18 brilliant books for Christmas – as recommended by your favourite presenters

Fill your stockings with these top Christmas books picks from the TV and radio stars

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Jenni Murray

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The Voice of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour

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The book I want for Christmas

The Sellout by Paul Beatty, £12.10 (incl p&p)

The Man Booker Prize winner was described in one review as “the most lacerating American satire in years”. But it is also apparently a really funny novel and I could do with a laugh!

The books I’ll be giving

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (£13.50, incl p&p)

This is a beautifully written historical novel set in the fictional Essex village of Aldwinter in the late 19th century. It’s a tender love story, and tackles themes that are as relevant now as then: poor housing, domestic violence, the gulf between social classes. The historical detail is phenomenal – it’s simply wonderful. 

Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein (£8.80, plus £1.50 p&p)

is a must-read for any parent of daughters. Orenstein is an American journalist who interviewed 70 young women aged between 15 and 20, and it’s distressing in its descriptions of how damaged they are by their ignorance of their right to sexual pleasure.  


 Chris Packham

Autumnwatch presenter

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The books I want for Christmas

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, £20.30 (inc p&p)

All I want to read at Christmas is something to trip me up, to make me think – something that I won’t stop telling people about for months. I like to be startled or stabbed emotionally so I’m hoping this will do all that. Harari wrote the excellent Sapiens, which I couldn’t stop thinking about for ages.

Another one by a favourite author would be the novel Night of Fire by Colin Thubron (£14.85, incl p&p). He is a travel writer by reputation but also writes novels – 1989’s Falling was one of my favourites – so I’m keen to see if his sense of terrible romance still burns.

The Book I’ll be Giving

Industrial Scars by J Henry Fair (£23.80, incl p&p)

I’ll be giving this out to challenge people. It’s a collection of extraordinary and very beautiful photographs of environmental destruction, taken by an American activist. It’s the most interesting and unsettling book of the year, and is a necessary antidote to the typical natural photography book.


Helen Skelton

Broadcaster

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The book I want for Christmas

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (£6.99, plus £1.50 p&p)

I’ll always be happy to receive any book by Roald Dahl. His stories are so classic and really funny. Yes, lots of them are aimed at kids, but I love that adults can read him too. All Dahl’s work has a bit of darkness in it – that’s what makes him so intriguing.

The Books I’ll be Giving

Wonder by RJ Palacio (£7.50, plus £1.50 p&p)

I’ve just finished reading this. It’s the story of a ten-year-old boy with a facial deformity who starts at a new school, and is told through the perspectives of different characters. It’s brilliant – one minute I was roaring with laughter and the next I was crying. I read it on a plane, and felt compelled to turn to the man next to me and tell him to buy it.

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I also recently enjoyed Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher (£7.50, plus £1.50 p&p), a romantic novel about a celebrity who sweeps a young woman off her feet. I didn’t think those kind of books were for me, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.