With Christmas approaching gift guides are popping up all over the place and we wanted to take the opportunity to round up the best of all things indie for you and your family and friends. We'll cover some specific titles, various subscriptions and surprise book options and recommendations we've gathered from around the bookish community, so get yourself a cup of tea and your Christmas list and get ready to add a lot of stuff to it.
To start with, some really beautiful books. If you don't know what to get for someone but want something really special I'd really recommend seeing if The Folio Society do an edition of a book they love. I'm a huge fan of Folio's - they're beautifully bound and illustrated and make a really special gift. Last year I was given a copy of the Folio edition of Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, one of my favourite authors, and it was an incredible, thoughtful gift.
Most of us can probably agree that 2016 hasn't been the best, so if you want to give people some comfort reading for Christmas then here are a few things you could try:
Persephone Books (who have my heart for their pure brilliance at everything) have several incredible options. In case you're not familiar, Persephone publish forgotten writers (mainly although not all women) from between the wars and after across a very broad variety of genres. They do a 6 month or annual book subscription service, but if you don't know which specific titles you or whoever you're buying for would like to read most you can choose from their ten box sets each including six books the lovely people at Persephone have picked around various themes, including An Introduction to Persephone, Six Bloomsbury Books, Six European Books and lots of others.
Last year I bought my husband A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig. This year to celebrate the release of The Girl Who Saved Christmas, Canongate are selling the two together in a beautiful slipcase, and although I've yet to read either of the books myself I've heard nothing but fantastic things and there's nothing like a beautiful, hopeful Christmassy book or two to calm the nerves!
We recently posted about some independent publishers who have great subscription options and there are many more on top of the ones in that blog post. A great option would be to find a publisher who specialises in a genre the person you're buying for loves and get them a subscription or some randomly selected titles from their website! Orenda specialise in crime fiction, Icon do brilliant non-fiction, Cassava Republic publish African authors to name a very few.
Although they don't specialise in indie books you could support some independent booksellers and buy a gift subscription to a service like Willoughby Book Club. This is a bit special since the books are personalised recommendations - you fill in a form with some ideas about what the person you're gifting to likes to read plus you can choose a particular genre, and then you can get a 3,6 or 12 month option. Several independent booksellers also offer a similar service, with some of the most notable being Mr. B's Reading Subscriptions (run in a very similar way to the Willoughby Book Club) and Daunt Books subscriptions which also run on a questionnaire and the same time frame, but as well as fiction, non-fiction and children's subscriptions you can choose to subscribe to books published by their publishing house!
Finally I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Ninja Book Box! Our boxes contain only independently published books and are available to gift as one off boxes and annual subscriptions as well as mini boxes (where the recipient receives just the book and one gift each quarter) and annual mini box subscriptions. The February box goes on sale on December 5th and the theme is 'A Shakespearean Mystery'. Each quarter's book comes from a different genre, making it a great way to branch out of your comfort zone! Subscriptions are available now in our shop, and if you order before December 15th there is a free gift with the first box.
I'd like to recommend a few of the indie titles I've read this year. Firstly a really interesting coffee table type book that will appeal to pretty much anyone. Letters of Note by Shaun Usher (Unbound) is a compilation of letters from across history and contains things like the Queen's recipe for drop scones along with a letter from Jack the Ripper, one from Fidel Castro and one from Louis Armstrong among many others. It's really fascinating and easy to dip in and out of as well as being beautiful!
Another beautiful book I'd like everyone to read and which I think would make a brilliant gift is Amy Liptrot's memoir The Outrun. It's her story about addiction and her recovery from it and is part memoir, part nature writing and one of the most captivating and beautifully written books I've read all year. I think it would appeal to anyone who likes a good memoir,but also to those who are interested in the natural world - there's a lot about birds, wild swimming, stargazing and uninhabited islands among the memoir and it's woven in so well you probably won't even realise you're being educated.
For the lover of fairytales in your life there's The Rental Heart and Other Stories by Kirsty Logan, a tiny little collection of short stories published by Salt. None of them are fairytales as you'd recognise them but lots of them contain magical elements and have an underlying message. I loved all of the stories but particularly the title story, about a person who rents different hearts in order to be able to love different people in certain ways and also to hide things from them.
The stories are all short so it's a lovely, quick gift.
Finally just in case you know anybody who needs it this year, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig is absolutely fantastic. It's about his own massive depressive breakdown when he was 24 and how he dealt with it. He speaks really honestly and (I found, as have many others) helpfully about depression and anxiety and all the reasons there are to stay alive.
As well as our book recommendations, you can check out author S. Usher Evans' list of some of her favourite independently published books from 2015. She'll also be doing a 12 days of indie books on her blog during December so make sure you check that out for ideas. Several book bloggers, myself included will also be recommending our favourite titles we've read this year on Instagram during December using #bookishadvent. Not all of these will be independently published, but a good number of my own recommendations will be, so make sure you check out the hashtag for those.
Finally the excellent online independent bookseller Wordery (to whom you'll find affiliate links in all our book titles on this blog) have compiled a Top 50 Indie Books for Christmas list which I'd strongly recommend having a look at if you're looking for a book for someone. Click the image below to go to the list.
My final recommendation is to check out your local independent bookshop and ask the booksellers to recommend things for any people who are difficult to buy for!