The 5 books to read or give for Christmas 2013
Christmas, for most of us, is about others. Sharing this unique human experience of joy, laughter and memories with family and friends makes this such a special time of year. All of these stories have human experience at their core – the strength, humility, fragility and power of the spirit through life’s hardships and triumphs.
Here are five books to read or give this Christmas; heart-wrenching, thought-provoking and powerful, they will resonate with you and yours well beyond the festive season.
Following Jason Priestley as he tracks down the girl who left her disposable camera in his hand on Charlotte Street, this five-star debut novel charts his day-to-day trials and tribulations as a part-time writer and unlikely romantic.
This is one of the greatest real stories written in recent years. Wallace’s characters are lovable and relatable, with a setting that’s so severely mundane you can’t help but feel this is about one of your mates.
Jason’s friends are the stuff of office nerd stereotyping and his quest is so impossible it must be doomed to failure. Charlotte Street is reluctantly charming, a quiet man’s triumph and a resounding success from Danny Wallace, author of Yes Man and Awkward Situations for Men.
This is guffaw-a-minute stuff – genuinely hilarious and heart-warming, you root for Jason despite his slightly stalkerish behaviour. It is a must-give for boyfriends, brothers and hopelessly whimsical friends.
The latest novel by Catherine Dunne explores the cracks that appear in the family unit after disaster strikes. It’s the story of Patrick and Ella coming to terms with a major tragedy in their wonderful lives, and of Patrick’s attempt to fix a past that was broken.
The Things We Know Now touches on the stuff that makes a family tick, what draws them apart and what changes life forever. It is nuanced, sophisticated and tense; Catherine Dunne is eloquent and sensitive in the handling of an event that is unspeakable in its devastation.
This is a tough yet rewarding read. It challenges the way the reader thinks of a character long after they’ve let them into their psyche, and aches with profound longing and love. Curl up with this and let the story move you, or give to mum as a reminder of the importance of family.
The fabulous film version of Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel was released last year, but the draw of the book is enough to keep it at the top of the Christmas reading list. It follows Charlie as he writes in his diary, noting his loves, school work and new experiences. Heart-breakingly real and superbly observed, Chbosky will have you weeping, squirming and taking Charlie into your heart.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower touches on buried secrets, awoken feelings and tantalising glimpses into the unknown. Sam and Patrick are wonderful, wry and bursting with teenage wisdom – all the characters in this perfectly rounded novel make a patchwork of weirdos, outsiders and loyal friends. This is a story that reaches your very core, questioning what it means to show your true self to others.
This Christmas, let this be a reminder of the awkwardness and tragedy of youth for you, your sister or a close friend.
Snatching moments from the life of a man you thought you knew can make for panicked reading – that is the intended consequence of Moriarty’s foray into the secret past of one suburban husband, John-Paul.
This novel is tense and stricken; Cecilia discovers a letter in the attic written by her husband in the event of his death, and it sends her universe spiralling downwards. It arouses suspicions and changes the way she thinks of her family and the values she holds dear. What unravels is the history of a deed so unthinkable that Cecilia no longer knows the man she married.
The Husband’s Secret is the story of betrayal and lies, redemption and forgiveness – and what it means to be one in the dark. This is one for the days after Christmas, for you or your other half, to revel in the emotion this novel stirs and to be thankful your life is less complicated.
This exquisite retelling of the fate of the whaleship Essex was released in 2000, but you haven’t missed the boat as it were – Nathaniel Philbrick’s historical work is currently being reworked for the silver screen, starring Chris Hemsworth. Now is the time to read this stunning book, charting the sinking of the Essex and the journey of its crew back from the edge of the earth.
This is the stuff nightmares are made of. When the ship was hit by a vengeful sperm whale in 1820, Owen Chase and his crew made for the coast of Chile in their small whaling boats. They did not reach it for months, and inevitably most of them died en route.
In the Heart of the Sea lays bare the enduring strength of humanity in the face of adversity; it is powerful and challenging. A memorable adventure for dad or grandad this Christmas.