You'd think that as some of my favourite books are bitterly depressing tales of woe without a twinkle of hope for humanity, it means I would be kinda a grinch about Christmas - the crowds, the commercialism, the traffic on the roads, the jingles, the everything being shut, the dreaded family reunions...
But I am actually rather fond of the Yuletide. Now, don't get me wrong. I do not go round cheerleading for Christmas in a Mrs Sinterklaas hat and furry white pom poms while trilling out carols like some demented one-woman choir.
I like Christmas because I enjoy giving presents. I normally spend quite a bit of time thinking about what to get all my friends and loved ones, pondering over facets of their personality and interests. I think I derive more enjoyment out of giving people gifts than they perhaps do from receiving them.
So in the spirit of the season, deck the halls with boughs of holly and all that, I've come up with this literary gift guide for the bibliophile in your lives.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr Seuss
If you have any budding child bibliophiles in your lives, this story is the perfect way to introduce them to the true spirit of Christmas. Though giving it to them as a present may negate the message somewhat. Still, who can forget the grinch with his sour, grinchy frown and heart two sizes too small, with his inexplicable hatred of stockings and roast beef. Why, if I met him, I'd give him a big, old kiss - there's no room for surliness in Whoville!
The Passage and The Twelve, Justin Cronin
The first two of a trilogy, these two books truly are the antidote to Twilight and its sparkly vamp-bots. In The Passage, the vampires are truly vicious bloodsuckers with only one thing on their minds, and it ain't getting into Bella's panties. The sequel to it, The Twelve, is probably not quite at the same level as the first book, but action-packed all the same and you get to revisit all your favourite old characters.
Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin
I have this series downloaded on my Kindle and intend to start reading it during the holiday season. But most of my friends who have started it have quickly become addicted and found them "unputdownable". I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, so am slightly hesitant about spoiling the series by reading ahead, but on the other hand, I find it hard to resist a good book.
The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee
This won the 2011 Pulitzer for non-fiction and also the Guardian First Book Award. It is a fascinating history of cancer woven in with personal anecdotes from his own work as a cancer specialist. One of the most fascinating stories in it is about an ancient warrior woman who, it was said, cut her breast off because she found a tumour. That, and the ability of cancer cells to hide in certain parts of the body when a patient is thought to have gone into "remission", makes this a frightening and enlightening read at the same time.
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
Okay, so indulge me because meh, it's my blog and this is my favourite book of all time. In fact, I use it as a bit of a litmus test. Most of David Mitchell's books are actually great, even The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, though it got a bit lost in the middle. Here's my review of Cloud Atlas. Basically, it's the perfect gift for any fan of speculative fiction.
It isn't a book, but damn, the Kindle Paperwhite makes me drool! I know, I know, it's just like an iPad (which I already own), but it comes with an eight-week battery life, 62 per cent more pixels and 25 per cent better contrast. I sound like an infomercial, but I swear Amazon isn't paying me for this - though I am happy to accept any superfluous Kindle Paperwhites they want to send my way. Did you hear me, Amazon's publicity department?
What literary gifts are you hoping to give or receive this Christmas?