Books: Stocking fillers

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The Independent Culture
Some of my friends swear that Christmas stockings are far more exciting than their main presents, perhaps because they usually contain surprises which charm as well as amuse. Here are some suggestions to accompany the clementines, walnuts and chocolate coins.

The Book of Stars: Waterstone's collection of writing for Crisis (Random House pounds 1.99) is a Christmas stocking in paperback form, bulging with new and familiar writing; contributors range from Louis de Bernieres to Irvine Welsh and Sue Townsend. Our popular Art & Life series has spawned Postcard Biographies, 25 pull-out cards in book form for pounds 5. See p30 for ordering details.

Fup by Jim Dodge (Rebel Inc pounds 7.99) is a modern fable featuring two humans, a hen mallard and a malevolent wild boar, all with their own peculiar obsessions. An unhurried, closely woven tale, and hard to put down.

Joe Gould's Secret by the journalist Joseph Mitchell (Cape pounds 9.99) contains two New Yorker pieces written 22 years apart. Urbane and lucid, it illuminates a few of New York's secrets as well as the life of the lost soul of its title.

Requiring one of Father Christmas's larger socks, Sketches in Pen and Ink by Vanessa Bell (The Hogarth Press pounds 14.99), is a collection of her largely unpublished memoirs edited by Lia Giachero. Illustrated with a selection of Bell's wooodcuts and drawings, this is one for all Bloomsbury fans.

Finally, those who feel that the Christmas season is not what it was will be cheered to discover one of the 'Writers' Britain' series crammed into their stocking. Originally published in the 1940s, eminent writers muse on facets of our national heritage, for instance, English Women by Edith Sitwell; English Cities and Small Towns by John Betjeman; and English Villages by Edmund Blunden (Prion pounds 6.99). Diona Gregory

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