Miles Kington: If Nigella was going to buy one book at Christmas...

'How does Jamie get his hair to look like a wild bowl of noodles? Was Delia born neat and tidy?'
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The Independent Online

As Christmas time approaches once again, I bring you a round-up of the best books on the market to give as presents, selected by my team of impoverished book reviewers and best-seller list compilers.

Beef Wellington and Chicken Marengo: The Napoleonic Cookbook, by Andrew Roberts (Oven Press, £19.99)

As a follow-up to his monumental study of the relationship of two men who never actually met, Roberts's Wellington and Napoleon, this is a wonderful resumé of some of the many recipes associated with both men, and which they might have cooked for each other if they had ever invited the other one to dinner. Which they didn't.

A Boy's Cookbook, by Hornby and Parsons (Boypress, £19.99)

It's all very well being caught up in the turmoil of an extremely well-written novel, say the authors, but a boy still has to eat – and this is the book which will get the average male character in an above average best-selling novel able to cook a selection of mouth-watering dishes!

Wellington and Oxford, by Barry Wellbeloved (Talisman Books, £19.99)

This is an interesting study of some of the places Jeffrey Archer said he had been educated at, but hadn't. At least, he hadn't gone to the more famous Wellington School, which is where he suggested he had been, and it isn't certain that he was ever a fully fledged Oxford undergraduate, more a sort of teacher-training person. Just right for the sort of person who can't face Christmas without a new Archer book.

A Brief History of Thyme, by Stephen Hawking (Physic Garden Books, £19.99)

The great scientist takes an informal look at the herb garden and comes up with some intriguing notions for the adventurous cook. Did you know, for instance, that coriander, turmeric and cumin were all on Earth 50,000 years before the arrival of man? Does that prove that God invented Indian cooking? Mr Hawking doesn't even give the idea house room.

Napoleon and Hitler, by Sean Garsington (Warfare Books, £19.99)

Of course, Napoleon and Hitler never actually met, but they had a great deal in common. They both ruled countries of which they were not born citizens. They both invaded Russia at quite the wrong time of the year, and came back empty-handed. And they were both known for their gimmicky arm movements (one up in the air, one tucked into his jacket). Apart from that, actually, they didn't have a great deal in common, come to think of it. Nevertheless, the author has squeezed 900 invaluable pages out of what will undoubtedly become known as the classic work on the relationship between these two.

The Harry Potter Cookbook, by the people who got the franchise from JK Rowling (£19.99)

If you like cooked lizards and bat soup, this is the one for you.

The TV Cook Hairdressing Book (£19.99)

How does Gary Rhodes get that prisoner-of-war look on top? How does Jamie Oliver contrive to make his hair look like a wild bowl of noodles? Has Delia Smith ever had a haircut as such, or was she born neat and tidy? All the TV cooks' hair secrets can be found in this easy-to-follow guide, which comes complete with a free pair of scissors, and raises the excruciating question: Will coiffure be the new rock'n'roll?

Wellington and Nelson, by Brian Purpoint (South Island Books, £19.99)

Wellington is the biggest town at the bottom of New Zealand's North Island. Over the way, on the top of South Island, is the town of Nelson. This book tells their story, and how to get from one to another.

Nelson and Colne, by the Lancashire Bus Company (free)

One of the better bus timetables around.

If I Was Going to Buy One Book at Christmas, This Would Be the One!, by Nigella Lawson

Oh, no, sorry – as you were. That's not actually a book title. It's an endorsement by Nigella Lawson on lots of other books.

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