Our Booksellers’ Christmas Picks

So you’ve been through our list of Christmas Bangers and you’re still on the hunt for something a little more unusual, slightly less on-the-nose. Well, traveller, you’ve come to the right place. We tasked our booksellers with recommending three books apiece, books they’ll be merrily gifting this year – naturally, some of them are on the more esoteric side…

The Story of Art Without Men, by Kate Hessel

It’s the book your artist, or artistically inclined friends have been waiting for – even if they didn’t know it. A deeply important and vital text for anyone interested in art and the art world. No matter your current depth of knowledge, readers are sure to discover (Cheers, patriarchy! Thanks, misogyny!) artists and art-works they’ve never laid eyes on before in this visually-rich tome.

(recommended by Siúbhan)

The Premonitions Bureau, by Sam Knight

​If you’re a fan of the narrative investigations of Jon Ronson, Julia Ebner and Patrick Radden Keefe, we’ve found your new favourite book. Sam Knight’s painstakingly researched and beautifully written history of a little known government department which logged reports of premonitions submitted by the general public through the 1960s and beyond hits that perfect intersection of ‘I can’t believe this happened’ and ‘it’s so ludicrous it had to happen’. Tragedies like the Aberfan disaster, plane crashes, assassinations: all predicted if you look at the premonitions from a certain angle, and Knight’s knack for relaying them sensitively, analytically and with a nose for the absurd, gives this book the dynamic feel of a well-plotted thriller.

(recommended by Dan)

Spaceships Over Glasgow, by Stuart Braithwaite

​For a very particular kind of person, this memoir of debauchery, delinquency and oppressively loud experimental guitar music will be the unlikely equivalent of a warm hug this Christmas. Well, it was for me anyway. As a founding member of the legendary and legendarily loud band Mogwai, Stuart Braithwaite has enjoyed a front seat at the evolving banquet of weirdness, genius and stupidity that is the alternative music scene. Spaceships Over Glasgow is his deftly-written account of the band’s tumultuous and hugely entertaining first decade: encompassing the rotten end of Britpop, increasingly unhinged world tours and a seemingly endless vault of diamond anecdotes (there’s a memorable scene of revenge involving a sunroof), it’s easily my favourite music book of the year. 

(recommended by Dan)

A Horse at Night, by Amina Cain

​Reaffirming our strong belief that books of the greatest heft and insight more often than not arrive in small and unassuming packages, this sliver of a tome is packed with countless ‘YES, CORRECT!’ moments on every page. Amina Cain treated us a couple of years ago with her novel Indelicacy, and to follow she has written this gentle and truthful account of her own reading habits, the books that shaped her own writing sensibilities and the thoughts that race through her mind when in the midst of creativity. The good news is that to enjoy this book you need no experience of Cain’s previous work, nor any of the books she refers to. All the pleasure is derived from the nuggets of truth she brings forth from them, the passages she highlights and the way they extend beyond the page and into your own sense of potential. If you know anyone who is waiting for the creative muse to strike, this is the book that might make it happen that tiny bit faster.

(recommended by Dan)

Tarot: the Library of Esoterica

An absolutely mammoth book of all things Tarot, and maybe one of the most deliciously indulgent books that we stock in the bookshop. This is both an extremely thorough reference book and guide (you’ll find notes on all the cards’ meanings, associated elements, symbology, histories, practical tips) and an eye-wateringly beautiful coffee table book to gaze at by candlelight, flick through, while sipping some sort of herbal tea, black cat on lap… You can picture it, I’m sure.

(recommended by Callum)

The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home vol 1, by Kanata Konami

I don’t know about you, but we at Storysmith are becoming slowly but irrecoverably obsessed with Chi’s Sweet Home: the hilarious Japanese cat-based comic series, printed in these beautifully illustrated, full colour, satisfyingly chunky compendiums (we’ve got the first 3 volumes…).

If you haven’t heard the good news yet, buckle up! Volume 1 starts with Chi lost and confused, separated from her mother as a kitten and looking for her home and struggling to adjust to the tribulations of life! I would (and one day shall!) be buying this for any and every cat-enthused youngster in my life.

