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Trust a bookseller: 40 book recommendations for this festive season and beyond

From timeless classics to hot new releases, browse our bookseller book recommendations for the festive season and beyond to find the perfect read – whether for yourself or for your loved ones.

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Bookseller recommendations for this festive season and beyond

The local bookshop has always been an excellent place for book recommendations and discovering your next favourite read. So, in putting together our book recommendations for this festive season, we reached out to booksellers from around Oxfordshire for their top tips for this winter and the books they’re most excited about.

From timeless classics and festive stocking fillers to the hottest releases and upcoming literary gems, our bookseller recommendations for this season span a literary wonderland. All that’s left for you to do is discover enchanting stories for cosy winter nights and find the perfect read for the festive season – whether for yourself or your loved ones.

Special thanks to Jake from Bill & Ben Books, which owns the Book Stop next to the Randolph Hotel in Magdalen Street and Last Bookshop on Walton Street in Jericho, Oxford, Imogen and Alex of Wantage Bookshop – the sister bookshop to Hungerford Bookshop – which opened on the site of the Mad Hatters Bookshop on Mill Street in Wantage, Jack of award-winning Mostly Books in Abingdon, Mirjam and Euan at Blackwell’s – Oxford’s Family Bookshop, and all the brilliant staff at Daunt Books in Summertown.

Personally, I’ll be doing much of my Christmas shopping at my local independent bookshop this year. With an incredible variety of books available, it’s always possible to find something perfect, even for the trickiest family member – especially with the expert recommendations from your local indie bookshop.

And as we approach the close of 2023, here’s a heartfelt thank you to you, our readers, for championing your local bookshops. I hope that you’ll find inspiration and delight on their shelves.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and delightful reading adventures ahead!

Adult non-fiction


By Any Other Name: A Cultural History of the Rose

Simon Morley

The rose is bursting with meaning. Over the centuries, it has come to represent love, sensuality, deceit, death and the mystical unknown. Today, the rose enjoys unrivalled popularity across the globe and is ever-present at life’s seminal moments. This is the story of a hardy, thorny flower and how, by beauty and charm, it came to seduce the world.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £25.00 (now from £8.99)

Buy it now:

The Wood Age: How One Material Shaped the Whole of Human History

Rolans Ennos

How did the descendants of small arboreal primates manage to stand on their own two feet, become top predators and take over the world? In the bestselling tradition of Harari’s Sapiens, this unique history of humanity tells the story of our evolution, our civilisations, and our future through the lens of the material that made us.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £14.99 (now from £5.99)

Buy it now:

Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread

Michiko Kakutani

Why do we love books so much? For legendary literary critic Michiko Kakutani, books have always been an escape and a sanctuary. In Ex Libris, she offers a personal selection of over 100 works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, with passionate essays on the profound effect each one has had on her life.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £16.99 (now from £4.99)

Buy it now:

You Goddess! Life Lessons from Awesome Immortals

Elizabeth Foley and Beth Coates

Whether it’s the Norse warrior goddess Freya breaking all the rules, the Yoruba goddess Oshun being unafraid to ask for what she’s owed, or the Japanese goddess Uzume finding humour and playfulness in even the most embarrassing of situations, this fierce and fantastic tour of 25 ancient deities reclaims these feminist icons for a new generation.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: £9.99 (now from £3.99)

Buy it now:

Yoga for Stiff Birds

Marion Deuchars

Loosen up with a smile on your face. Marion Deuchars has practised yoga for many years and knows the benefits it brings. Now, she shares that passion with her illustrated character ‘Bob the Bird’, whose expressive poses will charm you into a reviving session of yoga breathing, stretching, posing, and mindfulness.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £10.00

Buy it now:

Museum Bums: A Cheeky Look at Butts in Art

Jack Shoulder

Based on the eponymous viral Twitter account, Museum Bums, a celebration of classical art, history, and shapely derrieres, encourages readers to learn something new while still managing to have a chuckle. What do Hieronymus Bosch, the Roman cult of Antinous, and the peach emoji all have in common? But of course, butts, of course!

