My Ultimate Reading List - great gift ideas
Book ideas for gifts or for treating yourself
I suddenly realized how many book reviews I've written and I'm pretty sure that there'll be many more. So I decided that it would be a good idea to centralize them all into one list. This can help you with gifts ideas or, if you're wondering what to read next, provide some inspiration. They are certainly a mixed bunch. But books are absolutely the best gifts.
This will, of course, be a work-in-progress because I read SO much and I love sharing the books I read with you. I'll admit right now that I have pretty eclectic tastes too - the books I read range from novels and autobiographies to cookbooks and guides.
These are some of my favorite books - some are old favorites and other are new discoveries. Do you have any suggestions for me about what books I should read and review next? If so, drop me a line in the comments section below.
Images below © vendor and used with permission. The image to the right is from Wikimedia Commons
The queen of crime
This is a fascinating collection of memoirs from a trip that Agatha Christie made with her husband when she was just a young woman.
The trip took ten months and included all the Commonwealth countries.
It's gorgeously illustrated with fabulous photographs too.
The best thriller
This amazing fictional account of the Kennedy assassination comes from none other than Stephen King.
Employing the possibility of time travel (in a believable way), he asks the questions about whether the past can be changed, should it be changed and at the same time takes us through an incredible story.
Chilling and true
What is it that caused the smiling, pleasant-seeming boy on the cover of this book turn into a maniac who instigated the murders of several people including the pregnant actress, Sharon Tate?
For years Charles Manson has blamed his upbringing but the author of this book disagrees.
Read his research rather than rumor and hearsay.
For the Whovian
It's now over fifty years since the first Doctor Who episode was shown on British television.
The show quickly picked up fans and followers in the UK and eventually, world-wide. During that time there have been thousands of items of memorabilia for sale but I love this complete 'encyclopedia'.
The queen reads
This is a lovely little novel; the heroine being none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll.
The queen, you see, has decided that she has never really read any literature - she's too busy with important papers of the state.
Once the queen decides to do something, she is determined to do so to the full -much to the horror of her courtiers, staff and even the British government.
Lots of fun.
Perfection in cooking
I have only two cookbooks.
This one is by the English chef Heston Blumenthal, who is as good a writer as he is a gourmet cook.
In this book, he takes a small selection of classic recipes that he considers have been ruined over the years by mass production.
We travel with him as he recreates them as they should be.
So many people are interested in the British Royal Family these days and much of that is due to the younger generation including Harry, William, Catherine and the new Prince George of Cambridge.
This is a lovely book about my favorite from this new and exciting generation - 'the peoples' prince'.
I'm not sports fan at all except when it's Formula One racing.
Then, I become fanatical.
This book tells of one of the greatest Grand Prix rivalries of all time; that between Alain Prost and my ultimate F1 hero, Ayrton Senna.
If you too are interested in the sport,or if you're looking for a great gift for a fan, then I highly recommend this book.
True life endurance
This is the true story of a group of young men whose plane crashed in a completely inhospitable part of the Andes.
Several people died in the accident and the survivors soon learned, thanks to a dying radio, that the search for the lost plane had been called off.
To survive, they were forced to extreme measures.
Their story, told here by a survivor is horrifying yet inspirational.
For adults and children too
This is a fabulous story and this has been a favorite of mine for many years.
It sounds like a children's book at first because it's the story of a warren of rabbits.
I know, that doesn't sound like a book that many grownups would care for but I read it when I was in my twenties and have done so several times since.
Deciphering American English
Or vice versa.
I'm British and have lived in the USA for twenty years but I still don't fully understand the American 'language' and Americans don't always understand me.
Although we have a certain f-word in common, it's fanny and fag that often cause amusement.
Learn more from this funny and fascinating book.
Book of the film
Like me, you've probably seen the classic movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane but it's only recently that I realized that it was based on a book.
In this edition, it has an explanatory introduction about the actresses who played the sisters in the film and the truth about their relationship.
You'll want to watch the movie again. Read more here
The ultimate meat-free recipe book
Wow, what a gem this is.
There are hundreds of recipes in this book from all over the world and for many years, it was the only cookbook I owned.
And it's not just the great recipes - it's beautifully written and has so much advice too.
It's an essential for vegetarians and a must-have for the serious or adventurous cook.
A woman scorned
This is lovely.
This novel tells of an unattractive and cumbersome wife whose husband leaves her for a rich, beautiful and talented woman.
What chances does the wife have against such competition?
This is the story of the wife's revenge and will delight female readers and terrify male ones.
Fort Lauderdale's pioneers
About mile away from where I live is the oldest home in Fort Lauderdale.
It was the home of the first permanent resident who relocated here in 1893 and his wife, the first schoolteacher.
This is a fictionalized (but carefully researched and accurate) version of their lives, their unconventional marriage and the people who created our city.
Classic trash novel
When this book was published it caused a sensation but it was only later that this story of three women in the cut-throat entertainment world in the middle of the last century became a cult classic.
It's a fast-moving novel with a fascinating plot that covers many issues and is a glimpse into another time.
My favorite book
This is my 'desert island' book - the one I have read so many times and the one I know I will read again and again.
When you read my review scroll down to read another, highly comical review from someone who thinks it's complete rubbish.
In the comments section, someone said they can't decide if the book is crazy or genius. It's both.
Funny and thought-provoking
Set in the nineteen-sixties, this book chronicles the life of a retired bank manager who,at his mother's funeral, meets his elderly aunt who hasn't seen him since he was a baby.
He is reserved and respectable.
