2020 Christmas books: David Bowie, Susie Dent, Dolly Parton and more

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PHOTOGRAPHICS

David Bowie: Icon edited by ACC Art Books with Popular Pictures, £ 50.

Here he is, in all his guises, the most beautiful star. From a hippie to Ziggy, from a slender white duke to an elderly rock gentleman. David Bowie: Icon, a collection of some of the finest photos of a man by some of the best photographers, is a reminder that Bowie always pleased the eye as well as the ear.

When We Were Young by The Hoxton Mini Press Anonymous Project, £ 18.95.

This is the magnificence of a matter. Nothing less than a ride between hard covers back in time. We used to be like this: the cars we drove, the clothing we wore, the holidays we took. When We Were Young is a glimpse into a Britain that was not so long ago, and has become unattainable, based on a series of Kodachrome color slides dating back to the 1950s. Captured in vibrant color, these are photographs of the memories of other people and yet they have our own texture. In these pages there is all the sad sweetness of days gone by.

MEMOIR Just

Dolly Parton Songteller: Dolly Parton Hodder & Stoughton’s My Life in Story Lyrics, £35.

Dolly Parton writes in her latest novel, “It’s possible that Jolene and I Will Always Love You were written on the same day,” It’s suitable. In the words of 175 songs she wrote over the years, Dolly Parton Songwriter tells her story (just a pick from a total of about 3,000), followed by Parton’s statements and advertising and personal images. Worth it for Dolly to look alone in the 1960s, we’d say.

MYTHOLOGICS

Pandora’s Box: Natalie Haynes Picador’s Women in Greek Myths, £20.

Presenter, comedian and author Natalie Haynes frees the women we know from Greek mythology from the appendages of sexism that have been attached to their tales over the years – Pandora, Helen of Troy, Medusa, Eurydice and the Amazons. The best kind of academic writing is the result: engaging, convincing, and enjoyable (Beyonce, Ray Harryhausen, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all show up in it).

Read more: the 50 best Christmas books for this Christmas (part 1)

NATURE

Antlers of Water, edited by Jamie Canongate, £20, Kathleen.

Kathleen Jamie succinctly sums up the form in the expression ‘this noticing’ in her introduction to this sparkling series of nature texts. And that’s what this book is full of: ways of noticing the world around us, whether it’s wild swimming in Orkney (as reported by Amy Liptrot) or human bones and nuclear pollution in the Firth of Forth (Gavin Francis). The effect is haunting and observant, not oblivious to the natural world’s problems but open to its joys as well.

Spirit of Place by Thames & Hudson, Susan Owens, £ 25.

Susan Owens’ book, which covers everything from old English poetry to the landscapes of Andy Goldsworthy, focuses on the impact of the British landscape on artists and authors. Scotland appears in it as well. “I have returned from my expedition from Scotland delighted,”I have returned delighted from my expedition from Scotland. “It is the Highlands I speak of: the Lowlands are worth seeing once, but the mountains are ecstatic and should be visited once a year in pilgrimage.”

STORIES SHORT

The Golden Age of British Short Stories 1890-1914 edited by Philip Hensher Penguin Classics, £25.

Kipling, Wilde, Katherine Mansfield, EM Forster and Arthur Conan Doyle all appear in this beautifully bound compilation of Victorian and Edwardian short stories. A perfect companion for the days after Christmas, when central heating seems preferable to a walk outdoors.

FICTION

The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison Gollancz, £20.

Winner of this year’s Goldsmiths Prize, Harrison’s haunting novel is also a ghostly novel; ghostly through conspiracy theories and things that happen out of the corner of your eye. Harrison’s writing is beautifully precise yet trembles with unspoken meaning. The perfect novel for those unsettling days after Christmas.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare HQ, £12.99.

Louise Hare’s debut novel is set in 1950 London and follows jazz musician Lawrie Matthews through the pubs and dive bars of Soho. Hare doesn’t shy away from the horror and racism of postwar London, but she also finds solace and music in the dark streets.

Xstabeth by David Keenan White Rabbit, £14.99.

Once more into the mystical. Traveling from St. Petersburg to St. Andrews, David Keenan’s third novel includes golf, music and angelic visitations. De

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