Gift Ideas for this Christmas: Trivia, Cooking, Romance, and Suspense

Let us be your personal shoppers!

ABC’s booksellers don’t just sell books: as well as being voracious readers, almost everyone you’ll meet at the cash desk at ABC is personally responsible for buying the books for one or more sections in the store. That means you’ll always find someone who can put exactly the right book in your hands when you need it. We asked our buyers for their tips for the best gifts for Christmas, and they came up with some crackers: a sackful of ideas to suit every taste and budget. There are new books, classic books, magazines, games, puzzles, and even cuddly toys. Here are just a few of their ideas. Follow the links to find more ideas on:




Or, to see all of our gift ideas for 2011, see the other posts!


Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Joshua Foer
Discover the beauty and the fun of information for information’s sake. No dry facts, theories or statistics, but visually stunning displays: beautiful colour illustrations that are fun to flick through but intriguing and engaging enough to study for hours. The Dutch translation has been christened “Het geheugenpaleis”, for those of you who have seen that title pass by.

The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth
An occasionally ribald, frequently witty and unerringly erudite guide tour of the secret labyrinth that lurks beneath the English language, taking in monks and monkeys, film buffs and buffaloes, and explaining precisely what the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. Her cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.  Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar . . .: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes – Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein
Here’s a lively, hilarious, not-so-reverent crash course through the great philosophical traditions, schools, concepts, and thinkers. It’s Philosophy 101 for those who know not to take all this heavy stuff too seriously.

Information is Beautiful – David McCandless
Facts, statistics, issues, theories, relationships, numbers, words – there is just too much information in the world. We need a brand new way to take it all in. Information is Beautiful transforms the ideas surrounding and swamping us into visually stunning graphs and maps that anyone can follow at a single glance.

Focus Magazine.
An award-winning science and technology magazine, founded by the BBC. With articles on everything from astronomy to archaeology, genetics to geology, Focus magazine is jargon-free and accessible to all – you won’t need a PhD in particle physics to enjoy it.
Has it arrived recently? Check here!


From Season to Season: A Year in Recipes – Sophie Dahl
Continuing where her hugely successful Voluptuous Delights left off, best-selling author Sophie Dahl offers up a seasonal almanac of bountiful dishes alongside warm food-filled memories and musings.
Taking a gastronomic journey through the seasons, from the Victorian Beeton era to a recent sodden Parisian evening, Dahl captures the smoke filled days of Autumn with a nostalgic Squash and Parmesan soup, the blooming warmth of an English garden in high summer with Grilled Peaches with Pistachios and Ricotta; and the burgeoning beginnings of Spring with a Butter Lettuce, Lobster and Crayfish Salad.
Bursting with more-ish yet nutritious recipes for budding foodies and seasoned gourmets alike, stunning photography and Sophie’s delightfully quirky illustrations, this latest offering promises pleasure, indulgence and of course, simple, good food.

Ducasse: Nature – Alain Ducasse
When people think of French food, they often imagine laborious recipes that are loaded with butter and cream, and which can only be mastered with the skills of a sous chef. In Nature, Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, in collaboration with nutritionist Paule Neyrat, rediscovers the pleasure of simple food, and presents delicious French cuisine without the fat or the fuss. With over 190 easy-to-make creations, Ducasse shows the subtle wonders of a wide range of delectable flavours, giving pride of place to fruit, vegetables and cereals, which are sure to leave you feeling great. Featuring delightful line drawings, mouthwatering food photography, and with Alain’s useful snippets of advice peppered throughout the book, Nature is more than a recipe book: it shows another way to enjoy food that is more natural, healthy and delicious.

The Fat Duck Cookbook – Heston Blumenthal
In this beautiful, smaller format edition of the award-winning Big Fat Duck Cookbook, we hear the full story of the meteoric rise of Heston Blumenthal and The Fat Duck, birthplace of snail porridge and bacon-and-egg ice cream, and encounter the passion, perfection and weird science behind the man and the restaurant. Heston Blumenthal is widely acknowledged to be a genius, and The Fat Duck has twice been voted the Best Restaurant in the World by a peer group of top chefs. But he is entirely self-taught, and the story of his restaurant has broken every rule in the book. His success has been borne out of his pure obsession, endless invention and a childish curiosity into how things work – whether it’s how smell affects taste, what different flavours mean to us on a biological level, or how temperature is distributed in the centre of a souffle. In the first section of The Fat Duck Cookbook, we learn the history of the restaurant, from its humble beginnings to its third Michelin star (the day Heston received the news of this he had been wondering how exactly he would be able to pay his staff that month). Next we meet 50 of his signature recipes – sardine on toast sorbet, salmon poached with liquorice, hot and iced tea, chocolate wine – which, while challenging for anyone not equipped with ice baths, dehydrators, vacuum pumps and nitrogen on tap, will inspire home cooks and chefs alike. Finally, we hear from the experts whose scientific know-how has contributed to Heston’s topsy-turvy world. With an introduction by Harold McGee, incredible colour photographs throughout and illustrations by Dave McKean, The Fat Duck Cookbook is not only the nearest thing to an autobiography from the world’s most fascinating chef, but also a stunning, colourful and joyous work of art.

