Holiday Gift Books 2: The ‘Lighter-but-still-a-bit-cynical’ Read

2016 has been quite a year for most. The list of ‘negative things that happened in 2016’ is too long to fit here and also unnecessary, as undoubtably everywhere will be compiling lists as their ‘best of the year’ features quickly turn into ‘worst of the year’ features (my personal recommendation is to watch Charlie Brooker’s annual take on the year, 2016 Wipe, which if previous years are anything to go by, will be bitter and depressing, but with the kind of realistic hope possible from a cynical comedy take on events).

As gifts go, 2016 wouldn’t be great. Instead, here’s some lighter reads, but not those that are overly schmalzy, twee, or mundane. Books that offer a bit of a smile, hopefully, but also don’t patronise you by trying to claim that everything is rosy.

  • America Unchained by Dave Gorman – Gorman is a comedian who currently has a very good show airing on Dave (the channel, I know it’s confusing), but I first knew of him through his books. When recently rereading America Unchained, it was clear to me that his account of a challenge to get from coast to coast in America without using the big chain companies, a journey beset with problems and the signs of an unchained world quickly disappearing, is still relevant today. As well as this, it is touching and funny and provided me with a look at parts of America you don’t always see on TV.
  • ‘Campus Trilogy’ by David Lodge – This trilogy that aren’t quite a trilogy, namely Changing Places, Small World, and Nice Work, are novels set on university campuses in Britain and America, featuring a lot of jokes about the disheartening side of academia (bear in mind these are quite dated now so even more disheartening) and confusions between British people and the rest of the world, particularly the USA. Particularly good to buy for English students/ex-English students who will understand both the literary jokes and the questions of what the hell to do with an English degree.
  • Spectacles by Sue Perkins – I’m not usually a famous person autobiography person unless that person is a writer with a tendency to write themselves into their works anyway (Isherwood and Burgess, I’m looking at you), but my mum leant me this and having got into Bake Off this year, I thought I’d give it a go. It’s a funny memoir with lots of self-deprecation and stories about dogs. There’s also a strangely accurate description of what its like to go to Oxbridge and have people tell you to make sure you don’t end up ‘going posh’ by the experience.