Stuck for a Christmas stocking filler? PHILIPPA MORRIS and TIM CURTIS of York's Little Apple bookshop recommend some books for all the family...


Various authors – Eight Ghosts (English Heritage paperback £8.99)

I am not sure what it is about Christmas that makes me want to snuggle up with a good ghost story. I suspect Dickens started it. This gem of a collection was specially commissioned by English Heritage who let eight authors, including Sarah Perry and Kamila Shamsie, experience out of hours access to their sites and then let their imaginations run wild. The results are eight spooky stories with very specific settings, including York’s Cold War bunker (chosen by Mark Haddon).

William Boyd – Love is Blind (Penguin Viking hardback 15.99 - signed copies available at Little Apple)

Boyd is on fine form here with this riveting tale of love, travel, revenge and piano tuning! Brodie Moncur is the piano-tuning protagonist, sent to Paris and beyond, and working for a fading concert pianist and his gangster brother. An illicit love affair with an unemployable Russian singer leads to danger, heartache and the occasional tampered piano...

CHRISTMAS TALES Jeanette Winterson – Christmas Days (Vintage paperback 10.99)

Jeanette Winterson is a consummate story teller. She just has a way with words that is magical, so this is an absolute treat. Interwoven with the twelve stories are Christmas recipes (some of which are from famous friends) and musings about the importance of making our own family Christmas traditions. It is a personal intimate portrait of how very special Christmas can be.

Kimberley Campanello and Simon Birch – Prideaux Angels (Valley Press paperback £10.99)

Christmas at the big house for a group of evacuee children turns into a lesson on war, love and hope. Land girl Gertie guides them through the story with a special robin, ghostly snow angels and a grieving mother. All is happy in the end though so don’t worry. This story was originally produced as a dance promenade in Scarborough.

Jean-luc Fromental – 365 Penguins illustrated by Joelle Jolivet (Abrams hardback £12.99)

Penguins and Christmas go together so perfectly. This is my favourite book about penguins because it stretches the mind and gives an environmental message without holding back on the joy. A family start to received strange packages at the beginning of the year as a penguin arrives each day. By February they find themselves rearranging the house to accommodate them and by mid-summer, life is a chaotic frenzy of non-stop fish buying. As the numbers get even bigger, we can all share in the fun of this logistical penguin pandemonium. Then by the end of the year, we find out just why this is happening. Wonderful!


Guinea Pig Christmas Carol (Bloomsbury hardback £7.99)

Relive Dicken’s classic Christmas story with a pictorial re-enactment by some very talented guinea pigs. It is a fun way to introduce Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas to a whole new generation that don’t even remember the muppet version!

Sugar Snap Studio - Abc What She Can Be (Walter Foster Jr hardback £10.99)

There is a trend at the moment for inspiring books for girls. This one starts early, pre-school early. It is a board book every parent would be happy to give their daughter. It aims to implant ideas of aspiration very early on by illustrating that women can have any job they choose. It helpfully explains what a botanist might find herself doing: she “carefully studies plants to see what makes them grow” or a quantum physicist who “studies atoms…to understand how our world works.”


Martin Dorey – No. More. Plastic. (Penguin paperback £6.99)

I reviewed this book earlier in the year and was absolutely bowled over by the response – so I thought it would be an ideal Christmas gift and an antidote to buying all that plastic stuff nobody wants. These two-minute solutions are enough to start a revolution.

Life Lessons I learned from My Cat (Lom Art Books hardback £9.99 illustrated by Jamie Shelman)

I have many friends that feel their cats have got life sussed. This clever little volume gives you 100 examples of things to learn from our feline friends, accompanied by witty cartoons. From the basics like “give positive feedback” and “make eye contact” to slightly the more forthright “if you want someone’s attention sit in front of the TV”. And the great thing about friends with cats – they can’t get enough cat books!

Darcey and Nicola Millbank - Give the Dog a Bone (HQ hardback £9.99)

This is a dog cook book, yes, featuring actual recipes to bake for your dog. There are tasty bakes that will make your mouth water. The book is even mindful that your dog might be gluten free, or nut allergic or vegetarian and gives options for all of these too. The ethos is simple – homemade treats guarantee you know exactly what your dog is eating. This is ideal for the dog nut in your life. It is also full of very cute dog pictures and makes me smile every time I sell it.

The Writer’s Map edited by Huw Lewis-Jones (Thames and Hudson hardback £25)

When you start looking through this book, you realise how many great books have included detailed maps of the world created and often drawn by the author themselves, from fantasy specialists like Tolkien and George RR Martin to children’s authors like Tove Jansson. In this book, famous authors write essays about other authors, the maps they make and how they were inspired by them. For instance, Frances Hardinge extolls the virtues of Moominvalley and Robert Macfarlane explains his love of Treasure Island. This is the ideal gift for the family bookworm.


Bruce Grobbelaar – Life In A Jungle (DeCoubertin hardback £18.00 - signed copies available at Little Apple)

Bruce is a Liverpool legend and a unique figure in football: whether fighting in the Rhodesian Bush War, experiencing the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters first-hand or being embroiled in a Sun newspaper betting sting, this is a book shot through with more violence, tragedy and controversy than your average football autobiography. Plus his descriptions of items thrown at him from the stands by supporters (darts, a potato packed with razor blades) make you wonder if today’s footballers have it a bit easy.


KK Downing – Heavy Duty Days and Nights in Judas Priest (Constable hardback £18.00 - signed copies available at Little Apple)

Power struggles, bad management, walk-outs, court cases and elaborate pull-offs all feature in this entertaining account of 40 years in Judas Priest from guitarist KK Downing. Whether outing ACDC as tea-drinkers, watering down his co-guitarist’s pre-concert beer, or feuding with Iron Maiden (“they were copying our clothes”), KK assesses the heavy metal scene and his own band with great honesty and affection.

Billy Bragg – Roots, Radicals and Rockers (Faber paperback £9.99 - signed copies available at Little Apple)

Billy Bragg’s superbly researched history of the skiffle movement takes you back to the time of Lonnie Donegan, Tommy Steele, Ken Colyer and host of other crazy cats, to a time when there was an amazing 20 skiffle bars in Soho alone. Bragg’s enthusiasm is infectious throughout as he argues that skiffle was really the punk of its day, raw in sound, open to those with no formal training and hugely divisive (“Skiffle or piffle” scoffed Alexis Corner!)

Tim Hopgood – Moon River based on the song by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini (Oxford hardback £12.99 - signed copies available at Little Apple)

The book resonates with many adults who tell me this was their special wedding song. It features the lyrics to the famous song, beautifully illustrated by Tim Hopgood, and comes with a CD too. As Tim says in his introduction to the song, “It’s a song full of adventure and big dreams.” The wonderfully dreamy story is delightful to share with any “Huckleberry friend.”


John Cooper Clarke – The Luckiest Guy Alive (Picador hardback £14.99 - signed copies available at Little Apple)

John Cooper Clarke seems like a busy man, but this is actually his first poetry collection in about thirty years. It’s worth the wait, whether he’s taking a poetical pot shot at himself in Get Back On Drugs, using the phrase “farinaceous vittles” or asking “Who stole Bongo’s trousers?” These riff-like poems are hilarious, caustic and shot through with his unique punk sneer.