Take a leaf from good guide presents

BOOKS make fantastic Christmas gifts, as once you have a fair idea of your recipient’s area of interest, it really shows that you’ve paid attention, that you genuinely care.

Some lounge lizards will enjoy reclining by the fire dipping alternately into a large, luscious book of inspirational scenes while massaging the brandy bon-bons.

Others will be more grateful for a practical belt and braces guide for future projects in the kitchen, garden or around the house. I’ve given the recommended retail prices for my top ten for 2012 publications, but you may find better deals online with Irish booksellers, including Easons and Books Unlimited, plus including free delivery when you spend from €10-€30.

Gardenalia: Furnish your Garden with Flea Market Finds, Country Collectibles and Architectural Salvage. Sally Coulthard. Jacqui Small LLP. €38.10.

Second hand style is the little black dress of interiors, and here it makes its way to outdoor ‘rooms’. Bring new life and an unexpected setting to a range of items from upcycled deck chairs and second hand fencing to forgotten statuary and robust boot-sale surprises in this inspiring book by Sally Coulthard. Individualise any garden, from a quiet country acre with room for wildlife to a container garden in the suburbs.

Miller’s Guides: Mid-Century Modern. Miller’s Publications. €38.10.

The period covering the 1940s through to the 1970s is not only now a fertile area for collectors of everything from fashion to furnishings, but has returned as a powerful influence on current interior design. Miller’s Guides (excellent for every genre of antique and collectible) showcase the catwalk pieces of this fascinating era, indicating the sort of pieces to look for and explaining why they merit such devotion in the market. Feature pages describe the impact of iconic designers, including Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames and Arne Jacobsen. Editor Judith Miller.

Nigellissima. Chatto & Windus. €33.

One hundred 100 Italian dishes from the pneumatically beautiful and always passionate Nigella Lawson to accompany her latest BBC series. Simplicity and directness is the key to a host of dishes from sambuca kisses and a shortcut meatball supper, to Sicilian pesto and amoretti crumble, delivering, it is promised, the spirit of Italy directly to the plate.

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. Michael Joseph. €33.

Following the record-breaking success of 30-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver challenges us to a duel of food and focus while dishing up a worldwide range of dishes from Asian-inspired free food to classic chicken and beef dishes in a breathtaking 15 minutes. With ingredients at the ready, a few counter top tools and a good store cupboard, anyone can have a go at his no-nonsense, nutritious fare, big on flavour and short on preparation.

RHS Latin for Gardeners: 3000 Names Explained. RHS €16.38.

A fascinating stocking filler for anyone who has been cowed to impressed silence by someone reeling off the mythical Latin binomial for a garden plant. This little book unravels the mystery of botanical names from their Latin roots. Discover through names where plants were originally found, the hidden histories of Victorian plant hunters, their growing conditions, even intimate properties such as their taste and smell. Beautifully illustrated, there’s a pronunciation guide to help the reader wow their horticultural rivals.

Quick and Easy Paint Transformations. Annie Sloan. CICO Books. €19.

I’m including Annie Sloan’s 2010 book as after another year at my DIY desk, I’m still awed by the power and economy of paint. Annie Sloan guides us through the process of making over unworthy or used furniture, bringing it up to date, or even indicating honest wear, with a paint brush and a good splash of patient preparation. An ideal gift for anyone setting up home and looking for an individual final finish for next to nothing. Her Milk Paint is available at The Paint Pot on Coburg St. Cork.

Seductive Interiors. Sera Hersham Loftus. CICO. €38.

Everyone needs an inspiring, dandy of a tome to heave from the coffee table. Be enraptured by the turns of hedonistic, trembling romance and sheer ingenuity in the juxtaposition of new and creakingly old pieces in the home of style guru Sera Hersham. Who could resist the lure of ‘Rude’ lampshades — fashioned out of lingerie laces and trimmed with exotic chandelier drops — to her exquisite handmade wallpapers, inspired by opulent Parisian style. Exquisitely photographed by Gissela Torres.

Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish Diana Henry. Mitchell Beazley. €25.40.

A delight for any foodie, Diana Henry, named Cookery Writer of the year by the Guild of Food Writers UK, shows us how to preserve a myriad of useful and delicious foods. Jams and jellies, chutneys and pickles, smoked and potted meats and cured fish, cordials and alcohol, vegetables in oil, mustards and vinegars. An unusual and comprehensive book with a delicious friendly tone.

The Perfectly Imperfect Home. Deborah Needleman. Jacqui Small. €25.40.

If you’re putting a house together for the first or tenth time, the upbeat essays and quick reference side-bars in Needleman’s book highlight 80 ‘home essentials’ to declare ‘this place is mine!’ Penned by the editor of the interiors’ touchstone, Domino magazine (US), the book has received high praise from no less than Martha Stewart, for its comfortable, informative style combining the wisdom of professional decorators, a touch of history and simple rules to build confidence in the absolute beginner or the puzzled veteran home owner.


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