A flatlay of covers of books that make great stocking-stuffers. Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

The Christmas songs tend to reference presents under the tree, but let's not forget the smaller ones hung by the chimney with care. Here is a list of (mostly) pocket-sized treasures perfect for the bookworm in your life.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman (2021)

Stretch your minds back to January, when President Biden was inaugurated and one teenage poet make the world stand up and listen. Amanda Gorman's iconic performance and moving poem, The Hill We Climb, is available to read and reflect upon in this beautiful edition, with an introduction by Oprah Winfrey. Inspiring stuff for dark midwinter days.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Cocktail by Emma Stokes

If you're one of those families who ends up dusting off ancient bottles of spirits by the end of Christmas day, this might be worth poppin' in a stockin'. Emma Stokes' witty guide talks you through delectable and accessible recipes for seasonal cocktails such as Pumpkin Spiced Russians, Buttered Bonfire Rum, Sleighbell Slings and Happy New Years, as well as the trusty classics and plenty of non-alcoholic options. Here's where new traditions begin! 

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (2021)

While admittedly not the world's smallest stocking-filler, this insightful, poignant and funny graphic novel from Alison Bechdel does make a lovely gift for those hard-to-buy-for thinkers in your life. Rich with humour, The Secret to Superhuman Strength nevertheless packs a punch as a chronicle of aging and confronting one's own foibles. A beautiful and meaningful book to offer someone.

Love Letters: Vita and Virginia by Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf (2021)

Two literary greats, one of modern history's most perennially fascinating affairs, and dozens of letters detailing it. What's not to love? This collection of correspondence is, by turns, moving, funny, heartbreaking and deep with longing – an erudite choice whether for your own lover or simply a lover of letters.

The Poetry Pharmacy by William Sieghart (2017)

Subtitled Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul, this collection of poetry from William Sieghart is chock full of poems to offer comfort from the struggles of day-to-day life. Or, in the words of Stephen Fry, it provides “balm for the soul, fire for the belly, a cooling compress for the fevered brow, solace for the wounded, [and] an arm around the lonely shoulder”. If you know anyone who has any of the above, this book is the proper prescription.

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (2020)

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful stocking-sized book than Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’s book of ‘natural spell-poems’ and gorgeous illustrations. As much a reference guide as a small work of art, it’s a unique little tome that covers wildlife from flora (silver birch) to fauna (red fox) with equal splendour. Full of wonder and a pinch of humour, the book conjures and reflects the natural world, making it a perfect companion for any nature lover on your Christmas list

How to Change It by Joshua Virasami (2020)

Part of #Merky Books’ new ‘How To’ series, How to Change It is a guide by anti-Imperialist activist Joshua Virasami on how to create positive change in the world by wresting power back and using it to overcome injustice and inequality. Drawing on his experience as part of the Extinction Rebellion, Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements, Virasami outlines the three simple steps – “educate, organise and agitate” – necessary to make a difference.

A Little Happier by Derren Brown (2020)

It’s been a tough year; why not help make 2022 A Little Happier for your giftee by slipping them Derren Brown’s wise, insightful book, subtitled Notes for Reassurance? These 17 lessons are designed to empower readers to help ‘define and find happiness’, suggesting ways to change what we can control and let go of that which we can’t. The next time that special someone is feeling down, they’ll have notes on hand to help make sense of the situation. After a year like this, it would likely be much appreciated.

Poor by Caleb Femi (2020)

One of 2020’s most talked about poetry collections also makes a perfect stocking stuffer for any lover of language in your life. Caleb Femi’s debut collection, Poor, adeptly and unflinchingly portrays life in London as a Black man, bringing the ‘trials, tribulations, dreams and joys’ to vivid life through poetry and Femi’s own photography. Of the collection, Michaela Coel said: “Oh my God, he's just stirring me. Destroying me” – high praise from the creator of the year’s best television show.

Ultimate PopMaster by Phil Swern and Neil Myners (2020)

From the minds behind BBC Radio 2’s iconic quiz comes the Ultimate PopMaster quiz book, ideal for Christmas holidays stuck inside and beyond. Gather around the table or hop on Zoom to challenge your family members to pit your musical knowledge against theirs. Covering music from 1958 to 2020, it’s an ideal gift for any music lover, from casual listeners to hardcore fans – and probably mum, granddad and your siblings, too.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

Or To the Lighthouse. Or A Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf remains one of the canon’s most beloved writers, and essentially any of these Vintage Classics series of her works, complete with gorgeous watercolour covers by Aino-Maija Metsola, would make a lovely addition to any reader’s stocking – and a necessary addition to any book collection, too.

Lessons in Stoicism by John Sellars (2019)

Small and beautifully designed, this explainer of Stoic philosophy is as enlightening as it is empowering. Here, John Sellars explores and reveals the ancient history of stoicism and its key thinkers – Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius – while simultaneously applying their ideas to modern life. Whether your giftee is a historian, a deep thinker, or an over-thinker, this book is for them. And when they finish with this, they can move on to Sellars’ forthcoming entry on Epicureanism, The Fourfold Remedy, in the new year.

Oneness With All by Eckhart Tolle (2020)

Sometimes it feels like life would be easier if we could just distil its most powerful lessons and keep that knowledge at hand – enter Oneness With All Life, a pocket-sized book collecting the most powerful and affirming quotations and passages from author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling A New Earth, in which he delivered advice for changing your life by working to be more mindful and positive. It’s an ideal size to tote with you anywhere, for whenever you might need a small reminder of your power and potential.

 The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon (1956)

A slim novella packed with plenty to think about, Sam Selvon’s literary classic The Lonely Londoners follows Moses Aloetta, a Trinidadian immigrant in London who helps new arrivals from the West Indies establish themselves in the city and find a sense of community. Now considered a Windrush generation classic, Selvon’s book is a moving portrait of immigrant life and whose innovative use of language alone makes his genius apparent – to say nothing of the book’s wry sense of humour.

Love Poems for Married People by John Kenney (2019)

John Kenney’s collection of humorous poetry about the everyday banality of married life isn’t just funny – it’s side-splitting. “Every single poem,” according to Penguin author Frances Cha, “made me laugh so hard I fell off the couch. I had my camera ready when I gave it to my husband to read, and when he fell off the couch laughing so hard, I took a photo.” If that’s not enough reason to sneak this pocket poetry book into your spouse’s stocking this season, maybe poem titles like ‘What Time Should We Leave for the Airport?’ and ‘Our Love Is Tested in Traffic’ are?

Very British Weather by The Met Office (2020)

Though it wryly promises to ‘upgrade your small talk’, this tiny tome of weather facts does much more. Very British Weather is a fascinating, mind-altering book that might just change the way you see everyday weather in the UK you once took for granted. Beautifully illustrated, and packed with myth-busters and trivia, it’s a charming little gift for anyone curious about nature, science, and even history.

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