Well, here we are again. It’s getting colder, the days are shortening and the wine is mulling. Frankly we probably should have all sorted our Christmas presents by now, but it’s been a hell of a year so we can’t blame ourselves. Besides, who doesn’t love a nice book under the tree?
Below, we’ve brought together just a few of our most gift-worthy titles of 2021, spanning everything from fiction, memoir and graphic novels to activity books, lifestyle and sports titles. So have a browse, and see what’s on offer for your gifting needs this year.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor Activity Book, by Daniele Benedettelli
(9781718501812, p/b, £29.99, No Starch Press)
A playful project-based introduction to robot building and programming using the new LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor Kit.
Gift if: They’re a budding inventor, they love all things LEGO.
Sneaker Puzzle by Alexander Rosso
(9789188369611, 1000pc Jigsaw, £21.99, Dokument Press)
Beautifully illustrated by Alexander Rosso, the Sneaker Puzzle features some of the global sneaker culture’s most important models, from the original Pro Keds, Adidas Superstar and Vans Sk8-Hi to recent models like Nike Marty Mcfly, Puma Creeper, Balenciaga Triple S and Adidas Yeezy.
Gift if: They’re a sneakerhead, they’re looking for a hobby that doesn’t involve screens, they love puzzles.
Lettering to the Max by Ivan Castro
(9781912740079, p/b, £19.99, Korero Press)
This lettering manual by internationally renowned designer Ivan Castro outlines the basic materials and skills needed to get started, decodes typographical concepts and principles, and includes several practical projects that allow the reader to practice newfound skills and develop their own ideas. In-depth but accessible, this is the ideal beginner’s guide and also an excellent reference for the well-versed.
Gift if: They’re a calligraphy fan, a design geek, an aspiring comic book creator.
The Luna Sol Tarot by Mike Medaglia and Darren Shill
(9781912634286, Tarot cards, £21.99, Liminal 11)
In these cards you will find humans of all races and ages, shapes and sizes – a reflection of our beautifully diverse world. Rich in tarot traditions but with a modern twist, this is a deck that’s accessible to the beginner while offering plenty for the seasoned practitioner to enjoy on a deeper level.
Gift if: They’re after their first tarot deck, they’re a seasoned practioner looking for a classic.
Arts & Entertainment
Led Zeppelin Vinyl: The Essential Collection by Ross Halpin
(9781909526808, h/b, £49.95, Reel Art Press)
Led Zeppelin released only eight studio albums and no singles over the course of their 12-year career, but to date there are more than 1,000 official singles and 2,000 LPs in the market. This definitive volume illustrates in full colour some of the rarest and most interesting vinyl releases, including one-of-a-kind rarities, bizarre regional variations, official albums and bootleg recordings of legendary concerts, sometimes featuring handmade artwork or coloured vinyl.
Gift if: They’re a vinyl collector, a Led Zeppelin fan, a ’70s lover.
Portrait of Humanity Vol 3 by Hoxton Mini Press
(9781910566947, h/b, £22.95, Hoxton Mini Press)
This book collects 200 new portraits taken by photographers of all levels from all over the world, selected from tens of thousands of entries. Each image is accompanied by a short, telling story from each photographer, bringing home the humanity of those photographed.
Gift if: They watch Portrait Artist of the Year, they need some books for that coffee table.
The Book of Change by Stephen Ellcock
(9781912836833, h/b, £25, September Publishing)
A brilliant awakening to our vast shared potential and creative energy for change, from the beloved social media curator Stephen Ellcock. Featuring 240 reproductions of art, photography and objects, selected from cultures through history and across the globe, this is an extraordinary collection of powerfully inspiring imagery on the nature of challenge and change.
Gift if: They’re a museum goer, an art lover, a bric-a-brac collector.
The Measure of Time by Gianrico Carofiglio
(9781913394486, p/b, £8.99, Bitter Lemon Press)
The latest in the highly successful Guido Guerrieri series, shortlisted for the 2020 STREGA prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary award. This is a tense courtroom drama set in Southern Italy, but also a tale about passion and the passage of time.
Gift if: They love the Guido Guerrieri series, they’re a crime fiction obsessive, a translated literature lover.
October Child by Linda Boström Knausgård
(9781912987177, p/b, £12.99, World Editions)
From 2013 to 2017, the narrator was periodically interned in a psychiatric ward where she was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy, and her memories began to disappear. This novel, based on the author’s experiences, is an eloquent and profound attempt to hold on to the past, to create a story, to make sense, and to keep alive ties to family, friends, and even oneself.
