choice, but I’ve got into the habit of reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, one volume every Christmas season (I’m up to #4). It’s a good labyrinth to get lost in, and it’s a good excuse to avoid doing anything whatsoever for weeks at a time. What else is Christmas for?

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
Ishiguro! I’ve been kind of amazed by how many people I’ve spoken to in the aftermath of the Nobel Prize in Literature who haven’t read The Remains of the Day. For people who have read that, the beautifully titled An Artist of the Floating World.

What’s your book of the year?
The best book that I read this year was Anne Carson’s Float. It comes as a box of twenty-two loose pamphlets, and each one seems to cast the others in a different light as a strange, grand architecture of thought and significance is built by this absolute original.

           

Jeet Thayil, author of The Book of Chocolate Saints

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Georg Trakl’s Poems, published by Seagull Books. Not holiday reading I know, but it takes all kinds to people this world.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
The books in the photo below. I found these in a secondhand bookshop in South India and will be giving them as gifts. Note the typographic cover designs on the Lowell and the Karl Shapiro.

What’s your book of the year?
Tishani Doshi’s book of poems, The Girls are Coming Out of the Woods.

          

Eleanor Crow, Senior Designer

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Book? I’ll be reading several over Christmas, but one will probably be Cézanne, A Life, by Alex Danchev. First published in 2012, the current Cézanne exhibition alerted me to it, as well as excellent reviews. Another will be Faber’s Mr Lear, by Jenny Uglow, and for fiction, perhaps Ali Smith’s Autumn, hotly followed by Winter.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
The Secret Life of Cows, by Rosamund Young. Probably several times over. And Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag. Slim, postable volumes with brilliant writing. Both wildly different in character and intent, but equally absorbing and affecting.

What’s your book of the year?
Not so postable, but it has to be 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster. It’s an interesting premise, brilliantly handled, with much to say about American politics and personal roads not taken. I enjoyed reading it so much I carried this weighty book around with me on my travels.

          

John Grindrod, Marketing Manager

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
I’m hoping to get to the end of my George Smiley odyssey so I can read Le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies. And my copy of Ravilious & Co. by Andy Friend is looking like a perfect Christmas read.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
That would be telling! But Craig Brown’s Ma’am Darling, or a couple of outstanding collections of stories – David Hayden’s Darker with the Lights On and Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams – would make great prezzies.

What’s your book of the year?
This is a toughie . . . Possibly Mr Lear by Jenny Uglow, maybe The Age of Spectacle by Tom Dyckhoff, or perhaps one of the many Muriel Sparks I read or re-read for the Backlisted podcast (of which Memento Mori remains my favourite).

           

John Crace, author of I, Maybot

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Sylvia Plath Letters Volume 1: 1940–1956. I enjoy reading the diaries and letters of writers I admire almost more than anything else. They give you a direct line into the subconscious where the every day and the life-changing are both accorded equal status and frequently open up their author’s previously published works in unexpected ways. At more than 1,400 pages, Plath’s letters are not for the faint-hearted, but what better time to make a start than during time off over Christmas.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
Rachel Clarke’s Your Life in My Hands. Clarke is a hospital doctor in Oxford and she began writing in a cold fury, fuelled by late night glasses of wine, at the way her job and those of hundreds of thousands of others were being misrepresented by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who was hell-bent on convincing the country that the NHS didn’t operate a seven-day service. She doesn’t just write beautifully and with compassion about the patients whose lives she has managed to help save, as well as those who died on her watch; she also writes with a scalpel when it comes to Hunt himself – taking him down with a mixture of humour and contempt. The perfect present for anyone who cares about the NHS. Which should be everyone.

What’s your book of the year?
Lucy Cooke: The Unexpected Truth about Animals. A joy from start to finish. Who could resist a writer who argues that penguins have been pulling the wool over our eyes for years, and that, far from being cute and gregarious, they are actually pathologically unpleasant necrophiliacs? Or that beavers are actually a bit thick and that it’s often pure luck they don’t get squashed by trees? Or that hippos apply their own suncream? Blue Planet II will never be the same again.

                 

Fred Baty, Editor, Guardian Faber 

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
The Book of Dust Volume One
 by Philip Pullman. I’m far more excited about this than I probably should be. I’m in the process of re-reading the original trilogy at the moment and they’re just as brilliant now as when I first read them twenty-odd years ago.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
I, Maybot by John Crace: the perfect stocking-filler for all the ‘Brexit mutineers’ in your life.

What’s your book of the year?
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien and Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. Slightly cheating here but I can’t choose between these two. Both are among some of the most profoundly strange, beautiful and moving pieces of fiction I’ve ever read.

           

Kate Ward, Text Design Manager

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Winter by Ali Smith. I’m just finishing Autumn and am intrigued to see where the next one goes. I love the ambition of a quartet, and one turning around the seasons is a dream.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
Mr Lear
by Jenny Uglow. Just look at it, the most giftable book out there this Christmas. The perfect combination of author, subject matter and beautiful packaging.

What’s your book of the year?
Sugar Money by Jane Harris. A heartbreaking mix of hope against all odds and the grim reality of the life in 1790s Caribbean. A vivid tropical setting, a perilous mission, devastating injustice and the chink of a happy ending. For me, perfect narrative fiction.

            

Nicholas Rankin, author of Defending the Rock

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
This Christmas I’ll be improving a poor classical education with more of the Penguin I bought at the superb Scythian exhibition at the British Museum – Tom Holland’s translation of The Histories by Herodotus, with great notes by Paul Cartledge, which is a marvellous book by a reporter of genius.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
Once again, I’ll be giving my wife the 2017 Private Eye annual. I’ve been reading the Eye for over fifty years, and its parodies can transcend mere comedy. Future historians, puzzling over the Brexit referendum wreckage, will study the 2016 Eye annual to see how we went mad.

What’s your book of the year?
If you want to get the very best of a book, read it aloud to someone you love. My favourite reading aloud this year has been Willa Cather’s My Antonia (1918), a wonderful novel about love and loss in Nebraska, which has tapped the deepest wellsprings of emotion in us.

                 

Ella Griffiths, Editorial Assistant

What book will you be reading over Christmas?
Riffing off a Christmassy ice and snow vibe, I can never resist the pull of an Antarctica expedition, so I’m looking forward to getting lost in two completely brilliant books: Francis Spufford’s I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination and Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams.

What book will you be gifting over the holidays?
It’s got to be Jenny Uglow’s Mr Lear. Those illustrations! The gold cover! The ribbon! And of course, it’s a heartbreaking triumph of storytelling written in Uglow’s exquisite prose, with many a charming animal cameo.

What’s your book of the year?
I was knocked out by Eula Biss’s Notes From No Man’s Land. Lyrical, elegant, and bitingly articulate, these essays almost glisten on the page in their stylish dissection of American racial politics, and feel right up there with Didion and Baldwin.

            

 

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