Our team pick out their top titles for our ultimate guide to Christmas reading. Whether you’re looking for a new thriller to see you through the holidays or beautiful coffee table books to wrap up and give as presents, here is the place to find some literary inspiration.
Alex Peake-Tomkinson recommends:
Anyone who has found themselves glued to their local Next Door thread this year will understand the appeal of domestic noir. The problem with this genre of crime novels set largely in the home is that – in the past – I’ve often found them gripping but slightly unseemly and also, lacking in terms of character or deep insight. The Family Upstairs is the haunting and clever remedy to this. You’ll be hooked.
This was hands down my favourite novel of 2020. I’ve loved Samson’s work since her short story collection Perfect Lives (2010) but this, her second novel, exceeded expectations. It helps of course that it’s set on the boiling hot Greek Island of Hydra in 1960 when Leonard Cohen and his lover Marianne Ihlen lived there, alongside various other artists and love triangles. It’s a flawless novel and the one book I suggest you buy yourself this Christmas for some truly worthwhile escapism.
This is a gorgeously produced collection of food writing featuring everyone from Marina O’Loughlin to Kit de Waal to Raymond Blanc, all cleverly organised by month.
A highly snackable collection of essays from the likes of Joel Golby, Ruby Tandoh and the novelist Daisy Johnson.
We’re of the mind that whilst Christmas should be celebratory, stocking fillers don’t have to be escapist to be appreciated. This essay by Otegha Uwagba, examining white “allyship” was written in response to George Floyd’s murder and feels like essential reading.
Here’s another essay length book to make you think. It’s also very funny indeed and answers the question: what would Carrie Bradshaw’s column have been like if she could actually write?
Daisy Allsup recommends:
I love Maggie O’Farrell’s writing and was captivated by Hamnet earlier this year. Where Snow Angels Go is her first book for children and it features the same emotive prose, making this a book adults will enjoy reading aloud just as much as little ones enjoy listening to it. It began as a bedtime story that Maggie O’Farrell told her own children, here accompanied by beautiful illustrations from Daniela Terrazzini. It’s about snow angels who become guardian angels and it will have you wishing for a white Christmas. A lovely book to give a child aged 5+.
I have struggled a bit with novels during the second lockdown so instead turned to David Sedaris whose snappy writing is a tonic. In his latest collection, The Best of Me he picks out what he deems the best stories and essays of his career.
Florence was the last concert I went to, and as we wait for a return to festivals and live music events I am turning to her scrapbook, Useless Magic: Lyrics, Poetry and Sermons. Inside find the song lyrics that she says are ‘like subconscious warnings or messages to myself, but I often don’t know what I’m trying to say till years later. Or a prediction comes true and I couldn’t do anything to stop it, so it seems like a kind of useless magic.’This edition published on 5 November 2020 contains an extra chapter of sermons and new poetry.
This biography that is both very funny as well as moving – particularly in its praise for NHS nurses. Download the audiobook to hear it read aloud in Claudia Winkleman’s own voice.
Francesca Martin recommends:
Don’t be put off by the size of this book, the fifth in the Cormoran Strike detective novels by J K Rowling, – I found it absolutely gripping. I had already watched the Strike detective tv series of the previously released books but found that there was so much more depth and detail to be found on the page. If you want to completely disappear into a book this Christmas – I had to tear myself away to go and cook meals for my family – this is the one for you.
I’m giving this book to lots of friends and family this Christmas as it’s the perfect combination of escapism and history. Lytle, c0-founder of Soane Britain, explores the fascinating story of Rattan (yes really!), including the wicker baby cot that made it’s way to the US via The Mayflower and then follows up with present day examples such as the Soane chair found in Beata Heumann’s lovely London flat. Lytle herself rescued one of the last remaining wicker workshops in Britain that was destined for closure and has single handedly helped in the revival of wicker, so she really knows her stuff.
Ok yes, this is a second coffee table book (which tells you all you need to know about my 2020) but the pictures of fabric collector and interior designer Farman-Farma’s three houses are mesmerising. Drawing on the history of material culture spanning Persia, Central Asia and Russia, Farman-Farma’s design and fabrics (some newly made but many very old) are beautifully presented in her homes and she gives a brief history on their fascinating folklore, as well as close up details.
Annie Reid recommends:
I was utterly gripped by this – how anyone could have deceived so many people for so LONG is a feat of sheer brilliance. Wonderfully written by Ben McIntyre.
This blew me away in her frank talking – in turns funny and sad. I learnt so much. Not least putting a sanitary pad in the armpits of your silk shirt to stop sweating. It works!
Dolly writes like Nora Ephron. I laughed and cried in this wonderful debut novel that follows Nora through early-thirties life. The only downfall is racing through it too fast – I can’t wait for more.