Book Recommendations | Crime-Detective | Historical | Literature | Non-fiction | Sci-Fi-Fantasy | Thriller

Book Gift Guide 2017

Book gift recommendations for everyone - The Traveller, Gardener, Foodie, Cinephile, Historical Fiction, Literature, Crime Thrillers & Science Fiction Fantasy.Holiday season is upon us and there really is no better gift than a book!

In addition to books we have read this year that we think would make great gifts, we’ve sought recommendations from other experts and enthusiasts in their respective fields. The end result, a collection of titles sure to please everyone in your life – from The Traveller, The Gardener, The Cinephile, The Foodie, to avid readers of the fiction genres Historical, Literature, Crime Thriller and Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Almost all of the books featured in this gift guide are available from The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide) — but as always be mindful of the recommended Christmas last order dates.

Book Recommendations for Travellers

For those with wanderlust traveller blogger Megan from MappingMegan.com recommends Sihpromatum – I Grew My Boobs in China by Savannah Grace, Albert Podell’s Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth and Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft.

SIHPROMATUM (Sip-row-may-tum) is a memoir series of one family’s four-year backpacking adventure around the world. The first installment, I Grew my Boobs in China, is the beginning of an intensely fascinating, sobering, and emotional memoir of Savannah’s introspective and innovative family adventure. In 2005, 14-year-old Savannah Grace’s world is shattered when her mother unexpectedly announces that she and her family (mother, 45; brother, 25; sister, 17) would soon embark on an incredible, open-ended journey. When everything from her pets to the house she lived in is either sold, given away or put in storage, this naïve teenage girl runs headlong into the reality and hardships of a life on the road. Built around a startling backdrop of over eighty countries, this is a tale of feminine maturation – of Savannah’s metamorphosis from ingénue to woman-of-the-world. Find out more…

Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure—a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage. On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft. After three months on the open sea, encountering raging storms, whales, and sharks, they sighted land—the Polynesian island of Puka Puka. Translated into sixty-five languages, Kon-Tiki is a classic, inspiring tale of daring and courage—a magnificent saga of men against the sea. The book is now a major motion picture. Find out more…

Around the World in 50 Years is the inspiring story of an ordinary guy who achieved two great goals that others had told him were impossible. First, he set a record for the longest automobile journey ever made around the world, during the course of which he blasted his way out of minefields, survived a serious accident atop the Peak of Death, came within seconds of being lynched in Pakistan, and lost three of the five men who started with him, two to disease, one to the Vietcong. After that-although it took him forty-seven more years-Albert Podell set another record by going to every country on Earth. He achieved this by surviving riots, revolutions, civil wars, trigger-happy child soldiers, voodoo priests, robbers, pickpockets, corrupt cops, and Cape buffalo. Albert Podell’s Around the World in 50 Years is a remarkable and meaningful tale of quiet courage, dogged persistence, undying determination, and an uncanny ability to escape from one perilous situation after another-and return with some of the most memorable, frightening, and hilarious adventure stories you have ever read. Find out more…

Book Recommendations for Gardeners

Tim Graham writes about his passions in life yard care, gardening and getting outdoors at YardandGardenGuru.com . For the gardener in your life he recommends Niki Jabbour’s The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener and The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition by Edward C Smith.

These two books cover pretty much everything a person could want to know about starting a vegetable garden.

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener is crammed full of simple techniques and insight that will allow you to do as she says and grow vegetables all year round. From vegetable types to structures such as cold-frames to protect from frost, you can easily have access to fresh vegetables when you want them. It is one that is well worth reading more than once or twice. Find out more…

If there were one book that you had to have on gardening, it would be The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition. If you are an experienced gardener or a novice, this book can take you from how to start a vegetable garden for beginners to more information relating to established gardens that run year after year. Edward C Smith has captured near enough everything. One reading of this book will never be enough; you will keep coming back to read the excellent information and tips time and time again. Find out more…

Book Recommendations Movie Lovers

Louisa and Matt are fanatical about film and the movie reviewers/bloggers behind ScreenZealots.com. They tell us why the following books would make perfect gifts for The Cinephile in your life:

