Readers’ Christmas book choices

Community Care contributors list their favourite books, CDs and DVDs of the year and hint at what they would like their friends and families to buy them for Christmas

One book that I continue to find invaluable – particularly in its new fourth edition – is Community Care and the Law by Luke Clements and Pauline Thompson, published this year by the Legal Action Group. Although clocking in at 900 pages in the latest edition, it is immensely readable for anoraks like me who actually need, and want, to track down the law on a particular part of community care. The authors are clear in their writing and are respectful of their core audience of social workers. Every team or office really should have a copy of the latest edition.

Richard Bartholomew
Lecturer in social work,
North East Worcestershire College

Among my requests this year is Kids Need, a set of cards that offer a creative approach to exploring a child’s needs and a parent’s knowledge. They also help as a therapeutic tool for working with children and families and can aid the assessment of parenting skills.

Wanda Barnard
Adoption social worker

I have decided to do something different for my Christmas book list this year. Rather than ask for new book titles, I am going to ask for books I have not read over the past year. At the top of the list is Talk Talk by T C Boyle. It is the writer’s 11th novel. It is a thriller, and focuses on the unfolding events of a profoundly deaf teacher who, when pulled over by the police, assumes she has committed some sort of traffic offence. In fact, she learns there are numerous warrants out for her arrest for far more serious offences.

Val Brooks
Service team leader,
CAMHS Nottinghamshire NHS Healthcare Trust

Having just seen the amazing Harry Connick Jr and his big band twice on his recent tour, I’m hoping St Nick will be bringing me his new albums, Chanson du Vieux Carré and Oh My Nola. Some of Harry’s royalties from both these will go to the project conceived by him and Branford Marsalis to provide affordable housing for musicians and other families made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Playing with Harry was Lucien Barbarin a phenomenal trombonist and singer, who himself lost his home in the hurricane.

Sarah Baalham
Customer care manager

I am hoping for The Fairest Floo’er, a CD of traditional songs by the stunning Karine Polwart because it confirms that social workers are capable of beautiful things (Karine’s a former social worker). My DVD choice is season four of The West Wing because I missed all the shows at the time, so now have the pleasure of watching them in chunks. I shall also be buying for my 17-year-old nephew, who is interested in history, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell as it provides a very accessible insight into the politics of the Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century, and highlights why this remains relevant to what’s going on in the region today.

Karin Bell

I am going to put the recent TV adaptation by Andrew Davies of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House on my Christmas wish list, having missed several episodes when it was shown. Sadly, life is too short to read much Dickens. But a good adaptation can capture the flavour of a wonderful story, fascinating characters and still-relevant social issues.

Joy Bounds
Retired social worker

I’ll be giving Christine Falls by Benjamin Black this Christmas. Black is the pseudonym of Irish Booker Prize winner John Banville. As Black, Banville moves into a different genre. He leaves behind his usual poetic fiction for murder mystery. The book is set in 1950s Dublin and captures the grey, limited existence of Irish life at that time. The Catholic Church is all powerful and is party to criminal activity dressed up as charity. A good read for the holiday period.

Anne Burnage
Deputy director
Catholic Children’s Society

I am hoping to get The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Friends whose judgement I trust say it is utterly brilliant and tear jerking. It describes life during the Third Reich from a powerful but unusual perspective.

Andrew Cozens

For my friends in social work I’ll be buying Clare in the Community: More Selfless Acts by Harry Venning, partly because of its sideways look at the profession, but partly because it’s the only book that will ever feature a social worker as an angel on the cover!

Mark Drinkwater
Community worker
Southwark, South London

I want CDs this year: Spice Girls, Akon, Westlife. I have informed my family of my choices as I do not want music that I will not listen to.

Wendy Dare
Social worker

I’ve just bought a Nintendo DS Lite with Brain Training and was extremely disappointed to get a brain age score of 53. I’m hoping that someone will buy me More Brain Training because I clearly need it!

Colette Eaton
Support manager
Blackburn College

Heading into the scary world of retirement and keen to make the most of it, I’m putting Travel: Where to Go and When by Craig Doyle at the top of my Christmas list. The book apparently does what it says on the label – advises month by month travel destinations and the best time to visit, detailing, for example, festivals and animal migrations. I hope it will tell me when and where there’s a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights, the best time to visit the Sahara, how to avoid the Great Barrier Reef jellyfish, and also inspire me to visit warm and interesting places I haven’t thought of yet.

Elspeth Loades
Planning and development manager Children’s services

Dominic Sandbrook’s White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties 1964-70 vol 2 is rated as one of the best books about the period. I would like to read how that particular time when I was growing up is now viewed by Sandbrook, who has the ­reputation for bringing a fresh perspective to post-war UK social history.

Professor Keith Popple
London South Bank University

I am hoping for a complete set of Nigella DVDs and, if so blessed, intend to shut myself away for a couple of days to study them intently with a view to reproducing the best bits at dinner parties and similar gatherings in the hope of enhancing my image.

Heather Pritchard
Practice learning co-ordinator
Lancaster University

This year I am hoping to receive In Our Hearts We Know by ShantiMayi. I first came across ShantiMayi in Rishikesh in India about 18 months ago. She was born in America in 1950 and is the first Westerner – as well as the first woman – to take a place among the spiritual masters of the Sacha Lineage. I was deeply touched by her when I visited her ashram and spent time in her company. This book is a revised edition of the first book she wrote about a year ago. It is a clear and inspiring book, not necessarily teaching us something new but reminding us of what we already know. ShantiMayi is not confined to any particular religion she has shared with and brought forth teachings from her time with Aboriginals in Australia and Native American Indians as well as the Dalai Lama in India.

Sue Rana
Senior drug worker

Rather than waiting until December, my wife and I buy non-Christmas presents whenever we feel like it. She’s a Jane Austen junkie, so a few weeks ago I bought her Mr Darcy’s Diary by Maya Slater. Unfortunately, she was rather disillusioned as it depicts Darcy as a friend of Byron and something of a libertine. But I like the sound of the historical research and the cunning stitching of the new story into the old, so I’m looking forward to having my turn with it. My other choice is the heavier reissue of Nikolaus Pevsner’s Essex in the invaluable Buildings of England series. With this I’ll again explore what John Betjeman called the “sweet un­eventful countryside” of my upbringing – although no one could now call dull a county that includes Foster’s magnificent Stansted Airport building.

Jef Smith
Writer, trainer and consultant

This article appeared in the 13 December issue under the headline “Fill up your Christmas stockings with”

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