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction / Art history

Price: RRP £14.99

Buy it now:

Politics on the Edge

Rory Stewart

A searing insider’s account from Rory Stewart, former Cabinet minister and co-presenter of breakout hit podcast The Rest Is Politics. Over the course of a decade from 2010, Rory Stewart went from being a political outsider to standing for prime minister – before being sacked from a Conservative Party that he had come to barely recognise.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction / Politics & government / Memoir

Price: RRP £22.00

Buy it now:

How They Broke Britain

James O’Brien

Our economy has tanked, our freedoms are shrinking, and social divisions are growing. We are living in a country almost unrecognisable from the one that existed a decade ago. Who broke Britain, and how did they do it? Bold and incisive as ever, James O’Brien reveals the shady network of influence that has created a broken Britain of strikes, shortages and scandals.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction / Politics & government

Price: RRP £20.00

Buy it now:

Making It So

Patrick Stewart

From his acclaimed stage triumphs to his legendary onscreen work in the Star Trek and X-Men franchises, the long-awaited memoir from iconic, beloved actor and living legend Sir Patrick Stewart is a revealing portrait of an artist whose astonishing life — from humble beginnings in Yorkshire to the heights of Hollywood — proves a story as exuberant, definitive, and enduring as the author himself.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction / Memoir

Price: RRP £25.00

Buy it now:

Living the Beatles Legend

Kenneth Womack

This is the first full-length biography of Mal Evans, the Beatles’ beloved friend, confidant, and roadie. Lavishly illustrated with unseen photos and ephemera from Mal’s archives, Living the Beatles’ Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans is the missing puzzle piece in the Fab Four’s incredible story.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction / Biography

Price: RRP £25.00

Buy it now:

Ultra-processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food…and Why Can’t We Stop?

Chris van Tulleken

We have entered a new ‘age of eating’ where most of our calories come from an entirely novel set of substances called Ultra-Processed Food, which is industrially processed and designed and marketed to be addictive. But do we really know what it’s doing to our bodies? Join Chris in his travels through the world of food science and a UPF diet to discover what’s really going on.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £22.00

Buy it now:

Barbra is by any account a living legend, a woman who has excelled in every area of entertainment in a career spanning six decades. No entertainer’s memoir has been more anticipated than Barbra’s, and this engrossing and delightful book will be eagerly welcomed by fans. Like Barbra herself, the book is frank, funny, opinionated, and charming.

My Name Is Barbra

Barbra Streisand

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction / Memoirs

Price: RRP £35.00

Buy it now:

Fire Weather: A True Story From A Hotter World

John Vaillant

For hundreds of millennia, fire has been a partner in our evolution, shaping culture and civilisation. With masterly prose and cinematic style, Vaillant delves into the intertwined histories of the oil industry and climate science and provides a panoramic exploration of the rapidly changing relationship between humanity and fire’s fierce energy in this gripping account of this century’s most intense urban fire.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £25.00

Buy it now:

Entangled Life: The Illustrated Edition

Cat Bohannon

How did wet nurses drive civilisation? Are women always the weaker sex? Is sexism useful for evolution? And are our bodies at war with our babies? Cat Bohannon answers questions scientists should have been addressing for decades. With boundless curiosity and sharp wit, she covers the past 200 million years to explain the science behind the development of the female sex.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £30.00

Buy it now:

Entangled Life: The Illustrated Edition

Merlin Sheldrake

The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us avoid environmental disaster. This illustrated edition features over 100 full-colour images, showcasing this wondrous and wildly various lifeform as never before.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction

Price: RRP £30.00

Buy it now:

Adult fiction


The Long Shadow

Celia Fremlin

Following the death of her husband in a car crash, Imogen’s grief is compounded by anonymous telephone calls from a man accusing her of his murder. Worse still is the fear that perhaps he’s not dead at all. This is a spine-chilling mystery with a subtly feminist take on the classic ghost story.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Adult fiction / Mystery

Price: RRP £9.99

Buy it now:

The Wake-up Call

Beth O’Leary

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and Forest Manor Hotel is quite literally falling apart. So when sworn enemies Izzy and Lucas are given the same shift at the hotel’s front desk, they have no choice but to put their differences aside. As their bitter rivalry turns into something much more complicated, can the two of them make it through the season with their hearts intact?