His aunt is ...let's say ... somewhat the opposite.
Join him on his life-changing travels.
Small town horror
I don't much care for science fiction (or horror) when it's written in an unbelievable way but I prefer realistic scenarios with a twist.
And this certainly has.
An ordinary family move to an ordinary suburb.
But everything is not quite as normal as it first appears to be.
Scary and fun.
This is one of the most astonishing novels I've read.
The plot is interesting and the language 'colorful' but there is a moment near the end where you simply drop the book in surprise because what you have read - well, I did.
This book was first lent to me and came highly recommended.
I simply had have my own copy.
A star's autobiography
I never really paid much attention to Julie Andrews.
I know about her famous films,of course, but I knew little about her and I certainly wasn't a fan.
This book was a gift and because I love to read, I gave it a try.
It wasn't only finding out about her very interesting history but it was a delight to find out the woman herself.
'Kitchen sink' drama
Kitchen sink was a literary genre that began in England in the nineteen fifties and sixties.
What this meant was that books (and plays) written in this style featured ordinary people with ordinary lives.
We're accustomed to this today but this was a strong movement and this is an excellent example.
A beautiful British garden
But not just any garden - this is at the home of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and includes a small farm in addition to stunning gardens.
They are run using organic principles and sustainable methods - issues that have been important to the Prince since the early seventies.
This is a wonderful gift for the gardener.
Michael Caine is known to be a fabulous raconteur - have you ever seen him being interviewed on a chat show?
He has fantastic stories.
This is the second part of his autobiography and had me laughing one minute and crying the next.
It's moving, funny and gives more insight into this amazing man.
A world in harmony
The British press have historically made fun of Prince Charles because, according to them, the heir to the throne has some pretty loony ideas.
In fact, many years before environmental issues became mainstream, the prince was interested in, and taking part in, measures to improve the planet.
This is the autobiography of my dad.
He was born in 1924 and has had to most fascinating life traveling as an adventurer all over the world.
His entire motorsport escapades are related in this book as well as stories about how he built his business.
Meet gangsters, bandits, the rich and famous - and even cannibals - in this fabulous true-life story.
The crime of the century
In 1963, a gang of petty thieves from London ganged together and robbed a mail train.
The money they stole was worth approximately 46 million pounds (yes, not dollars) in today's terms.
The British public secretly admired these ordinary men who had conceived such daring robbery but the manhunt was on.
The robbers passed into folklore and they are still remembered today.
Revenge on a swindler
A group of four men have swindled out of all they money by a conman.
That's a simple enough beginning.
But the four victims get together and determine to get their money back.
The way they attempt this isn't just highly ingenious, it is very funny.
But the question is, is this novel really biographical?
I suspect so...
Married to public enemy number one
What was it like to be the wife - and then the widow - of the man who assassinated John Fitzgerald Kennedy?
No, this isn't a novel but the true story of Marina Oswald who, at the time of the assassination,was twenty two years old, a non-English speaker in a foreign land and the mother of two babies.
Did she know about her husband's intentions?
What is their story?
The inspiration behind Shawshank Redemption
One of the most successful films ever was, according to the author, based on his own real-life jailbreak in the UK in the nineteen sixties.
Learn how he wrote a book about the escape which was badly transcribed and then made into a very inaccurate film.
In this book, he tells the real story of his escape and how he changed his life - from an armed robber into a respected journalist.
A firm favorite
Although this is one of my favorite books, I admit that I find it hard to explain why it is so compelling.
It tells the story - in the first person - of a girl growing up in Yorkshire in the 1950s and 1960s.
Along the way we discover family skeletons and the stories about her fascinating ancestors and their lives.
A favorite classic
I've long been fond of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Curiously, I find that it means different things to the reader depending on their age.
Reading it for the first time, it was the harsh life in Jane's early years.
A few years later, it was the story of the aborted wedding ... and so on.
But whenever you read it, it remains one of the best classic novels.
Classic novel and film
This book was made into a movie starring Joan Crawford.
She plays the part of Mildred, a divorced woman with two daughters who has to make her way in the world.
Which she does - hugely well.
But her main problem is her relationship with her spoiled daughter who she adores.
Will she see the truth?
Create good habits
We all have habits - good and bad.
I'm not usually interested in books of the self-help type but this captured my imagination.
How can we develop good habits that enhance our lives and that are so natural to us that we do them automatically?
Can we convert our bad habits into good ones?
All about words
This is the book of a British television series ( which I haven't had the opportunity to see) about words and language.
Does that sound boring?
It's completely fascinating! It is incredibly interesting and is one of those books that can be dipped into at any time as each chapter stands on its own.
I strongly recommend this.
This is another book about a time in British history - a time when the government was almost destroyed by a juicy sex scandal.
This involved what are referred to as 'call girls', government officials in high office and even Russians.
It was a huge scandal at the time and is still and intriguing read about another time in history and morality.
Alex Zanardi was a much-admired racing driver.
He was at the top of his career when he was involved in a truly horrendous racing accident.
Many people thought that he wouldn't survive.
Remarkably, he did but both legs were amputated.
Nevertheless this book describes his spirit and determination and is an inspiration to everyone; it's not just for the sports fan.
More coming up
I shall shortly be reviewing these - watch this space!
As I said above, there is a great deal of fascination with the current generation of the British Royal Family. This is a book that I am currently reading and will soon be reviewing.It's going to be fascinating seeing young Prince George growing up and developing in this modern age.
I'm totally in love with this hilarious book and I'm really looking forward to writing about it. But there's no need to wait if you want to order it now.