Bookshelf Christmas Special 2023

Whether looking for your own winter reads, or well-chosen presents for friends and family, our pick of the year’s best books has something for everyone. Edited by Juanita Coulson


NORMAL WOMEN: 900 years of Making History by Philippa Gregory (Williiam Collins, £25)

Serious historical research meets spellbinding storytelling skill in this history of our nation from 1066 to 1994, told not through the biographies of kings and queens but through the lives of ordinary women doing extraordinary things.

Against the Tide: The Best of Roger Scruton’s Columns, Commentaries and Criticism edited by Mark Dooley (Bloomsbury, £20)

Edited by his literary executor, this volume of Scruton’s journalism from the 1970s to 2019 reminds us that he stood apart in Britain as a thinker who refused to follow fashions and fads, and his writing continues to illuminate.

Traffication: How Cars Destroy Nature and What We Can Do About It by Paul F. Donald Pelagic Publishing, £20)

Motor traffic means death to animals, as we are reminded every time we drive past a sad squashed hedgehog or a poignant splodge of feathers. Paul Donald shows that traffic has other equally lethal if less obvious effects on wildlife.

DIVINE MIGHT: Goddesses in Greek Myth by Natalie Haynes (Picador, £20)

The host of BBC Radio 4’s Natalie Haynes Stands up for the Classics turns her classically informed but mordantly hilarious eye to the complex world of female deities in Ancient Greece. Expect warmongering, spite, revenge, jealousy and desire, all served up with humour and wit.

DOG HEARTED: Essays on Our Fierce and Familiar Companions edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Jessica J. Lee (Daunt Books, £9.99)

A collection of pieces that prompt us to reflect upon the joys (and inevitable sorrows) of dog ownership. There is companionship and loss, needy dogs and semi-feral ones, bouncy puppies and elderly veterans: all of canine
life is here.