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £16.99

Buy it now:

In Memoriam

Alice Winn

Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood enlist in the British army and soon find themselves facing the horrors of trenches. With their friends dying in front of them, they find fleeting moments of solace in one another. This is an epic tale of both the devastating tragedies of war and the forbidden romance that blooms in its grip.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £14.99

Buy it now:

Once upon a river

Diane Setterfield

The drowned corpse of a girl. Hours later, it stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? And who does she belong to? This is an exquisitely crafted historical mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Victorian age.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £9.99

Buy it now:

The Christmas Appeal

Janice Hallett

The Fairway Players are busy rehearsing their festive pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, to raise money for the church roof appeal. But despite the season, goodwill is distinctly lacking – threats to the position of Chair, a fibreglass beanstalk possibly laden with asbestos, and, of course, there’s also the matter of the dead body. Will the show go on?

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £12.00

Buy it now:

So Late in the Day

Claire Keegan

After an uneventful Friday at the Dublin office, Cathal faces into the long weekend and takes the bus home. There, his mind agitates over a woman named Sabine with whom he could have spent his life had he acted differently. All evening, with only the television and a bottle of champagne for company, thoughts of this woman and others intrude – and the true significance of this particular date is revealed.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £8.99

Buy it now:

Good Material

Dolly Alderton

Every relationship has one beginning. This one has two endings. Andy loves Jen. Jen loved Andy. And he can’t work out why she stopped. From the bestselling author of Ghosts and Everything I Know About Love: a sharply funny, beautifully observed and exquisitely relatable story of heartbreak and friendship and how to survive both.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £18.99

Buy it now:

Cahokia Jazz

Francis Spufford

It’s 1922 in a city that never was, in an America that never was. On a snowy night at the end of winter, two detectives find a body on the roof of a skyscraper. And that body is about to spark off a week that will spill the city’s secrets and bring it against a soundtrack of wailing clarinets and gunfire, either to destruction or rebirth.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £20.00

Buy it now:

Yellowface

Rebecca F Kuang

When Athena dies in a freak accident, June steals her unpublished manuscript and publishes it as her own under the ambiguous name Juniper Song. But as evidence threatens June’s stolen success, she will discover exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves. What happens next is entirely everyone else’s fault.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £16.99

Buy it now:

The List

Yomi Adegoke

It began as a list of anonymous allegations about abusive men. Now, it has been published online. And Michael’s name is on there. But Michael is Ola’s fiancee. And Ola is a high-profile journalist who made her reputation breaking this type of story. With one month to the wedding, will the truth of what happened change everything for both of them?

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £14.99

Buy it now:

Mistletoe Malice

Kathleen Farrell

The fire is on, sherry poured, presents wrapped, claws are being sharpened, the Christmas tree explodes, a brawl erupts, an escape occurs – and a ‘midwinter madness’ climaxes; in a seaside cottage perched on a cliff, a dysfunctional family reunites for the Christmas holiday from hell in this rediscovered festive classic with fangs.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £9.99

Buy it now:

The Fraud

Zadie Smith

Kilburn, 1873. The ‘Tichborne Trial’ has captivated the widowed Scottish housekeeper, Mrs Eliza Touchet, and all of England. Readers are at odds over whether the defendant is who he claims to be – or an imposter. Based on historical events, this is a dazzling novel about how, in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what’s true can prove a complicated task.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult fiction

Price: RRP £20.00

Buy it now:

Children & Young Adults


The Christmas Pig

J.K. Rowling

Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig. DP has always been there for him, through good and bad. Until one Christmas Eve, something terrible happens – DP is lost. But Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan: Together, they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost and to save the best friend Jack has ever known.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Children’s fiction

Price: RRP £20.00

Buy it now:

Snow!

Leslie Particelli

Bundle up in snowsuits and boots, and out we go… Whump! Right into the fluffy, soft snow. We don’t care! There’s a hill to climb up, and sledge down, a snowperson to build and skis to try out. Everyone’s favourite baby joins an adorable pal to revel in a seasonal adventure that will have little listeners eager to explore their own white, wintry world.

Format: Board book

Genre: Children’s fiction (1 to 3 years)

Price: RRP £7.99

Buy it now:

That’s My Flower

Alice Hemming and Nicola Slater

Squirrel is so excited. It’s spring, and the most perfect flower has started to blossom – and Squirrel has decided it’s HIS. But perhaps Squirrel wants to protect the flower a little too much…! After all, even flowers want a little space sometimes. This laugh-out-loud book about the changing seasons comes with extra information in the back for especially curious minds.

