Please, reader: confirm that I am not the only one who can’t resist a deal in a book shop? Two for one? I’ll take four. A discounted book that I’ve already read? I’ll buy it as a future last-minute gift. In general, I’ve got to be very strict with myself or risk having more unread books at any given time than read ones.
That said, it’s nearing the gift-giving season, and Americans keep signing off their work emails wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving and stating their lack of intention to follow up on my email request until next week, which must mean it’s also nearly time for Black Friday. There are many irresistible book deals out there, and there are bargains brewing all over the online bookselling sphere. I’ve put together a list of those which I think you’d be a fool to ignore.
Disclaimer: I earn a small commission if you buy through these links, at no extra cost to you.
Waterstones has a range of books with big fat half price stickers to mark this year’s Black Friday. There are deals on books from Billy Connolly, Lee Child, Jodi Picoult, Sophie Kinsella, Dave Grohl and more, as well as 25% off some fantastic games. Here are a couple that caught my eye:
Are you a foodie? Do you know someone who is and enjoy wrapping perfectly shaped gifts? Jamie’s Italy is being sold for half price at Waterstones.
My favourite recipes include his Sausage & Red Wine Risotto with thyme, fennel, onion, Fontina and crushed hazelnuts) and his Pistachio Pastwith garlic, tomato, herb and lemon sauce (my version pictured below).
It swaps between diary entries from a mother in one of the concentration camps in which British soldiers imprisoned women and children during the war, and a contemporary young boy called Willem, timid and “weird” in the eyes of his peers and family, who send him to a camp called New Dawn, a ranger camp which claims to make “men out of boys”. This experience is a re-imagining of the true story of Raymond Buys, a teenager who was murdered in 2011 at a similar camp, run by the Afrikaans Resistance Movement (AWB), a far-right political party dedicated to secessionist Afrikaner nationalism.
There’s so much to unpack, almost sentence by sentence, and I think everyone should read it, so I’ll leave it there.
Book Depository‘s Black Friday deals include 10% off of thousands of books from now until 28 November 2021, so get shopping! Just remember to use the code BF10 at checkout.
All three of Sally Rooney’s books are included in the sale. My feeling is that if you liked one Sally Rooney book, you’ll like all of them.
Rooney’s debut, Conversations With Friends, is about nothing much in particular, and nothing much happens apart from everyday interactions and thoughts, yet the realness of the characters and their relationships are profoundly accurate. Ex-girlfriends and now-best friends Frances and Bobbi are flawed, contradictory characters – like actual people, rather than perfectly structured figures or symbols – living in Dublin and learning who they are in the world.
Rooney’s second novel, Normal People, is the story of Marianne and Connell, their lives weaving together like a strand of DNA. No matter how they drift apart, they always end up gravitating towards one another. Their relationship is complicated, given they know each other because Connell’s mother is Marianne’s family’s cleaner, meaning their experience of Trinity University is very different and the dynamic can be confusing for both of them.
Beautiful World, Where Are You? is Rooney’s most recent novel. A “plot” summary can’t really be written, as there wasn’t a plot so to speak but rather a window into everyday life and the relationships within it. It is a novel about female friendship, socialism, and the arguably inescapable grip that class has on Ireland (which I think extends to Northern Ireland and the UK at large) even in supposedly non-political situations, which Rooney spoke in fascinating detail about during the launch event.
If you’ve gotten this far without reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, I’m almost jealous of you, because it means the next read that will stay with you long after you finish it is lined up. I’ve met people resistant because they found the HBO series to be a bit trite and/or violent, but I assure you – the book is better, and far more delicate while arguably packing a bigger punch.
As with The Handmaid’s Tale, if Girl, Woman, Other has somehow flown under your radar, this killer deal settles that issue. It tells the story of twelve women in Britain, each a novel in herself distilled into a chapter. The characters, though thematically linked by their experience of being people of colour in Britain, each deals with her own unique struggles which vary but are all proportionally important in their lives, from grappling with sexual identity and explaining its nuances to grandparents stuck in their ways, to inadvertently joining an all-female cult in America or stressing about what the critics will say of a play’s opening night.
When people ask me for book recommendations, I tend to check what they usually read before pushing a book into their hands. However, Educated is one that I’m so confident everyone will find absolutely riveting and brilliant that I don’t hold back. No matter what you usually like, I think you will take something away from Tara Westover’s memoir.
Westover was born and raised in an end-of-days, devout Mormon family in Idaho. She worked with her father and her brothers in the scrapyard, helped her mother make tinctures and assisted her as an untrained midwife, and the time leading up to Y2K was spent preserving peaches and hiding fuel underground. But she didn’t legally exist. She was not sent to school, had never been to a hospital, and didn’t even know when her birthday was because she had never been registered for a birth certificate, as her father believed these things to be run by the Illuminati. Yet Westover’s hunger for an education still boiled within her and eventually bubbled over after a series of incidents and injuries at home that could no longer be prayed away.
I remain reasonably convinced (maybe 70%, there are some top contenders) that I’m going to settle on Daisy Jones & The Six as the best book I’ve read this year. Not necessarily for its literary clout, nor for the fact that it fictionalises the fascinating lives of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac, but because of how fun it was. It was so refreshing – light without being frivelous, funny without lacking sadness.
Taylor Jenkins Reid expertly used the nature of memory to tell this story, sharing various band members’ perspectives and answers to questions, leaving us to pick out the truth somewhere in between their own versions of reality. Building characters and a reader relationship with those characters is not easy in this faux-interview style, but Reid is clearly a natural. If you’d told me it was non-fiction, I’d have believed you.
More books in the Book Depository Black Friday sale:
Click the picture for the deal, or the title below for my review.
A number of books at Foyles have been reduced to half price for the Black Friday period, along with a selection of other online discounted titles. There are not many on their list of titles that I’ve already read and reviewed, so I thought instead I’d share some of the ones that caught my eye and may well end up in my Black Friday 2021 pile:
BETTER YET! Until Sunday 28 November, they’re offering 25% off their paperbacks of the year – I’ve just bought Shuggie Bain. All you need to do is pop “BLACKFRIDAY25” into the promotion code block at checkout.
For The Kids
While children’s books aren’t really a bookish category I cover, there are some amazing deals going, so if you know some kids who are in need of some literary Christmas treating, take a look at these from Waterstones, Book Depository and Foyles (in that order):
For The Kitchen
Everyone loves a Christmas cooking book under the tree, especially if they’re plotting a New Year’s Resolution which involves food. Here are some great deals from Waterstones, Book Depository and Foyles (again, in that order):