Play the mandolin like Louis de Bernieres

`This book is not a new one; it previously appeared as `Play the Mandolin like Benito Mussolini!''

AS CHRISTMAS approaches inexorably, like a tornado coming across a wasteland of wrapping-paper, I sense the big question being formed on a thousand lips: "Oh God, aren't there any books we can get as presents this year which will go down well with practically anyone?" Well, fashions change, as we all know - five years ago the only famous Mr Potter was Dennis, and now he's been totally replaced by Harry Potter - but I would be surprised if you didn't find something acceptable in the following list of Christmas book offerings.

Chasing Galileo's Daughter by Michael Palin, Transcript Press, pounds 19.99.

The book of the film of the programme of the jigsaw puzzle of the video of the exercise manual of the musical of the book. Palin's quest is tremendously exciting, as he forges his way through some jolly nice-looking countries in an attempt to settle the one big question: Does putting Ernest Hemingway's face on his T-shirt in fact make Michael Palin look younger? Or does it just make Ernest Hemingway look older?

Women are from Venus, Men are Late Back from the Pub Again by Dr Graybeard, from Garfunkel and Schuster, pounds 13.99.

Dr Graybeard has written many books purporting to explain the difference between men and women, leading to the obvious question: Yes, but if he knows the answer, why isn't one book enough? The answer to that is: Because one book doesn't sell as well as many books.

John Major: The Latte Years by John Major, TomCollins Press, pounds 29.99.

Controversy has raged over this book since it appeared earlier this summer. Some say the title, The Latte Years, is a reference to coffee. Others say it is a misprint for John Major, the Latter Years. Either way, the book tells the gripping story of the last Prime Minister who didn't have a baby while he was in office.

The Captain Corelli Mandolin Home Tutor by Sergio Beppino, from Music Educational Press, Turin, 2 million lire.

If you have ever wanted to play the mandolin as well as they do in the Louis de Bernieres book, then this is the instruction manual for you. This book is not in fact a new one; it has previously appeared under such names as Play the Mandolin like Benito Mussolini!, Garibaldi's Mandolin Method and Strum Along with Niccol Paganini. But it is just as good as it ever was.

'Twas by Frank McCourt, from Homebound Books, pounds 25.99.

This takes Frank McCourt's heartwarming, highly affecting story on from wherever it ended last time to wherever he has stopped this time. Should be read in conjunction with the following.

'Tain't by Frank McCourt, from Homebound Books, pounds 25.99.

A small collection of errata and mistakes and corrections from Frank McCourt's first two books, now openly admitted in a heartwarming, highly affecting work.

Can't Write a CookBook? Won't Write a CookBook! by Leon Fintagel, from Cookscreen Press, pounds 15.

Many people remain utterly convinced that they can't write a cookbook, whereas we now know that almost everyone in the world can do it if pressed - and most of them have done so already!

This book will convince the last few waverers who have not already penned their own pasta or pulse classic to get out there and do it.

The Feng Shui Book of the Millennium by Geoff Oboe, from Tranquillity Press, pounds 29.99.

Geoff Oboe follows up his last best-seller (The Feng Shui Book of the Eclipse) with another sure-fire hit which tells you how to clear your life before the new century starts, where to stand as midnight strikes, where to put your pets when it gets dark and how to get obstinate stains off your New Age aprons. He has a special chapter of advice for mothers who intend to give birth on the night of 31 December, such as strongly recommending the idea of waiting another 24 hours, or at least until all the guests have gone home.

I Tried to Run an Opera House by Jeremy Isaacs, from National Lottery Press, pounds 300.

pounds 300 seems a lot of money to pay for a book, but it is a book about opera, after all, and we don't want the plebs being able to afford to read books about opera, do we?

More Christmas books tomorrow !

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