Christmas Presents Wrapped Up!

Category: Reading

Christmas is upon us and if you’re still racking your brains for what to buy the booklovers in your life, look no further. We asked thirteen celebrities, ‘What would you give everyone in Scotland for Christmas?’

 

Julia Donaldson recommends...

The Visiting Angel by Paul Wilson

Patrick is a troubled care worker in a halfway house who finds himself talking to a man on a window ledge claiming to be an angel. This man, Saul, looks exactly like the deceased older brother Patrick used to idolise and carries a set of cards bearing the names of different people he claims he is there to save.

Julia Donaldson says: 'The "angel" in this novel is not at all Christmassy. He is wingless, and makes his first appearance at a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases. The story that unfolds is intriguing and moving, combining realism with a fable-like quality. With a cleverly woven plot, characters you care about and a plain yet poetic style, for me this book had it all.'

 

Pamela Butchart recommends...

Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr

The first in Judith Kerr’s beloved Mog stories is the tale of a cat who is always in trouble because of her bad memory, whether it’s forgetting she has a cat flap or that she’s already eaten dinner. Then one night there’s an unexpected visitor and Mog’s forgetfulness actually saves the day.

Pamela Butchart says: 'I think the book that I would give every single adult in Scotland for Christmas, would be my favourite book ever, and that would be Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr, I love that book.'

 

Vince Cable recommends... 

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s psychological tragedy about an ambitious warrior named Macbeth who embarks on a murderous path to seize the crown of Scotland, compelled by supernatural forces and his own wife.

Vince Cable says: 'I think what I would do is encourage everybody to read the Scottish play, Macbeth. Apart from being a good drama, it tells you everything you need to know about politics, you know, and the backstabbing after the Brexit, it’s a very good introduction to Macbeth. And it also launched me in my political life because I was a rather shy teenager and I was given the lead role in Macbeth at school, and it helped me to get the confidence to speak in public.'

 

Susan Calman recommends...

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s first novel follows Ruby Lennox as she narrates her life from the moment of conception, relinquishing the narrative to allow for flashbacks from generations of the women in her family. Family secrets and failed dreams are uncovered along the way.

Susan Calman says: 'I think every adult in Scotland should have Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. It’s one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read.'

 

Melanie Reid recommends...

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 

by Robert Louis Stevenson

The duality of mankind is famously interpreted as the mild-mannered Dr Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes the frightening inner persona of Mr Hyde. The story is told by lawyer Gabriel John Utterson, who investigates this strangest of cases.

Melanie Reid says: 'I was looking for a Scottish classic which I think tells us about ourselves, and I decided on Jekyll and Hyde. I decided that Robert Louis Stevenson still says it best.'

 

Gregor Fisher recommends...

Wee Macgreegor by J J Bell 

The turn of the century antics of wee Macgreegor first appeared in the Glasgow Evening Times in 1901 where they were so popular the stories were later published in book form. They were praised for their realistic use of Glaswegian Scots dialogue.

Gregor Fisher says: 'This is a fabulous book written by J J Bell, and it’s about a little Glasgow boy at the turn of the century, of his adventures - if you have one of those nice warm duvets, and it’s a real hellish night in Edinburgh (or Glasgow, or indeed anywhere else) and the rain is battering off your window pane, and you’ve got a nice cup of tea, and you’re tucked up in your bed, and you think "I’d like something uncomplicated to read, that makes me smile" – Wee MacGregor! … You won’t be disappointed.'

 

Susan Fletcher recommends...

The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh by Vincent Van Gogh

This important and impressive work in the literature of art is an intimate collection of letters providing unparalleled insight into Van Gogh’s creative process and short, tormented life. The letters are illustrated with over two hundred drawings by the artist himself and was contributed to greatly by his brother, Theo, whose son, Vincent, was consulting editor for the collection.

Susan Fletcher says: 'At the moment, my head is full of Vincent Van Gogh because my latest book is all about the last year of his life. And because I’m full of him and thinking about him all the time, I would probably give everybody in Scotland a gift of his complete letters, the letters that he wrote primarily to his brother Theo. They have transformed how I view the artist, and they are sublime. They are tender and funny and completely different to anything I’d have thought of him beforehand. I think they are as remarkable as his paintings. So, that would be a wonderful Christmas present.'