Cinegeek by Pluttark —  Movie geeks will adore this colorfully illustrated encyclopedia of bite-sized fun film facts, featuring quirky topics like “Superhero Film Adaptations We Could Have Done Without,” “Pop Stars Miscast in Unsuitable Movie Roles,” “Ways DeNiro Has Died Onscreen,” “Jacky Chan’s Movie Injuries,” and “Proof That Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Completely Crazy.” It’s a pop culture almanac of sorts, interspersed with original illustrations by French comic artist Pluttark (Rudy Spiessert). This amusing book is guaranteed to be a home run with the movie lover in your life. Find out more…

Film Listography: Your Life in Movie Lists by Lisa Nola, Jon Stich (Illustrator) — The ever popular end-of-year lists from professional critics are universally loved by film enthusiasts. Nothing is better than diving in and reading countless lineups of the 10 Best and 10 Worst films of the year. Anyone who loves movies already has their own lists bouncing around in their heads and here in this keepsake journal, you can jot down your favorites. There’s plenty of space for you to fill in your own 10 Best list of movie-themed topics, ranging from your favorite movies of all time, your favorite movie soundtracks, scenes that made you cringe, and film characters you relate to the most. This is the perfect book for movie lovers of all ages, from the longtime cinephile to the budding amateur film critic. Find out more…

Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers by Andrew Rea — Iconic onscreen food moments are the inspiration for this gorgeously photographed cookbook, including recipes of cuisine featured in over 40 films (from “Sixteen Candles” and “Goodfellas” to “Ratatouille” and “Elf”). Movie buffs and home cooks will find the perfect celluloid-inspired dish to serve up at their next Oscar party, from butter poached lobster (“Annie Hall”), New York style pizza (“Saturday Night Fever”), timpano (“Big Night”), and some truly satisfying pastrami (“When Harry Met Sally”). Find out more…

Book Recommendations for Foodies

Carol at Reading, Writing & Riesling, particularly enjoys reviewing cookbooks. Of the many she has had the pleasure of reading (and trying out recipes from) this year she recommends in particular Cornersmith: Salads & Pickles by Alex Elliott-Howery & Sabine Spindler, the delightful Poh Ling Yeow’s Poh Bakes 100 Greats and Anna Gare’s Delicious Every Day.

Cornersmith: Salads & Pickles is your handbook to putting vegetables at the centre of the way you eat. It has recipes for yummy meals and guides for pickling and fermenting (good for the gut) which are great ways to store and use up our abundant seasonal fresh produce. “The Cornersmith way to eat is about bringing together a variety of deliciously simple elements. Make one or two vegetable dishes, open a jar of pickles or ferments, add a good loaf of bread and perhaps an easy protein – a great piece of cheese, some eggs, a slice of grilled meat or fish. No diets, no superfoods, no guilt… Just good food with more taste and the added benefit of cutting down food waste.” Find out more…

Poh Bakes 100 Greats is fabulous. It has that bit of nostalgia, childhood/family favourites and more. I think possibly the best all round baking book this year. “Now, years after Poh’s meteoric rise to fame through MasterChef, and hosting her own television shows, Poh’s Kitchen and Poh & Co, she returns to her roots, with wooden spoon and mixing bowl in hand. Poh owns and runs Adelaide destination cafe and bakery Jamface, with her bestie, Sarah. She describes the Jamface baking philosophy as the love child between a Parisian patisserie and the Country Women’s Association.” Find out more…

Anna Gare’s new cookbook Delicious Every Day is mostly healthy, always tasty. She knows a thing or two about balancing a busy life with the need to serve up delicious, healthy food for the whole family, every day. This is a keeper – a book to add to the kitchen library with many recipes that you will use again and again. It is also the perfect house warming present for those new to cooking for themselves — the recipes are easy, scrumptious and there are ideas suitable for all occasions – salads to share, breakfasts, onepot meals, party tricks etc. Find out more…

Book Recommendations Literature

We awarded only 3 titles this year our 5 Star rating, all titles we loosely categorised as Literature — Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and From The Wreck by Jane Rawson.  From the Wreck‘s synopsis has to rate as one of the most unusual I have come across. It really is something special — confronting, haunting and life-affirming. So who better than to recommend titles for those who enjoy avant-garde literature than its author Jane Rawson:

If you love literary writing but like a little dose of the unexpected, this year has been a great year in books – even the Booker Prize winner was a weird one.