(recommended by Callum)

Home is Not a Place, by Roger Robinson & Johny pitts

This is the sort of book you don’t buy for yourself but you do desperately want someone to buy you. A collaboration by two truly brilliant Black British masters of their craft: photography by Johny Pitts (Storysmith favourite, author of Afropean, and presenter of Open Book on Radio 4) and poetry by TS Eliot award winning Roger Robinson (another Storysmith favourite). Together they travel around Great Britain in a mini cooper in order to interrogate and celebrate Blackness in 21st Century Britain. What emerges is an extremely rich and profoundly beautiful free-form mix of essay, poetry, and photography that you can flick through at your leisure – or devour all at once.

(recommended by Callum)

Cook As You Are, by Ruby Tandoh

No matter how many cookbooks someone has, we can guarantee that unless this is part of the collection, they don’t have something like it. It’s a cookbook for all users of the kitchen, whether it’s their least favourite room in the house or you can’t get them out of it. Which is to say, the recipes in this range from snappy weeknight dinner, to recipes for whiling hours upon hours away ‘for the love of it’ – but all of which, are offered up with an awareness of and commitment to accessibility with regards to affordability, general ability. And, they’re all delicious of course!

(recommended by Siúbhan)

Maud Martha, by Gwendolyn Brooks

​I struggle to think of any adult who wouldn’t benefit from a copy of Maud Martha nestling in their stocking. This slight novel presents a whole life in a series of vignettes that capture everyday moments: trip to the movies, putting up a Christmas tree, furnishing the kitchenette. These snapshots from Maud Martha’s childhood, teenage years, early marriage and her journey into motherhood present a vivid picture of black womanhood in 1940s New York. It’s a miniature masterpiece that simply and beautifully conveys the laughter, pain, passion and heartbreak of everyday life.

(recommended by Emily)

In Defence of Witches, by Mona Chollet

​The perfect gift for the friend that loves to be outraged by cultural and historical facts. These compelling and insightful essays guide us elegantly through the trials of women in history who have been singled out and persecuted for not following societal norms. Chollet looks at single women, women who choose not to be mothers, women who embrace ageing or dress and behave differently. It’s an intelligent and measured study of witches, misogyny and feminism through the ages. Yes, it will make you scream, but it will also make you cheer for witches past and present!

(recommended by Emily)

Our Share of Night, by Mariana Enriquez
(trans. Megan McDowell)

This one’s for the readers! For the horror fans. The fantasy fans. The Latin American literature fans. In short, if you’ve got a voracious reader friend or family member who doesn’t shy away from a bit of graphic horror-cum-fantasy then this is the one for them. A true banger if there ever was one – and sure to keep your readers entertained for that liminal period between Christmas and New Year, maybe even beyond.

(recommended by Siúbhan)

Well Done, Mummy Penguin, by Chris Haughton

This is the latest triumph in Chris Haughton’s cult classic picture book list. Little Penguin and Daddy Penguin look on as daring Mummy Penguin scales icy peaks, dives through the freezing water and sneaks past sleeping seals to bring back a fish for their dinner. There’s tension, there’s peril, but nothing is going to stop Mummy Penguin. A fun and gorgeously stylish gift for little ones, parents, or anyone who needs an extra well done. 

(recommended by Emily)

Buy every book on this list and save 10%!

Our Subscription for Curious Readers

Our top recommendation is always our subscription for curious readers. It’s the gift that keeps on giving: basically a Storysmith recommendation every month.

How it works: Every month the recipient will receive a hand-picked new book in the post from us. It’ll be something we’ve loved in the shop, recommended to countless friends and customers and spent ages chatting about. From forgotten classics and cutting-edge curios to prize-winners and underground hits, we think you’ll love our selection.

You can select either a fiction or non-fiction package (or you can alternate), and we’ll include some useful notes from us, as well as some delicious coffee from our friends at Triple Co Roast (roasted close to us in Bristol) to sip while you devour your latest read. It’ll slide through your letterbox every month, all in a beautiful hand-stamped bundle.

Check out some of our previous subscription picks below…

Location 236 North Street, Bristol, BS3 1JD Phone 0117 953 7961 E-mail hello@storysmithbooks.com Hours Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-6pm | Sunday: 11am-4pm | Monday: closed
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