It’s Christmas next week, and the 4th Estate team are getting ready for the holidays. We’ve already told you our favourite books of the year, and our authors’ favourite books of the year, so it’s time for the most important list of all – the books we want for Christmas…
4th Estate Authors
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Over my winter break, I’m going to read the new Lucia Berlin collection A Manual for Cleaning Women. I love short stories and I love women’s voices, so I’m elated by the publication of this book. I only wish Berlin had been able to enjoy all the accolades she’s receiving before she died.
Judith Claire Mitchell, author of A Reunion of Ghosts
They All Love Jack by Bruce Robinson
I don’t care whether Bruce Robinson has correctly identified Jack the Ripper or not, I’m just looking forward to settling into They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper as a way of spending time with his effusive, eclectic, startling mind and writing in the absence of any further novels or films. I am probably as much a fan of Withnail and I the published script as I am the film (the stage directions are magnificent), ditto the various introductions he has written for it. I love the man, he’s one of the people that changed my life.
Will Smith, author of Mainlander
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
I am most excited to read Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies over Christmas. I began hearing about this book more than a year ago, even before it became a bestseller and got nominated for everything, so I admit to feeling quite buzzed by the accumulated publicity buzz. I am a fan of Groff’s short stories, and the premise of this novel—a story of a marriage and creative partnership told from the differing perspectives of the husband and the wife—sounds truly intriguing. Now I want to see for myself!
Kseniya Melnik, author of Snow in May
Raptor by James Macdonald Lockhart
I want James Macdonald Lockhart’s forthcoming Raptor: A Journey Through Birds. It promises a personal voyage into the world of these majestic avians, swooping, raw in beak and claw, out of our imaginations and into reality. Look a raptor in the eye, and you see the cruelty and the beauty of the world reflected back at you.
Philip Hoare, author of The Sea Inside
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The book I am most looking forward to reading is Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, which I bought after it won the Booker. It was the most interesting-sounding book on the longlist and my interest has only intensified since it won.
Will Wiles, author of The Way Inn
Kafkas’s Unpublished Papers
The only writer whose private life I have any interest in is Franz Kafka. As far as anyone else goes, it’s not a matter of high-mindedness on my part—I just have no curiosity about them besides the books they wrote. On Kafka though, I’ll read anything, high or low, biographies, critical appraisals, hugely tendentious monographs about his Jewishness, hypochondria or putative homosexuality.
And, in Israel, is the cache of probably his last unpublished papers. Kafka’s friend Max Brod left them to his secretary Eva Hoffe. After her death, a predictably tortuous legal process ensued, which ended this year with ownership granted to the National Library of Israel. We continue though to wait.
David Flusfeder, author of John the Pupil
Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh
Anything by Evelyn Waugh, who’s been a gap in my reading for too long. I’m told by a very reliable source that Put Out More Flags is a good place to start.
Claire Lowdon, author of Left of the Bang
The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
The book I would like for Christmas is the Folio edition of The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle which, as any fule kno, is the funiest book ever writen and drawn, chiz chiz. Actually it’s four books in one, Down with Skool!, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms and Back in the Jug agane, but the central point remains unchanged: these are the funniest books ever written and drawn and, given how good I’ve been this year (see above), I feel I’ve earned a few days off revisiting them in one glorious volume. *nudge, hint, cough*
Andy Miller, author of The Year of Reading Dangerously
The Lute and the Scars by Danilo Kis
Over the holidays, I’m looking forward to reading The Lute and the Scars, stories transcribed from the manuscripts of Serbian writer Danilo Kis after his death. I don’t know why I’m starting with this, my first Kis, but I want to start somewhere.
Gavin Corbett, author of Green Glowing Skull
Unreasonable Behaviour: The Updated Autobiography by Don McCullin
Whilst writing my book The Beechwood Airship Interviews, I was fortunate to spend time in the company of the photographers Jane Bown and Steve Gullick and both had nothing but praise and admiration for McCullin.
Updated for McCullin’s 80th birthday, the first thing which drew my attention to Unreasonable Behaviour was, perhaps ironically, the fantastic painting of the author on the cover. I thought Shaped by War the 2012 exhibition at the Imperial War Museum of some 250 photographs, contact sheets, objects, magazines and personal memorabilia was fantastic, harrowing, incredibly moving.
Dan Richards, author of The Beechwood Airship Interviews
I really want some Ms. Marvel graphic novels for Christmas. I’m obsessed with the awesome Kamala Khan, but a busy year has meant my comic book reading has suffered.