The Essential Thomas Keller: The French Laundry Cookbook & Ad Hoc at Home – Thomas Keller
Two award-winning books in one box offer a lifetime of learning for anyone who loves fine food.
From two acclaimed restaurants came two of the most acclaimed, award-winning cookbooks ever published—now packaged together in a luxurious slipcased boxed set, the ideal holiday gift for any food lover.

The Silver Spoon – Cucchiaio D’argento
The Silver Spoon, the most influential and successful Italian cookbook of the last 50 years, is now available in a brand new revised edition. Originally published in 1950, it became an instant classic, selling over one million copies in eight editions. The Silver Spoon was first conceived and published by Domus, Italy’s famed design and architectural magazine. A select group of cooking experts were commissioned to collect hundreds of traditional Italian recipes and make them available for the first time to a wider modern audience. A comprehensive and lively book, its uniquely stylish and user-friendly format makes it accessible and a pleasure to read. The new edition features new introductory material covering such topics as how to compose a traditional Italian meal, typical food traditions of the different regions, and how to set an Italian table. Its over 2000 recipes are illustrated with newly commissioned photographs and contains a new section of menus by celebrated chefs cooking traditional Italian food.

Veganomicon – Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
Who knew vegetables could taste so good? Moskowitz and Romero’s newest delicious collection makes it easier than ever to live vegan. You’ll find more than 250 recipes–plus menus and stunning color photos–for dishes that will please every palate. All the recipes in Veganomicon have been thoroughly kitchen-tested to ensure user-friendliness and amazing results. And by popular demand, the Veganomicon includes meals for all occasions and soy-free, gluten-free, and low-fat options, plus quick recipes that make dinner a snap.

Saveur Magazine
Saveur is a magazine for people who experience the world food first. Created to satisfy the hunger for genuine information about food in all its contexts, the magazine emphasizes heritage and tradition, home cooking and real food, evoking flavors from around the world (including forgotten pockets of culinary excellence in the United States). It celebrates the cultures and environments in which dishes are created and the people who create them. It serves up rich, satisfying stories that are complex, defining and memorable.
Has it arrived recently? Check here.


Romantic Times Book Review
The magazine with all the latest releases in the Romance genre reviewed, organized by category. It also features many interviews, my own favorite corner called Book Sleuth (“what’s the title of the book published in the mid-80s featuring a hero with green eyes who is an undercover cop, who kidnaps and later rescues the heroine?”), and top tips for writers. Also includes quite a lot of mystery/thriller and fantasy reviews.
Has it arrived? Check here.

The Subject of Tonight is Love by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Hafiz’s poems literally sing of love, and Ladinsky’s translations are world-renowned. Beautiful.

The Next Always by Nora Roberts
The latest from Our Lady of Romance, Nora Roberts. This is the first part of the Inn Boonesboro trilogy (the second part, The Last Boyfriend is due next May). The historic hotel in Boonsboro, Maryland, has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. As the architect of the family, Beckett’s social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen…

Wrapped Up in You by Carole Matthews
A Christmas fling, or has Janie found the real thing? Thirty-something hairdresser Janie Johnson’s single status is a constant source of gossip for her friends and clients. So after too many nights in with her cat, a blind date disaster and news that her ex is getting married, Janie realises it’s time to do something dramatic with her life. It’s time for an adventure! Leaving winter behind, Janie takes the plunge and books an exotic trip to Africa. Her friends think she’s mad and Janie thinks they may very well be right …but then she falls head over heels for her tour guide – and fully fledged Maasai Warrior – Dominic. But can Janie now face spending a snowy Christmas back home without him? Our You Reviewer Claudette found it an “original read, sensitively told and showing a great deal of insight into the dynamics of friendship and love.”

Emotion Gallery – exploding heart bookmark
These beautiful 3D bookmarks are all gorgeous, but the heart that explodes is eye-catching and one of my favorites!

One Day by David Nicholls
The romance that isn’t a romance! We follow Dexter and Emma for one day each year as they get together then promptly part ways, but stay in touch. Both funny and insightful, and the source of a lovely movie, too.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
A huge, soaring novel about the search for a suitable husband for Lata, the younger daughter of an Indian family. Seth’s language is beautiful, begging to be read again and again, and his detailing so vivid and clear that you would be forgiven for trying to find Lata’s hometown on a map of India before realizing it’s a work of fiction (*cough*iknowilooked*cough*). You fall in love with all the characters there as they each, in turn, look for love themselves.

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey
Some man-advice from the best source: a man. Comic Steve Harvey gives all the ladies lots of relationship advice and insights, from a man’s point of view. A bestseller from the moment it was published!

