Yes it’s that time again. Christmas Dinner. Marie couldn’t get a cloth to match the curtains and now Cyril’s coming (groan), the rattan chair will need to be squeezed between whoever looks thinnest on arrival. It will ruin the symmetry of the display.
PRESENTS!!! Is there one for everyone? No? Off to the bookshop. Okay, Amazon, if you’re static. Ignore highly reviewed and popularised paperbacks. Others will have had that thought. Be original. You can’t? You have gone blank with Christmasitis?
Here are my solutions:
I IMAGINE YOUR CHRISTMAS GUESTS INCLUDE:
Lorraine: She has frequent periods of depression following failed relationships. In her downs she retires to bed and reads avidly. Take those romances away, they only make her cry. She needs a new way of thinking. She needs a new way of thinking.
ANSWER: How to be a Good Wife, Bodleian Library. Lorraine might as well consider what worked in 1936 even if she is never to be a wife herself.
Cyril: Once he represented HM as consul in a distant island. Life was slow, uncultured and extremely comfortable. Now returned, he swings between part-time futile consultancies and no longer feels sufficiently important. He needs a book that will give him instant gravitas.
ANSWER: Dull men of Great Britain. Leland Carlson. Now Cyril will feel he is actually an interesting person himself.
Avril: Sharper than all of us, she appears to have read EVERYTHING, mostly with a cynical eye. She needs to be softened up, to learn that leisure books exist. And she should try being the hostess for once. Let her cook.
ANSWER: FIFTY SHADES OF CHICKEN F.L.Fowler (of course)
Dominic: He is a dandy, valuing appearance far too much. Apart from a mirror, he needs to think big, and particularly to think. Go carefully, too taxing a book will prevent him from opening the cover. This should suit.
ANSWER: Shepherd Spy Simon Drew.
Tom: He gains enormous pleasure from reading books that have faults. It will fill the room with his tenor bleats if you can find a badly edited book with an erudite author. Unfortunately, I dare not nominate one, or every word I write in the future will be spat upon. The other alternative is a book that invites extension of vocabulary.
ANSWER: The Horologican: A Day’s Jaunt through the Lost Words of the English Language. The impeccable Mark Forsyth. Hardback.That’ll shut Tom up.
Siobhan: She’s a secondary school teacher (History, and can sub for English). She would like to gain insight into the privations of 1940s Britain while munching gluttonous Xmas snacks, so give her Book 1 and 2 of this trilogy. Evacuation is on the curriculum (yr 9) so she can pass it off as homework next term.
ANSWER: Historical fiction. A Relative Invasion, Rosalind Minett. Book 1, Intrusion. Book 2, Infiltration. No swearing, sex or violence (unless you count psychological violence). A tale of resilience from pov of young boy.
Marie: Always the hostess, never the guest. Give her something so gripping she won’t bother ever to make a hot toddy for anyone, let alone a cooked meal.
ANSWER: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harari. Come on, Marie, let zip those neurons. A bit of physical anthropology will do you the world of good.
LASTLY, Dear child, male or female. May you always be eclectic in your reading. May you have adults around who choose your books well.
ANSWER: THE RUNAWAY SMILE Nicholas Rossis. Beautifully illustrated. An engaging read with an embedded message to steer your darlings throughout childhood.