I’m thinking ahead to the Christmas holidays. The agency shuts for that magical period between Christmas and New Year and we can get a proper break that is so needed at the end of a long year. But the best part of Christmas is looking forward to it, and a big part of getting into the Christmas spirit is a good Christmas book!
I’ve tried once to read ‘A Christmas Carol’ – I did not succeed, mostly because I kept picturing Bob Cratchitt as Kermitt the Frog and it somewhat ruined the effect.
But it’s also way too obvious a choice for Christmas reading. If you are looking for something festive but a little bit out of the ordinary, add these ideas to your ‘To Be Read’ list.
A Christmas Murder Mystery
Who better to look to than the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie? I read the most obvious Christmas choice, ‘Hercule Poirot’s Christmas‘, a few years back so this year I will probably go for one that isn’t quite so obviously festive, like ‘And Then There Were None’ or ‘Murder on the Nile’. I just love Agatha Christie books, but it’s been many years since I picked one up. I found that if you read a couple close together it becomes quite easy to spot the murderer simply because you get used to her style, so I’m hoping that our time apart has reinstated my ability to be beguiled by the epic twist.
A read to restore your faith in humanity
I have several times picked up and put down a rather chunky tome by Steven Pinker over the last few months, but perhaps that magical interlude between Christmas and New Year will give me the time I need to sit down and properly appreciate it. ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature‘ hypothesises that basically everything is getting better, despite what we read in the papers. According to Pinker, we’re living in the most peaceful epoch in the history of humanity and have also seen dramatic improvements in equality, education and the preservation of human rights. The world may still be imperfect, but at Christmas it seems the right time to stop and think about how far we have come in recent years.
A return to graphic novels
Last year I read my first ever graphic novel, which was given to me as a present by Mr Shelf. I had always been quite disparaging of what, to me, were just bulkier versions of ‘The Beano’, but I was absolutely proven wrong by Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’. The author charts the story of his father who suffered persecution and internment at a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. I’m planning to write a separate post on that, but suffice to say it has inspired me to try another. This year I’m looking at Persepolis, another graphic novel dealing with a tough subject – life in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.
Just to avoid things getting too saccharine
After reading up on Michael’s excellent blog in which he talks a lot about David Sedaris, I found ‘Santaland Diaries‘, in which Sedaris discusses his time working as a part-time Elf at Macy’s. I’m expecting this to be hilarious – and probably to skewer my holiday spirit just a little bit. In a culture which hugely over-commercialises the festive period, it’s probably no bad thing to be reminded just how silly it can be.
A gothic horror for when you’re snowed in
Shelf Towers may not quite be The Overlook Hotel, but I do still get a little chill down my spine every now and again over Christmas. It could be that romantic tradition of fireside reading and storytelling, or the imagined possibility of getting snowed in with a madman, but for me, Christmas has always had a gothic edge. In my family that has typically meant digging out the old M.R. James compendium (which we will probably still do), but this year I will also be reading ‘Melmouth‘ by Sarah Perry. After meeting and fangirling the author, I am very excited to read her scary book about a ghostly figure who appears at humanity’s worst moments.
What are your Christmas reading plans?