Christmas Stocking fillers
Our selection of this year's best stocking fillers: Cheer someone up - slip Mac into their stocking!
- Mark Mason reveals the best books for stocking fillers this Christmas
- Mac See And Unseen 2017 captures this year's best Daily Mail illustrations
- Our History Of The 20th Century recaps the incidents of 1900 to 1999
MAC SEE AND UNSEEN 2017 by Mac (Orion £7.99)
MAC SEE AND UNSEEN 2017
by Mac (Orion £7.99)
With the news as it is these days, Mac (stated aim: ‘to cheer people up’) is more important than ever.
This collection of his 2017 hits includes Theresa May receiving a message from Donald Trump — ‘He’s looking forward to meeting you for some serious political discussions and says: “Wear the split skirt” ’ — and (pictured right) the Queen telling the Duchess of Cambridge that she’s sure the newly retired Philip will do some babysitting for her, as Philip holds up a sign that says: ‘Not bloody likely!’
ON CHRISTMAS: A SEASONAL ANTHOLOGY INTRODUCED by Gyles Brandreth (Notting HIll Editions £14.99)
ON CHRISTMAS: A SEASONAL ANTHOLOGY INTRODUCED
by Gyles Brandreth (Notting HIll Editions £14.99)
The ever-wise Brandreth cuts straight to an essential Christmas truth, advising us to savour this book while ‘locked away in your bedroom at the height of the festivities because you can’t stand another minute of your own family’.
There’s Sue Townsend on how childhood parties honed the observational skills she would need as a writer: ‘I would remember the exact shade of red that my auntie’s neck would turn after a few gins.’
And there’s P. G. Wodehouse on friends who ‘greet us in the street with: “Well! Christmas will soon be here!” registering the while a mental vow that, until they know what sort of a present we are going to give them, they are hanged if they are going to go above a dollar-ten for us.’
OUR HISTORY OF THE 20TH CENTURY: AS TOLD IN DIARIES, JOURNALS AND LETTERS compiled by Travis Elborough (Michael O’Mara £25)
OUR HISTORY OF THE 20TH CENTURY: AS TOLD IN DIARIES, JOURNALS AND LETTERS
Compiled by Travis Elborough (Michael O’Mara £25)
This anthology recaps the incidents of 1900 to 1999 as they were seen at the time by the great and the good, as well as by ‘ordinary’ folk. The comments can make for spooky reading, given subsequent events.
A 1981 TV programme criticising Saddam Hussein has one viewer (Kenneth Williams, bizarrely enough) writing in his diary that ‘when such a leader is removed, the ensuing chaos is deplored by the same censurers’.
But some of the best stuff is personal, rather than political. In 1969, a man from Yarmouth comes out as gay to his parents: ‘ “Well, you didn’t get it from my side of the family,” said Mother.’
THE THINGS YOU CAN SEE ONLY WHEN YOU SLOW DOWN by Haemin Sunim (Penguin Life £9.99)
THE THINGS YOU CAN SEE ONLY WHEN YOU SLOW DOWN
by Haemin Sunim (Penguin Life £9.99)
‘When you encounter someone prickly and malicious, think about what kind of miserable situation he must be in,’ advises Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim in this bestselling book of life lessons.
‘If he is too much and you don’t have time, just whisper: “Bless you,” and move on.’
That’s all fine and dandy, Haemin, but if that someone is the call-centre operative who won’t explain why your broadband still isn’t connected after six weeks, ‘bless you’ isn’t going to achieve very much now, is it?
THE BOOK OF THE YEAR: THE WEIRDER SIDE OF 2017 by No Such Thing As A Fish (Random House £12.99)
THE BOOK OF THE YEAR: THE WEIRDER SIDE OF 2017
by No Such Thing As A Fish (Random House £12.99)
QI is such an institution that even the programme’s researchers are taking over the world.
Fully justified that is, too, as anyone who’s heard their podcast, No Such Thing As A Fish, will confirm. It’s packed with killer facts — and so is this book.
The name ‘Donald’ comes from the Gaelic ‘Domhnall’, meaning ‘ruler of the world’; a Palestinian judge banned divorce applications during Ramadan on the grounds that we make bad decisions when we’re hungry; and Carrie Fisher’s ashes were placed in an urn shaped like a giant Prozac pill. Style even in death — that’s style indeed.
PATRONISING BASTARDS by Quentin Letts (Constable £16.99)
by Quentin Letts (Constable £16.99)
I’ve got a suspicion that, underneath his reticent exterior, Quentin Letts might have one or two opinions. Who knows, some of them might even be quite strongly held.
