Holiday Gift Books 1: The ‘You Have To Have Read It’

Books are a great gift, perfect for reading, keeping, sharing, and leaving on a shelf tactfully for years. However, sometimes buying books as presents can be tricky, with so many options vying for your attention and the easy tendency to get lost in a bookshop daze until you become convinced that your horror-hating friend really needs a set of Stephen King novels.

There are usually plenty of gift guides around, suggesting new releases and fancy hardbacks. Tables of novelty gift books, colouring books, cookery books, and TV tie-in books are all very well if the person in question likes something they are themed around, but what if you just want to give them a good read? I’m compiling a few lists of ideas, based around categories that you might think of when looking for ideas. The first is the ‘You Have To Have Read It’ book, those books that are often talked about and make great presents for the fact that they are genuinely very good.

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt – A classic ‘can’t put down’ novel from the early 90s, a time when university students didn’t have mobile phones so could genuinely drive all over town looking for each other, as they do in Tartt’s book. Simply described as ‘eccentric classics students go somewhat crazy’, The Secret History is both very well written and very enjoyable to read, with a hilariously unreliable narrator and seemingly mysterious characters. Buy for students to remind them they’ve not resorted to murder yet or for pretentious people who will want to be the characters, regardless of how terrible they are.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – The play for anyone who has read a few quotations by Oscar Wilde and wants to see that wit in action. A ridiculous comedy about late Victorian society and perfect for getting anyone into reading drama, as it is quick paced, funny, and has a fairly small cast of characters to keep up with.
  • The Humans by Matt Haig – The sort of book you’ve probably seen in bookshops and had people recommend to you, if you’ve not read it. A novel about being out of place and seeing everyone else as ‘other’, it is touching and funny and would make a perfect gift for both avid readers and people who are less into books. Or if you want to buy for someone who has already read it, go for Haig’s The Radleys, which is a similar kind of book but about suburban vampires.
  • Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh – Whilst not traditionally a book you’d give at Christmas, Trainspotting is a fantastic book and a great gift for those who need their next challenging, edgy book or teenagers who want their fiction dark whilst still funny at times. Also, with the second film coming out in the new year, it’s a perfect time to read the novel.