Songs of Love and Death, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Here’s the reason there’s no book 6 of the Song of Ice and Fire series yet: Mr. Martin has been busy editing this anthology uniting romantic and fantastic stories. Featuring original works by Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, Jim Butcher, Jacqueline Carey, Jo Beverley, Robin Hobb, Mary Jo Putney and many more. A true must-have if you have a weakness for either genre.

Dark Lover by J. R. Ward
…and sometimes, nothing but pure, unadulterated, alpha male vampires will do. J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, starting with Dark Lover, is the one you want to read then. Men so tough they eat steel for breakfast, women so beautiful wars are started over them; it’s all so huge it would be silly but for the fact you are inexorably drawn into the world Ward creates, and end up reading the rest of the series within two weeks. Phwoar!


The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
The new Sherlock Holmes novel, penned by one of the biggest names in Young Adult thrillers. With devilish plotting and excellent characterisation, bestselling author Anthony Horowitz delivers a first-rate Sherlock Holmes mystery for a modern readership whilst remaining utterly true to the spirit of the original Conan Doyle books. Sherlock Holmes is back with all the nuance, pace and powers of deduction that make him the world’s greatest and most celebrated detective.

Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr
September 1941. Bernie Gunther returns from the horrors of the Eastern Front to find his home city of Berlin changed, and changed for the worse. Now back at his old desk on Homicide in Kripo HQ, Alexanderplatz, Bernie starts to investigate the death of a Dutch railway worker, while starting something – of an entirely different nature – with a local good-time girl.  But he is obliged to drop everything when his old boss, Reinhard Heydrich of the SD, the new Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia, orders him to Prague to spend a weekend at his country house. It’s an invitation Bernie feels he would gladly have been spared, especially when he meets his fellow guests – all of them senior loathsome figures in the SS and SD.  The weekend turns sour almost immediately when a body is found, in a room that was locked from the inside. Now the spotlight falls on Bernie to show off his investigative skills and solve this seemingly impossible mystery. If he fails to do so, he knows what is at stake – not only his reputation, but also that of Reinhard Heydrich, a man who does not like to lose face. So begins the most diplomatically sensitive case of Bernie Gunther’s police career.

The Litigators by John Grisham
The latest John Grisham!  Featuring a boutique law firm with bickering partners and a young attorney at the end of his tether, ready to tackle a pharmaceutical company producing a dodgy cholesterol reducer.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré
The enduring novel by one of our greatest storytellers. George Smiley, who is a troubled man of infinite compassion, is also a single-mindedly ruthless adversary as a spy. The scene which he enters is a Cold War landscape of moles and lamplighters, scalp-hunters and pavement artists, where men are turned, burned or bought for stock.  Smiley’s mission is to catch a Moscow Centre mole burrowed thirty years deep into the Circus itself.

Bad Signs by R. J. Ellory
Orphaned by an act of senseless violence that took their mother from them, half-brothers Clarence Luckman and Elliot Danziger start life with two strikes against them. Raised in state institutions, unaware of the world outside, their lives take a sudden turn when they are seized as hostages by a convicted killer en route to death row. Earl Sheridan is a psychopath of the worst kind, but he has the potential to change the boys’ lives for ever. Sheridan and the two brothers set off on a frenetic escape from the law through California and Texas, and as te journey continues the boys must come to terms with the ever-growing titde of violence that follows in their wake- something that forces them to make a choice about their lives, and their relationship to one another. Will the brothers manage to elude the dark star that has hung over them since their mother’s death, or will they succumb to the pull of Earl Sheridan’s terrifing, but exhilarating vision of the world? Set in the 1960s, Bad Signs is a tale of the darkness within all of us, the inherent hope for salvation, and the ultimate consequences of evil.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
A story of passion and idealism, which describes a group of men and women in the Middle Ages whose destinies are fatefully linked with the building of a cathedral. In a country torn by civil war, two generations struggle to rise above their primitive circumstances and create something beautiful.

Eye Spy magazine
Eye Spy is the world’s only independent publication dedicated to espionage and intelligence.  The magazine deals with international intelligence stories, many of which have to do with such subjects as Al Qaeda, the destruction of TWA flight 800, the ex-Soviet Union, spies and their careers, the history of espionage, global terrorism and a wide array of other controversial issues all of which have to do with intelligence.
Has it arrived recently? Check here.

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
Beautiful Caroline Crale was convicted of poisoning her husband, yet there were five other suspects; the stockbroker who went to market; the amateur herbalist who stayed at home; the three-time divorcee who had roast beef and the devoted governess who had none.  Classic Christie.

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, volume 1 and volume 2, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Since his first appearance in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes has been one of the most beloved fictional characters ever created. Now, gathered together in two paperback volumes, all fifty-six short stories and four novels featuring Conan Doyle’s classic hero–a truly complete collection of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures in crime!