Nikesh Shukla, author of Meatspace
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
I can’t help but love a mystery hidden behind a narrative, and Elena Ferrante is captivating before I even begin reading her work. Her desire to remain entirely private fascinates me; I am envious of her ability to hide. When combining the few gems of fact that have been offered of her private world with hearing nothing but praise for her Neapolitan novels, I’m surprised I’ve waited this long. I do fear that I’m the last person in the UK to devour her words, but this Christmas I’m excited to read My Brilliant Friend.
Caroline Smailes, author of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton
The Imperative to Write by Jeff Fort
I’ve never really been interested in *how* to write, for me it’s the exploration of *why* we write, what writing is, and what it can be: writing’s potential, as limiting, or limitless as it can be. Three writers (Kafka, Blanchot, and Beckett) more than most have set out to navigate this dilemma: the need to write. It was the critic Stephen Mitchelmore who first alerted me to this book on his blog This Space. How could I ignore: ‘For writers, however, consternation at the pointlessness of adding to an infinite number of books leads to at least three outcomes, the last of which is perhaps unique to writers: first, silence, in the form of never writing again, or at least never being published; second, denial or indifference, in the form of publishing regardless, and third, subjecting the writing to the condition.’ Do we become indifferent and publish and be damned or do we suffer the condition of writing? Excellent stuff.
Lee Rourke, author of Vulgar Things
4th Estate Staff
A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen and Alex Goodwin
The book I’d like for Christmas is A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen and Alex Goodwin. I didn’t think that A Guinea Pig Nativity could be improved upon, but the idea of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy – be-bonneted, be-ruffled and furry – as they tangle whiskers and exchange pithy dialogue is irresistible.
Helen Garnons-Williams, Publishing Director
The Green Road by Anne Enright
One book I look forward to reading over the holiday is The Green Road, by Anne Enright. Who can resist a novel about a damaged family coming together for Christmas? I can’t. Especially when the author is Anne Enright. Everything I’ve read about this suggests it will be brilliant. Can’t wait.
Anna Kelly, Commissioning Editor
Weatherland by Alexandra Harris
I can admit now that I made up some – most – of the Medieval lyric poems I wrote about in my university exams. One however echoes round my head. It goes something like this:
Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!
I like its romantic sentiment, I like its appreciation of bed, most of all though I empathise with its rendering of that universal experience of “small rain”. As the cold sets in, and the drizzle becomes perpetual I would like to take shelter in the wonderful writing of Alexandra Harris, and her consideration of many such wuthering works of art.
Lettice Franklin, Assistant Editor
I want to re-read Kate Gross’s Late Fragments this Christmas. It is definitively NOT a cancer memoir, but rather a handbook on how to live life meaningfully. It is wise without being patronising or way over your head – in Kate’s own words, ‘this strange, razor-like clarity is something I wouldn’t have found had the worst not happened’. It’s the perfect stabiliser in a season of forced intimacy and over-consumption.
And can someone please buy me the complete Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante? I raced through them on my kindle and now want physical evidence of their impact on my life.
Tara Al-Azzawi, Marketing Manager
We Don’t Know What We’re Doing by Thomas Morris
I’m all for short stories, especially after having read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. The cover of We Don’t Know What We’re Doing grabbed me when I saw it sitting on a colleague’s desk. I stole it for the afternoon, read two of the stories and now I’m tempted to steal it back from her. This collection, set in Wales, is funny, sad, impressively varied, and most of all, relatable. And the cover is one that I wish I’d been asked to be on.
Candice Carty-Williams, Marketing Executive
A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
Well there’s nothing like the exploration of ‘the aesthetics of violence’ in a Tarantino-esque, cacophonic novel to keep you warm on those cold, wintery nights. For that reason I’ve picked A Brief History of Seven Killings as my Christmas read, not only because it’s centred around a fascinating time in Jamaican history – and throughout the world – but also because I’ve heard so much about Marlon James’ ‘tendency to inhabit the dark and gory places, and to shine a light on them’, and am looking forward to seeing what that entails.
Emilie Chambeyron, Sales Assistant
Jellyfish by Janice Galloway
Janice Galloway’s return to short fiction is sure to be triumphant. Her previous collections Blood and Where You Find It are, in my mind, as good as anything in Scottish Literature in the last twenty five years. She has a gift for economy, and for capturing the sudden rush of panic that accompanies a situation that turns bad without notice. If her previous work is anything to go off of, I’ll read this in one sitting, then revisit it for years to come until the spine gives up.
Jordan Mulligan, Graduate Trainee
Straw Dogs by John Gray
My interest in this actually comes from research I did into a 4th Estate author, Dan Richards, whose own book makes reference to this fantastic piece of philosophical work which examines our true nature as human beings, bringing into question our relationship with ourselves and exploring similarities between humans and animals that all sounds incredibly thought provoking.
Ralph Barker, Graduate Trainee
Subscribe to the 4th Estate podcast here.
If you enjoyed this, try: