There’s not much that gets the literary agents at Curtis Brown and C+W as excited as getting a chance to shout about the books they love (whether or not they happen to be clients of theirs). As the nation’s attention shifts towards the festive season, we thought it would be good time to ask the team for Christmas book recommendations, and why.
I’ll be giving Dorothy Dunnett’s King Hereafter. This is an extraordinary, capacious, utterly brilliant novel, for all those Hilary Mantel fans without a new Cromwell instalment this Christmas. King Hereafter is the story of the real man behind the figure of Macbeth, by the past mistress of historical fiction, Dorothy Dunnett. Not only is it a rollicking adventure and a passionate story of love and betrayal, but it transformed my understanding of this period of history: Lady Macbeth, King Canute, Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror – they’re all here, but not as you thought you knew them.
I’ll be giving Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley – what else would you want to read curled in front of the fire with the cold and dark outside? A novel that keeps you guessing and wondering what exactly it is that jumps from thee to me and delineates a community tucked under the merciless moors on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border with compelling force and irresistible tension.
I’ll also be getting Winter Papers 3, edited by Kevin Barry and Olivia Smith (Curlew Editions) – a third anthology of brilliant writing from Ireland and beyond, and fascinating interviews beautifully printed and bound in this highly collectable series.
No one should miss the opportunity this Christmas to buy the groundbreaking musical edition of Tom Fletcher’s The Christmasaurus which includes an incredible album full of catchy Christmas songs together with a story bursting with Christmas magic that is already on its way to becoming a modern classic.
I’ll be giving Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt (even though he’s my own author) – because this book has everything you need for Christmas; humour (even a joke about Christmas lights and gynaecology – what’s not to like?!), politics, heartache – and it’s a reminder to us all to think of those who have to work caring for others over the festive period. Other than that I’m going to gift both Susie Steiner crime novels, Persons Unknown and Missing, Presumed. She is brilliant.
I’m buying my four-year-old daughter Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls because I want her to see that there are a million different ways of being a girl and a woman, and not all of them need involve pink and princesses!
I’ll be giving An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato. This is a book for anyone who loves Stoner by John Williams and anything by Ian McEwan. It is a big book about a small life, and every word bounces off the page like a raindrop on a still, calm pond.
With the heart of a memoir and the pace of a thriller, An Unremarkable Body reveals an overwhelming desire to make sense of an unfulfilled life – and to prove that an unremarkable body does not mean an unremarkable life.
I’ll be giving The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump by Rob Sears: 2017 has been an odd and downright scary year so it’s a miracle that Rob has managed to find humour in international politics. He has taken the 45th US president’s tweets and extensive backlog of interviews and speeches and crafted them into some brilliantly witty poems. There’s haikus on Obama, ‘Crooked Hillary’ and ‘Goofy Elizabeth Warren’ plus longer pieces and the classic ‘I am opened minded’ (‘I use Apple and Samsung / A good leader has to be flexible’).
Also, part of the appeal for me is that this is a great unsolicited submission success story. Rob submitted a sample of the poems in February and within six months Canongate had published the collection in a brilliant package, featuring a tiny handed Trump. The perfect stocking filler.
For a politics fiend: My Life Our Times by Gordon Brown. A passionate and candid account of Britain’s longest serving Chancellor and former PM.
WTF by Robert Peston. An accessible and punchy explanation of how we got into this mess.
For a foodie: At My Table by Nigella. Everyone should have some Nigella in their house.
For a literary lover: Sugar Money by Jane Harris is one of my favourites of the year. A tale of two slaves written with brio, beauty and wit.
Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak. A gripping story of modern day Istanbul by Turkey’s bestselling novelist.
Pussy by Howard Jacobson. A brilliant satire penned in the heat of fury.
The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd. Unputdownable stories by the master. New Boy by Tracy Chevalier. This retelling of Othello is brilliant and clever, and a great crossover book.
The Zoo by Christopher Wilson. If you liked the movie, The Death of Stalin…
A Winter Beach Read: To Kill the President by Sam Bourne. Gripping and frighteningly real thriller about a crazed President out of control…and it is fiction!
The Betrayals by Fiona Neill.
Double Kiss by Ronnie O’Sullivan.
I’ll be giving John le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies: I took it on holiday recently – breaking my golden rule of ‘No Holiday Reads From Work’ (he’s a CB client), and I have to say it’s an absolute masterpiece. I’ve always loved the ‘Smiley’ books but it’s decades since I read them. This new novel is a treat for anyone who loved those books – it has all the subtley, elegance, darkness and compelling characterisation that I remember from those earlier books. But it’s also heartbreaking and poignant – which the others were too but I’d forgotten that. And there’s a touch of wistfulness in it too.
For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:
Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Sunday 21 January).
Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Sunday 28 January).
For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for:
Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sunday 4 February).
We are also offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ online courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:
Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).
Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).
Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).