So many books, so little time to choose them. But there’s no need to fret – we’ve asked some top authors (whose latest titles may already be on your wish list) to reveal what’s top of their reading lists this festive season. Recommendations don’t come much better than this...
Top thriller-writer Rankin, creator of the Rebus series, chooses The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill (Profile, £9.99). “This is a brand new collection of ghost stories from the ever-reliable Hill, who knows more than most how to send a shiver up the spine – just right for fire-lit winter nights as the weather rages outside.
“I also want to read Conclave by Robert Harris (Hutchinson, £20). Each Robert Harris thriller is very different but of exemplary consistency. This time round, he’s dealing with intrigue and skulduggery in the Vatican, as elections for a new Pope commence.”
His other selection is Black Widow by Christopher Brookmyre (Little, Brown, £18.99). “Could this be a Celtic Gone Girl, set in Inverness where the husband of a scandal-prone doctor goes missing? Twisty, ingenious and funny, with sharp characterisations. It’s guaranteed to keep you guessing.”
Sports commentator Balding, who has branched out as a children’s author in recent years, says: “On my Christmas books wish list would be anything by Elizabeth Strout. I read Olive Kitteridge on holiday and love the caustic wit, so I’d love to read My Name Is Lucy Barton (Viking, £12.99).
“My friend Mark Chapman has written a book called The Love Of The Game: Parenthood, Sport And Me (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99), about his passion for ball games and how he sees his children consuming different sports. It should be right up my street.
“My other choice would be Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter (Faber & Faber, £7.99 paperback). I’ve heard wonderful things about the beauty of his writing and don’t want to miss one of the best books of 2016.”
BBC Radio 2 presenter Mayo, who has just written his first ‘Young Adult’ thriller, called Blame, hopes to be reading Bruce Springsteen’s memoir Born To Run (Simon & Schuster, £20) at Christmas. “The ‘rich man in a poor man’s shirt’ writes prose as lyrical as his songs. Funny, wise, passionate.”
His second choice is Seven Brief Lessons On Physics by Carlo Rovelli (Penguin, £6.99 paperback). “It’s the perfect antidote to the fluff and nonsense around right now. Learn how the world is and how you might just fit in.”
Another choice is The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler (Picador, £12.99). “Small lives, big politics, Franz is the tobacconist’s apprentice, Professor Freud gives out romantic advice, Vienna is stunning. But it is 1937 and the Anschluss with Nazi Germany changes everything.”
Bestselling author of the Alex Rider books and The Power Of Five series, plus scriptwriter and creator of TV’s award-winning Foyle’s War, Horowitz says: “As always, I’ll be spending Christmas abroad – this year in Sri Lanka – which means two long flights and hours on the beach. It’s a perfect time to catch up with my reading, and high on my list is the first authorised biography of one of my great heroes, Sir Colin Gubbins, the driving force behind the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. SOE’s Mastermind by Brian Lett (Pen & Sword Military, £25) was published earlier this year and it’s been by my bed ever since.
“Another book about the war is East West Street by human rights lawyer Philippe Sands (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20). It’s a profound and very personal account of the origins of genocide in Nazi Germany, intertwined with the history of his own family during that time, and much more compelling than I’ve made it sound.
“Light relief? Probably Nutshell, the latest novel by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape, £16.99); I read pretty much everything he writes.”
Romantic novelist Ahern, bestselling author of P.S. I Love You, which was made into a movie starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler, has recently written her first YA novel, called Flawed. She says: “My favourite genre is crime thrillers, and the number one book on my Christmas wish list is Lee Child’s Night School (Bantam, £20). Six years ago, I went on maternity leave and began by reading his first book, and within four months I’d read them all. I’m absolutely addicted. His books usually come out on my birthday so I get them then, but this year I did not. Jack Reacher is such a solid character, he’s clever, able to analyse things instantly and very perceptive. I also like the female characters, who are equally intelligent and part of the solution.”
Her other choice is fellow Irish native Graham Norton’s debut novel Holding, a thriller. “I really like the sound of it, it’s a detective story set in Cork.”
Truss, bestselling author of Eats, Shoots And Leaves, says: “The period between Christmas and New Year is a great time either to read or to write. I have a feeling that this year I’ll be writing. But I still love getting books. Top of the list is the paperback edition of Philip Hensher’s two-volume The Penguin Book Of The British Short Story (Penguin Classics, £12.99), which I was too mean to buy in hardback.
“Meanwhile, there are two science books I’m keen to – try to – read: Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20), and Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal (Granta, £14.99).
“The wonderful Richard Holmes – supreme biographer of Romantic poets – has recently published This Long Pursuit: Reflections Of A Romantic Biographer (William Collins, £25), which promises to include stuff on scientific women of the Enlightenment, a pet interest of mine. All these books together, I calculate, will take me comfortably through to Christmas 2017.”