Winter is fast approaching, and since we have a while to go in lockdown before enjoying a Christmas break enjoying mince pies, mulled wine and turkey, it means plenty of downtime to settle in with some reading. Whether you love fiction, cooking or challenging yourself by learning something new, we have you covered with our top picks...
MORE: 7 best onesies to wear while watching cheesy Christmas movies
Top fiction to try
The Duke and I - Julia Quinn
Bridgerton is the much-anticipated period drama due to be released on Netflix on Christmas Day, so why not try out the much-loved book series first?
The Thursday Murder Club - Richard Osman
Richard Osman's bestselling murder mystery novel is a charming adventure as a group of OAPs get together to get to the bottom of a cold case, and we can already see it being adapted for a Christmas special come 2021. Watch this space!
Hamnet - Maggie O'Farrell
Hamnet is a retelling of the tragic death of William Shakespeare's only son as a child - and the repercussions that follow after he died from the plague. Perfect for any Shakespeare fan but be sure to have some tissues at the ready.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Love a Greek myth? This brilliant novel focuses on the women of Greek tragedies, from the women of Troy forced into slavery after the Greeks destroyed their city, to the goddesses who played a part in devastating thousands of mortal lives.
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
A genius mystery within a mystery which is perfect for any book lovers and murder mystery fans. Susan Ryeland returns to investigate yet another mystery where the truth appears to lie in an Atticus Pund novel, which she once used to edit.
MORE: 60+ Best Christmas gift ideas for women 2020: Gorgeous gifts for her
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Fancy a modern gothic novel? This brilliant 2020 novel follows a woman who visits her cousin after receiving a letter from her claiming that her husband is trying to murder her.
Firewatching - Russ Thomas
After an 'incident', Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler needs to have a successful case. So when a body is found and he realises that he has a connection to the case that compromises him, he pushes it to one side to get to the bottom of the crime.
Pine - Francine Toon
The synopsis for this bestselling crime thriller begins: "Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she's gone." So whatever happened to her? There's only one way to find out...
MORE: 27 best celebrity Christmas trees and festive decorations of all time
Olive by Emma Gannon
This brilliant story follows Olive, a woman who begins to question her life choices as her friends' begin to tie the knot and start having children. A tale of navigating being an adult while facing major milestone decisions, it is a must-read!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Nora Seed decides to change her life after finding herself in the Midnight Library. But while she redos old regrets, things don't quite work out the way that she'd imagined. This is just the sort of magical and touching sort of novel you'd expect from the genius that is Matt, and the perfect pressie for any book lover this Christmas.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
If you haven't read Delia Owens' bestseller, Where the Crawdads Sing, you need to get on it! The novel, set in the sixties, revolves around sensitive and intelligent Kya Clark, or 'Marsh Girl' as the locals of her nearest North Carolina town disparagingly call her. Kya keeps to herself and lives alone in the marshes, making friends with her fellow natural inhabitants. But as she grows up, the time comes when two local men become intrigued by her beauty and behaviour. She opens her heart to young love, but when one of her lovers is found dead, Kya becomes the prime suspect. The book is being turned into a movie, starring none other than Normal People's Daisy Edgar Jones as Kya, and will be produced by Reese Witherspoon. Filming has yet to commence, but we literally cannot wait for its release!
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
Fans of Gone Girl and Anatomy of a Scandal will want to get their hands on Blood Orange, a story about a young lawyer named Alison who's just been given her first murder case to defend. Her client wants to plead guilty to stabbing her husband, but something about her story doesn't quite add up. Can Alison save this woman and in turn save herself? Someone knows about Alison's secrets too - her affair, drinking problems and neglecting her family - and they won't stop until she's lost everything.
The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce
And if you loved Blood Orange, Harriet Tyce's new thriller The Lies You Told is another page-turner. The synopsis reads: "Sadie loves her daughter and will do anything to keep her safe. She can't tell her why they had to leave home so quickly - or why Robin's father won't be coming with them to London. She can't tell her why she hates being back in her dead mother's house, with its ivy-covered walls and its poisonous memories. And she can't tell her the truth about the school Robin's set to start at - a school that doesn't welcome newcomers. Sadie just wants to get their lives back on track. But even lies with the best intentions can have deadly consequences..."
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
Everything I Know About Love author Dolly Alderton released her debut novel this year, Ghosts. Nina Dean, 32, is a food writer with a successful online following, but her life is falling apart. She's being ghosted by men on her dating apps, her beloved dad has dementia while her mum is craving a mid-life makeover. She's also started thinking about ageing and the gendered double standard of her biological clock.
The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton
Author of The Perfect Girlfriend Karen Hamilton is back with her new book, The Last Wife, a tale of two former best friends Nina and Marie. When Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness and asked Marie to fulfil her final wishes, she made the mistake in thinking Marie was someone she could trust. What she doesn't know is that Marie has always wanted her beautiful life and will stop at nothing to obtain it. What Marie doesn't know however, is that Nina had explosive secrets of her own.
