Looking for the ultimate easy, not-too-expensive, seemingly-thoughtful Christmas present? I have the answer! I had the answer last year too, so this is an updated 2020 version: it’s the books ‘n chocolate gift. Comes in unlimited combinations, is widely available and won’t break the bank.
You may be thinking (if you didn’t read last year’s explanation on this particular gift idea) that I’ve lost the plot a bit. Books and chocolate? Well duh! Next she’ll be suggesting I buy someone a bunch of flowers or something else ridiculously obvious!
But bear with me. There are rules and regulations with this particular type of present. It’s all about a) the quality of the two separate elements and b) how well they sit together visually. The book needs to be an amazing one (I have lots of suggestions) and the chocolate bar needs to not only be of an excellent calibre, it needs to have a wrapper that complements the cover of the book. When the chocolate is placed on top of the book cover to be wrapped up, it should be an absolute graphic designer’s delight of typography, pattern, texture and tone.
Not so easy as throwing together an airport novel and a bar of Dairy Milk, but you can easily – and quickly – get all sorts of brilliant books delivered and the artisan/luxury chocolates won’t be too much of a hard find.
Below I’ve listed some of my favourite book-n-choc combos for 2020, but the complete run-down is in the video at the bottom of the page. You can also refer back to 2019’s edit here and click here for a load of good reads to consider…
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (get it here*) and a bar of the chunkiest, heftiest Tony’s Chocolonely (£2.70 here*). Sorry but how good do these look together? I’m the most proud of this particular combo, not least because Evaristo’s novel is one of the best I’ve read in years.
The Handmaid’s Tale (online here*) and a bar of Pana Chocolate’s Coconut & Goji (find here*). Pana Chocolate are a brand worth noting down; their chocolates are vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free and something else free that I can’t recall at this particular moment. All of that removed and it still manages to be incredibly tasty – dense, dark, rich and almost a little oily. It’s £4.95 a bar (pretty small bar, too) but it really is quite niche and they do loads of flavours each with a different pattern on the box. Which makes it perfect for my books-n-choc quest!
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farell (here*) and a little round box of the most delectable Charbonnel & Walker Sea Salt Caramel Truffles (here*). Slightly more hefty, this one, price-wise, but you’re getting more weight too – it feels a bit more impressive. Hamnet has been widely praised this year and I love Maggie O’Farell’s writing so it’ll be a sure-fire hit as a present for anyone who’s serious about their reading list.
My Sister The Serial Killer, online here* and Pana Chocolate’s Sour Cherry & Vanilla, online here*. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is a punchy, vibrant portrayal of sisterhood with the unusual lean that it involves a female serial killer – I raced through it in no time and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not new, but new to me and a great books-n-chocs addition.
I haven’t yet managed to start Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times and I’m not ashamed to say that I partly picked it for the graphic, bright and cheerful cover! Of course I’ve read the reviews so I know I’m onto a winner, but just for clarity, I’m planning on starting it next week. Disappointed in my chocolate paring here – with hindsight, I’d have gone for a Tony Chocolonely bar again! Anyway, the book is online here* and the chocolate is here*.
Oh I almost forgot: this is a new twist on my books-n-choc: books-n-food items! I did think that when it comes to giving cookbooks (I bloody love cookbooks, can’t have enough!) that having an accompanying chocolate bar just felt a bit wrong. And so how about some relevant, relatively lightweight and easy-to-flatten-and-package food items? Bags of spice are perfect – Natco do huge bags for around a pound and a few of these with Meera Sodha’s Fresh would make a great foodie gift. You can find Fresh online here* – I buy my spices at Sainsbury’s in the world foods aisle.
Right: all of the other combos are in the video, links below. Get shopping – let me know if you have any other excellent book or chocolate suggestions!
Rococo Rose Dark Chocolate £5.50* : https://bit.ly/3lcjU8y at Liberty
Q & A 5 Year Journal*: https://amzn.to/2Va0M0t
Big Sky by Kate Atkinson*: https://amzn.to/3lbdDKp
Liberty Heritage Milk Chocolate Bar £7.95* : https://bit.ly/2KLqE0R
Dear Joan & Jericha- Why He Turns Away by Joan Damry*: https://amzn.to/2Jfz5ke
We’re revisiting a post that I (kind of) did a few years ago, really, but it’s a good one and so it deserves another airing. Because this post may just save your Christmas Bacon, if you’ve left present-buying until the last minute and/or have no clue what to buy people and/or don’t want to spend a fortune on absolute tat that people will hate and/or re-gift.
