Christmas Books
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Date: 24 November, 2004


To buy any of the titles, click on the title or cover.


'An exquisite, informative gift for all ages.'


Stuck for which books to buy for Christmas presents this year? Or do you simply want something for yourself to indulge in over the holidays? Charlotte Haines Lyon comes up with some suggestions for all ages and pockets.

To buy one of the titles, click on its cover or title – all books purchased through surefish raise money for Christian Aid.

The Good Shopping Guide
Edited by Charlotte Mulvey,
The Ethical Marketing Group, £12.00

The latest edition of the Good Shopping Guide covers an ever increasing selection of goods. Covering home, office, money, food, drink, health and beauty, there will be little excuse when it comes to buying unethically.

The only minor complaint is that the charts may give a clear rating for a company but then a less “pure” company might be listed above them as the best buy.

However it is still an ideal gift for those who care.

Do the Right Things – A Practical Guide to Ethical Living
Pushpinder Khaneka
New Internationalist, £7.99

This brilliant guide to ethical living covers practical ideas such as ethical spending, going green, giving to charity and getting angry about injustice. Oh and there is a good section on reading and learning about the world in which surprisingly enough New Internationalist is highly recommended.

Far from being preachy, there is advice ranging from using charity credit cards to sending old tools to African charities. Such recommendations are short and feel surprisingly achievable.

The perfect inspiration for the armchair ethicist.

The Rough Guide to a Better World
Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney
Rough Guides and Department of International Development, free plus p&p

Whilst we tuck into our turkey or nut roasts this Christmas people around the world will be dying due to hunger, disease and warfare. It seems only right to be questioning how we can make a difference.

Before answering the question, there is an exploration of the issues such as sanitation, disease, education and population growth. A run down of the UN’s development goals and a mini advert for the work of DfID is included before the key chapter addressing what we can do.

Recommending advocacy, volunteering as well as responsible living, this pocket guide also has superb resources sections. Well illustrated and informed, this is ideal for the person who needs to understand more about the inequities in the world.

Best of all, it is effectively free so you can order it with a clear conscience, knowing you are not adding to Christmas consumerism!

The Spiral Staircase
Karen Armstrong,
Harper Collins, £20

Karen Armstrong is known for her writing and broadcasting on religion but this book is more personal. Part autobiography, part religious essay, she writes about her time as a young nun and her battle to come to terms with the real world after the convent.

Some pages are utterly harrowing as she portrays only too clearly the long term damage institutions can cause. However we are then treated to a really quite intriguing and inspirational treatise on how we can live amongst different beliefs.

The best accolade I can give to a book is to say that it is the only book that both my husband and I have read. The fact that my beloved only reads about two books a year is an indication of just how good this is.

Good for a cynic who needs hope in a divided world.

Encyclopedia of New Religions
Edited by Christopher Partridge
Lion, £25.00

Yet again Lion have provided a superb work of reference. At a time when organised religion is apparently despised, a plethora of new religions have developed.

Nothing is ever really new however, which is why this encyclopedia is organised into sections such as New Religions, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities with Roots in: Christianity, Indian Religions, Indigenous or Pagan Religions, Modern Western Cultures etc.

Spiritualities are given an informative but concise entry and include the Jesus Army, Shamanism and even Celebrity – centric Spirituality. The latter detailing not reverence of an ancient goddess Diana but rather a more recently deceased royal.

A must for those who are fascinated by how the other half believe.

What’s the Point of Christmas?
J John
Lion, £1.99

J John’s classic has been updated for 2004 and provides simple time out during the madness of Christmas. Whilst essentially an evangelistic tool, it does provide a host of interesting Christmas information. Who was St Nicholas? Why do we have Christmas trees? And, just what has Silent Night got to do with World War One?

A well presented pocket book for those who want to know what Christmas is really about.

Water, Life Force
Maggie Black
New Internationalist, £19.99

Certainly after a rather wet British summer and autumn, it is easy to take water for granted. Black has collated amazing pictures from around the world of water. The scenes vary in serenity, danger, ferocity, cultivation and sheer beauty.

Alongside the stunning photography are poems, ancient texts, prayers and general information on this precious commodity. It certainly made me turn off my tap immediately when cleaning my teeth!

An exquisite, informative gift for all ages.

If the price tag is too steep, there are two accompanying pocket books; The No Nonsense Guide to Water £7.00 and Water Life Force - 30 post cards £5.95. The first being a short guide to the global pressures on water along with the politics involved. The latter is a delightful book of postcards including some of the photos in the main book.

Chunky Cook Books – Supporting Fair Trade

Salads and Side Dishes from Around the World
Vegetarian Main Dishes from Around the World
Desserts and Drinks from Around the World
New Internationalist, £7.99 each

Bolivian Locro anyone? This pumpkin stew is accompanied by the wonderfully named llapingacos (potato cakes and peanut sauce from Ecuador) in the veggie book and are first on my list for post Christmas cooking.

Most dishes are accompanied by enticing photos and due to cute size of the books, recipes look short and easy to cook. Using fair trade ingredients has never been easier. The desserts are seriously tempting, but may not help a New Year diet – but hey then you can move on to the salads!

Inspirational cookery for all.

I’m a Teacher Get Me Out of Here!
Francis Gilbert
Short Books, £9.99

Gilbert provides a darkly funny account of his experience of teaching from his radical student days through to his wiser more weary time at one of the “worst schools in the country.”

Just how possible is it to teach classic English texts to inner city kids who speak little English? And how do pressurised teachers cope with violent behaviour from their students at the same time as satisfying their inspectors?

As Gilbert catalogues his mistakes and successes, he provides a fascinating insight to the world of education. Poignant but never cynical, this is the sympathetic gift for your favourite teacher.

Haynes Manual for the Woman
Dr Ian Banks and Suzi Hayman
Haynes Manuals, £12.99

The Woman manual covers all models; “various shapes, sizes and colours from 16 years onwards.” If you bought a bloke The Man Manual last year, then it seems only right that you buy him this one so he can now have some basic understanding of women.

We all know that there is only one thing scarier for a man than his own health and that is “women’s problems”. Whilst written with wit and interspersed with great cartoons, it is actually a really useful work of reference explaining how women’s body work and chassis operate. It also clarifies just what it means to be “the family runabout” whether it is pregnancy, menopause or general parental exhaustion.

A useful present for a man, which in turn benefits the women in his life.

Continue with our Christmas selection for children