Sian: I was absolutely certain that American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld would be my book of the year (with I Capture The Castle being hot on its tail). It's certainly the best book recommendation I've had this year (thank you Blonde M!) I adored Alice Blackwell's view of American life and politics. But then, quite out of nowhere, Elizabeth Gilbert swooped in with The Signature of all Things. Alma Whittaker, the six-foot redhead botanist born at the turn of the 19th Century, stole my heart. My book of the year is one that I bought on my ereader on a whim last week. I am forever going to remember and be inspired by this dense, expansive and surprising book about science, enlightenment and an unlikely heroine's beautiful, unusual world.
Frances: Despite Sian and Kat's best efforts, I haven't been up on my contemporary fiction this year (though Richard Burton did turn up in Beautiful Ruins at exactly the right time). My favourite book of the year has been Dawn Powell's A Time To Be Born, originally published in 1942, and set in New York at that time. Fabulous clothes and glamorous women combined with a clever, sometimes cruel humour. Powell has been described as the "answer to the old question 'Who really makes the jokes that Dorothy Parker gets the credit for?'", and that's a good-enough guide as to her style for me. And the bonus is she wrote so many novels it's like discovering a great new chocolate box of reading joy - it's hard holding yourself back from gorging on them all at once.
Laura H: A fantastic Christmas present for anyone who is interested in human relationships, dialogue, history or artefacts would be Letters of Note, Inspired by, and selected from the website of the same name. It's a beautiful thing, original letters printed alongside transcriptions, from people such as a 12 year old Fidel Castro, Roald Dahl, Philip K. Dick, even Jack the Ripper. It's a latecomer, but it's definitely the non-fiction winner for my book of the year.
Gemma: 2013 will forever be known as the year Phillipa Gregory helped me to get more than one question right in an episode of University Challenge. I am now a font of semi-factual knowledge when it comes to the War of The Roses, thanks to her Cousins War series, which is all about the women who supposedly pulled the strings behind the last Plantagenet kings (including a hump-free Richard III). I ploughed my way through the first four books in double time to make sure they were finished before the (achingly disappointing) BBC adaptation The White Queen hit the screen. The books are superior in every way; pacey, engaging and able to smartly combine fact and fiction for the sake of a good yarn.
Kat: I've read a lot of great books this year, but only one which has made a real impact on my life after I turned the last page. An almost cult-like following has built up around Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley, and I'm one of them. It's quite simply the most inspiring book I've read in years. Not only does it motivate you to run - I've gone from a borderline asthmatic half-jog to a half-marathon in the seven months after reading it - but it inspires you to see your body as capable of more than just fitting into clothes, or being a 'type'. It's a funny, moving read with lots of very practical advice. It's also a marvellously supportive hand to hold while you take your first steps to a mindset beyond "But I couldn't do sport at school."
Laura B: I haven't had time for as much reading as usual this year, but luckily I chose my books well! My absolute favourite was My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's a collection of love stories from some of the world's best writers, living and dead. The tales within run the gamut of romantic - and unromantic - emotions, from longing to loss, and it's a truly beautiful selection of stories.
Caleigh: My read of the year is Nigel Slater's Eat. It's a book full of 'fast food' recipes, written in Slater's usual mellifluous style. The recipes are quick to make while using the kind of fresh and seasonal ingredients you'd expect from Nigel Slater. I'm in love with the squid stuffed with Judion beans and tomato, miso soup with beef and kale, and chorizo and sweet potato mash. It's the sort of cook book that you could happily read from cover to cover without ever cooking something from, but if you did that you'd be sorely missing out on some brilliant dishes!
Holly: My book of the year is actually two books. Lindsey Buroker (who I have yet to read a book by I didn't adore) decided there was just too much brilliance to restrict to one volume so she gave us two instead as the conclusion to her incredible Emperor's Edge series. I got gripped by this series books last Christmas but had to wait till June this year for the grand finale. Reader I was not disappointed. There's adventures, perils, death traps and all manner of edge of your seat stuff plus one of the greatest female characters I have ever had the pleasure of following.
What's your book of the year? Tell us in the comments so we've got the best Christmas reading list ever.