Non-fiction books that everyone is talking about right now
Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other - Sam Heughan, Graham McTavish
Sam and Graham really took their roles in Outlander and ran with them! The pair have developed a fascination for Scotland and the Highland culture, and take an epic road trip around their homeland which is told in this travel tale perfect for any history (or Outlander) lover.
Women Don't Owe You Pretty - Florence Given
Florence's brilliant book looks at the feminist conversation and is called an "accessible leap into feminism" for anyone who wants to know more. The synopsis reads: "In a world that tells women we're either not enough or too much, it's time we stop directing our anger and insecurities onto ourselves, and start fighting back to re-shape the toxic structures of our patriarchal society."
Top cookbooks for foodie fanatics
Dishoom: From Bombay with Love
Dishoom is the ultimate cookbook based on the famous restaurant, giving you the chance to create some gorgeous restaurant-worthy Indian dishes from your very own kitchen.
SIP: 100 Gin Cocktails with Only 3 Ingredients
This one is for Gin lovers! SIP features 100 simple cocktails each using just three ingredients, showing that with a bottle of Sipsmith London Dry Gin, cocktails don't need to be complicated to taste uncompromisingly delicious. The book also includes an array of tips and techniques from the skilled and passionate Sipsmith team to make Christmas cocktail making simple and enable gin lovers to be the best hosts at home this Christmas.
The Roasting Tin: Around the World by Rukmini Iyer
Want nutritious, varied dishes but hate cooking? This popular instalment of the Roasting Tin series plenty of meals that are not only super easy to make, but also hail from popular recipes around the world, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Russia, and India. So long as you have a roasting tin, you will be able to take away some top dinner ideas!
Mexico by Jane Mason
Vowed to eat less meat this year? Then check out Jane Mason's Mexico cookbook, the latest title in the World Vegetarian series. Over 70 recipes are featured that are guaranteed to brighten up your winter menu, from cauliflower 'wings' to beetroot tostadas to sweet potato tacos. Eating green has never been easier!
Midnight chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For) by Ella Risbridger
This truly unique cookbook has some of the most inviting recipes you'll want to try, from charred leek lasagna to burnt-butter brownies. But peppered throughout Ella Risbridger's creations are personal essays - a list of things worth living for. The book was born from a moment when Ella found herself lying on her kitchen floor, wondering if she'd ever get up, when the thought of roasting and eating a chicken made her want to be alive again. The three main morals of her book are: Salt your pasta water; If in doubt, butter; and Keep going. An honest and funny book about how cooking can save your life.
The Pie Room by Calum Franklin
Say hello to Calum Franklin, the pie guy, and his debut cookbook that really is the definitive pie bible. Stuffed with 80 recipes, both sweet and savoury, you'll learn how to make the perfect sausage roll, master the humble chicken and mushroom pie and test your skills with the ultimate beef Wellington. Calum also guides you through the techniques and tools for perfecting your pastry, from how to properly line pie tins to decorating your pies so they look like true show-stoppers.
Simply by Sabrina Ghayour
From the bestselling author of Persiana comes Simply, Sabrina Ghayour's new cookbook that is filled with easy-to-make, flavoursome dishes. Recipes include pomegranate molasses and honey glazed meatballs, lamb and sour cherry rice, harissa chicken noodle lettuce cups and tahini, almond and orange brownies.
James Martin's Islands to Highlands by James Martin
James Martin has been exploring the length of the UK, cooking and sampling dishes from Cornwall to Skye. In his new cookbook, released this year, he takes advantage of the local produce on offer and creates 80 mouthwatering recipes, including poached turbot, hoisin duck and BBQ pork burgers.
© Peter Cassidy
Gordon Ramsay Quick and Delicious
If you're looking for meals that are quick and easy to whip up in the kitchen, Gordon Ramsay's cookbook might just be the ticket. All of the Michelin-starred chef's 100 recipes can be made in 30 minutes or less, using easily accessible ingredients, such as the cauliflower soup with cheesy toasts or the Moroccan chicken traybake.
The Sunday Brunch Personalised Cookbook
Do you know someone who's a fan of Sunday Brunch? Bring the TV show to life with their very own personalised cookbook. The finished product contains six chapters, with seven recipes each, which you can choose yourself to make it a completely bespoke cookbook for your loved one. Pick from French toast with nectarines to cauliflower Katsu, or huevos rancheros and caramel brownies.
Pinch of Nom: 100 slimming, home-style recipes by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone
Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone's new cookbook, Pinch of Nom: Quick and Easy, is due to be released in December, but their original masterpiece has been out since 2019. Their ethos is simple - delicious but healthy comfort food recipes that don't detract from the flavour. Think Cumberland Pie, Mediterranean Chicken Orzo, Mexican Chilli Beef or Chicken Balti. There are 100 recipes to choose from, 33 of which are vegetarian.
Like this story? Sign up to our newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.