If anyone is looking for a festive themed read to pick up over the holidays, here are a few recommendations to hopefully point you in the right direction. As always, I encourage you to share your own recommendations in return!
Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
This is a series of extracts from the real-life diaries that Kay kept during his time as a junior doctor, taken specifically from the seven festive seasons he spent working on hospital wards. I found it more focussed and affecting than his similar (though not Christmas centred) offering, This is Going to Hurt, and I thought his signature sarcastic humour felt less forced this time around, adding some much needed light to balance out the darkness. Indeed, it’s the kind of book that is just as likely to make you laugh as it is to make you cry. If there was ever a year when we all need to remember the hardships endured by selfless NHS staff, particularly throughout the holidays, it’s this one.
The Christmas Truce by Carol Ann Duffy
For much of her run as the UK’s poet laureate, Duffy released an annual Christmas poem to mark the festive season. Each one was released as a compact little hardback, with accompanying illustrations by a different artist. This particular offering is inspired by the real-life events of Christmas Day, 1914, when opposing sides of the First World War downed their weapons and met on No Man’s Land to play football, exchange gifts, and sing songs. Its messages of coming together to overcome adversity, and finding light amidst the darkest of times resonate particularly strongly this year.
Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye
Told from the perspective of Jacob Marley’s sister, Clara, this serves as a prequel to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, exploring the events that led to her brother’s tragic demise. The best kind of tie-in novel, Miss Marley successfully toes the line between reverence for the original, and the crafting of a story that feels new and worthwhile. Dickens’ existing characters are handled well, while the new ones are inserted seamlessly without contradicting any of the established lore. It manages to build on the core themes of A Christmas Carol, and is a suitably poignant read about class, loyalty, and fate versus freewill.
A Literary Christmas by The British Library
Bringing together short stories, poems, and novel extracts all centred around Christmas, this is an ideal means of trying various authors’ styles and seeing which ones you gel with. It’s mainly classic works but there are a few contemporary writers featured as well. The highlight for me was Christmas at Sea by Robert Louis Stevenson, a poem about a man aboard a fishing vessel whose thoughts turn to home during a storm on Christmas morning. Other highlights included: A Christmas Carol by Christina Rossetti; A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore; and extracts from Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Charming, well structured, and beautifully presented, it’s great to dip in and out of throughout the holiday.
There we have it! I know Christmas will likely look different for most of us this year, but I hope you all have a safe, lovely time nonetheless. What festive reads would you recommend?