Stuck for a Christmas gift idea, or want some great new reading material to enjoy yourself? The team at Pound Gates are sharing their top 20 reading picks enjoyed during lockdown.
You can buy all of these books on Amazon and links are provided for each book. This could be a great time to sign up for Amazon Smile. You simply make your purchases through smile.amazon.co.uk rather than their main site and a small percentage of the sale goes to a charity of your choice at no extra cost to you. If you’d like to consider supporting our charity, select The Soma Leo Foundation. Thank you.
Now for the recommendations...
His Dark Materials trilogy, including: The Northern Lights, Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
"Without this child, we shall all die." Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world...
The Subtle Knife Will has just killed a man. He's on the run. His escape will take him far beyond his own world, to the eerie disquiet of a deserted city, and to a girl, Lyra. Her fate is strangely linked to his own, and together they must find the most powerful weapon in all the worlds... The Amber Spyglass Will and Lyra, whose fates are bound together by powers beyond their own worlds, have been violently separated. But they must find each other, for ahead of them lies the greatest war that has ever been - and a journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned...
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin
For the last six years of his life, Roger Deakin kept notebooks. In them, he wrote his daily thoughts, impressions, feelings and observations about and around his Suffolk home, Walnut Tree Farm. Collected here are the very best of these writings, capturing his extraordinary, restless curiosity about nature as well as his impressions of our changing world.
Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain by Roger Deakin
Roger Deakin set out in 1996 to swim through the British Isles. The result a uniquely personal view of an island race and a people with a deep affinity for water. From the sea, from rock pools, from rivers and streams, tarns, lakes, lochs, ponds, lidos, swimming pools and spas, from fens, dykes, moats, aqueducts, waterfalls, flooded quarries, even canals, Deakin gains a fascinating perspective on modern Britain. Detained by water bailiffs in Winchester, intercepted in the Fowey estuary by coastguards, mistaken for a suicide on Camber sands, confronting the Corryvreckan whirlpool in the Hebrides, he discovers just how much of an outsider the native swimmer is to his landlocked, fully-dressed fellow citizens. Encompassing cultural history, autobiography, travel writing and natural history, Waterlog is a personal journey, a bold assertion of the native swimmer's right to roam, and an unforgettable celebration of the magic of water.
Taking Le Tiss by Matt Le Tissier
The fascinating, insightful and at times hilarious memoirs of one of the most gifted and enigmatic British footballers of the last 25 years.
Nicknamed "Le God" by the Southampton faithful, Matt Le Tissier was not cast from the same mould as 99% of other professional footballers. A real "one-off" if every there was one, he was a one-club man in a 16-year career that brought little in the way of trophies but countless plaudits from footballs fans and commentators alike.
Did he simply enjoy the comfort zone of being a big fish in a small pond? Or did he display commendable loyalty in staying with Southampton for his entire career? Did he shun opportunities to move on? Were England managers right not to pick him so many times? Would Fabio Capello pick him for England now? Does the British game discourage his style of play? And how much would he be worth in today's transfer market?
Taking Le Tiss is the great man's first chance to answer all these questions and many more. It is also a delightfully self-deprecating and witty story from a player who was more of a Big-Mac-and-fries than a chicken-and-beans man.
Anti-social: The Secret Diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer by Nick Pettigrew
Has your life become unbearable because the person living above you has a fondness for crack cocaine, the company of strangers and dance music? Or maybe you're a social worker, mental health nurse, police officer, firefighter, dog warden or vicar and you've been landed with someone who's a pain in the arse. Who are you going to call? That would be me: an anti-social behaviour officer.
Anti-Social is the diary of a council worker whose job is to keep his community happy, or at least away from each other's throats. That's hard enough at the best of times but when government cuts mean that hospitals, social services and police are all at breaking point, the possibility of complete chaos is never far away.
This is an urgent, timely but, most of all, hysterically funny true story of a life spent working with the people society wants to forget and the problems that nobody else can resolve. This book will make you laugh, cry and boil with rage within a single sentence.
Genre: Action Fiction
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel) by Suzanne Collins
Ambition will fuel him. Competition will drive him. But power has its price.
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmanoeuvre his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favour or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ - prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp.
But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…
Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.
In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.
Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.
Genre: Literary Fiction
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
In the midst of war, he found love | In the midst of darkness, he found courage | In the midst of tragedy, he found hope. What will you find from his story?