One of my standouts was Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream (translated by Megan McDowell). Tiny and terrifically creepy, this book tells the story of a woman in hospital who may or may not be dying, and the ghostly small child helping her remember how she got there. Find out more…

Australian writer Bram Presser’s Book of Dirt is like no other holocaust novel you’ve read – a patchwork of styles and methods, hilarious and distressing and completely brilliant. Find out more…

And Rubik, by another Australian, Elizabeth Tan, uncovers the oddness of a near-future Perth with a complex web of intelligent, prescient and satirical stories about how we choose to live. Find out more…

Book Recommendations Crime Thriller

We have read some wonderful crime fiction this year. An early standout was a Scandi-Brit thriller, Lone Theils’ debut novel Fatal Crossing (translated by Charlotte Barslund), inspired by a true story and the first in a planned series starring journalist Nora Sands. Another clear favourite of mine was J M Green’s second novel Too Easy — the inimitable Stella Hardy is back… bigger, better and funnier than ever. So who better than to recommend books for the Crime Thriller fan in your life than J M Green:

And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic — Caleb Zelic the deaf protagonist of Resurrection Bay, Viskic’s debut, returns in this face-paced sequel. A young woman pleads for his help in sign language, then dies. To solve the crime Caleb must follow a trail that leads straight to his hometown, Resurrection Bay a town anxious about approaching bushfires and simmering with racial tension. Caleb is alienated from his old community, and from his ex-wife Kat, an Aboriginal woman. His enquires into the dead young woman lead to attacks and threats to back off. All the great twists and writing flair of book one are here, and the shock ending is a brilliant revelation. This is a sure-fire winner for fans of the genre. Find out more…

The Student by Iain Ryan — Nate, a struggling Queensland uni student lives in a caravan park in the regional town of Gatton. A small-time dope dealer, Nate is concerned when a fellow student is found dead and his dealer disappears. The some bikies show up with guns. Assumptions are wrong, choices are bad, and no one can be trusted. This is noir at its essence, a dummy loser who gets into even more trouble. And the snappy, hard-boiled writing is up to the ambition of the plot. A terrific and entertaining read from a prodigious young talent. Find out more…

Book Recommendations for Sci-Fi Fantasy

Of the science fiction fantasy titles I read this year, David Walton’s The Genius Plague would have to rank as my favourite. It is another nuanced, action-packed thriller from a master in the genre. Fungi have never been more terrifying! So who better than to recommend titles for those who enjoy the science fiction genre than David Walton:

Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson is a delightfully satisfying time travel story about how a culture (in this case America in the 1870s) is altered by a modern people exploiting them as a tourist destination.  A female agent from our time is paired with an 1870s frontiersman to solve a crime, providing both humor and profound insights into how cultures impact each other. Find out more…

Among Others by Jo Walton (no relation!) is a beautiful coming-of-age fantasy about a girl whose magical abilities seem to have little place in her English boarding school — great for both adults and teenagers. Find out more…

And for the children in your life, Watchdog by Will McIntosh is about an autistic little girl and her brother living on the streets of Chicago, and the extraordinary robot dog that helps them. Find out more…

I found all three captivating when I read them, and I’ve given them as gifts myself, with good result.

Book Recommendations Historical Fiction

My favourite historical fiction title this year was Kate Forsyth’s Beauty in Thorns. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood are an integral and fascinating part of this story but they and their legacies were shaped by the women that inspired (and cared for, organised and championed) them. Forsyth’s decision to tell this story in the voices of four true-life women – Lizzie Siddal, Jane Burden, Georgie Burne-Jones and her daughter Margot – is a fitting acknowledgement and celebration of this. So who better than to recommend titles for those who enjoy the historical fiction genre than Kate Forsyth:

To The Bright Edge of the World is set in Alaska, author Eowyn Ivey’s homeland. It was inspired by the true story of Lieutenant Henry T. Allen who, in 1885, set out with a small group of fellow explorers to follow the Copper River deep into the Alaskan hinterland. Such expeditions had been tried before, but all had failed, thanks to the cold, the snow and ice, the wolves, and the hostile natives.