If only he could pluck up the courage to express them once in a while . . . As it is, we’ll have to make do with such half-hearted comments as ‘nothing Ronnie Barker ever wore [in drag] came close to matching the outlandish garb of his lookalike Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of the Kids Company charity’.
And ‘Lord Hannay is a man who, even when looking in his shaving mirror, surely adopts an expression of pained superiority’.
A SHORT HISTORY OF DRUNKENNESS by Mark Forsyth (Viking £12.99)
A SHORT HISTORY OF DRUNKENNESS
by Mark Forsyth (Viking £12.99)
This is reassuring evidence that just about every human in every country in every era has liked a bev or three.
Kim Jong-il spent $1 million a year on Hennessy cognac; NASA has admitted that on at least two space shuttle launches, the astronauts were very drunk; and the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was celebrated with a dinner that had 22 toasts before any food arrived.
Meanwhile, the ancient Persians debated big political issues twice — once sober, once drunk. If they reached the same decision both times, they acted.
David Davis and Michel Barnier — over to you.
THE WORLD CUP OF EVERYTHING by Richard Osman (Coronet £14.99)
THE WORLD CUP OF EVERYTHING
by Richard Osman (Coronet £14.99)
More great facts in this play-along-at-home book, where the chapters let you and your friends vote on the greatest ever chocolate bar or animal — or anything.
The Pointless star reveals the Snickers bar was named after the Mars family’s favourite horse; Jeremy Kyle’s father was personal assistant to the Queen Mother; and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders nearly married Johnny Rotten to get a UK visa. Rotten turned her down at the last minute, but his fellow Sex Pistol Sid Vicious stepped in. He and Hynde presented themselves at the registry office, only to find it was shut.
Meanwhile, I’m gutted to learn that Terry Wogan’s stick microphone on Blankety Blank was just a prop (a car aerial with a ball of foam on the end). Was nothing in my childhood real?
TRAVELLING LIGHT: JOURNEYS AMONG SPECIAL PEOPLE AD PLACES by Alastair Sawday (Little, Brown £20)
TRAVELLING LIGHT: JOURNEYS AMONG SPECIAL PEOPLE AD PLACES
by Alastair Sawday (Little, Brown £20)
Sawday is anti- chain hotels, pro-environment and full of energy. It’s in his genes: his father’s father continued working as a dentist despite losing an arm.
Sawday’s travel guides include spoof entries, such as the French village of Odeur-sur-Pestilence, while his rural walking tours once attracted Americans who complained about ‘goddam roots across the path’.
To this day, he responds to the question: ‘Any dietary requirements?’ with the words: ‘Yes — no pilchards, please.’
AND NOW, THE WEATHER... A CELEBRATION OF OUR NATIONAL OBSESSION foreword by Carol Kirkwood (BBC Books £9.99 )
AND NOW, THE WEATHER... A CELEBRATION OF OUR NATIONAL OBSESSION
foreword by Carol Kirkwood (BBC Books £9.99)
The next time that someone tells you it’s raining cats and dogs outside, you should reply that in the Faroe Islands they say: ‘It’s raining pilot whales.’
Other topics in this entertaining book include the lightning rod (invented by Benjamin Franklin — yes, that one) and flies, which behave sluggishly before thunderstorms, at least according to amateur forecaster Bill Foggitt, who once beat Michael Fish in an accuracy duel.
And I love the BBC’s John Hammond for this comment in early 2013: ‘Good evening. Dull, grey, cold, miserable . . . and that’s just me. The weather hasn’t been great, either.’
THE POETRY PHARMACY: TRIED-AND-TRUE PRESCRIPTIONS FROM THE HEART, MIND AND SOUL by William Sieghart (Particular Books £12.99)
THE POETRY PHARMACY: TRIED-AND-TRUE PRESCRIPTIONS FROM THE HEART, MIND AND SOUL
by William Sieghart (Particular Books £12.99)
A beautiful idea, beautifully done. Sieghart lists common life problems and supplies poems to ‘treat’ them.
For instance, on failure to live in the moment, we’re prescribed Mark Doty’s Golden Retrievals, in which a dog who loves fetching sticks tells its master to adopt a similar approach.
Sieghart’s notes flesh out the messages — in this case, he mentions the concept of the second arrow, where we inflict suffering on ourselves by regretting mistakes or dreading future pain.
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