It is – quite frankly – a genius idea, this one, but I’m sure I can’t take credit for it because it’s so simple that a million people probably posted about it before me. The fundamental equation behind this gift idea is:
Good Book + Excellent Chocolate = Ultimate Christmas Experience
Give someone a brilliant read and something to munch on whilst they read it and you’ve pretty much sorted their holiday. The bonus for you is that you can order books right up until the last minute (or get them at the supermarket) and the chocolate is reasonably widely available, depending on which of the fancy and niche brands you plump for.
Which is important. Because there are caveats to this genius solve-all gifting idea, after all. The first is that the chocolate must be fine, interesting, artisanal or unusual – to elevate it above the Dairy Milk level – and the second is that the book must have a good cover. Be it vintage Penguin or classic Puffin or whatever other bird you can think of. Luckily publishers put a lot of thought into covers and so your job here is quite easy.
And before you all shout in defence of Dairy Milk, I love Dairy Milk, but for this gift to work then it can’t be just any old normal chocolate bar thrown in to the shopping trolley – the bars in this feature are all exquisitely made with the finest ingredients and truly are, for want of a less cringe term, a taste sensation. (Liberty is a treasure trove of pretty and quirky chocolates – find them all here* – and they helped massively with sourcing good-looking bars for this feature, so thank you Liberty!)
The selection of books I’ve chosen should offer up something for everyone (apart from kids) and there are a few suggestions, such as The Bees, for example, that are relatively obscure and could be a safe bet for those who are hard to please.
I have listed a load of books ‘n’ chocolate combos below, with pictures so that you can admire my supreme books ‘n’ chocolate styling prowess. Hopefully it’ll give you some idea as to what the hell I’m on about. Wrapping these little delightful parcels needn’t be a stress either – get yourself a load of eco-friendly, plain brown paper and you’re sorted. Add nice ribbons that can be reused by the recipient and Bob’s your Uncle.
There’s (believe it or not) a video that goes with this post. Or perhaps this is the post that goes with the video – either way, I’ve managed to eke out an unbelievable amount of content from what it basically the world’s most simple gift idea. It’s a bit Pippa’s Tips (sure I said that last time) but sometimes you need to be reminded of the basic things in life…
Little Women (Puffin in Bloom edition) £9.99 here* + Pana Mint Chocolate (raw, vegan), £3.20 here. A beautiful chunk of a collector’s edition book with a raw and minty bar to chomp on. What a pretty pairing!
Wolf Hall £5.94 here* + Pana Coconut & Goji Chocolate (raw, vegan) £3.20 here. Particularly pleased with this combo, for some reason – and this is the book to buy a voracious reader who hasn’t yet unearthed the delights of Hilary Mantel.
Ooh, I’m starting to feel like Willy Wonka with all of these chocolate descriptions!
The Handmaid’s Tale, £6 here* + Pana Chocolate Rose, £4.95 here* – the brutal modern classic that’s worryingly astute and a rose-oil infused chocolate bar that should hopefully salve the soul somewhat…
Girl, Woman, Other, £10.64 here* + Chocolate Society Salted Caramel, £4.95 here – this year’s well-deserved Booker prize winner and a brightly-wrapped bar that contrasts with the cover. Two knockout gifts for just over fifteen pounds.
(Has my Book + Chocolate messaging sunk in yet?!)
The Bees, £5.84 here* + Love Cocoa Honeycomb Chocolate, £4.50 here* – I won’t lie, I’m thrilled with this combo. Not only is the book really quite unique (a darkly thrilling novel from a bee’s narrative perspective, anyone?) I’ve carried the theme through into the accompanying sweet treat. Feel free to applaud.
Made In India, £12.71 here* + Creighton’s Imperial Chilli, £4.95 here* – Meera Sodha writes the best Indian cook books. The recipes are just so fresh and delicious, I highly recommend. The book covers are also giftworthy in themselves, like art posters!
