Today's gift guide is all about books for the 'deep-thinkers' in your life. Those people who want more than momentary escapism from a book; they want to be informed, enlightened and left to contemplate what they've just read.
The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers
Published amid a cacophony of praise and award nominations, including the National Book Awards, this is the critics' choice for deep-thinkers this Christmas. An Iraq war veteran himself, the author powerfully recounts the experiences of war – the friendship, loss and psychological impact - for those among it and those left at home. Already touted as a modern classic, this is unlikely to be a present sent to the charity shop in January.
Live From Downing Street: The Inside Story of Power, Politics and The Media, Nick Robinson
Part memoir, part history book, Live From Downing Street examines the relationship between politics and the media – the people who wield power, and those who report their movements to the public. Described by Robinson as a relationship “both deeply flawed and yet functioning”, this is an intelligent and interesting examination of the evolution of democracy, and it's current condition. Plus, it's a fairly thick and weighty hardback, as seems fitting to give a Christmas present some gravitas.
The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin
There seems no end to the thought-provoking novels that have been published recently. Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour deserves a mention, with it's insight into the question of global warming. As does C.J. Sansom's Dominion – a masterfully told thriller and love story, but with an interesting concept at its core. But Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary gets the byline simply for the curiosity of it. A short novella imagining Mary's reaction to the events during and in the wake of her son's death, it does not offer the conventional narrative. It paints Mary as human, and not necessarily the champion of Christianity idolised today. It will certainly be a source for debate.
The Science Magpie, Simon Flynn
A collection of scientific curiosities, this is a book brimming with enthusiasm. It brings words and anecdotes to the maths, giving science a very human dimension. A great gift for scientific enthusiasts and general hoarders of knowledge alike.
Building Stories, Chris Ware
Not so much a comic book as a comic box. Brought to you by the famed artist, Chris Ware, this is a treasure chest packed with an array of pieces: books large and small, a scrap of paper, a broadsheet...Each depicts the unfolding reality of the inhabitants of a three-story Chicago flat. It is a blindingly powerful insight into the drudge and pain of everyday life, in an intelligent, colourful re-invention of a literary format with such intellectual potential. It will make an intriguing and memorable present, even for those deep thinkers who have not yet discovered comic books and graphic novels.
Private Eye Annual 2012, Ian Hislop
A friend or relative might be a deep-thinker, but they can still enjoy a lighter look at the important issues of the day. For a comical, but no less critical commentary, Private Eye is always the publication to turn to. And that's no less true at the end of the year. With thousands of gags, sketches, cartoons and spoofs, this annual takes a satirical look back on the eventful politics and current affairs of 2012.