Few people give me a book these days. I'm known among my friends for my prolific reading of modern fiction and, working in a bookshop and regularly reviewing forthcoming titles, they understandably feel that it is too much of a challenge to find something I haven't read and might enjoy.

This year, though, I was delighted to find two book-shaped parcels among the gifts under my tree; two good friends had discovered two very different titles that proved perfect finds, and great inspiration for the coming year.

The first was a writer's journal. The cover is reminiscent of Emma Bridgewater in design, and the interior is full of exercises and prompts to challenge the writer's mind in plotting, description and characterisation. The key of course will be setting aside time to approach these stimulating ideas.

The second was a non-fiction title,  'Think like an engineer' and was not something I would have been drawn to, mainly because I don't think I have ever understood what an engineer does. Having read this book, I confess I'm still not entirely sure - how do people train to be an engineer as they seem to be essential to any situation.

The examples of the achievements of engineers' vision and application to problem-solving in so many different fields was truly inspiring. I was in tears as I read about David Koon. The murder of his daughter led him to introduce the GPS system for tracking mobile phone calls, first identifying its application and then becoming a politician in order to implement it. An astonishing man of insight and persistence who turned a horrific experience for good.

How wonderful that the writer could share such an inspiring and moving story.