Any Human Heart, £4.49 here* + Creighton’s Pink Gin Bar, £4.50 here – the cover of William Boyd’s wonderful novel is identical in colour to Creighton’s Pink Gin chocolate bar. I just couldn’t resist putting these together – in fact, I think this was one of the book-n-choc pairs that sparked off my need to revisit the whole idea!
My Thoughts Exactly, £5.64 here* + Creighton’s Maple Bacon, £3.95 here* – a slightly offbeat little hook-up here, but I thought that it was well suited. Lily Allen (author of the autobiography hidden behind the bar!) has never been known for towing the line or fading into the background, so I’ve chosen an appropriately unexpected chocolate flavour. Not for everyone, admittedly, but it would certainly be a conversation starter!
Testaments, £10 here* + Sour Cherries (as before) – another colour-block combo, but oh so pleasing. Don’t you think? Again, a striking cover that is almost a gift in itself and then the sour cherries rising up above the parapet once more. Under his eye!
The Hours, £5.99 here* + Pump Street Gingerbread Chocolate, £7.95 here*. One of the pricier chocolates, but at least I’ve popped it in with one of the cheaper paperback books! And this novel by Michael Cunningham is an absolute literary treat – a Pulitzer winner and a weave of stories that’ll stay with you for life.
I, Robot, £10 here* + Salted Caramel Chocolate (as before) – a book I never thought in a million years I’d be featuring, but I read a sample of it and thought that it was brilliant. Witty, self-deprecating but in all of the right amounts. I genuinely have this on my bedside table on my book pile! I don’t even like football. Plenty do, however, which makes this a bit of a no-brainer. The cover doesn’t quite meet my strict criteria but this is the wildcard…
For more book suggestions there’s a whole category here on the website – just click here and all book posts will come up as a listing!
The post My Ultimate (Thoughtful, Easy and Widely Available) Christmas Gift appeared first on A Model Recommends.
A great decorating book to feast upon, if you’re something of an interiors aficionado; Farrow & Ball’s Recipes for Decorating* by Joa Studholme. It’s an absolute visual delight. Whether you’re a serial re-painter who loves to experiment with colour or a confused starter with no idea how to pick a more flattering shade for the living room (me), it has both practical advice (how to work with the type of light you have, how to complement your architecture) and pure, unadulterated pictorial eye candy. Pages and pages of painted walls in modern houses, in creaky manors, in cosy attics and open spaces.
I should actually pop my hand up here and say that if all of that sounds like your idea of heaven then you need to make sure you’ve already done the first book from Farrow & Ball, which is called How To Decorate*. Again, educational elements sit alongside a total visual bombardment of decorating loveliness, so you can either read it cover to cover, absorbing every word (me) or dip in and out over a cup of nighttime cocoa for months afterwards, ruminating over future projects in the same way you might look to recipe books for a casual appetite whetter (also me).
How To Decorate (I bought mine here*) starts at the very, very beginning – looking at the direction your light comes from into a room, the size of a room, what you’re going to be using a room for – and gently suggests reasons for choosing certain paint shades and finishes. Although it’s very obviously the best possible advert for Farrow & Ball’s own paint range, you don’t really notice that – or, in my case, I don’t really care. Anyone who can impart such good advice in such an engaging way can take my money, quite frankly. But the decorating style advice could feasibly apply to any paint or wallpaper brand so long as you’re willing to ignore F&B’s warnings about pigment and quality and depth of colour.
Recipes for Decorating takes things a step further with proper in-depth case studies in real houses, looking at the way the paint shades change in different light, how they work with architectural features and so on. At the end of each case study there’s a recipe card with all of the shades noted down – and you can see really clearly here how different paints can look when used in practice.
There’s also a brief section on how to be your own colour curator – the colour curation is a service F&B offer to all customers, where a curator comes to your house and helps you to pick paints. Basically. I treated myself to this last week and it was excellent – it’s £195, but you get a £50 voucher to spend on paint so I’m calling it £145.
And it was so helpful – my curator, Jill, just knew all of the shades inside out and how they would look in each room so it made the decision-making process so much quicker and easier. I’m going to do a full review on the service, so if you have any specific questions then let me know – I wanted to get this post out first because it has been sitting in my drafts folder for months, waiting for images!
So: wonderfully curated book of house p*rn + practical decorating advice = book worth having. Find it online here*, it’s currently £15.94, which also makes it prime Christmas gift-giving fodder if it’s not too early to mention the C-word…