Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2015

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We know that you could do your Christmas present book shopping from Amazon's best seller lists, but we like to suggest more unusual books that we've enjoyed over the year. Hopefully you'll find something for everyone here.

This Year's Quirky Big Seller

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Review of

1,234 QI Facts to Leave You Speechless by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson and James Harkin

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It's actually quite difficult to think of anyone to whom this book wouldn't appeal. who doesn't need to know that Belorussian sausage contains no toilet paper? Or...

No US President has ever died in May.
There are fewer women on corporate boards in America than there are men named John.
Dogs investigate bad smells with their right nostril and good smells with their left.
Apollo 11's fuel consumption was seven inches to the gallon.
The first occupational disease ever recorded in medical literature was 'chimney sweep's scrotum'.
The song 'Yes, We Have No Bananas' was written by Leon Trotsky's nephew.
In the 18th Century, King George I declared all pigeon droppings to be property of the Crown.

It's going to be great fun on the day and something that will be returned to time and time again. Full Review

Children's Books

For Sharing


Review of

Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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You might be thinking this: hang on, a book about a serious subject such as bullying isn't really the best choice for a Christmas stocking. But it is! Honestly! Bully is a simple, yet powerful story about bullying and friendship, as told by a group of farmyard animals. The illustrations are simple but striking and the word-count is minimal, making it perfect for the littlest ones and a proper sharing experience. But mostly, it's an uplifting story of the power of friendship and with a message that every child needs to hear - bullies never win in the end. Full Review

For Confident Readers


Review of

The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone

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The Dreamsnatcher is the perfect book for a magical Christmas. Twelve year old Moll wakes in the night to find herself deep in the dark forest. The nightmare that haunts her sleep has brought her to a place of danger, summoned there by the evil Skull and his wicked sorcery. Moll and her fiercely protective wildcat, Gryff, must fight back against the dark magic before it is too late.It's a fantasy for those who love stories about friendship, loyalty and bravery too - and a story for all those who enjoyed the early Harry Potter books. In fact, we suspect a great many parents might want to read it once the kids have finished! Full Review

For Teens


Review of

Railhead by Philip Reeve

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There are some fabulous books in our list of our favourite books for teens over 2015, but Railhead just has to be the choice for a Christmas gift that will appeal to all readers. In the distant future, mankind has travelled into space, not by spaceship, but by train. This is the world of the Grand Network, with nearly a thousand K-gates (like Stargates but for trains) spanning the galaxy, linking hundreds of rich and varied worlds. It's a steady-paced and thrilling science fiction adventure, packed full of interesting concepts, great characters and a bit of dry humour every once in a while. What better reading choice over the festive break?! Full Review

Fiction for Adults


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Review of

Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall

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We could have suggested Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin and it is a darned good read, but we thought you might appreciate something different. Ruth Dugdall's writing is superb and she touches a nerve with the question of what happens when children who kill are eventually released back into the community as adults.

A child killer has served his tariff and is released under a new identity, with all the meagre support and protection the system allows. There are those who still need questions answered and others who need their own guilt assuaged...following Ben's release and trawling back through memories of the day it happened, questions of guilt are not so easily answered - a gripping and emotional read, with insights into a system that tries but often fails. Full Review

Fantasy and Science Fiction

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Review of

The Chimes by Anna Smaill

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If you're looking to buy a gift for a fan of fantasy novels but want something a little bit different, look no further than The Chimes a lyrical, vivid take on the genre from a published poet. Writing is outlawed and no one remembers how to read. In fact memory itself is at a premium; people carry their memories around with them in their hands or any way they're able as each day their minds empty of so much. The world now answers to the music of The Chimes summoning all to daily observance. The music is all. Imagine: a world with no writing, ruled by a mysterious upper class and surrounded by music. A well-conceived, delicate fantasy that reveals a multi-layered fable as it progresses for those who want it and a ripping good tale for those who don't. Full Review



