As my family know well, when it comes to Christmas shopping my local bookshop is almost always my first stop.
Books almost always make the perfect gift. They can be beautiful, challenging, inspirational, educational or simply fun. There is something for everyone.
This love of books as gifts stems from childhood, when my beloved Great-Aunt Mary acknowledged the birthdays of every one of her 59 great nieces and nephews with the same gift: a book and a box of chocolates.
I've never forgotten the anticipation of which title lay beneath the wrapping and the thrill of finally holding the cover in my hand, wondering about the world within. Aunty Mary introduced me to L.M. Montgomery, Leon Garfield, E. Nesbitt and Jane Austen. Many of her books will be passed on to my own children.
So this month we asked you to tell us which books are at the top of your Christmas wish list. Demand for New Zealand fiction is alive and well, with almost one third of our entrants choosing Bronwyn's November feature read Rangatira by Paula Morris. A love for New Zealand history and New Zealand fiction were popular reasons behind the choice.
"Our history is ours alone and is part of who we are as a nation, Maori and Pakeha," wrote Karen of New Lynn. "It is these stories that help us to understand each other and what has gone before."
Many were intrigued by the tale of a Ngati Wai chief travelling to England in the 1860s. As Carol of Matamata put it, "What an opportunity to gain insight into... this man who has been shown such an astoundingly different view of life and cultures so long ago... To wonder how this man came to terms with what he had learnt, what he had seen and what he hoped for, for him and his people."
Cathie of Shelly Park was captured by the "stunning painting" of the book'8-11-2011 10:57:35s protagonist, Paratene Te Manu, while for Michael of Waikanae, the mixture of art and history offers a "fascinating promise".
Several entrants cited a personal connection with Paratene Te Manu. "This Rangatira/Ancestor is of my tribe, Ngatiwai - Children of the Sea," wrote Mike of Whangaruru. "I have never read a novel cover to cover...[but] I believe I would be easily motivated to complete and enjoy this story... I can't wait to be captured by this story and hope to experience a closeness with 'my' ancestor/rangatira."
Other New Zealand titles on reader wish lists include The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, and Parihaka Woman by Witi Ihimaera. My November feature read, Autumn Laing by Alex Miller, also rated among several entrants, such as Sophia of Christchurch who wrote "It has love, art, atonement, everything." The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides is much-anticipated by fans of his last novel Middlesex, like Dorothy of Castor Bay who has " been waiting a very long time for him to write another novel."
Marion of Pukekohe believes someone who knows her well would choose Obedience for its backdrop of rural France during World War II and her "love of any book that features at least one nun... The combination of all these passions put together in a tale by none other than Jacqueline Yallop can only mean for me a gorgeous read and a super gift."
New copies of old favourites was another popular request. Sandra of New Plymouth yearns to replace her long-since borrowed copy of the (perhaps aptly-titled) The Book Thief, while Rob of Mt Albert would like A Fine Balance "because it's the best book I've ever read and I can't find my copy anywhere!" Nga of Papakura says that no matter how many copies of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban she buys, it always goes missing. "Perhaps it's time I received one as a gift instead - maybe that way it will stick around a little bit longer."
Most-wanted thrillers include Nightwoods by Charles Frazier, The Affair by Lee Child and James Lee Burke's latest, Feast Day of Fools.
In non-fiction, Mike of Totaravale would like to read Alamein: The turning point of World War Two by Iain Gale, for a more emotional side to the battle in which his grandfather fought. Billy of Bucklands Beach covets Bad Science by Ben Goldacre because he likes
"a bit of anti-quackery - a good antidote to the Christmas blues."
The latest cookbooks from Annabel Langbein's Free Range in the City and Jo Seagar's Italia - Simple Recipes from the Italian Cook School are also in demand.
For Stephanie of Castor Bay it's a book about books. Topping her list is The Torchlight List, Professor Jim Flynn's guide to 200 must-read books, because "it sounds like a wonderful inspiration to read for the whole family (including two teenage daughters)."
Suzanne of Rotorua writes. "Books. I just want books for Christmas. I am so happy I have finally found a diagnosis for my little reading habit. Fiction addiction!!!!"
Suzanne, we couldn't agree more.
Congratulations to Hamish Dalley, Mike Leuluai and Carol McKillop who have each won a pair of this month's feature books, Rangatira by Paula Morris and Autumn Laing by Alex Miller.
- NZ HERALD ONLINE