Katy Guest

Katy Guest is the literary editor of the Independent on Sunday

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From Malala to Mandela: biography & memoir Christmas reviews

In a year that saw the death of a true 20th-century hero, it seems appropriate to begin the list of best biographies and memoirs with the life of a new one for the 21st: I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb (W&N, £18.99). It is barely a year since Malala was shot in the face for speaking up for girls’ education in Pakistan, and now the girl-who-would-not-be-shut-up is surviving being a global icon. Honest, insightful, and piercingly wise, this is the celebrity memoir to give your teenaged daughter this Christmas.

People embrace by the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England, as access to the site is given to druids, New Age followers and members of the public on the annual Winter Solstice on 21 December 2012 AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Rejoice! The days will get longer from now on

Everything is getting better, unless your other half has listened to the adverts and bought you some anti-wrinkle cream and a diet book

The royal nuts have given me a few ideas

I bet that the Queen is kicking herself on hearing that the law against “being an incorrigible rogue” has been removed from the statute book just as rumours emerged about naughty footmen pinching her nuts.

Stocking fillers: pop-ups, poems and smut

Amazon had better set its drones to attack because beautiful paper books just get better and better. Anyone left disappointed by the Fifty Shades phenomenon might prefer some literary smut in the form of Erotic Stories, edited by Rowan Pelling (Everyman’s Pocket Classics, £10.99). A collection of stories and fragments from Boccaccio to Sarah Waters, it tiptoes from the suggestive – in Guy de Maupassant’s “Idyll”, which begins with a train “plunging abruptly into the black-mouthed tunnels like an animal into its lair” – to the rather shocking – a piece by Edith Wharton, “My Little Girl”, discovered after her death.

Don't eat sprouts if you'd rather not

It's only early December and already I am sick of supermarkets getting all confused about the meaning of Christmas. There's Iceland, spoiling Christmas for everyone by associating it in our minds with prawn rings and some horror called a "beef garland". Then there's Sainsbury's, whose adverts claim to show "the moments that make Christmas special – brought to you by Sainsbury's", while actually showing all the special things that can't be bought in a shop.

Proposals have been announced for new parents to be able to share leave of up to 50 weeks between them

It's feminism not masculism, why Amazon is cheap, feline charms and why some things should stay private

As an equalist, I see equal access to parental leave as an essential first step to true equality

Yule love it: seasonal stalls at the Grote Markt in Bruges

A winter's tale in Bruges

This medieval Belgian city provides the perfect setting for Christmas markets and other festive activities, says Katy Guest

Book Review: The Valley of Amazement, By Amy Tan

Amy Tan has made her name, with novels such as The Joy Luck Club (1987) and The Bonesetter’s Daughter (2000), writing about difficult mother-daughter relationships, the wobbly connections between America and modern China, and family secrets. In her seventh novel, set mostly in Shanghai as it evolves through the 20th century, she has surpassed herself.

Go on, really shock me! Show me your cardie

When David Dimbleby revealed his new scorpion tattoo last week, there were those who rolled their eyes and implored the 75-year-old to act his age. It seems to me that 75 is the perfect age to get a tattoo: you know your own mind; your parents can't stop you; you don't have to worry about it looking silly when your skin starts to sag; and if you do decide that you hate it, you probably won't have to spend another 75 years regretting it.

Supermodels David Gandy and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in the Marks and Spencer's Christmas TV ad

Marks & Spencer: Your average customer does not look like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

There are excuses, and there are M&S excuses

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