If you have an Anglophile or a homesick Brit in your life, I bet they’d love to find one of these in their stocking. Note that while many of these are available on Amazon.com as well as Amazon.co.uk, you can find most if not all of them postage-free on bookdepository.com too.
It’s been a rough year for the UK, and the Brexit mess is likely only just beginning. No wonder Five on Brexit Island is doing so well (curently number 2 in the official Bookseller chart). Many of us Brits grew up reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and there’s a whole new parody series for adults, including Five Go Gluten Free, Five Go Parenting, and Five Go on a Strategy Away Day.
For fans of this kind of British humour, another good gift idea is The Complete Uxbridge English Dictionary. The idea behind this parody is that words change their definitions over the years. If your British friend has been living abroad it’s important that they keep up to date so they won’t be totally lost when they go home. Without this handy dictionary, they might never guess that “cherish” now means “rather like a chair” or “bunny” means “rather like a bun”. These are for the advanced Anglophile – it may take some non-Brits a minute to figure out why “cardiology” has (allegedly) morphed to mean the study of knitwear or “faculty” is now Cockney for “there’s no more hot drinks”. Still, there are also illustrations, so that should help.
If they haven’t laughed enough by now to beat the Brexit blues, there are a few more books to come to the rescue of any despondent Remain-er. The Brexshit Book is full of political mockery and therapeutic exercises. The Brexit Survival Book activities includes: the Great Brexit sing-a-long, Find the Foreign Secretary and a Theresa May mindfulness exercise. (I shudder to think what that might be.) And you might get a few wry smiles out of Britain’s Best Political Cartoons of 2016.
Or maybe humour isn’t your friend’s thing. Maybe colouring is a better stress-relief for them. There are quite a few UK- and London-themed colouring books on the market and this might help. (Interestingly, if perhaps only to me, the American version of Secret London encourages coloring your way to calm, while the British version colours for mindfulness.) If you want to go broader than just London, there’s also The Great British Bake Off Colouring Book and The Great British Colouring Map — all published in 2016.
But let’s be honest, there’s no better escapism than curling up with a good novel. Nina Stibbe’s books are delightful, and a balm to the homesick British soul. I really liked Love, Nina, which consists of letters home from a nanny in ’80s London. Her next novel, which I also enjoyed, was Man at the Helm, in which Lizzie and her siblings try to find their mother a new husband. It came out in the UK in 2015 and in the US at the beginning of 2016. In Paradise Lodge, fast-forward a few years, and Lizzie is 15 and working at a home for the elderly, where she meets all kind of interesting characters. It’s classic British 1970s stuff, and your nostalgic friend from the UK will love it.
A couple of years older, but likely to still be new to your British friend if they don’t live in the UK, is the novel Mr Loverman, which last year the Londonist blog named as one of 6 books about London by BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic) authors you “should read ASAP.” 74-year-old Hackney resident Barrington Jedidiah Walker is having an affair, and his wife knows it, but she doesn’t suspect it’s with a man. According to the Amazon summary, “Mr Loverman is a ground-breaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies and shows the extent of what can happen when people fear the consequences of being true to themselves.” Definitely sounds worth picking up.
It’s not easy being a teenage boy, and it’s even tougher when you have a crush on the hottest girl in your London school and you’re the second shortest boy. According to the Londonist, Alex Wheatle’s Liccle Bit, this YA novel is by turns exhilarating, heartbreaking, funny, sweet. The sequel Crongton Knights is just out this year.
Mhairi McFarlane is maybe my favourite contemporary British chick lit writer — that’s how much I loved You Had Me At Hello. She and I are around the same age and went to university around the same time, so I recognise many of her references. Who’s That Girl? is her newest novel, out this year and set in the Midlands city of Nottingham. You Had Me At Hello reminded me how much I missed Hula Hoops and I promptly ordered a whole load of them. Never let it be said that a book can’t change your life.
Zadie Smith probably needs no introduction at this point. Swing Time is her latest novel, about two girls who both grow up with ambitions around dancing. One has talent; the other has ideas. “There is still no better chronicler of the modern British family than Zadie Smith,” says The Daily Telegraph. For an extra treat, as with all these books, get your friend the British edition — we appreciate those extra Us and Ss more than we can say.
If your friend is a poetry fan, they might enjoy Outside Looking On, which was published in 2014 in the UK. From the publisher, Influx Press: “Chimène Suleyman’s debut poetry collection explores the positive and negative side of loneliness and boredom, using the Docklands as allegory and symbol. The tall, glass monoliths are as lonely as the characters who exist around them. But they offer constant support; a navigational tool, stars in the sky, always there, lights on. A constant presence of reminder and reassurance. Outside Looking On asks if it is possible to claim a building for yourself that doesn’t know you exist?”
Chimène Suleyman is also one of the contributors to The Good Immigrant, a brand new anthology about the British immigrant experience. Why do immigrants come to the UK? Why do they stay? What does it mean to be “Other” in a country that so often seems to reject you? 21 black, Asian and minority ethnic emerging writers explore this in a collection of essays that have been called poignant, challenging, and very real.
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