Books of the Year: Novelty Christmas books

Forget the clementines: these fun volumes can fill those stockings (though they're not all winners...)

If 2010 does not go down in history as the year that Britain reached Stephen Fry saturation point, then it won't be for want of his trying. He's involved in three, marvellous QI spin-offs: QI: The Book of the Dead by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson (Faber, £8.99); The QI Annual edited by Lloyd with ludicrously hard quizzes and fab bits from comedians such as Ross Noble, Johnny Vegas and the illusionist Derren Brown (Faber, £12.99); and QI: The Second Book of General Ignorance, by Lloyd and Mitchinson again (Faber, £12.99), which, of the three, most closely follows the brilliant format of the TV show. And now there is also the execrable Mrs Fry's Diary, by his new alter ego, Mrs Stephen Fry (Hodder, £9.99).

Not only is Fry's not the best Christmas book by a made-up author – that would be the occasionally laugh-out-loud A Simples Life, the autobiography by comparethemeerkat. com's Aleksandr Orlov (above, Ebury, £9.99); it's also not the best dissection of middle-class mores: try The Middle Class Handbook by Richard Benson and Stephen Armstrong (Not Actual Size, £12), which spears types such as Jamie Oliver's Army and the Loft-Wingers with brutal accuracy. Nor is it the best gift for women of a certain age: that's The Best of Jackie (Prion, £16.99). This nostalgic collection from 1970-1977 includes Cathy & Claire, interviews with David Bowie and Elton John, and boys, boys, boys. The foreword, by the mag's former editor Nina Myskow, also reveals that Jackie was not always a slick operation. "Dear Ed, I wrote to you about my problem bust, which is lopsided," wrote one reader. "You sent me a knitting pattern for a little woolly hat!"

In other TV spin-offs, Earth: The Book, by Jon Stewart et al (Penguin, £20) is surprising and weird; not as overtly political as Stewart's The Daily Show, but far better than Sterling's Gold, purportedly by Mad Men's Roger Sterling (Grove Press, £12.99), which is no more than a seldom-funny quote-per-page. Meanwhile, The Thick of It: The Missing DoSAC Files by Armando Iannucci et al (Faber, £12.99) is a beautifully thought-out volume from the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker, and the intelligent fury of The Now Show Book by Hugh Dennis, Steve Punt and Jon Holmes (Orion, £7.99) works almost as well on paper as it does on Radio 4.

Satire fans will not be disappointed by The Private Eye Annual 2010, edited by Ian Hislop (Private Eye, £9.99), but should not forget The Oldie Annual 2011 (Oldie Publications, £9.99) – an irreverent take on modern life.

Last but not least, find a space in a stocking for The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, with contributions by the likes of Ed Byrne, Jenny Colgan, Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh and (swoon!) Brian Cox (HarperCollins, £8.99). "Give yourself and others the gift of wit, wisdom and rational thinking this winter festival," says one of its writers, AC Grayling. And rejoice in unChristian charity, knowing that all royalties will be donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust. Katy Guest '

Katy Guest is the literary editor of The Independent on Sunday

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?