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    Just five days to Christmas! It’s that time of year when you have to think of gifts for your family and friends, to put around the Christmas tree. While food, beverages and yummy plum cakes abound as gifts, some of my all time favourite stocking-stuffers include books. Nothing shows how much someone is on your mind than a well-selected book they have been dying to get their hands on. To me, reading is the ultimate luxury in today’s frenetic world, and curling up with a coffee and good book in your hands or on the Kindle is a delightful prospect.
    But how do you pick that really good read? I asked author Anita Nair, an inveterate reader herself, on her picks. Despite being neck-deep in her own writing, she cannot do without a book at hand. She chose Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, a crime-literary fiction combo. “It’s not a conventional crime boAnita Nairok. I just loved the randomness of the characters, the feeling of human fallibility it conveyed. It was different, the language was superb. We all tend to be moralistic when we write, and even as readers, we don’t want characters to behave out of type. This book breaks those boundaries.” Anita, who reads at least three books at the same time in different situations, says she has “a book on my bedside table, one to read in the loo, one at the dining table and another, probably short stories, to browse in the car during traffic jams.” Another favourite mystery author is US crime fiction specialist, Karin Slaughter, whose crime thrillers are addictive. She also tells me of another favourite, History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil McGregor.
    Christmas books for GiftsIf murder, mystery and mayhem aren’t quite the thing for you around Christmas, check out recommendations from corporate honcho Priya Chetty-Rajgopal’s reading list. She picks up Monica Ali’s Brick Lane whenever she has a moment in her busy day. “I really like reading without the pressure of expectation and time,” she says. “Because of the internet and my job, I’m always reading bits and pieces of things, and it’s reached a stage where it’s difficult to absorb the wholeness of a single read.” She describes herself as “a reasonably good reader” in her earlier days, but now agrees that reading has become an indulgence. “I’m also reading more non-fiction than fiction, mainly because of what I do rather than what I need,” she adds. Her latest non-fiction foray is also one she recommends, Cultural Intelligence by Julia Middleton, the founder of Common Purpose. “I think she’s fab, has a wonderful mind and a story worth reading,” says Priya. However for a quick fix, she turns to her old favourite mystery author, the queen of detective fiction, Agatha Christie. “I love re-reading her books.”
    As for me, I have a lineup of books on my bedside table and my device. I’m just hoping to find the time. After all, what’s Christmas without a little hope?

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