Show your love with a good book

OK, Christmas is closing in. Chances are you’ve done the bulk of your shopping, or at least you know what you’re getting for your friends and family. But there may still be some holes to be filled, and if there are, there’s no better way to fill them than with a well-chosen book.

Books as gifts often get a bad name, often prompting a secret eye-roll. But they’re also a great chance to show how well you know someone and to bring a very real source of pleasure to them. Here we’ve chosen the best books of 2010 for the people you need to show your love (or admiration) to most.

MUM: If she has a soft spot for historical fiction, Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen should delight. The second book in Gregory’s eminently enjoyable trilogy, The Cousins War, it brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, the child-bride of Edmund Tudor. India Knight’s Comfort and Joy is a guaranteed laugh and touching too: a family tragicomedy about Christmas written in the columnist’s trademark witty style.

DAD: Well-clothed fathers will love this beautiful tome about London’s tailoring heart: Bespoke: The Men’s Style of Savile Row by James Sherwood. Decision Points by George W. Bush is the non-fiction alternative to a Tom Clancy or John Grisham that explains the moves of the ex President – love him or hate him. And has he read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen? The Corrections author’s latest is an epic concerned with family turmoil.

HER: You can’t go wrong with a book that explains the male brain: single (and coupled) friends will lap up yours truly’s own What the Hell Is He Thinking? All The Questions You Ever Asked About Men Answered. Another inspiring book for women is Nomad, the outspoken Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new one. Then there’s the year’s ultimate un-put-downable novel: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, about maids in the Deep South.

HIM: Stick to sport and you’re bound to please. Our pick of the top three sport books this year are Ryder Cup superstar Sam Torrance’s An Enduring Passion which captures the experience of the iconic contest, Brian Moore’s Beware of the Dog, a searingly honest autobiography about the former English rugby hooker and Open by Andre Agassi, in which the flamboyant tennis star reveals his battle with crystal meth.

HER: If she hasn’t read Ian McEwan’s scathing Solar, she’s in for a treat, while Jodi Picoult’s House Rules displays the best of taste: the best-selling queen of the heavy-hitting social drama has struck gold with this story of a boy with Asperger’s and a obsession with forensics. Well-written, serious but eminently readable. Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America is a picaresque tale of two unlikely fellow travellers. Popular and literary. Bam.

HIM: Let’s face it: men have finally stolen the cooking and food baton from women. Any metropolitan man worth his salt will be thrilled to receive either (or both) of the two big foodie coffee table books of the year: Feran Adria’s biography, The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food by Colman Andrews and Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by Noma chef René Redzepi. Phillip Roth’s latest, Nemesis, should work too.

HER: Give her something she can lose herself in: David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet is a vividly imagined historical masterpiece from the author of Cloud Atlas. Another good choice is Booker shortlisted Andrea Levy’s first novel in six years, The Long Song, set in Jamaica during the last years of slavery. Winner of the women’s-only Orange Prize was Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna and it’s a terrific yarn about corruption in Mexico and The US in the 40s and 50s.

HIM: The world’s most respected thriller-writer John Le Carre’s latest, Our Kind of Traitor, is sure to please. If he doesn’t have The Big Short by Liar’s Poker author Michael Lewis already, this is a must: the definitive insiders’ tale about the subprime crisis. British Museum director Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects is told through the things that humans have made – either carefully designed and preseved, or broken and thrown away. Lovely. If you want peace and quiet, Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher book, Worth Dying For should do the trick.

DAUGHTER: Ideal for the Potter obsessive is The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory--More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles and Wizards (think of the fun!). Barack Obama’s lyrical introduction to great Americans: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, is educational and beautifully presented. (You’ll have to get it on Amazon, though, as it’s not out here yet).

SON: If he’s not up to Swift yet, the book of the new Gulliver’s Travels film starring Jack Black – about the adventures of a New York Tribune mail room employee Lemuel Gullver who winds up in far-flung trouble in Bermuda – is a fun alternative. Surprisingly talented children’s book author David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress ventures into new territory by exploring life outside of gender roles.