All I want for Christmas is… we hear from Graham Norton, Cate Woods, Jo Thomas and Olivia Beirne about which books are on the top of their wish list

All I want for Christmas is… we hear from Graham Norton, Cate Woods, Jo Thomas and Olivia Beirne about which books are on the top of their wish list

Can you believe that it is Christmas Day TOMORROW?! In the final blog as part of our Bookends Christmas author series, we asked Graham Norton, Cate Woods, Jo Thomas and Olivia Beirne, which books would you most like to find under the tree on Christmas morning?

A Keeper Graham Norton

Graham Norton, author of A Keeper

I still haven’t got around to reading Kate Atkinson’s new book Transcription or Normal People by Sally Rooney. I’m also very excited by the prospect of a new novel from David Nicholls next year!

More Than a Feeling Cate Woods

Cate Woods, author of More Than a Feeling

One of my favourite books of the year was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, a bewitching fairytale-inspired novel with a fantastic, kick-ass heroine, so I can’t wait to read Novik’s next book, Spinning Silver.

A Winter Beneath the Stars

Jo Thomas, author of A Winter Beneath the Stars

Milly Johnson’s The Mother of all Christmases. I love Milly’s books and I know this will get me right in the Christmas mood. 

The List That Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne cover

Olivia Beirne, author of The List That Changed My Life

So I never usually ask for specific books, I ask my family members to pick me out something (which we all tend to do for each other). Last Christmas our house was like a library. Saying that, I am really desperate to read Libby Page’s The Lido, Joe Heap’s The Rules of Seeing and Emma Cooper’s The Songs of Us.

From all of us here at Team Bookends, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Who’s the trickiest person to buy for on your Christmas list? Graham Norton, Joanna Bolouri, Jo Thomas and Joanna Nell fill us in!

Who’s the trickiest person to buy for on your Christmas list? Graham Norton, Joanna Bolouri, Jo Thomas and Joanna Nell fill us in!

From difficult dads, to best friends who already have everything – we all have someone on our Christmas present list who is impossible to buy for.

Luckily, some of our fabulous authors are here to share the trickiest names on their lists… and offer up some much-needed Christmas gifting inspiration!


Graham Norton, author of A Keeper

Some people are truly gifted when it comes to shopping for presents. I am not. My solution is to throw money at the problem so that while the gift may be unsuitable and disliked, it will at least be expensive so I can’t be accused of being ungenerous. My mother is always a challenge because whatever good ideas I might have had were all used up years ago.

Jo Thomas, author of A Winter Beneath the Stars

Hmmm, I think maybe my Mum. She always says she doesn’t want anything! And I always want to get her something she’d really enjoy. Usually I buy her books which I know she’ll enjoy, especially armchair travel ones.

Joanna Nell, author of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

My husband is always tricky to buy for, especially since he stopped wearing ties to work and shaved off his beard (who knew fancy beard products were a thing?). It’s the one time of the year when I wish he wasn’t such a “low maintenance man”. When I ask for ideas (we’re fairly pragmatic in our family), he reminds me that he already has more books on famous explorers than he has time to read, owns a shirt for every day of the week and the less said about that kite-surfing lesson I bought him one Christmas the better. This year I’ve decided to give my husband a voucher for dinner for two at our favourite restaurant. That way, hopefully I get to enjoy it too.

Joanna Bolouri, author of Relight My Fire

My dad, definitely.  He doesn’t like anything ‘specific’ so inevitably he gets something sensible from Marks and Spencer.

And for a gift that’s sure to be a winner, here are some brilliant new reads courtesy of our lovely authors!

 A Keeper Graham Norton Relight my fire  

Graham Norton answers readers' questions

Graham Norton answers readers' questions

Graham Norton’s masterful, bestselling debut novel Holding, is now out in paperback. Some lucky reading groups from all over the country were given the chance to ask Graham a question about the novel, and here are his answers!

Did you plan to set your novel in a sleepy Irish village?

B’n’B Book Club, Dudley, West Midlands

Being “Graham Norton off the TV” is bit of a problem when it comes to writing a novel. I didn’t want to get in the way of the reader and the story. I deliberately decided not to set the novel in the world of media or even London. There are no gay characters and the situation isn’t really played for laughs. At the same time it was important to write about what I know and because my life is rather odd it wasn’t long before I realised that growing up in rural Ireland would provide one of the few settings that I knew very well and might have broad appeal.


You are hosting a dinner party in Duneen, which three characters from Holding would you invite and why?

BIG Lottery Book Club, Birmingham, West Midlands

Great question. Brid would have to be there because she’d bring the wine and the laughs. Susan because she has all the stories and gossip and Mrs. O’Driscoll from the shop because I have a feeling she might be very good fun if she let her hair down. She’d also be handy for fact checking Susan’s stories!


The title of the novel Holding: is this to do with clinging to the past or holding onto hope?  Are these two sides of the same coin and is the author trying to show the negative and positive aspects of each?

Shadforth WI Book Club, Durham

The title refers to all sorts of holding. A parcel of land is a small holding, waiting is called holding and then of course the more obvious meanings; holding on to things, being held by another person, or being held back. Something that really interests me is how some people get stuck in a moment from their lives. I’m very much of the mindset where you should get over things and yet I fully accept some people can’t. The discovery of the human remains gives the characters a chance to kick stat their lives. Some take it and others don’t.


Are you going to write more fiction in a similar vein?

Hayes End Library Reading Group, Hayes, Middlesex

I always said that I wanted to write a novel but once I actually commited to finish one I was filled with trepadation. What if I couldn’t or what if I could but hated the process? Had I just given myself the longest, most difficult homework assignment I’d ever had? Happily the process of writing Holding was one of the most enjoyable experiences in my working life. I loved the time I spent in Duneen with the people who live there. So much of my life requires meetings and collaboration with other people, so sitting in a room alone making all the decisions by myself was a wonderful release. The next book is a strange, almost gothic love story set in rural Ireland. At the moment I’m just plotting the story and fleshing out the characters so it may end up being something else entirely when I actually start writing it. There are no rules and that is what makes it all so fun and terrifying at the same time.



Read an extract of Graham Norton's debut novel

Read an extract of Graham Norton's debut novel

Holding is Graham Norton’s masterful debut novel. Published today, it already has received rave reviews with the Sunday Times calling it Poised and perceptive’ and Good Housekeeping describing it as ‘Deeply accomplished, with brilliantly observed, entertaining characters and an atmospheric setting’.

Decide for yourself by reading the first two chapters here and watch Graham’s introduction:


HOLDING by Graham Norton

Holding by Graham Norton is out now in hardback, ebook and audio