Staff Picks for Christmas Pressies! (Part one)

  08 Dec '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

We asked members of our staff team to select two books that they would give as Christmas presents this year. And here is what they said (some got rather carried away):

From Hugh Andrew, our own ‘big cheese’:

Island on the Edge by Anne Cholawo and A Drop in the Ocean by Polly Pullar

Two books showing how human resilience and survival works best with the world of nature and not against it. Two extraordinary stories and very different stories of achievement and fulfilment. Two books about how to lead a better life.

From Andrew Simmons, ‘editor in chief’ on the Birlinn list:

The King over the Water: A Complete History of the Jacobites by Desmond Seward

A riveting  and colourful account by one of our most acclaimed  popular historians. Desmond Seward brings to life the drama, intrigue and romance of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s doomed cause to restore the Stuarts to the British throne.

North Coast Journey: The Magic of Scotland’s Northern Highlands by Brigid Benson

A beautifully illustrated book and the ideal gift for anyone inspired by remote places and spectacular scenery. Eminently practical too for those looking forward to making their own road trip round Scotland’s magnificent north coast.

From Alison Rae, a leading light on the Polygon team:

Sight Unseen by Sandra Ireland

With the lightest touch, Sandra Ireland weaves a tale of witchcraft, the pressures of juggling work and family, midlife love and human trafficking into a compelling, multi-layered mystery full of sympathetic characters who will feel like your best friends by the final page.

Thirty-One Bones by Morgan Cry

As the temperature drops and summer holidays seem far off, Thirty-One Bones is the perfect antidote. Lose yourself in this fast and furious crime thriller and enjoy the baking heat of the Spanish sun.

From Mairi Sutherland, leading the academics:

Designs on Death: The Architecture of Scottish Crematoria by Hilary J. Grainger

This is a beautiful, surprising, eloquent and insightful book. It celebrates Scotland’s outstanding contribution to an undervalued area of architectural history, revealing the unique challenges of designing crematoria, remarkable buildings that serve complex human and cultural requirements. Meticulously researched, it also explores cultural and emotional aspects of mortality and the key role that the natural landscape can play in assuaging grief.

Old Ways New Roads: Travels in Scotland 1720–1832 Edited by John Bonehill, Anne Dulau Beveridge and Nigel Leask

At the heart of this book lies the romantic fascination with the ‘old ways’ of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands made possible by the development of ‘new roads’, bridges and canals that opened up Scotland to the military, commerce and tourism. Beautifully illustrated with more than 200 artworks, this book explores how artists, writers and early tourists documented Scotland’s natural history and scenic landscapes in words and images.

From Jan Rutherford, up there in the publicity team:

Tiny Tales by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh

This is a gorgeous book and so unusual. Sandy McCall Smith has taken the graphic novel form and reduced it down to tiny graphic tales, illustrated by the talented artist Iain McIntosh. These very funny graphic shorts are interspersed in a book of traditional short stories creating good balance and great variety for the reader. Readers of the FT loved them when they appeared weekly in that paper – you will too.

A Large Measure of Snow by Denzil Meyrick

A real treat! This is a book to cozy up with on a cold afternoon with the fire roaring and yet more Christmas cake to hand. Denzil is a master of the crime novel but this time he has given us a short novel of friendship and fishing boats, tall tales and unexpected vikings, a novel of place and of character – and very funny in parts too.

May I have a tiny third?
Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being by Alistair McIntosh – With its strong, calm, balanced environmental message, I will give this to everyone i know this Christmas.

And even a fourth? This is after all something akin to choosing a favourite child…

In Search of Angels: Travels to the Edge of the World by Alistair Moffat

A non-religious man, goes in search of traces of the great adventurers, the great Irish Saints who found their way to the Hebrides and Atlantic shores of Scotland fourteen centuries ago. They came in search of isolation and a closer connection to God, they came in search of angels. These men travelled by rudimentary hand-made boats and then by foot, they faced storms and remote, inhospitable lands. The survivors amongst them brought the word of God and left their mark not only on the landscapes but on the story and spirit of Scotland. A remarkable travelogue from our hiking historian.

From Joanne Macleod, who pays the bills and keeps us all straight:

Hedy’s War by Jenny Lecoat

A captivating read that had me gripped from the start. Based on a true story, Hedy’s War gives a fascinating insight into the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2, a story of resilience and love.

The Only Gaijin in the Village: A Year Living in Rural Japan by Iain Maloney

A thoroughly enjoyable read that had me laughing out loud. As a country that is on my list of places I’d like to visit, this gave a fascinating insight into the Japanese culture through every day observations from Iain Maloney’s  experience of a Scotsman living in rural Japan.

From Edward Crossan, who leads on all things poetry, a great deal in fiction and works with new voices on Polygon:

The Edwin Morgan Twenties Box Set: We love a good box set at Christmas, so what could be better than the Edwin Morgan Twenties Box Set. Inside this little box is a compact cornucopia of poetry from the uniquely brilliant Edwin Morgan. There are five books, containing twenty poems. Arranged thematically: love, Scotland, people, animals and of course his sci-fi poems, each one has page after page of Morgan’s inimitable work. Including favourites like ‘Strawberries’, ‘The First Men on Mercury’, and ‘One Cigarette’, there is something in here for everyone.

The Un-Discovered Islands by Malachy Tallack

It’s like a pocket-sized atlas of a world that almost existed

I think this year, of all years, is the perfect opportunity to stay in and embark on a voyage with Malachy Tallack as he takes you through an archipelago of myths, mysteries, phantoms and fakes from the comfort of your own home. This new edition of The Un-Discovered Islands reproduces beautiful original maps from the past few centuries showing where these fake islands once were reported to have been ‘found’. It’s like a pocket-sized atlas of a world that almost existed. Perfect for the armchair traveller.

And from Jamie Harris, who keeps our export partners, website and sales in line and our books trucking on out:

Cassius X by Stuart Cosgrove

Stuart Cosgrove is something of a super hero of mine and I would thoroughly recommend his books to anyone and everyone with an eye to the music, culture and politics of the sixties – a decade of social and political upheaval, great change and damn fine music. Over the last four years, we have published his powerful, essential, addictive and award-winning trilogy: Detroit 67 – The Year that Changed Soul; Memphis 68 –The Tragedy of Southern Soul; Harlem 69 – The Future of Soul. This year, we published Cassius X – A Legend in the Making, and again Stuart delves deep into the world of boxing, soul music and crime as he journeys through the period during which Cassius X was to become Muhammad Ali and the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

A Study in Crimson by Robert J Harris

Blending the golden age whodunnit with the world’s most famous detective, A Study in Crimson should be on everyone’s Christmas list. Inspired by the classic film series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, it will provide a big nostalgic hug for fans of the films, while providing a fresh injection of ingenious mystery for new readers.

The Blood is Still by Douglas Skelton

For the crime fan you should look no further than Doug Skelton’s Rebecca Connolly thrillers – these are some of the best crime novels I’ve ever read. These enthralling mysteries have you twisting and turning through every page, packed with brilliant, well-rounded characters and polished off with excellent, briskly flowing prose.

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