This Christmas we’ve decided to make your present buying a lot less stressful by asking the 4th Estate team to hand-pick books for all your relatives. Hopefully this will mean less umming and ahhing in the bookshop, and more oohing and ahhing on Christmas Day…
You’re sure you didn’t look so mature when you were that age, and you definitely spent less time watching screens, huddled indoors, but neither of these facts can account for your inability to understand your niece. You could spend the next few years perplexed, or you could remember that by this age, everyone that didn’t live with you was already treating you like an adult.
These are formative years for your niece, so you’ll want to make an impression on her. The Emperor Waltz is a scintillating novel, full of ambition and values to live by. The opening situation of a young man striking out to study art, to go his own way, is guaranteed to inflame a burgeoning desire for independence. Your niece will identify with characters, smirk about street-speak and be inspired to think deeply about the way we live.
It may be a cliché to give your niece a coming of age novel as she’s coming of age, but don’t let that put you off. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a terrific story about sisters and first love. June Elbus loses her uncle, the only person that has ever understood her, to a mysterious illness. But into the void that is left by Uncle Finn steps a man she’s never met who knows a lot about her. June’s story may end, but your niece will never forget her.
Available only as an e-book, this short story will gain you ‘living in the twenty first century’ brownie points. It also features the most kick-ass, daring and smart spy in the written world. Who happens to be an octogenarian. And female. Plus, there’s the boon that if your niece loves Edie Banister, the character returns in Harkaway’s novel Angelmaker.
You may not want to think about it, and her parents certainly don’t, but it won’t be long before your niece is leaving the nest. The thing with being teenage is, you certainly don’t want to listen to advice from your family – but from the front line of the struggle for self-actualisation? Let Lena become your niece’s best friend, and help her think about the fact that she’s in charge of her own destiny.
Narrated by the pampered and cosseted son of a drug lord is this story of life in a mansion, a plethora of hats, and the pursuit of pygmy hippos. The voice is distinctive and glorious, which creates a glossy façade for the underhand activity that abounds. Short enough to be devoured in one sitting, Down the Rabbit Hole proves that translated fiction need not be hard, and it earns your niece pseud-points to boot.
After the astonishing turnout of teenagers for the Scottish referendum, talk has turned to lowering the voting age for UK elections. Your niece might be the most politically astute person in the family, but if not, it’s likely that she’d rather find out about the political system and its variants for herself: this is the book for that. It’s also part of a series, so if the format works, the world is your niece’s oyster.
And a perfect stocking filler:
Put a little note in the front, suggesting your niece follow up the reading by watching Emma Watson’s speech as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador on YouTube, and she’ll be amazed by how firmly your finger is on the pulse.
Words and illustration by Bianca Winter.
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