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What to read this Christmas

Thrillers

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST
BY STIEG LARSSON
Maclehose, £18.99
The third and final novel in the late Swedish crime writer’s hugely popular Millennium Trilogy – all three books have been published posthumously. Computer hacker and investigator Lisbeth Salander’s third outing is no less electrifying than the previous two, as she tries to clear her name of murder and take revenge on those who framed her.

THE SCARPETTA FACTOR
BY PATRICIA CORNWELL
Little, Brown, £18.99
The mistress of American crime fiction’s latest sees intrepid Dr Kay Scarpetta offering her services pro bono to New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner, where a murder investigation she gets mixed up in gets all too personal.
A Most Wanted Man
By John Le Carre
Hodder, £7.99

A gripping, humanely written book about political and private corruption that takes place in terrorist hotspot Hamburg. Bang on the pulse of our times, this is an insightful play on human nature and its conflicting passions.

LUSTRUM
BY ROBERT HARRIS
Hutchinson, £18.99
Harris returns to Ancient Rome for his latest historical novel. It’s a thriller detailing the power struggles surrounding the rise of Julius Caesar, and it’s full of skullduggery and backstabbing that has more than a little resonance with modern political machinations.­

History

THE MAKING OF MODERN BRITAIN
BY ANDREW MARR
Macmillan, £25
An engaging effort from trusty Marr, this book traces the major developments in post-WWII Britain. It’s a colourful and readable untangling of an era of ever-accelerating change.

D-DAY: THE BATTLE FOR NORMANDY
BY ANTONY BEEVOR
Viking, £25
Beevor continues working his way through World War Two’s biggest battles. His authoritative survey of the greatest invasion ever launched brings to life the details of civilian suffering and much more.

THE ENGLISH REBEL
BY DAVID HORSPOOL
Viking, £25
Impeccably-written history of the English state and its transition from absolute monarchy to democracy – thoroughly captivating and a brilliant way to shed light on Britain today.

Business and Economics

FOOL’S GOLD
BY GILLIAN TETT
Little, Brown, £12.99
In a jargon-free tale, journalist Gillian Tett focuses on how bankers at JP Morgan created financial instruments that eventually brought down the financial markets and the rest of the world with them when they were misused.

SUPERFREAKONOMICS
BY STEVEN D LEVITT AND STEPHEN J DUBNER
Viking, £25
If you’re bored of the financial crisis and urgently need some levity in the current gloom, then this witty and controversial freakquel to the 2005 bestseller Freakonomics ought to do just the trick. Discussing everything from prostitutes’ wages to climate change and teaching monkeys the value of money, this book is not just for economists.

TOO BIG TO FAIL
BY ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
Allen Lane, £14.99
A detailed account of what went on in the boardrooms of international investment banks peppered with interviews of leading bankers and policymakers, this takes a look not only at the institutions that thought they were too big to fail, but also the personalities who thought themselves invincible. Essential reading for those interested in how the crunch happened.

FALSE ECONOMY: A SURPRISING ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE WORLD
BY ALAN BEATTIE
Viking, £20

Skilfully weaving together economics, history, geography and sociology, Beattie asks why poor countries are poor, whether Islam and capitalism can co-exist and whether corruption is always bad, showing that accidents of history make the world, and rarely design.

Chick Lit

HOTHOUSE FLOWER AND THE NINE PLANTS OF DESIRE
BY MARGOT BERWIN
Hutchinson, £12.99
The story of a divorcee whose newly single status sees her leave home in Manhattan and embark on a Mexican adventure comes with an abundance of horticultural references, which elevates this above the typical beach read.

THE BEACH HOUSE: A NOVEL
BY JANE GREEN
Penguin, £7.99
The tale of a woman who is forced to open her home on Nantucket as a bed and breakfast to avoid the bailiffs is filled with complex inter-relationships, but all credit to the author for seamlessly weaving it together.

FRIENDS, LOVERS AND OTHER INDISCRETIONS
BY FIONA NEILL
Century, £12.99
The plot line is far from unique: friends gather to celebrate their pal’s 40th and sparks fly. But the underlying theme- the impact of the credit crunch on the lives and psyches of some of the characters- makes this book well worth a read.

Literary Fiction

WOLF HALL
BY HILARY MANTEL
Fourth Estate, £18.99
The winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, this universally acclaimed novel takes us behind the scenes of the court of Henry VIII in a story magnificently narrated by antihero Thomas Cromwell.

THE LITTLE STRANGER
BY SARAH WATERS
Virago, £16.99
A Booker Prize short-listed ghost story about a family of poor aristocrats living in a crumbling mansion in Warwickshire, narrated from the point of view of the rationalist doctor who becomes their friend. Guaranteed goosebumps for weeks.

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD
BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Bloomsbury, £18.99
Just a few hemp-clad survivors remain after a waterless flood near obliterates human life. As they make their way through the ruined world singing hymns, what hope remains for the human race? Just as genius and odd a tale as you’d expect from Atwood.

THE GLASS ROOM
BY SIMON MAWER
Little, Brown, £16.99
The title of this spellbinding novel refers to an ornament-free room in a modernist house built on a hill-side in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. A young couple lives out dramas and love affairs within its walls. One of the best books of the year.