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Staff Picks for Christmas Pressies! (Part two)

  15 Dec '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Wednesday 16 December is the cut off for online orders arriving safely in time for the big day but don’t forget your High Street bookshops are open. Our friends and yours – the booksellers – are ready with advice (and sanitised shops). And if you can’t face going out, you can still order eBooks, right up to the last second!

Part Two of our recommendations:

From Kathryn Haldane, who does everything that could ever be asked from her by a hugely grateful Publicity, Marketing and Sales team.

The Fresh and the Salt

The Fresh and the Salt by Ann Lingard is one of those magical books that transports you immediately to its shoreline setting, and keeps you there enthralled until its last page. It is an exploration of the ecosystems, geology, and history of the Solway Firth, this liminal space between England and Scotland, where fresh water meets salt. Ann’s palpable fascination with the area’s wildlife is infectious, from the tiniest mudshrimp to the incredible basking sharks, but this is also a warmly told human story, and one with which every reader will resonate.

In A Time of Distance

There really can be no better book to sum up the experience of 2020 than In A Time of Distance by Alexander McCall Smith. The title poem was written during lockdown, reflecting on isolation and connection, and what humanity can learn from these challenges. This is Alexander’s first poetry collection, but anyone familiar with his writing will find solace in his heartwarming and life-affirming style. Returning again and again in this collection to the ideas of community and kindness, In A Time of Distance is the perfect tonic for a difficult year.

From Darina Brejtrova, who looks after authors contracts and royalties – and even turns her hand to translation (amidst much, much more)

The Only Gaijin in the Village by Iain Maloney

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to change your life completely and start living somewhere totally different? Like for example… rural Japan! Iain Maloney did just that and his book is a hilarious account of his experiences during his initial few years living there. In a very enjoyable narrative full of anecdotes and interesting cultural insights, Iain tells us about the complexities of the Japanese-foreigner relationship, the ups and downs of rural community and how nothing ever is as it seems.

Moscow Calling by Angus Roxburgh

If you like to read about real-life adventures and are interested in the complicated world that is Russia, this book is for you. Angus Roxburgh who spent years in Moscow as a foreign correspondent recalls his times in Russia during communism and just after it fell apart, shares sometimes scary and always emotional stories of people he encountered and presents a fascinating picture of one of the most powerful countries in the world.  

From Abi Salvesen – this girl is a genius. She gets inside the head of an author and between the lines of their manuscripts and then, hey presto, creates stunning book covers right across the list.

Scottish Plant Lore

After a year of outdoor socialising my friends and I have discovered a newfound love of foraging in the woodlands surrounding Edinburgh and this beautiful coffee table book has been a great companion to our expeditions. It’s not only filled to the brim with stunning botanical illustrations that I adore (if I could use this book’s pages as wallpaper, I would!) but has proved a great source of help in identifying our foraging spoils. I’m consistently amazed to learn how the smallest, most insignificant plants have been used traditionally for their natural properties. I encourage you all to venture into the wilderness for some treasure-hunting, then dive into Scottish Plant Lore while your soggy boots dry off by the radiator!

In a Time of Distance

If there’s one thing that we can learn from this rollercoaster of a year, it’s the importance of taking time to appreciate what really, truly matters in life. And if there’s one writer who can help us understand just what that it, it’s Alexander McCall Smith. This book of poems is a comforting affirmation of humanity that we could all use this Christmas.

From Ann Landmann – Ann spends much of her time in a normal year out on the road, visiting bookshops and making sure that everyone knows about new books on our lists. And in her spare time? She runs a book festival of her own (Cymera: Scotland’s Festival of Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror)!

The Unremembered Places 

Perfect for the armchair traveller or for planning your 2021 adventures! The Unremembered Places takes its reader to those corners of Scotland that are part myth, part local history, and incredibly intriguing. Beautifully written, well researched (the further reading recommendations will keep you busy for weeks) and most definitely my travel companion when I am back on the road next year.

Treasure Islands

An adventure that I am less likely to recreate is salvage diving. Luckily this book by salvage veteran Alec Crawford does an exceedingly good job at transporting you to a small boat in the middle of a big ocean, as waves crash against the sides and currents tug on the planks beneath your feet. This is not the story of gold doubloon or chests of pearls, but that makes it no less exciting, and you’ll certainly never look at the Scottish waters in the same way again.

From Jan Rutherford, you might of heard from her in other posts on this site

Scotland Her Story by Rosemary Goring

What better way to start a new year than with a clearer understanding of the past? Rosemary Goring makes sense of the history of our nation through the words of the women who have lived through it. From Queen Margaret to today’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, it brings together women from all areas of society. Drawing on court and church records, exchequer rolls and treasurer’s accounts, diaries and memoirs, chap books and newspapers, government reports and eye-witness statements. This is truly Scotland’s history told exclusively by its women.

Not a 2020 title this time but two much loved friends from 2018: Appointment in Arezzo: A Friendship with Muriel Spark by Alan Taylor. A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week last year, this wonderfully insightful memoir just rings out with Alan’s awesome skills of observation and dry wit as he writes with respect and genuine affection about his friendship with a writer we should all cherish, a writer the New Statesman claimed as ‘the standout British novelist of the later twentieth century’. And if that puts you in the mood, try The Girls of Slender Means, one of my personal favourites from the 22 novels she wrote in her lifetime.

For the more serious gift receiver –

Bob Wylie takes on the state following the collapse of construction giant, Carillion in Bandit Capitalism: Carillion and the Corruption of the British State. This book is one of the Financial Times Best Books of 2020 – and quite rightly so. It is compelling reading and it will make your blood boil.

And then, from one end of the gift scale to the other:
For young children, what could be nicer than a traditional tale from multi-award-winning singer, song-writer, writer and performer Karine Polwart about how the Robin got his redbreast, illustrated with rich, sumptuous artwork by Kate Leiper. A Wee Bird Was Watching is the perfect winter-warmer.

For all ages, The Colouring Book of Scotland, The Hebridean Colouring Book, the Edinburgh Colouring Book, The Glasgow Colouring Book… I think you get my drift. These are stunning books and the very act of colouring is a balm for the embattled soul during this busy period. Created by the talented Eilidh Muldoon, an artist working at the height of her powers right now.

And from anonymous

Don’t forget the trains!
(I have a quiet confession to make. On my 13th birthday I received a train set from my father. I was teased mercilessly at school but it was something that brought us both great enjoyment for a couple of years until the teenage girl rebelled and left her much-loved Dad with the trains. So yes, I love this book.)

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