10 December 2020, The Tablet

Books for Christmas

Books for Christmas

n Detail from the cover of Scoff by Penelope Vogler


Melanie McDonagh’s pick of last-minute, mostly pocket-sized presents

The perfect gift book, to my mind, must be compact, pocket-sized for ­preference, not too expensive – ideally about £10–£15, preferably less – and generally pleasing. It would be useful to have a stash of these somewhere at Christmas in case you’re caught present-less. They’re good when you’re visiting friends, or when you want to add interest to money, chocolates or drink, or you want something for a (decent-sized) stocking. They’re satisfying to wrap – brown paper with fat satin ribbon for preference.

And I think I’ve found the perfect format. The books from Macmillan Collector’s Library are small, stout and, in the case of the adult volumes, gilt-edged with pretty endpapers. I want the whole lot, but for Christmas presents I especially liked Classic Dog Stories (Mac­millan, £10.99; Tablet price £9.89), with a companion volume on cats, which has a whole book full of stories and essays on the creatures from authors as various as Rudyard Kipling and Anton Chekhov. I liked the start of Mark Twain’s “Dog’s Tale”: “My father was a St Bernard, my mother was a collie, and I am a Presbyterian.” They’ve also got a lovely edition of The Iliad (£9.99; Tablet price £8.99) in translation by, among others, Andrew Lang, with an introduction by Natalie Haynes. Handy for the train or waiting-room.

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