 

A L Kennedy reccomends...

Lanark by Alasdair Gray

Comprised of four books, Lanark is a profound message about humankind's inability to love and our compulsion to keep trying told amidst Gray’s grimly dystopian vision of Unthank and Glasgow. It spans a period of 30 years and plays with narrative technique and structure.

A L Kennedy says: 'I mean I think you can’t give every adult a book they will all like, but I would give everybody Lanark. I think it’s a fantastic, extraordinary, angry, beautiful, crazy world that he makes, that really tells you about the power of the imagination, to transform things. If it’s a great book, wherever it’s from and wherever you’re from, it doesn’t matter. But I think sometimes it’s also nice to be Scottish and just read an amazing Scottish book.'

 


Malcolm Rifkind recommends...

John Macnab by John Buchan

A barrister, a cabinet minister, a banker and a plan borne of boredom to poach two stags and a salmon from each of three Scottish estates. To add some spice, the men inform each estate of their plan, assign a time frame, and sign collectively as ‘John Macnab’.

Malcolm Riftkind says: 'I think for Christmas it’s got to be something reasonably light-hearted, something reasonably entertaining and cheerful. I’m a great enthusiast for John Buchan, and one particular book that is not as widely known as it should be, is John Macnab, and it’s a marvellous spoof novel about three friends who take a bet as to who can poach a stag and catch a salmon from people who don’t wish them to be on their land. And they succeed, in part, but not entirely – it was written many years ago, and is great fun.'

 


Mark Beaumont recommends...

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

The story of Bilbo Baggins, a contented and peace-loving hobbit who finds himself reluctantly enlisted by Gandalf the wizard for a dangerous expedition to a dragon’s treasure-hoard. There’s also mention of a ring...

Mark Beaumont says: 'The book that I would give every adult in Scotland is not particularly original, but it’s a real favourite of mine – The Hobbit. I think I could probably read out most of the book from memory. It’s books like that which inspired me to be a professional adventurer, if that’s even a job. And it’s a book I now share with my children so I don’t care how old you are, a book like The Hobbit inspires people to actually take on journeys and get out there, and explore what’s beyond the familiar.'

 

Mark Billingham recommends...

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Twelve-year-old David is mourning the death of his mother alone in his bedroom among his books when he takes refuge in his imagination. Soon fantasy and reality begin to blur and David is lost in a world similar to his own but populated by characters he’s only ever read about.

Mark Billingham says: 'The book I would give everyone for Christmas is The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. It’s a book I just force on people, and if anyone I know reads it and doesn’t like it, I never want to speak to them again. It’s a kind of real test of friendship, if you like that book.' 

 

Eimear McBride recommends...

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli 

This classic examination of attaining and maintaining power is as relevant today as it was in the 1500s. In Machiavelli’s advice to princes, power is paramount and morality suffers but the end, he rationalises, justifies the means.

Eimear McBride says: 'The single book I would give to every adult in Scotland for Christmas, and probably every adult in the UK, is The Prince by Machiavelli, because I think we all have to be on our guard.'


Simon Mayo recommends...

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

The true story of how our species came to dominate, spanning the whole of human history with research both meticulously historical and radically modern. Harari uses biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics to support topics such as how our societies and personalities have formed and how deep our heritage goes, all the while challenging our actions and beliefs, our power and our future.

Simon Mayo says: 'I would like to give everybody in Scotland a copy of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. There’s actually a new one that has recently come out called Homo Deus, but I haven’t quite finished that yet, so I can’t give you as fulsome a recommendation. Sapiens is a brief history of civilisation, and it’s absolutely thrilling, from the first page to the last.'

 

Need more Christmas reads? Check out our 10 Nostalgic Christmas Reads.

Kellie Jones

Kellie Jones is an MSc Publishing student at Edinburgh Napier University and a booktuber.

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