Eowyn Ivey takes this story of an intrepid explorer and spins out of it an enthralling tale of love, grief, adventure and magic. The story is told in letters, postcards and diary entries from multiple different points-of-view, a risky creative choice that she pulls off adroitly. The voices of each of the many different characters ring true, an astounding feat of ventriloquism.

The Alaska of this novel is a vast place of cold implacable beauty, mystery and strangeness. Only ‘a thin line separates animal and man,’ and ghosts and shapeshifters move amongst humankind. There is an old crippled Indian man who may also be a raven, and a child that died only to be impossibly reborn elsewhere. An enthralling and exquisitely written novel. Find out more…

Jessie Burton’s The Muse tells the stories of two very different women. The first is Odelle, a black girl from Trinidad who came to London in the mid-1960s in the hope of becoming a poet and author. She is offered a job as a typist in a prestigious art gallery, and then meets a young white man named Lawrie at a party. These two events collide when Lawrie shows her a painting he has inherited from his mother, who had recently killed herself. The painting proves to be a lost masterpiece with a mysterious past.

The narrative then moves to the point of view of Olive Schloss, a young English woman who moves to Spain with her parents in 1936, despite the shadow of civil war. Olive longs to be an artist, but her father is a renowned art dealer and does not believe women can paint. She meets a young Spanish artist and revolutionary, Isaac Robles and his young half-sister, Teresa, and her comfortable life implodes.

I just loved it.  Both narrative threads are expertly spun, creating a tale of love, art and deception that kept twisting in unexpected ways. A fabulous read. Find out more…

The Alice Network by Alice Quinn is an utterly enthralling tale of love, courage, resistance and redemption. It begins in 1947 with the story of Charlie St Clair, who has been taken out of college because she is pregnant and does not know who the father is. Taken to Europe by her mother ‘to take care of the problem’, Charlie rebels. All she wants to do is try and track down her cousin, Rose, who went missing in Nazi-occupied France during the war. Charlie has only a few clues, but one of them leads her to the house of Eva Gardiner, a scarred and dangerous drunkard.

Eva then begins to tell her story. In 1915, she is a brilliant young woman hampered by a profound stutter. Fluent in both German and French, Eva is recruited as a spy for the British and sent into Occupied France to work for the Alice Network, an underground resistance group run by Lili, an audacious young woman with the codename of ‘Alice’. Eva begins to acquire useful information as she works as a waitress in a restaurant frequented by the top-brass German officers, who do not realise she speaks their language. Despite all her care, Eva catches the attention of the restaurant owner, a suave, sophisticated – and deadly – French collaborator named René.

The novel moves fluidly back and forth between the two historical periods, the suspense building as Charlie’s search for her cousin becomes entwined with Eva’s search for René, a man she had thought was dead. I just could not put this book down! Find out more…

Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land begins when a young American woman – newly arrived in the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia – accidentally finds herself in possession of someone else’s bag. Inside the bag is an urn filled with human ashes.

Distraught at the discovery, Alexandra tries to find the original owner but the only clue she has is the name engraved on the urn – Stoyan Lazarov. In her quest to identify him, she finds herself in ever increasing danger. The narrative then moves back into the past to tell Lazarov’s story – he is a violinist who sees something he should not have seen during the years of the communist regime and suffers a terrible punishment as a result.

Heart-breaking, evocative, and suspenseful, The Shadow Land explores a little-known and tragic part of European history in beautiful, restrained writing that brought me to tears several times. Find out more…

How’s that for book gift giving inspiration!

But if you’re still finding it hard to decide on a particular title for that special person (or you are worried the physical book make not make it in time), you really cannot go past a Book Gift Card.

All the major book retailers offer them — Booktopia (Aus/NZ), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo, and BookOutlet (for those who love snagging bargains!) and Betterworld Books (for those who like to support libraries/literacy charities and give new homes to pre-loved books).

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

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