Emily Rhodes recommends some literary stocking fillers
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’.