My top Christmas reads

Staying In

Book review
Bríd Conroy

I never tire of the feel and smell of new books, nor the joy of opening boxes of books just arrived in the shop. However, stacking them on the shelves is a kind of sweet sorrow for me. I want to sell them to other excited readers, but I also secretly want to keep a copy of each to read myself. Not the most sensible, from a business perspective. Christmas means a lot of the books will fly off the shelves as customers choose these long-lasting, meaningful gifts for their loved ones. Here are some of the ones I am definitely going to find it hard to part with!
‘Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love’ is Israeli-born British chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, published by Ebury Press. It’s the result of a Covid retreat into the kitchen and a reexamination of what and how we cook. It focuses on those oft-ignored ingredients that we insist on keeping on shelves in the back of our cupboards, hopeful that one day we will aspire to great things.
Well there is no excuse now. Ottolenghi starts with a list of ingredients and references them to a recipe – which might sound complicated, but it’s not; it actually gets you excited at the possibilities. Also it is a neat little book, almost like a handbook, with a reinforced cover and a bookmark, designed to withstand floury hands and mushed up ingredients between the pages. Just a fab book, and it’s on my list.‘The Books of Jacob’, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, is the latest book by Polish Nobel Prize for Literature winner Olga Tokarczuk. With a few days off over Christmas, it’ll be the perfect time to lose myself in the reimagining of the life of Jacob Frank, an 18th-century mystic and sect leader.
The story is compiled of seven books, journeying through seven borders, five languages and three religions. It tells of a time when religious enlightenment was sweeping through Europe like a wave, catching the yearning of the souls of the time for a new kind of freedom. Ah, can’t wait.
‘Finding the Mother Tree’, by renowned scientist Suzanne Simard, published by Allen Lane, tells the story of how Simard herself discovered the hidden language of trees. Raised in the forests of British Columbia, she reveals her life’s journey in discovering how trees communicate with each other through an underground web of fungi, at the centre of which is the Mother Tree.
Simard’s findings were initially dismissed, even ridiculed, but they are now supported by scientific data and are being taken seriously in our fight to reverse climate change. The book promises wisdom and a reflection on the power of nature to show us the way, to cooperate and heal the wounds we have inflicted on our amazing planet. Inspiring.
‘My Body’, by Emily Ratajkowski, published by Quercus, is an autobiography in the form of a book of essays. An actress and model, Ratajkowski gained notoriety after she appeared semi naked in the music video for Robin Thicke’s controversial song ‘Blurred Lines’ alongside two other models. Her subsequent proclamation of female empowerment in her choice to appear in the video was extremely controversial in 2013.
In her essays, she examines the various mirrors she has held up to herself and explores the real truth of her own female sexuality and empowerment. Fascinating.

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.