Review of

Influx by Daniel Suarez

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This Christmas, thriller fans would love to find a copy of Influx in their stockings. Finally, says our reviewer Sam, Daniel Suarez has lived up to his promise. When Jon Grady invents a mirror that can reflect gravity he has only the best in mind for society, but elements of the US Government disagree. Rather than being lorded he is locked up in an advanced prison with no hope of escape.Events do not always unfold as you would imagine and characters that you believe will be key towards the end may not even make it that far. This all combines to create a tension that only the best thrillers are able to achieve. Throw in several intelligent and interesting science fiction ideas into the mix and you have one of the best near future thrillers I have read in a long time – perhaps since Jurassic Park. Full Review

General Fiction

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Review of

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam

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If you're looking for an engaging, quirky story then we don't think that you can do much better than Carrying Albert Home.

Elsie and Homer Hickam were West Virginians and knew how to make their tales as tall as the hills that surrounded them on all sides. There is a Hickam family legend that has been told and retold so many times over the years that the lines between myth and reality have become well and truly blurred. Carrying Albert Home is the story of a man and his wife, a sweet pet alligator and a very lucky rooster who decide to take a road trip to Florida in 1935; the year of the Great Depression. What follows next is all completely true, well, except for the parts that are made up... Full Review

Historical Fiction


Review of

The Winter Isles by Antonia Senior

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Action-packed historical fiction but told with an underlying sensitivity and great authenticity. This is top class historical fiction.

Scotland 1122: A son is born to a warlord on the Scottish Islands. The warlord GilleBride, is a man who doesn't realise his glory is receding. One day the realisation does hit him, along with a Viking raid. In the heat of invasion his son, although only 15, must take over. Can a lad actually lead a people? History will tell and legend will embellish for that boy is Somerled and this is his story. Full Review

Literary Fiction


Review of

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

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We know this recommendation might not be much of a surprise, since Seven Killings won this year's Booker Prize. But really, honestly, truly, it would make the perfect Christmas gift for anyone you know who hasn't read it yet. On December 3rd 1976 a group of armed men go to Bob Marley's Jamaican home in Hope Road on a mission to kill 'The Singer'. No one will be arrested for it but that doesn't mean their lives afterwards will be normal. This is a total fictionalisation of their story and therefore the story of the people of the Jamaican ghettoes: the politics, the unrest, the gang warfare and the death. It's unbelievably good and your gift could well be the best thing the recipient has read all year. Full Review

Non-Fiction for Adults

Autobiographies and Biographies


Review of

John le Carre: The Biography by Adam Sisman

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If you're after an autobiography then you might like to consider Bandaging the Blitz by Phyll MacDonald-Ross and I D Roberts, but our biography choice for 2015 is Adam Sisman's biography of John le Carre. It's an enthralling and thoroughly comprehensive account of one of the most successful British writers of his age. Although it's an authorised biography Sisman has treated his subject with both affection and objectivity. Full Review



Review of

1916: A Global History by Keith Jeffery

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1916 was a pivotal year in modern history. It witnessed the Easter Rising in Dublin, the battles of Verdun and the Somme, and the election of Woodrow Wilson as American President. These, and several other events described in this book in detail, were later seen as crucial staging points in the course of the First World War. What better gift as we approach the centenary? And the book itself looks stunning. Full Review

Home and Family

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Review of

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood

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Once Christmas is over I'm ready to be thinking about some fresher, lighter food and Rose Water and Orange Blossoms is a cookery book I'd be delighted to find in my stocking, with its lush flavours of an American-Lebanese childhood.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms began life as a blog. Maureen Abood grew up with flavours of the Lebanon around her - the scent of floral waters and cinnamon, lentils, bulgur wheat and yoghurt, but most of all, the succulence of lamb. She revisits the recipes which nourished her childhood, sometimes remaining faithful to the original, but occasionally giving them her personal twist. The whole family has contributed (even if not directly) to the food which she produces and sometimes the recipes have been handed down for generations, but it's not just the food which sings in her hands, but the people who come alive as you read. Full Review


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