BEST CHRISTMAS READS ZOE STRIMPEL

Snuff: Discworld Novel 39 by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday, £18.99

When Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is reluctantly sent off for a holiday in the countryside, it isn’t going to be long until he encounters a crime – make that more of a ghastly layer cake of crimes and even “an ancient crime more terrible than murder”. He’s way out of his depth, but true to form, that doesn’t stop him doing what he needs to do. As for all sins being forgiven in the end...not likely here.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Jonathan Cape, £12.99

Winner of this year’s Booker Prize, Barnes’ book is certainly fascinating, though it’s not without flaws. It’s a tightly-hewn (too tightly, we feel) trot around the concepts of memory, friendship and rationality. Barnes labours his big ideas to the point that his characters are mere skeletons, but it’s worth a read.

Sanctus by Simon Toyne

Harper Collins, £12.99

A man throws himself to his death from the oldest inhabited place on the face of the earth, a mountainous citadel in the historic Turkish city of Ruin. This is no ordinary suicide, but a symbolic act that throws the cowled monks of the Citadel into a murderous frenzy as they prepare to do anything – including murder – to protect all that they have built. Spanning continents and epochs, this is a truly ambitious page-turned that’ll have you coming back for more.

Snowdrops by AD Miller

Atlantic, £8.99

Booker short-listed debut novelist by the Economist’s Russia correspondent, this is a very easy to read tale of skulduggery and fraud in money-drunk Moscow. Nick, a 30-something British lawyer, heads out to Russia to work and winds up selling his good British ethics for the attentions of a leggy blonde who turns out to be other than she appears. This is more of a naughty pleasure than anything of literary might.

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch

Allen Lane, £25

Deutsch may be the most aggressively intelligent scientist living today, and his writing – a perfectly hewn matrix of philosophy, ethics, physics and politics – shows it. Chiefly interested in the nature of reason, progress and rationality, Deutsch has created a candy shop of mind-stretching ideas, with a deep grounding in physics at its core.

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht

Phoenix £7.99

Dazzling winner of this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction, this novel weaves together a grandfather's tall stories based on Balkan-style folktales and the experience of Natalia, a young doctor trying to cope with the aftermath of the grisly war which – among much-else – caused the death of her beloved grandfather. One of the year’s best.