Do you have what it takes for space? Quiz books, maps and Blue Peter an­nu­als abound

The Guardian - Review - - Books Of The Year - Ian San­som

This year, the very best stock­ing filler books aren’t books and they’d never fit into a stock­ing. That aside, there are all the usual sorts of quiz books, plus Tim Peake’s The As­tro­naut Se­lec­tion Test Book (Cen­tury), which gave me ter­ri­ble 11-plus flash­backs. Do you have what it takes for space? No, is the ob­vi­ous an­swer. Much more my level is The Ord­nance Sur­vey Puz­zle Book (Trapeze). When the apoca­lypse comes and Google Maps goes down, you’re go­ing to be glad you know how to get to the high­est point via foot­bridges (FB), scree slopes (tiny cir­cles) and an­cient bat­tle sites (crossed cut­lasses, with dates).

As for hu­mour, there’s al­ways

Coach (Canongate) by Rob Sears, the man who last year brought us The Beau­ti­ful Po­etry of Don­ald Trump. This book of­fers ad­vice on how to “go full Putin” and “Be More Vlad” – in deal­ing, say, with some­one like Don­ald Trump. “If some­one with un­war­rant­edly high self-es­teem lum­bers into your work­place, a well­judged back­handed com­pli­ment is a great way to cut them down to size.”

If it’s yet more Trump you’re after, try Don­ald Trump! An­nual 2019 (Por­tico), with its “Dreamy Don­ald” pin-ups and Don and Kim masks. As for ac­tual an­nu­als, Here’s One I Made Ear­lier (Kyle) as­sem­bles the best of the old Blue Peter an­nu­als, in­clud­ing John Noakes show­ing you how to make the clas­sic Ad­vent crown from coat hang­ers and tin­sel, and the bloke off The One Show demon­strat­ing how to make Thun­der­birds’ Tracy Is­land from card­board and a squeezy bot­tle. Sim­pler times.

Among the vast se­lec­tion of pet-re­lated pub­li­ca­tions, Dog Show 1961-1978 (Hox­ton Mini) is by far the best, fea­tur­ing the black and white im­ages of the doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher Shirley Baker, taken at dog shows through­out the UK at a time when all women looked like poo­dles and all men looked like blood­hounds. Even the dogs look dated.

As for that ever-pop­u­lar meta-cat­e­gory, the Christ­mas book about Christ­mas, there are, as al­ways, plenty of Ye Tra­di­tional Lit­tle Books of Snow and Short His­to­ries of Rein­deer and such like, but Tim­o­thy Day’s I Saw Eter­nity the Other Night (Allen Lane) stands out among the fes­tive throng for a num­ber of rea­sons, not least be­cause it’s not re­ally a Christ­mas book. It is a se­ri­ous study of mod­ern English choral tra­di­tions, but be­cause this year marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the Fes­ti­val of Nine Les­sons and Car­ols from King’s Col­lege, Cam­bridge, it counts as schol­ar­ship in a jolly jumper. The per­fect Box­ing Day gift for your se­ri­ous un­cle.

An­other odd­ity is Marnie Fogg’s The Art of the Tea Towel (Pavil­ion), which is a cat­a­logue of great teatowel de­signs. Well, you are go­ing to be do­ing a lot of wash­ing up. Fogg pro­vides short cap­tions in the tone of a world-weary mu­seum cu­ra­tor con­duct­ing the last tour of the day. “Cre­ated by Ul­ster Weavers at the time of Bana­narama, Flash­dance and Jane Fonda’s work­out video, Flash presents a dé­gradée sports stripe on a strong di­ag­o­nal to cre­ate a sense of dy­namic move­ment fit for a yup­pie kitchen.” And so to the big books and non-books. Maps of Lon­don & Be­yond (Bats­ford) is a Times At­las- size tome, fea­tur­ing the weird and won­der­ful maps of the artist Adam Dant: “The Grand Graf­fiti Map of Rome”; “Modigli­og­ra­phy”, “Shake­speare’s Shored­itch”. Imag­ine if Wil­liam Blake were a car­tog­ra­pher. Fi­nally, Com­mu­ni­cado! (Red­stone) is a box con­tain­ing 30 large-for­mat cards with mot­toes that al­low you to com­mu­ni­cate what you re­ally think, such as: “I’m Fine, Just Get On With Your Own Life”, which is surely the mes­sage we all want to send and re­ceive this Christ­mas. Thun­der­birds are go … with an­nu­als

Blue Peter

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