It’s the most wonderful time of the year … or so they say. I’m going to have to admit that I’m not really a big Christmas-lover. Don’t get me wrong, I like the day itself: spending time with the family, eating all the Roses I can possibly fit in my stomach, you know, Christmas stuff.
But the build up annoys me. The fact that Halloween is barely over before people start celebrating Christmas and you just get sick of it all by the time the 25th December comes around.
So it takes a bit to get me into a good Christmas spirit. And that bit is books. So here’s my recommendations for the best Christmassy books to read before it’s all over again for another year.
‘Hercule Poirot’s Christmas’ by Agatha Christie
Every book list, no matter the theme, should have a Poirot title on it, and my Christmas book list is no different.
In this tale, Poirot finds himself in the middle of a Christmas family reunion. When the head of the Lee household is found dead in a pool of his own blood behind his locked bedroom door, everyone becomes a suspect.
Simeon Lee wasn’t a particularly nice man. In fact, devilish, controlling and malevolent are the perfect words to describe him. He has invited his whole family to his house for Christmas, including a few surprises in the form of his estranged son Harry, who ran off with his money years before, and his granddaughter from Spain who nobody knows exists.
As he expects, the reunion causes a lot of friction, especially when Simeon is heard talking about changing his will. So when a commotion is heard in his bedroom, and he is found dead, Poirot must come to find out which of the house guests is guilty.
Chock full of family, fights and food, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is a story that we can all relate to at this time of year (minus the actual murder, I hope). Plus, Poirot’s jealousy towards a policeman’s moustache will keep you laughing through any comments your great-aunt can make about the fact that you’re still single. You’re welcome.
‘The Snow Child’, by Eowyn Ivey
Okay, so this book isn’t necessarily Christmassy, but it’s still worth a read if you’re not quite in the Winter spirit yet.
The 1920s, and Jack and Mabel are learning how hard an Alaskan winter can be. They’re drifting apart. Jack is consumed by the toil of trying to keep their farm afloat, while Mabel is still distraught at the death of their newborn child ten years before.
On the night of the first snow of the season, in a rare happy moment, the two build a child out of snow and wrap her up in mittens and a scarf. The next morning, the child is gone, and there are footprints from the spot where she was standing leading into the woods. Jack is sure he can see a young blonde girl running through the trees alongside a red fox.
But is this girl the child that Mabel has always longed for, and will she stay with them long enough to find out?
The Snow Child is the kind of book that you should read while wrapped up in a duvet drinking a hot chocolate. It’s a book that makes you feel cosy despite the fact that a lot of it takes place in the woods while it’s snowing. It’s beautifully written and, I hate to tell you, will probably make you cry. But it’s one of the best books you could read this season.
‘A Christmas Carol’, by Charles Dickens
You can’t have a Christmas book list without A Christmas Carol. I will admit though, that until writing this post I had never actually read it. I’m not a massive fan of ‘classic’ books, and I figured that it couldn’t possibly be better than Muppet Christmas Carol, so I didn’t really see the point (please don’t judge me). But once I started it I actually really enjoyed it.
I won’t bother giving much of a plot summary, everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carol: Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, to help him change his miserly ways and become a kinder, more charitable man just in time for Christmas.
The best thing about this book is that it’s apparently part of the reason that we celebrate the giving aspect of Christmas to the extent that we do. It’s been described as the ‘Carol Philosophy’ and it’s basically the spirit of kindness and charity at Christmas. A Christmas Carol is said to have spurred people into this Christmas spirit. It was also a factor in the rise of the widespread use of the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’. The word ‘merry’ was only just being seen to mean ‘happy’ and ‘cheery’ around the time the book was published and the prominence of the phrase in A Christmas Carol made it more common.
So basically Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without A Christmas Carol.
‘Skipping Christmas’, by John Grisham
Okay, let’s get a bit cheerier in this Christmas list. John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas is about as stereotypically Christmas as it gets without slapping you in the face with a turkey.
Luther Krank doesn’t want to do Christmas this year. He doesn’t want to overspend on unwanted gifts or stress over parties anymore.
So since his daughter is in Peru for the holidays, he and his wife Nora decide to skip Christmas altogether and go on a Caribbean cruise instead. They won’t be buying presents, they won’t be having their annual Christmas Eve party, and they certainly won’t be putting up the Frosty the Snowman decoration that everyone on their street puts on their roof every year.
But the neighbours aren’t going to let them skip Christmas without a fight. Luther and Nora are going to have to keep their nerve if they want their plan to work.
We’ve all been there: the crowds while you’re trying to get your shopping done, the lights not working when you’re putting the tree up, the frenzy of trying to fit everyone around the dinner table, the general stress that comes with Christmas. How many of us have dreamed of jetting off to the sun instead of dealing with it (I know my Mam says it every year)?
I rooted for Luther and Nora for the whole book. All I could think was ‘what nosey neighbours, it’s none of their damn business what anyone else does for Christmas’. But, and I hate to say this, the ending is heartwarming and made me so happy. This is the perfect feel-good Christmas story for when you just need a bit of a distraction from the hell of it all.
‘Hogfather’, by Terry Pratchet
Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather completes this Christmas book list and a deserving end it is.
It’s Hogswatchnight on Discworld, but something is amiss. The figure coming through the chimney isn’t as jolly as usual, he’s a little on the bony side, and his ‘Ho Ho Ho’ is a bit eerier than it should be.
Susan Sto Helit just wants to be a normal governess. She doesn’t want to deal with the monsters in the wardrobe, or the bogeymen under the bed. And she certainly doesn’t want to deal with why Death is masquerading as the Hogfather. But if she doesn’t figure out what happened to the real Hogfather will the sun rise tomorrow, or will the world be changed forever?
Hogfather is a book that touches on a lot of different Christmas themes such as the power of belief and the comfort that comes with it and the nature of charity at Christmas. Seeing it all through Death’s eyes shows it all in a less sentimental way than you would normally get with a Christmas story, which I liked (I don’t do well with sentimentality – feelings are not my forte). But this is definitely a book that gets you looking forward to getting a visit from Santa.
So that’s my Christmas book list. I hope there’s something on it to get you in the spirit, or at least to enjoy while you ignore all the Christmas mania going on around you.
Happy Christmas everybody xx