My Ultimate Easy Christmas Gift: 2020 Edition

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

 

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13 Comments

  1. Nanaka
    December 29, 2020 / 10:37 am

    Inspired by your recommendations (as every year!), I did not only buy some of these books to give away as presents, but also put some of them on my own wish list. And I must say, I am soooo happy I did: “Hamnet” is an absolute page turner, beautifully written, and I’m almost through already – while hoping at the same time it will never end. Truly magical writing!
    Thank you – as every year! I’m always looking forward to your book recommendations!!!
    Enjoy your holidays :o)

  2. December 25, 2020 / 4:33 pm

    Although Christmas has passed, these are so cute gift guide, tho <3

  3. December 19, 2020 / 2:49 pm

    I can’t think of any better gift than a book and chocolates, unless it’s with a cosy pair of slippers to really get comfy with. Some on here that are on my reading list for 2021 – I better get a move on. Thanks Ruth

  4. December 14, 2020 / 8:09 pm

    This is so great and it is going to help me out so much!

    Danielle xx

  5. Sarah Thomas
    December 11, 2020 / 8:33 am

    I really struggled with Girl Woman Other and it was an effort to finish. I’m not sure why everyone thinks it’s so brilliant. I’ll read some reviews and see if I can discover what I didn’t get. If anyone would like to tell me, please feel free!

    • December 11, 2020 / 10:36 am

      Yes, some of my friends did too. I think I like books that really go deep into the characters’ lives – I found the voices really strong and distinctive and the stories interesting as they were mostly so different to my own.

      • louisa
        December 11, 2020 / 2:18 pm

        I loved the style and I like books that change characters a lot because I have the attention span of a petit filous. It is also a book that I think about a lot now and I think has changed how I think about race and feminism.

  6. Nicky
    December 11, 2020 / 8:25 am

    This is actually sheer genius!! You could also do the same with wine/craft beers with swanky labels/packaging. Then it would be “books n’ bar”!!!!

    • December 11, 2020 / 10:37 am

      Haha yes!! Although not so uncomplicated to post. These are relatively unbreakable and cheap to post.. : )

  7. Kay
    December 10, 2020 / 7:17 pm

    I forgot to say that the book I have chosen for presents this year is The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater, I reread this every winter. It is actually so much more than a cookery book, in fact there is more prose than actual recipes but his writing is exquisite and it covers November to February so is really about winter and not just Christmas. I am rather partial to Monty Bojangles truffles as the side kick.

    • Ash
      December 21, 2020 / 11:47 am

      Nigel Slater is the best food writer around. Totally underrated.

  8. Kay
    December 10, 2020 / 7:13 pm

    I remember your post well from last year and several people have received fabulous books and chocolate as birthday gifts. Looking at your post above I would be thrilled to receive Hamnet and truffles!

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