Top six big books of the year to enjoy this winter
- Credit: Carl East
Each year there is a must-have book capturing readers and gifters imagination, such as best-sellers, Lost Words or The Boy, The Mole The Fox and The Horse. This year it is hard to predict the national hit so I have decided to look at a few of my favourite big books of 2021.
Nests by Susan Ogilvy
A celebration of the ingenuity of birds and charting painter Ogilvy’s obsession with creating life-size records of abandoned nests. The portraits here are far from plain twiggy affairs, being made of natural material such as grasses, leaves, moss, hair and cobwebs, and less usually, mattress stuffing and bright pieces of string.
These tiny constructions are not all from British birds but feature visitors from across Europe, and as far afield as Russia and North Africa. Possibly the first full book on birds nests since 1932, this is a perfect gift for bird lovers.
Kurt Jackson’s Sea
Sea captures the beauty of one of nature's most challenging subjects. The two hundred colour images are complemented by Jackson's reflections on these inspirational coastal landscapes - largely experienced in his native Cornwall, but stretching way beyond the county too. Devon readers will spot red waves like those seen off Sidmouth on stormy days.
Environmentalist Kurt Jackson has been artist-in-residence on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, at the Eden Project and at Glastonbury Festival, and the book features a foreword from award-winning art writer Julian Spalding, pinpointing the importance of Jackson's work at a time of climate emergency.
Everyone Sang: A Poem for Every Feeling by Emily Sutton and William Sieghart
It would not be Christmas without a poetry anthology and now Sieghart editor of the Poetry Pharmacy has a new collection for children themed around different moods.
Illustrated in sensational style by picture-book star Sutton the poems originate from a diverse range of sources, from Maya Angelou to Roger McGough, Lemn Sissay to Emily Dickinson, among many others. An inspirational mix of traditional favourites and recent gems.
Sidmouth: The War Years by Christine Hardy and Nigel Hyman
A late addition to our bestsellers of the year, this paperback volume brings together photographs, newspaper articles and memories from 1939 to 1945 collected by the Sid Valley Association.
The war years were momentous for Sidmouth, a huge influx of evacuees doubled the town’s population and hotels became RAF training centres. This is a timely chronicle of life on the home front in the Sid Valley.
Private Eye the 60 Yearbook
The Private Eye annual is always our bestselling humour title, now in The 60 Yearbook Britain’s first, most successful and only fortnightly satirical magazine tells the story of past decades through the news you may remember and some you may not.
It includes writing by such satirists as Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams, and Ian Hislop, with pictures by some of the world’s best cartoonists including Gerald Scarfe and Willie Rushton.
Private Eye also made headlines itself, through investigative journalism, exposing miscarriages of justice and cover-ups, most recently the dodgy PPE procurement and test and trace scandals where ministers’ friends seem to have used public money as a private cash machine.
The Broken House by Horst Krüger
Finally, not the largest book of the year but the one that has affected me most. Newly rediscovered and translated The Broken House is a 1966 coming-of-age memoir of life under encroaching fascism. Kruger paints a picture of his family as decent, law-abiding and god-fearing folk being gradually seduced then utterly destroyed by the promises of a better life and increasing national pride.
Out of print for decades, this slim vital volume is one of the best memoirs I have read and an essential book to understand how totalitarianism takes root under the noses of those who see themselves as ‘not political’.