Once a year (about now), we send out a special Bumper Christmas recommends newsletter, jam-packed full of recommendations for young and old of all the best (in our humble opinion) books available for Christmas.
Believe it or not, planning for this marathon recommend-a-thon starts in July (you gotta love retail) when we try to spot some early favourites. Then in August, when everyone else is enjoying a well-earned Summer break, we draw up the 'longlist' and start the process of writing reviews.
|No, no, that's not a snowman. move along...|
Come September, as books start coming in, and there are 'oohs' and 'aahhs' from staff, we throw half of what we've written out, and then engage in bouts of grown-up discussions and measured debate about what should stay in.
This lasts for about 10 minutes, and then we resort to lot-drawing or arm-wrestling to resolve differences of opinion. Egos need to be smoothed. Sometimes cash changes hands.
October and November is then a mad whirlwind of reading, review-writing and getting the formatting to work. (I'm also notorious for slipping in something at the last minute without telling anyone. This doesn't help anyone's stress levels, I can tell you).
Anyway, we hope you like it. Something for everyone, including the tricky 'gift for someone who doesn't like books'...
In the meantime, as part of our 3-4-Friday 'FridayReads, here are three books taken from the selection.
First up is Mark Forsyth's sublime work of genius that is The Elements of Eloquence. Having unexpectedly topped the Christmas bestseller charts for the last two years with The Etymologicon and The Horologicon, Mark is back with a book on the rules of rhetoric.
Or as he cheerfully writes 'In an age unhealthily obsessed with substance, this is a book on the importance of pure style".
Rhetoric is a huge subject, and strictly speaking Mark reveals the forgotten ‘figures of rhetoric’, the hidden tricks of writing to make phrases powerful and memorable. Along the way, in his own whimsical but deliciously subversive style, he reveals why Shakespeare was not a genius, why Yoda is the master of the Anadiplosis - and the real reason why ‘The name's Bond...James Bond’ sticks in the mind (why didn't he just say ''My name is James Bond"?)
Mark visited Abingdon School the week before last, and spoke to the boys there about rhetoric and the art of turning the perfect English phrase.
One of the worries from the audience was that, if the book sells well, there is a risk of everyone suddenly injecting a bit of hyperbaton or diacope into their writing.
Will that happen? Will that happen? We'll just have to see if it does.
In the meantime, if you would like to listen to an extract from the book, we discussed it on this week's BBC Oxford Afternoon Bookclub. If you are listening before Nov 19, simply click on the link and fast-forward to approximately 1 hour 19 minutes to learn more...
With his dapper appearance and huge collection of dictionaries lining bookshelves, Mark would probably be just the man to appear in The English Room.
It's a celebration of the favourite spaces, public or private, of many beloved personalities, and these represent a truly opulent collection. Personal insights as well as beautiful photography make this a book to dip into and to share with others.
With contributions from Stephen Fry, PD James and, yes, the dashing Mr Cumberbatch, this might be a guilty pleasure for many over the festive period. Not to mention providing a few interior design tips...
Finally (and also discussed on the show on Monday) we have the wonderful Winter's Child by Angela McAllister and illustrator Grahame Baker Smith. His artwork for the book FArTHER (which won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2011) is a combination illustration and photographic montage, and is both striking and memorable.
In Winter's Child, when Tom wishes winter would never end, he meets another boy who shares his love of snow and ice. Playing together every day, Tom hardly notices that spring doesn't come - until he realises the terrible effect the delay is having on the countryside and his sick grandma. His friend is Winter's child, and for the seasons to go on the friends must say goodbye until next year.
This is a heartwarming story with the most amazing illustrations. A perfect gift for boy or girl this Christmas.
In the mood for more Christmas recommends? Then click here...