Format: Paperback picture book

Genre: Children’s fiction (3 to 6 years)

Price: RRP £7.99

Buy it now:

The Snow Girl

Sophie Anderson

When Tasha builds a snow girl with her grandpa, all she wants is for her to be real. If only wishes on snow could come true. From award-winning and critically acclaimed Sophie Anderson comes a fairy-tale story of friendship, belonging and bravery in an adventure through a winter wonderland. It’s a perfect read for the whole family this Christmas.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Children’s fiction (8 to 12 years)

Price: RRP £12.99

Buy it now:

How does Santa go down the chimney?

Mac Barnett

When Santa arrives at a child’s house on Christmas Eve, does he go down the chimney feet first or head first? What if he gets stuck? What if there’s no chimney? The multi-award-winning duo of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen tackle this perennial question with a bestseller that’s sure to secure a spot among family Christmas traditions.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Children’s Picture Books (3 to 8 years)

Price: RRP £12.99

Buy it now:

The Boy who brought the snow

Hollie Hughes and Anna Wilson

In the heart of a great city lives a little boy without a home. But when Quinn finds a magical snow globe, everything begins to change. For when snow begins to fall, magic and kindness start to find their way out into the world. With stunning illustrations by Anna Wilson, this is a beautiful, wintery story with a kernel of magic at its heart.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Children’s Picture Books (Baby to 5 years)

Price: RRP £7.99

Buy it now:

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens

Exquisitely illustrated by Arthur Rackham, renowned for his colour wash drawings and silhouettes which bring a threatening and haunting atmosphere to Scrooge’s story, this luxury collector’s edition of Dickens’s Christmas tale is a beautiful version of a classic story – first published during the First World War – which never ceases to be relevant to our times.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Children’s Classics

Price: RRP £25.00

Buy it now:

Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë’s novel of impossible desires, violence and transgression is a masterpiece of intense, unsettling power. At the centre of this novel is the passionate love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff – recounted with such emotional intensity that a plain tale of the Yorkshire moors acquires the depth and simplicity of ancient tragedy.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Fiction / Penguin Classics

Price: RRP £7.99

Buy it now:

Unruly

David Mitchel

Think you know the Kings and Queens of England? Think again. In ‘Unruly’, David Mitchell explores how early England’s monarchs, while acting as feared rulers firmly guiding their subjects’ destinies, were, in reality, a bunch of lucky sods who were mostly as silly and weird in real life as they appear to us today in their portraits.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Adult non-fiction / History

Price: RRP £25.00

Buy it now:

Heartstopper Volume 5

Alice Oseman

Nick and Charlie are very much in love. They’ve finally said those three little words, and Charlie has almost persuaded his mum to let him sleep over at Nick’s house…! But with Nick going off to university next year, is everything about to change? This is the fifth volume of the HEARTSTOPPER series.

Format: Paperback

Genre: Teen & young adult fiction

Price: RRP £14.99

Buy it now:

Impossible Creatures

Katherine Rundell

Christopher is stunned when he discovers a passage to the Archipelago: a cluster of magical islands where all the creatures of myth still live and breed and thrive in their thousands. From Katherine Rundell, winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award, comes the first novel in a landmark trilogy for fans of His Dark Materials. There’s a place where all the wildest stories began.

Format: Hardback

Genre: Teenage fiction

Price: RRP £12.99

Buy it now:

Boy Like Me

Simon James Green

It’s 1994, and thanks to Section 28, there can be no mention of gay relationships in UK schools. When a kind librarian leads Jamie to a disguised novel in the library that reflects his confused feelings towards boys, Jamie sees that he’s not the only one who has checked the book out. Will Jamie and this mystery boy have the courage to meet – and if they do, what will it take to hold on to each other?

Format: Paperback

Genre: Teenage fiction

Price: RRP £8.99

Buy it now:

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Holly Jackson

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But when Pippa Fitz-Amobi chooses the case as the topic for her final project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. How far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

Format: Hardback

Genre: Children’s / Teenage fiction

Price: RRP £16.99

Buy it now:


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