Emily Rhodes rec­om­mends some lit­er­ary stock­ing fillers

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

The Mistle­toe Mur­der and Other Sto­ries

P. D. James (Faber & Faber, £10) The late P. D. James was the ‘Queen of Crime’ and this beau­ti­fully pro­duced col­lec­tion brings to­gether four of her ex­cel­lent Christ­mas de­tec­tive sto­ries. They of­ten have the trap­pings of a clas­sic tale, such as a coun­try-house set­ting or a locked-room mys­tery, but the au­thor tends to wit­tily sub­vert our ex­pec­ta­tions, and her grip­ping tales of mur­der have sur­pris­ing res­o­lu­tions.

Tri­umph and Disas­ter; Ge­nius and Dis­cov­ery

Ste­fan Zweig (Pushkin Press, £9.99 each) The cel­e­brated Aus­trian au­thor, whose work in­spired the film The Grand Bu­dapest Ho­tel, wrote a series of ‘his­tor­i­cal minia­tures’ that are col­lected here in two smart vol­umes. Zweig writes lu­cidly and thrillingly about ex­cep­tional mo­ments that have changed the course of his­tory, in­clud­ing the con­quest of Byzan­tium, the com­po­si­tion of La Mar­seil­laise and lay­ing the tele­graph cable un­der the At­lantic Ocean—which gave the world ‘a sin­gle heart­beat’.

The Trav­el­ling Bag And Other Ghostly Sto­ries

Su­san Hill (Pro­file Books, £9.99) A ghoul­ish lit­tle vol­ume con­tain­ing four new ‘ghostly sto­ries’ from the au­thor of The Woman in Black. Between these cov­ers, a man’s trav­el­ling bag re­veals a strange means of mur­der­ous re­venge, a child­hood friend­ship is called into ques­tion, a quiet of­fice worker has a mys­te­ri­ous odour of de­cay and a step-grand­mother me­naces from be­yond the grave. These four ex­pertly spun tales haunt and chill. from the in­ter World War years— its golden age. Fea­tur­ing over­looked work by well-known writ­ers such as Margery Alling­ham as well as clas­sic tales from less fa­mil­iar au­thors, Martin Ed­wards has skil­fully as­sem­bled an en­ter­tain­ing as­sort­ment of pe­cu­liar Fa­ther Christ­mases, sus­pi­cious carol singers and mys­te­ri­ous tracks in crim­son­splashed snow.

The King of Christ­mas

Carol Ann Duffy (Pic­a­dor, £6.99) The award-win­ning poet cel­e­brates the sea­son’s potential for topsy-turvy fes­tiv­ity in a charm­ing and gor­geously il­lus­trated Christ­mas poem.

Faber & Faber Po­etry Di­ary 2017

(Faber & Faber, £12.99) The per­fect or­gan­iser for all po­etry en­thu­si­asts, this at­trac­tive di­ary is ar­ranged with a poem or clas­sic cover along­side each week, en­sur­ing that the year to come will be spent in the in­spir­ing com­pany of T. S. Eliot, John Ber­ry­man, Sea­mus Heaney, Sylvia Plath and many more of the greats.

The Faber Na­ture Po­ets Col­lec­tion

(Faber & Faber, £10 each) These pretty hard­backs fea­ture ‘six great na­ture po­ets’: John Clare, Sa­muel Taylor Co­leridge, Thomas Hardy, John Keats, Ed­ward Thomas and Wil­liam Wordsworth. Their work is se­lected and in­tro­duced by con­tem­po­rary notable po­ets, in­clud­ing An­drew Mo­tion and Tom Paulin, who of­fer fresh and en­light­en­ing slants on these time­less po­ems.

The Birds and The Bees

(Vin­tage Clas­sics, £9.99 each) Five of the best books of na­ture writ­ing from re­cent years have been brought to­gether in this series, with beau­ti­ful cov­ers de­signed by Scot­tish stu­dio Ti­morous Beast­ies. He­len Mac­don­ald’s H is for Hawk and Tim Dee’s The Run­ning Sky are in­cluded in a smart col­lec­tion of books that will de­light any na­ture lover.

The Perse­phone Box Set

(Perse­phone Books, £60) Boxsets needn’t just be the pre­serve of tele­vi­sion. This bou­tique pub­lisher of beau­ti­ful grey-jack­eted books, mostly writ­ten by women, has cu­rated an ar­ray of themed col­lec­tions, which are smartly pack­aged in a box tied up with string. The 10 tempt­ing op­tions in­clude ‘Six Euro­pean Books’, ‘Six Books for the New Mother’ and ‘Six Books for the Keen Cook’.

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