Editors’ picks from 2016

If you’re stuck for Christmas gift ideas, try our editors’ picks from 2016 for inspiration…

Leah Broad (Theatre)
One of the books I’ve enjoyed most this year is the Bodleian Library’s Staging History volume. It’s designed to accompany their exhibition of the same name, and offers a fascinating (and beautifully illustrated) insight into eighteenth century British theatre. For a gift that lasts all year round, theatre memberships are wonderful for drama enthusiasts. Shakespeare’s Globe, for example, offers annual membership starting at £50, National Theatre at £80, and the Sheffield Crucible starts at £50 with perks including ticket discounts and meeting cast members.

Theophilus Kwek (Features)
If I had to pick one book from what has been an incredibly rich publishing year, my only – and wholehearted – recommendation would be The Good Immigrant, a collection of essays by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity (BAME) writers from across the UK’s staggeringly diverse cultural sphere. Put together by Bristol-based author and editor Nikesh Shukla, these pieces will make you cry and celebrate with their everyday experiences of distance or difference, and also nudge you towards being part of the more open-minded, critically-engaged reading audience that this country so badly needs. This book made me believe that 2016, after all, might have been worth it. Read it.

Kanta Dihal (Literature)
When you have money to spend, and struggle to find the right gift for a bibliophile, why not call in the professionals? Bookshop Heywood Hill in London offers a bespoke monthly or bi-monthly book subscription service, which involves a reading consultation with a personal bookseller. For those who can afford the Gossip Girl lifestyle but wish for something more intellectual, subscription costs start at £100. George R.R. Martin’s fans would of course be happiest with the sixth instalment of A Song of Ice and Fire. Unfortunately, we still have to wait at least until 2017 for The Winds of Winter. However, an excellent alternative Christmas gift has just presented itself as the twentieth anniversary edition of A Game of Thrones, which is absolutely stunningly illustrated by a wide range of artists. RRP £30.00.

Anna Zanetti (Art)
Tate Membership is a great present for anyone who’s more into experiences than into objects. The membership gives unlimited entry to all the exhibitions of the four Tate galleries for one year, which means around 20 exhibitions! Other benefits include access to the Members Rooms, special events and discounts, and subscription to the Tate Etc. magazine. I received it as a graduation present, but it makes an excellent Christmas buy too: upcoming exhibitions include David Hockney, Modigliani, Yves Klein, and Giacometti.

Emma Brown (Music)
Andrew Gant’s book Christmas Carols: From Village Green to Church Choir is a fascinating delve into the history of 22 much-loved (yet rarely scrutinized) Christmas carols. Successfully combining thorough scholarship with a highly-readable style, Gant guides us through a genre which unites the most disparate of musical and textual traditions, as well as the most disparate of listeners. A Garden of Eden in Hell charts the remarkable life of Alice Herz-Sommer, spanning a childhood in the cultural elite of early-19th-century Prague, a fine career as a concert pianist, imprisonment at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and life in the newly-formed Israel. Amidst fascinating details of everyday life in these vastly differing circumstances, the power of music to console and inspire shines through.

Landon Peck (Music)
My first choice is Popular Cycles by Busman’s Holiday. From the rolling hills of southern Indiana, Busman’s Holiday put out another record utterly full of charm. 1960s string and brass arrangements provide the support for the songwriting of two brothers crafting intelligent and eclectic Americana pop songs. Popular Cycles will get you bobbing your head while singing along to fun anthems, but the album also successfully delivers quiet moments for peaceful reflection. With curious chord changes and captivating lyrics, you will be pleasantly surprised with each track. Alternatively, try A Tribe Called Quests’s We got it from Here…Thank you 4 your Service, their new and final album after nearly 20 years. Staying true to their roots, the jazz-influenced East Coast hip-hop from their earlier work is present and accounted for. The impressive list of guest musicians includes Busta Rhymes, Jack White, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few. The 16-track album concludes the legacy of Tribe as one of the most influential and innovative rap groups of all time.

Altair Brandon-Salmon (Film)
Both Miles Ahead and The Nice Guys were released earlier this year in the cinema and unfortunately seemed to have slipped through the cracks as the year’s end awards season begins. Don Cheadle’s biopic of the legendary Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis is stylish, insightful, and even blackly funny, able to look clear-eyed at both its subject’s greatness as a musician and his failings as a man. The Nice Guys, on the other hand, is a witty pastiche by Shane Black of 1970s thrillers like The Long Goodbye, with a convoluted neo-noir plot and self-deprecating central performances by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, none too bright private eye and enforcer who are stumble around a debauched L.A., aided by Gosling’s rather smarter daughter, Angourie Rice. Full of visual and aural pleasures, both films deserve a viewing as the nights darken and the chill air stings.

Chloé du Laurent de la Barre (Talks)
I particularly liked watching Toni Erdmann (2016), a German-Austrian film directed by Maren Ade. Selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, it focuses on the attempts of a bizarre father to reconnect with her busy daughter. The meeting of their almost incompatible worlds leads to spicy situations, such as a momentous brunch, which makes us wonder about the possibility of dropping masks by abandoning social roles’ games. A very enjoyable book for me was the incomplete first novel of Franz Kafka: Amerika (1927). The story is based on the strange peregrinations of a sixteen-years-old European immigrant Karl. Kafka cultivates paradoxes; immersed into a cruel reality which is also phantasmagorical universe filled of unusual characters, the reader oscillates between laughing and taking pity on the gullible and endearing boy.

Ben Horton (Marketing)
My 2016 highlights were Brodeck’s Report by Philippe Claudel, and Five on Brexit Island by Enid Blyton (ish). Brodeck’s Report is an immensely powerful examination of guilt and collective forgetting. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, in a fictional French village, the plot revolves around an investigation into a violent crime which involves the whole community. Claudel, in a translation from John Cullen, maintains an air of mystery throughout which is both unsettling and mesmerising. In a year where extremism has constantly been explained away and anger has too often prevailed over hope, I found this book to be a deeply moving reminder of the consequences of turning a blind eye. An enthralling, appalling, read. But if you’re looking for a more cheery antidote to the events of this year, I couldn’t recommend more the latest Quercus spoof of the classic childhood Famous Five series. You’ll never see the referendum in the same light again!

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