Updated: Dec 4, 2022
Recommendations for a cosy holiday season.
The Twelve Books of Christmas
The other day I put the fear of God into my wife by showing her a ‘book advent calendar’ social post. Getting three books for me is a challenge so it says a lot for her that she didn’t have a nervous breakdown at the thought of getting me twenty-four. If you have someone in your life like me, who loves books and Christmas but is tough to buy for because they read so much, I hope this helps!
New Christmas Stories
1 - Season of Love by Helena Greer
I love a Rent reference, so top marks for the title. This LGBT+ story stars a sexy, fat butch who is completely comfortable in her skin (lovely depiction of her on the cover too), and a sensitive, arty Jewish heroine who’s always covered in glitter. Dealing with themes of sobriety, parental abuse, anxiety and grief, it isn’t always a comfortable read. But there’s still lots of gingerbread, fried food and hot cocoa, snowball fights and general wholesomeness, a Maine Coon cat and a few more Rent references for good measure.
2 - The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer
Rachel loves Christmas, so much so that she’s written several bestselling seasonal romances, some of which have been adapted into movies. She’s obsessed with Santa and has a secret festive den in her apartment. Rachel is also a rabbi’s daughter with chronic fatigue syndrome who needs to control every aspect of her life in order to function. When Jacob Greenberg, her summer-camp first love, comes back into her life and the two work together on the most high-end Jewish holiday event in history, you don’t need Santa to predict what’s about to happen…
Classic Christmas Stories
3 - Basically any Adrian Mole: Why not revisit everyone’s favourite misunderstood Midlands intellectual? Whether it's the moody teenager reflecting, 'Is it any wonder that Christmas Eve has lost its awe?' or the unhappily married man watching another fight over the Mole Christmas Gravy, Sue Townsend's genius shines through as brightly as ever. There’s also his sort-of namesake, Molesworth, on Christmas: ‘Personaly I do not care a d whether Marley was dead or not…so 9000000000 boos to bob cratchit.’
4 - A Christmas Memory: Truman Capote's longish story focuses on lonely seven-year-old Buddy and his friend, a simple, childlike adult cousin who retains her wonder in the world as the two make fruitcakes and decorate their home, surrounded older relatives who don't understand the magic of the bond between adult and child. The final image never fails to move me.
5 - The Gift of the Magi: The classic story by O. Henry, of a young couple so in love they are willing to make great sacrifices to buy each other gifts, is often imitated and parodied but never bettered.
Dreamy Books by Jenny Colgan
If you’re after a cosy Christmas read, Jenny Colgan is the writer for you. I've read all her books, since I got a free copy of 'Amanda's Wedding' with a fashion mag – those were the days! And here are my favourites:
6 - The Christmas Surprise: A beautiful story about chosen family and community. Stephen and Rosie work towards finding a home for them and their special surprise Apostil, helped and sometimes hindered by their eccentric community in Lipton.
7 - Christmas at the Island Hotel: One to devour like a Yule log. The heroine Flora finds her feet as manager of the Island hotel with other highlights including the making of a giant electric angel and the arrival of a sweary, bisexual, tattooed French chef.
8 - Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe: The sequel to my favourite book of Jenny Colgan's finds the women of the Stoke Newington cafe torn between London and New York, past and future. A good one to revisit, without counting calories - as the author says, this is a time of joy.
9- The Christmas Bookshop: Set in the gorgeous Victorian streets of Edinburgh, I so wish I could visit that bookshop and loved the two sisters, particularly the older one, Sofia (I have similar levels of perfectionism, interior design obsession, dark blue walls and name. My new house isn’t as magical as hers though - yet. Give me another year)!
And finally, a few surprises...
10- Masters in this Hall: A surprise Christmas novella from KJ Charles, brilliantly talented writer of ‘cravats and smut,’ landing on Monday 5th December. All I want for Christmas is things like this!
Two lovely writers who I went to college with, Kate and Charlotte, had these final recommendations:
11 - Lanterns Across the Snow: Kate says, ‘My favourite is called 'Lanterns Across the Snow' by Susan Hill it is from the perspective of a vicar's daughter in early 20thc rural England it is almost too sweet but balanced out by a lot of death I LOVE IT’ - sounds good to me!
12 - The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton: Charlotte says, ‘Just a heartwarming early-seventeenth-century good fun.’
Hope you enjoy these recommendations and feel free to let me know your own - I’m on Twitter at @sophiablackwell.