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo - until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.
As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all - and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face - they must journey to find each other again.
Moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph - a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie is a twenty-five-year-old Black woman living in south London, straddling Jamaican and British culture whilst slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper where she's constantly forced to compare herself to her white, middle-class peers, and beg to write about Black Lives Matter. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie finds herself seeking comfort in all the wrong places.
As Queenie veers from one regrettable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be? - the questions that every woman today must face in a world that keeps trying to provide the answers for them.
A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on life, love, race and family, Queenie will have you nodding in recognition, crying in solidarity and rooting for this unforgettable character every step of the way. A disarmingly honest, boldly political and truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and acceptance and found something very different in its place.
The subtle art of not giving a f*ck: A counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.
For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.
Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.
There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
What does it mean to feel truly alive?
Aged 24, Matt Haig's world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.
A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Have you ever found yourself struggling with information overload? Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilised? Do you ever feel busy but not productive? If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is to become an Essentialist.
In Essentialism, Greg McKeown, CEO of a Leadership and Strategy agency in Silicon Valley who has run courses at Apple, Google and Facebook, shows you how to achieve what he calls the disciplined pursuit of less. Being an Essentialist is about a disciplined way of thinking. It means challenging the core assumption of ‘We can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time'.
By applying a more selective criteria for what is essential, the pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.
Using the experience and insight of working with the leaders of the most innovative companies and organisations in the world, McKeown shows you how to put Essentialism into practice in your own life, so you too can achieve something great.
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
The Harry Potter Collection by J.K. Rowling
Escape to Hogwarts with the unmissable series that has sparked a lifelong reading journey for children and families all over the world!
Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news - Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The magic starts here .
These irresistible editions, presented in a gorgeous slipcase featuring Hogwarts, are the essential Harry Potter. A must have for every child at the start of the most magical reading adventure. These books are to be treasured and read time and time again, as readers lose themselves in the greatest children's story of all time.
Genre: Romance Fiction
The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
Hypnotherapist Ellen O'Farrell has been single for a while, which is why she's so taken with her handsome new boyfriend, Patrick.
But Patrick has a confession: he has a stalker, an ex-girlfriend who won't leave him alone.
Ellen is a little disturbed - yet also curious. Who is this woman, and what would drive her to this obsessive behaviour? In fact, Ellen almost thinks she'd quite like to meet her.
What she doesn't realise is that she already has . . .
Genre: Psychological Fiction
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.
Old friends. Past grudges.
Happy families. Hidden jealousies.
Thirteen guests. One body.
The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.
All have a secret. All have a motive. One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .
Eat Prey Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything by Elizabeth Gilbert
It's 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She's in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they're trying for a baby - and she doesn't want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.
The Fear Bubble: Harness Fear and Live without Limits by Ant Middleton
Ant Middleton is no stranger to fear: as a point man in the Special Forces, he confronted fear on a daily basis, never knowing what lay behind the next corner, or the next closed door. In prison, he was thrust into the unknown, cut off from friends and family, isolated with thoughts of failure and dread for his future. And at the top of Everest, in desperate, life-threatening conditions, he was forced to face up to his greatest fear, of leaving his wife and children without a husband and father.
But fear is not his enemy. It is the energy that propels him. Thanks to the revolutionary concept of the Fear Bubble, Ant has learned to harness the power of fear and understands the positive force that it can become. Fear gives Ant his edge, allowing him to seek out life’s challenges, whether that is at home, pushing himself every day to be the best father he can be, or stuck in the death zone on top of the world in a 90mph blizzard.
In his groundbreaking new book, Ant Middleton thrillingly retells the story of his death-defying climb of Everest and reveals the concept of the Fear Bubble, showing how it can be used in our lives to help us break through our limits. Powerful, unflinching and an inspirational call to action, The Fear Bubble is essential reading for anyone who wants to push themselves further, harness their fears and conquer their own personal Everests.
We hope you found some inspiration in this list, either for a great gift or something to enjoy yourself.
We'd love it if you would consider supporting our charity The Soma Leo Foundation this Christmas by making any Amazon purchases through Amazon Smile. You can add your items to your basket in the normal way, and then pop over to smile.amazon.co.uk to complete the purchase. There's no extra cost to you and it really does help.