Gift if: They like The Bell Jar and Girl, Interrupted, they’re interested in the limits of language and memory.
NICK by Michael Farris Smith
(9780857304537, p/b, £8.99, No Exit Press)
Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery.
Gift if: They consider The Great Gatsby an essential classic, they love the Gilded Age.
100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell
(9781916355378, p/b, £9.99, Cipher Press)
A horny, punk love song full of imperfect intimacies, 100 Boyfriends takes readers on a riotous journey through dirty warehouses and gentrified bars, from dysfunctional houseshares to desolate farming towns in Alabama. Drawing us into a community of glorious misfits living on the margins of a white supremacist, heteronormative society, iconoclastic storyteller Brontez Purnell gives us an uncompromising vision of desire, desperation, race, loneliness, and queerness.
Gift if: They’re a punk, a lover, a proud misfit.
Mordew by Alex Pheby
(9781913111120, p/b, £9.99, Galley Beggar Press)
In the slums of the sea-battered city of Mordew, a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns. Until one day his desperate mother sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew. Nathan has to fight his way through the city where God was murdered and darkness reigns, in the first instalment of a monumental new series.
Gift if: They’re a fantasy fan, they’re looking to get into a new series.
Yes Yes More More by Anna Wood
(9781911648284, p/b, £10.99, The Indigo Press)
In her electric debut, Anna Wood skips through the decades of a woman’s life, meeting friends, lovers, shapeshifters and doppelgangers along the way. Written with warmth, wit and swagger, these stories glide from acutely observed comic dialogue to giddy surrealism and quiet heartbreak, and always there is music – pop songs as tiny portals into another world.
Gift if: They’re a fan of short stories, they want to get back into fiction after Pandemic-brain, they love a good pop song.
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Mannie Murphy
(9781683964100, h/b, £21.99, Fantagraphics)
This work of graphic nonfiction, told in the style of an illustrated diary, begins as an affectionate reminiscence of the author’s 1990s teenage infatuation with the late actor River Phoenix but morphs into a remarkable, sprawling account of the city of Portland and state of Oregon’s dark history of white nationalism.
Gift if: They were a 90s teen, they still think River Phoenix was the ultimate dreamboat.
Tales From the Umbrella Academy Vol 1: You Look Like Death by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
(9781506719108, p/b, £16.99, Dark Horse)
When 18-year-old Klaus gets himself kicked out of the Umbrella Academy and his allowance discontinued, he heads to a place where his ghoulish talents will be appreciated – Hollywood. But after a magical high on a stash stolen from a vampire drug lord, Klaus needs help, and doesn’t have his siblings there to save him. Collecting issues #1-6 of the first Umbrella Academy spin off miniseries!
Gift if: They think Klaus is the best Umbrella Academy character, they still fly the flag for My Chem.
Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons by Jodie Houser, Jim Zub and others.
(9781506721071, p/b, £16.99, Dark Horse)
Long before the dreaded Demogorgon took one of them to the Upside Down, watch Mike, Lucas, and Will bond with Dustin for the first time over the game that would define their childhood. See the party come together as a team through communal stories and perilous quests to learn important lessons about friendship and find the courage to stand up to the bullies that challenge their everyday
Gift if: They can’t wait for the next season of Stranger Things, they love a good prequel.
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Leonardo Romero
(9781506722214, p/b, £20.99, Dark Horse)
Forget everything you already knew about the Fabulous Killjoys! Writers Gerard Way and Shaun Simon present an all-new modern day Killjoys series as they take it all the way back to the original story that inspired My Chemical Romance’s concept album Danger Days and its dystopian comic book series.
Gift if: They’ve already made their way through The Umbrella Academy, they were obseseed with My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days.
Putin’s Russia: The Rise of a Dictator by Darryl Cunningham
(9781912408917, p/b, £16.99, Myriad Editions)
This book shows how the West and its leaders have been culpable in aiding Vladimir Putin’s rise. It also covers Brexit and Trump; the crackdown on human rights, especially on homosexuality, in Russia; and the poisonings – among them, journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Russia, Alexander Litvinenko in London, and Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
Gift if: They’re interested in international politics, they’re looking for a digestible breakdown of modern Russia – West relations.
Lights, Planets, People! by Molly Naylor and Lizzy Stewart
(9781910395615, h/b, £16.99, Avery Hill)
Renowned astronomer Maggie Hill is giving a lecture about her career, to inspire young women to work in science. She’s also attending her first ever therapy session, in order to overcome some debilitating anxiety. Both events force Maggie to examine her greatest achievements and biggest regrets.
Gift if: They are a woman in STEM, they love independent graphic novels.
Animation & Game Art
The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book One: Air
by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
(9781506721897, h/b, £33.99, Dark Horse)
This handsome hardcover contains hundreds of art pieces created during the development of the show’s first season. Featuring creator commentary from DiMartino and Konietzko, this is an intimate look inside the creative process that brought the mystical world of bending and a new generation of heroes to life!
Gift if: They love The Legend of Korra, they’re an animation fanatic.
Castlevania: The Art of the Animated Series by Frederator Studios
(9781506715704, h/b,£33.99, Dark Horse)
Fans of Castlevania will covet this opportunity to learn all there is to know about the development of the animated series with this beautiful, expertly designed, full colour, hardcover art book featuring concept art and commentary from all four seasons of the hit animated series.
Gift if: They’re interested in Japanese-influenced animation, they’re a Castlevania fan.
Apex Legends: Pathfinder’s Quest (Lore Book) by Respawn Entertainment and EA Studios
(9781506719900, h/b, £33.99, Dark Horse)
Explore the world of the hit game through the eyes of the lovable robot, Pathfinder, as he chronicles his journey throughout the various environs of the Outlands to interview his fellow Legends – all in the hope of finally locating his mysterious creator. The rich history of Apex Legends is explained by the characters that helped to shape it, as are their unique bonds of competition and camaraderie.
Gift if: They love video games, they’re a fan of Apex Legends.
Sonic The Hedgehog Encyclo-speed-ia by Ian Flynn
(9781506719276, h/b, £41.99, Dark Horse)
Dive deep into the extensive lore and exhaustive detail of each game in Sonic’s ever-expanding universe – from the beloved SEGA Genesis to the most bleeding-edge video game consoles. This tome leaves no stone unturned, showcasing in-depth looks at the characters, settings, and stories from each exciting instalment!
Gift if: They still reminisce about the SEGA Genesis days, they binged Netflix’s High Score.
Final Fantasy Vii Remake: Material Ultimania by Square Enix, Studio BentStuff and Digital Hearts
(9781646091218, h/b, Square Enix, £34.99)
Final Fantasy VII Remake: Material Ultimania presents a comprehensive collection of production art and CG art assets, including character models and illustrations, locations and backgrounds, accessories, weapons, enemies, and more, all accompanied by staff commentary. This volume also includes detailed costume references, cutscene storyboards, song liner notes from the sound staff, and Q & A interviews with the Japanese voice actors.
Gift if: They’re into final fantasy, they’re obsessed with video game design.
The Art of Halo Infinite (Deluxe Edition) by 343 Industries
(9781506720098, h/b, £66.99, Dark Horse)
Master Chief, the legendary super soldier, returns in Halo Infinite the biggest and most visually spectacular Halo yet. With an all-new, next-generation game engine, giving their world-class artists the tools and technology to realise the wonder of the Halo universe in unprecedented style and fidelity. Now, Dark Horse brings that art to vivid life on the page in unparalleled detail.
Gift if: They’re a Halo player, an Xbox devotee, a game designer in the making.
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play by Nick Offerman
(9781101984697, h/b, £20, Putnam)
In July 2019, Nick took a hiking trip to Glacier National Park with his friends Jeff Tweedy and George Saunders. The trip, and the conversations between the three men, began a study and exploration of both the American West and its National Parks that addresses so many of the important issues that affect America today. This book both maps out the group’s travels and dives deeply into subjects such as: the history and geology of the National Parks of the West; farming, animal life, and conservation; the importance of outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing; and building both local and national communities across party lines.
Gift if: They’re always quoting Parks and Recreation, they enjoy the great outdoors.
Don’t Lose Your Head: Life Lessons from the Six Ex-Wives of Henry VIII by Harriet Marsden
(9781646041299, h/b, £12.99, Ulysses Press)
Get the inside scoop from some of the toughest women in British history, as ex-wives, mothers, and daughters of King Henry VIII dish out all their survival secrets in this humorous guide to life. With a bit of sarcasm and friendly charm, each of these legendary ladies explains how their 16th-century hard-earned lessons apply to 21st-century dating, marriage, and feminism. With must-know historical trivia alongside wise life advice, Don’t Lose Your Head is the perfect survival guide for fans obsessed with Broadway’s latest historical pop musical Six, as well as anyone fascinated by the history of the Royal Family.
Gift if: They’re obsessed with the musical Six, they’re interested in pop history of the monarchy.
The Very Hungry Parasite by Aja Mulford and Josh Miller
(9781646043019, p/b, £12.99, Ulysses Press)
Your time on the toilet will never be the same when the colourful facts and stomach-churning trivia in this illustrated bathroom reader begin to scare the crap right out of you, including: The uniquely powerful diarrhoea of Minnesota; How a common STD can turn you into a disfigured walking tree; The brain-eating amoeba that could be swimming in your pool; How much mucus your body produces; An untreatable disease that creates real-life zombies (with sex addictions); How a sexy fad nearly eradicated an entire species of lice.
Gift if: They’re the friend who likes to talk about bodily functions a little too much, they always have a weird fact to share.
Lifestyle & Spirituality
The Spirit of Japan by Sean Michael Wilson and Fumio Obata
(9781912634309, h/b, £11.99, Liminal 11)
The Spirit of Japan is an accessible introduction to Japanese spiritual practice, perfect for those who are curious about spirituality or Japanese culture and would like to know more.
Gift if: They’re interested in Japanese culture and spiritual practice.
The Oracle Creator by Steven Bright
(9781912634354, h/b, £12.99, Liminal 11)
People have always been intrigued by the unseen hand of fate… In The Oracle Creator: The Modern Guide to Creating a Tarot or Oracle Deck, Steven Bright examines the benefits of building an oracle deck, plus practical tips for turning the deck in your head into a reality!
Gift if: They’re familiar with divination and tarot and ready to take the next step.
Kitchen Witch by Katie Haegele and Nadine Schneider
(9781648410413, h/b, £16.99, Microcosm Publishing)
Learn about the versatile uses of common household ingredients like apple cider vinegar, and recipes to make your own personal care products like makeup remover, scrubs and mouthwash. For those interested in nontoxic cleaning solutions, this zine has you covered with how-tos on making your own cleaning supplies without all those nasty chemicals, including tips for harvesting and preserving your own herbs.
Gift if: They hate all those chemical household cleaners, they fancy themselves a bit of a domestic god(dess).
Biography and Memoir
Becoming Mr Nice by Amber Marks
(9780857303936, h/b, £19.99, No Exit Press)
In Becoming Mr Nice, Howard Marks’s daughter, the writer and lawyer Amber Marks, has collated and curated highlights from Howard’s extensive personal archive. This beautifully illustrated and designed book will be essential reading for Mr Nice’s legion of fans worldwide.
Gift if: They love a renegade, they were a fan of Mr. Nice.
Second Thoughts by Lynn Berger, translated by Anna Asbury
(9781912836383, p/b, £10.99)
Is it important for children to have a sibling? Does having more than one child affect a mother’s wellbeing? What is the effect of repetition and routine on our memory? And does being a second child influence your personality? A wide-ranging, beautifully written meditation on what it means to have, and to be, a second child.
Gift if: They’re a curious second child, they’re an intrigued parent of a second child.
Corpsing by Sophie White
(9781916291461, p/b, £12.99, Tramp Press)
Nora Ephron meets Bram Stoker in Sophie White’s vivid and ambitious literary non-fiction collection. White asks uncomfortable questions about the lived reality of womanhood in the 21st century, and the fear that must be internalised in order to find your path through it. White balances vivid storytelling with sharp-witted observations about the horrors of grief, mental illness, and the casual and sometimes hilarious cruelty of life.
Gift if: They’re interested in dark stories and themes of 21st century womanhood.
Futsal by Jamie Fahey
(9781911545590, p/b, £9.99, Melville House UK)
In Futsal: The Story of the Indoor Football Revolution, Jamie Fahey makes the case for futsal’s transformative grassroots effect, both in the UK and abroad. He also tells the story of futsal’s politics, tactics and personalities – and in doing so, illuminates a hidden corner of sporting history.
Gift if: They’re a futsal player, they’re interested in the history of sport.
This beautiful coffee table book tells the history of the famous jersey and the players who have worn it. Compiled using stunning photographs of match worn and player shirts actually donned by many of England’s greatest players, the book provides readers with a visual history of the national team – all the way back to the first ever international in 1872.
Gift if: They’re still disappointed about England not winning the Euros, they love all things football.
England Rugby: 150 Years Phil McGowan and Richard Steele
(9781913412098, h/b, £30, Vision Sports Publishing)
This is the story of how the England team (and rugby itself) grew from an amateur collection of public schoolboys playing in a ‘Home Nations Championship’ into the globally recognised team they are today, watched by 80,000 at Twickenham and millions on television.
Gift if: They’re a rugby player, they’re interested in sports history.
As bookshops across the UK re-open their doors, they need your help to stay afloat.