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'What is a holiday without reading?' said everyone, ever.

This Christmas, a heavenly host of authors tell us what their favourite book gifts have been, from Carmen Maria Machado's A Little Princess to Jarett Kobek's mysterious tome found in the East Village.

Join us on Twitter for festive book chat @serpentstail, Instagram @serpentstailbooks & Facebook /serpentstail


Carmen Maria Machado picks A Little Princess by  Frances Hodgson Burnett

When I was a kid, my godmother Eleanor Jacobs gave me books every time I visited: The Diary of Anne Frank, the diaries of  Susan B. Anthony, The Secret Garden.But my absolute favorite was a copy of A Little Princess, which also came with a silver locket. It was a book I revisited over and over again; Sara's trials and earnestness and creativity thrilled me, and I loved having to look up all the words I didn't know. I can't wait for my nephews to get a little older, so I can pass it on to them.

Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body & Other Parties is out on 14th December


Attica Locke picks Bartlett's Roget's Thesaurus

The best book I ever received as a gift was a copy ofBarlett's Roget's Thesaurus. It was a Valentine's Day present from my husband a month after I'd completed the first draft of Black Water Rising. The inscription: "To finding the right word in the first draft of your first novel." It gave me the right words for that book and the next three. To me, looking through a thesaurus this comprehensive is looking through a catalogue filled with beautiful colors, rich smells, and textures and emotions.

Attica Locke's Bluebird, Bluebird is out now


Jarett Kobek picks The Rimbaud Fake Book by Jason Tallon 
A gift from the universe. It’s 2004 and I'm in the East Village’s now gentrified-to-death St. Mark’s Bookshop. The store has a consignment rack. If you know how to use it, it’s a barometer for political and social currents.
This time, at the rack, I find a volume called The Rimbaud Fake Book. Its central conceit is that the author, Jason Tallon, is the reincarnation of Rimbaud, and he’s writing truly bizarre poetry and emails in the style of the late lamented. But that’s not all - the book has been defaced. The author has rewritten half the text in red ballpoint, scotch taping in drawings of “Sly Stallone as Arthur Rambo.” I look at the price: $10. I’m too cheap, I let it pass.
The next morning I wake up and cry out. What have I done? I run to the store, hoping the book is still there. It is. I buy it and use the text to hunt down Tallon - no small feat given that this occurs pre-social media.
We’ve been best friends ever since. 

Jarett Kobek's The Future Won't Be Long is out now


Alex Christofi picks Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel 

A while ago, I lost my copy ofFun Home. I’d recommended it to a lot of people and one of them must have been the type who thinks ‘borrow’ means ‘keep from you forever’. This year, my girlfriend gave me a copy for my birthday, saying she thought I might like it. I took as a sign that she was one of the good ones. 

Alex Christofi's Let Us Be True is out now


Rebecca F. John picks Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

My mother gifted me Philip Pullman’s Northern Lightswhen I was ten years old.  There was no special occasion: she’d simply read the blurb and thought it a story I would enjoy.  It was the story that would make me a writer.  Lyra’s world was so much more exciting, more vibrant than my own.  I realised that I too could create worlds if I sat down with a pen and paper and spelled them out.  So I spent my childhood longing for a daemon like Lyra’s – though mine, I knew, would settle as a big cat; I wrote bad imitations of Lyra’s world; and then, when I grew brave enough, I invented my own.  I only very recently parted with that copy of Northern Lights.  When a friend’s ten-year-old granddaughter expressed an interest in storytelling, I passed it on to her, along with a note, urging her to believe that stories are just as important as she might be beginning to suspect they are.

Rebecca F. John's The Haunting of Henry Twist is out now



Catherine Burns picks The Sandman by Neil Gaiman 

When we were first dating, my husband got me a gorgeous hard cover edition of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Neil had just told a hilarious, roof lifting Moth story, and I was high off the joy of working with him on his story. He signed it with a little drawing. I treasure it.

The Moth: This is a True Story, edited by Catherine Burns, is out now