The book I want for Christmas: Paschal Donohoe, Alison Spittle, Joseph O’Connor and more
Seven well known readers and writers share the books they'll be giving and getting this Christmas
Comedian Alison Spittle.
Sports pundit, psychotherapist and former professional footballer
Giving: I read This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay last summer on holiday and I loved it. Hilarious, eye-opening and moving. Certain family members will see this under their tree this year. My wife, Fiona, is constantly dropping hints for me to get her Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, so that’ll happen too.
Getting: I recently met Vicky Phelan at an Eason’s conference, and she gave a quick-fire account of some of her life story. I’ve been dropping my own hints to Fiona about Vicky’s memoir, Overcoming, since then.
Scientist, astronaut candidate
Giving: I have a young niece and nephews at home who I love buying books for – I think books are such lovely gifts. This Christmas, I will get them Dare to Dream by Sarah Webb because I like to get them something inspiring and educational that they can dip in and out of with their parents. Even though they are still quite young – three and four years of age – they are not too young to start a book collection!
Getting: I am hoping Santa will bring me Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings, by space historian Roger D Launius, and if Santa doesn’t deliver, I’ll just have to source it myself! 2019 is the year that marks 50 years since the first moon landing, so a fitting space book for this Christmas.
Giving: I’ll be giving three novels that I have loved this year: Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, a wonderfully written and powerful book that is as haunting as it is beautiful and urgently relevant. He’s a magnificent storyteller. Every paragraph holds knockout sentences. Then, Sarah Davis-Goff’s Last Ones Left Alive, a debut novel of immense power and skill, touching on huge themes but never losing sight of the fierce love at its heart. Jan Carson’s The Fire Starters floored me with its grit, wit and rage. I adore Mary O’Malley’s poetry. Her latest book Gaudent Angeli is a triumph.
Getting: Since Santa has special powers, I wish he would bring me a copy of the next collection of poems by the brilliant Martin Dyar, which is expected in 2020. If my stocking also contained the long-anticipated next volume of Bob Dylan’s memoirs, a new novel from Peter Carey or anything by Lydia Davis, my halls would be decked with holly.
Minister for Finance
Giving: The books I would like to give this year are Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry and Airhead by Emily Maitlis. Night Boat to Tangier is dark and comic but with a sense of optimism, while Airhead gives great insight into the world of broadcasting.
Getting: I would like to receive The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman as he makes me forget about everything, while reminding me about all that matters, too.
Melatu Uche Okorie
Giving: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cecelia Ahern’s Roar and would love for everyone else to read it. Every human character and social issue that you have ever encountered is depicted in this book and it is done beautifully, intelligently and tactfully. I’ll also be giving An Orchestra of Minorities by fellow Nigerian, Chigozie Obioma. I felt a strong sense of home when I read this book! There’s also his exquisite use of language and genius use of third-person narrator – very original.
Getting: I’ll get The Big Yaroo by Patrick McCabe for myself. I read the synopsis recently and was hooked. I’d also love to get The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. She’s one of my favourite authors.
Giving: I’d like to give my little sister a book by Deirdre Sullivan called Perfectly Preventable Deaths. It’s about a set of twins in the west of Ireland and I was blown away by how funny it is. The exchanges between the sisters, about men, are some of the best bits of dialogue I’ve ever set eyes on. The world-building is a joy – a fantastic and true-to-life description of rural life, with magic added. The world feels so real. She really taps into the darkness and joy of being a teenage girl.
Getting: I’m very bad, I hoover up all the big Christmas releases on audiobook so by the time November comes my ma doesn’t know what to get me. I’d like The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West. West is a hilarious writer. Her last book, Shrill, is probably one of my favourite essay collections. I’m struggling to think of another that comes close.
I went to a Martin Parr photography exhibition this year and I’ve been ranting and raving about it to my friends and family. I got one for my birthday and I suspect I might get a few books on him for Christmas. He has a massive body of work and I’ve only discovered him this year.
Giving: I will be giving the filmmaker Chantal Akerman’s biography, My Mother Laughs. Recently translated by Daniella Shreir, and beautifully published by Silver Press, it is an intimate and unique reading experience. It will definitely make you cry though, so to counteract its sad effects, I would also give a copy of Deborah Eisenberg’s short story collection Your Duck Is My Duck. Nimble, precise, original, hilarious. I think everyone would benefit from reading her.
Getting: I’m very eager to read Unquiet, the thinly-veiled novel by Linn Ullmann – Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman’s daughter. Essentially about her fraught relationship with her creative parents, I would read it and then return to their work.
I’m pretty committed to reading all of Tessa Hadley now – a brief, two-minute meeting with her a few months ago had a strange, holy effect on me – so one of her books would be nice. Maybe the stories.