If you’re buying Christmas gifts for an architect, main contractor, subbie, lawyer or adjudicator, then we’ve got the perfect books for them

If you happen to be chez Bingham for Christmas lunch this year, the odds are that the guv’nor – alias Mrs Bingham – will place a nicely wrapped present on the table: a book. Last year, mine was Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig. Loved it. So what about a book for Christmas? The dispute folk in the family might appreciate some ideas.

First, there’s The JCT05 Standard Building Subcontract, by Peter Barnes. There are surprisingly few books on subcontracts and the related law, yet the modern subcontractor has to be as up to snuff on the rules as he is on the putter-uppering.

There is a super background chapter on getting into contract. Then Barnes takes his reader through the machinery of the standard form. Better still, he tells you what to look for when signing up. Do you know the difference between signing “under hand” and signing as a “deed”? The author’s analysis of time obligations is excellent, as is his section on control of changes. Payment rules are comfortably explained. In short, Barnes is willing to share his 30 years of disputes with you and we could do with more books by him.

Do give The Streetwise Subbie to your subbie Dad. For a start, it has cartoons. Mind you, it is deadly serious in its asides: “Construction is a tricky balance of risk against rewards. If you’re frightened of risk, then you should find another way of earning a living.” The author, Jack Russell, punches home the risks. I kept on saying yes, yes and yes again. I said “hurrah” when he suggests that you “walk away” from a tempting order.

I giggled at “why work for free?” and his descriptions of “little tin gods” and “the alligator problem”. He shoves reality up the nose of the brave new world of partnering.

Speaking of which, there’s Partnering in the Construction Industry by John Bennett and Sarah Peace. It is a joy to hear some people still talk about collaboration, teamwork and well-developed communication links. Four to five years ago, it was a drumbeat … rather like that tin drum you may be tempted to buy as a malicious present for your brother’s youngest child.

The Streetwise Subbie has cartoons. Mind you, it is deadly serious too, and it punches home the risks

The drumbeat of partnering jarred because some folk began to exploit the goodwill inherent in the process. The payer who didn’t want to pay pointed to the value of the partnering relationship. Yet partnering makes such good sense, like taking daily exercise, not smoking and not eating too much Christmas pud. This is one hell of a good book to read, to aspire to, to long to adopt. Like going to Pilates classes more than twice. Stick at it.

Two hands-on experts, Steve Lowsley and Christopher Linnett, have produced a little winner, About Time: Delay Analysis in Construction. If you’ve got an architect in the family, put it in their stocking. Architects are born, not made. They are clever. Different.

But they all end up evaluating extensions of time claims. Some are a bit naff at it. To help out, this book contains practical advice on evaluating delays. It even claims to be jargon free – and it nearly is.

If mum or dad is an adjudicator, pop this one into their stocking too. It’s helpful to have an adjudicator who has a jargon-free understanding of delay claims. Actually, that goes for subcontractors and main contractors too.

It’s hardly surprising that David Chappell has produced a fourth edition of his JCT Minor Works Building Contracts 2005. The first was an instant hit for me and edition four is just as good. Disputeland would not be the same without little builders and little clients falling out. So, if dad is a little builder, put this in his little stocking.

If you have a big boy’s stocking, a really serious present is Richard Wilmot-Smith’s Construction Contracts Law and Practice. The lawyers around the Christmas table will like this one – although not for reading on Christmas Day, of course.