Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and Waterstones’ Book of the Year, Hamnet is the heart-stopping story behind Shakespeare’s most famous play. Arguably one of the greatest novelists working today, in her latest book Maggie O’Farrell brilliantly resurrects the short life of Hamnet Shakespeare – the Bard’s only son – in a profoundly moving account of grief, family and genius in an era where life was ever precarious.
Top tip: if you’re like us and display your books like you would photographs of your first born, Waterstones has an exclusive, cloth-bound edition of Hamnet available, complete with red ribbon marker and top and tail bands. You’re welcome.
Hamnet is available to buy from Waterstones, £20
Quite by Claudia Winkleman
She’s the you’ve-been-tangoed, Saturday night telly queen with the long fringe and the delightfully self-deprecating humour and, quite frankly, we love her. So if you’re going to pick any celebrity’s biography to read this festive season, do yourself a favour and make it Claudia Winkleman’s. Part-memoir, part-observational humour, her unique take on love, life and eye-liner is sure to lift you out of that mid-holidays slump.
Grab a copy of Claudia Winkleman’s Quite from WHSmith, £11.99
Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given
Women Don’t Owe You Pretty will encourage you to do the following: love sex and hate sexism; ‘protect your goddamn energy’; think along the lines of ‘life is short, dump them’; and remind you that you owe men nothing, least of all pretty. We think that’s reason enough to read it to be honest, but if you still need persuading, Florence Given’s debut book is a really accessible avenue into the feminist conversation, helping us to define the movement on our own terms.
You can buy Women Don’t Owe You Pretty from Daunt Books, £12.99
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Turns out Shuggie Bain won this year’s Booker Prize for a reason – and that reason is that you physically can’t put it down. An uncompromising, yet warmly witty exploration of love, pride and poverty, Douglas Stuart’s novel charts the endeavours of its eponymous protagonist – an ambitious and fastidious boy from a dire mining town with a thirst for a better life. Maybe it particularly resonated with us because of the North East’s own mining history, but in Shuggie Bain Stuart bares the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love and the hollowness of pride superbly to give us a powerful and important story. Admittedly not the most festive read, it’s worth all of your attention nonetheless.
Shuggie Bain is available from Blackwell’s, £12.99
Cuthbert’s Way by LJ Ross
After the dramatic theft of a priceless artefact from Durham Cathedral, the rest of the world believes that DCI Ryan and his team were able to recover and return St Cuthbert’s cross to its rightful home. But Ryan knows the cross he recovered was a fake. He also knows that, far from being over, their problems are only just beginning…
The latest in local legend LJ Ross’ DCI Ryan series is a fast-paced crime whodunit that’ll keep you hooked from the first page to the last. All set against the majestic Northumbrian landscape. Cracking.
Get your copy of Cuthbert’s Way from Waterstones, £7.99