Sing with a Beatle, chill with a vampire...

Octopus's Garden by Ringo Starr, illustrated by Ben Cort

Winner takes all, and tells all too

Embracing celebrity: David Beckham

Are there ANY sports stars who don't have a memoir out? MARCUS BERKMANN chooses the best.

HOW TO BE A MASTER CHEF: It's been a year of mouth-watering cookbooks. JANE SHILLING samples the best...

French twist: Rachel Khoo

Christmas is traditionally a time of gastronomic stress, both for the person in the kitchen, slaving to produce a festive feast, and for everyone else, waiting in nervous anticipation of the inevitable culinary meltdown, observes JANE SHILLING

Blair's journey: From fettucine to fish 'n' chips

Christmas Past

From New Labour's arch chameleon to Queen Victoria's secret, JOHN PRESTON selects the year's best history books

What tickled our columnists between the covers this year?

Columnists Christmas

A well-chosen book is the perfect present - so from now until Christmas we'll be bringing you a weekly selection of the year's best titles. The Mail's columnists launch the festivities by revealing what they've most enjoyed reading this year...

Festive Spirit


Letters with a stamp of genious

Film, 'Pride And Prejudice', (2005) MATTHEW MACFADYEN in this remaking of the classic Jane Austen novel.

Dear Lupin, a collection of letters from exasperated father Roger Mortimer to his feckless son, ‘Lupin’, was the word-of-mouth bestseller of last year and this second volume of letters to his daughter, ‘Lumpy’, deserves equal success.

Talking of good reads: Audio Books

Father Christmas with earphones

Georges Simenon’s creation, the enigmatic pipe-smoking Detective Chief Inspector Maigret, is one of the towering figures of crime fiction.

Plots to make you green with envy

An explosion of colour: Great Dixter, one of 25 gardens featured in The New English Garden

There’s not much you can do in the garden at this time of year, suggests JANE SHILLING, other than admire the winter-flowering honeysuckle and frosty architectural foliage that you prudently planted last season.

The 12 books of Christmas

Christmas Fiction illustration

Meet an older (not wiser) Bridget, a gumshoe priest and Mrs Bennet's grumpy maid - heroes all in our critics' novel of the year

An affair with Anjelica and a crafty fag with Mary Berry

Engrossing: Anjelica Huston

An unusually diverse cast of stars have bared their souls in print this year. Beady-eyed ROGER LEWIS has read them all and here he delivers his verdict...

Duke Ellington - now he could swing a punch!: DUKE: THE LIFE OF DUKE ELLINGTON BY TERRY TEACHOUT

Quite the charmer: Duke Ellington with one of his admirers

Gunshots? Don't be silly - we're in a 5-star hotel

Under siege by terrorists: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace hotel, in which 166 people died

Try to imagine, suggests CHRISTOPHER HUDSON, the Titanic slowly filling up with fire, not water, and you have something approximating the terror experienced at the luxurious Taj hotel in Mumbai.


Christopher Matthew

Oscar Wilde remarked that philosophy teaches us to bear the misfortunes of others with equanimity. But writer and broadcaster Christopher Matthew has a better idea, remarks JANE SHILLING


Marlene Dietrich

Described as the Rembrandt of Hollywood, photographer George Hurrell immortalised the great stars of the movies in a series of highly stylised, erotic, enigmatic - and heavily retouched images.

Why HM's made of the write stuff...: YOURS, E.R. BY TERENCE BLACKER

Queen Elizabeth II signs a cricket bat during her visit to a new  4.5 million national cricket academy, Friday November 14, 2003

In these days of email and tweets, what a treat it has become to receive a proper letter. And how enviable the lot of Sir Jeremy Scrimgeour, who has received a letter every week - from the Queen, writes HARRY RITCHIE

Fleet Street giants who cut Churchill down to size: BLUM & TAFF: A TALE OF TWO EDITORS BY DENNIS GRIFFITHS

In the editor's chair: D Blumenfeld

Few editors leave a mark on history. The subjects of this double biography, D. Blumenfeld and H.A. Gwynne, are little remembered these days, muses PETER LEWIS

'He could never switch off, even at home with me and mum. And it killed him': Eric Morecambe's son reveals the obsessive dark side of the 'Bring Me Sunshine' boys

Eric and Ernie were together virtually all day every day because of work; so when they became successful, they had an unspoken agreement that they wouldn't socialise with one another

Bingo, karaoke night and cheese feasts: The truth about life in an open prison, by VICKY PRYCE - and why the women in our softest jails really DO suffer

Different life: Vicky Pryce is seen chatting with inmates and a prison officer at East Sutton Park Prison, which she describes at a 'real joy' after serving four days at Holloway

In the finale of her unique inside story, Vicky Pryce, the wife of disgraced ex-minister Chris Huhne, describes life at open prison East Sutton Park.

The dogs who lit up my life: Art critic BRIAN SEWELL recalls a sex crazed boxer, a blood-thirsty Jack Russell and the mutt that caused a stink with a royal

Brian Sewell

Throughout his life, acclaimed art critic Brian Sewell has been devoted to dogs. Now, in a new book, he shares magical memories of his many companions.

The day Lucian Freud turned Jerry Hall into a man: How the artist painted the model's face as a male after she 'didn't show up for two sittings'

Jerry and Lucian had never quite bonded. While she was sitting for him, she gave him cashmere jerseys, which he loathed. But worse, in his eyes, she too had a habit of being late

Jerry and Lucian had never quite bonded. While sitting for him she gave him cashmere jerseys, which he loathed. But worse, she had a habit of being late.

'Useless Darling was just in it for himself' : Damian McBride reveals how 'poor Alistair' played the media martyr amid economic crisis


In an extract from his explosive memoirs, Power Trip, Damian McBride reveals how the former Chancellor survived by the skin of his teeth after credit crunch bungle.

My lovely son just lay there. His little face still looked so beautiful. When I dream, I dream of that: In Mary Berry's own moving words, the story of the child she loved and lost so young

Mary Berry - photoshoot for one of her first cookery book with helpers Annabel and William.

In the second extract from her autobiography, published exclusively in the Mail today, Mary Berry describes the sudden death of the son she doted on, pictured left.