Thursday, 10 December 2009

Festive Reading

I've spotted a few different bloggers, and people in my reading groups, talking about the books they intend to read over Christmas - and quite often they're picking specifically seasonal titles. My friend Lyn reads A Christmas Carol every year, for example, and Claire at Paperback Reader has just put up some she intends to read (including Barbara Comyns' A Touch of Mistletoe, which may not have a very Christmassy theme, but certainly has a Christmassy title.) I'm feeling a little odd-one-out, now, since I never do seasonal reading. I read Tove Jansson's The Winter Book on a beach in summer (though admittedly it was windy and perishingly cold); I'm just as likely to read something set in sunny Spain by a fireside in December as I am in June. And I do feel I'm missing out, a bit... but somehow I don't plan my reading that well.

The one exception which springs to mind is Jostein Gaarder's The Christmas Mystery, a lovely book which has a chapter for each day of Advent - I read it in that style a few years ago.

How about you? Do you just read what comes your way, or do you plan books for seasons? Is it every season, or is Christmas special? The books I've set aside to read over the festive weeks (aside from ones for my research) are The Bell by Iris Murdoch, In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill (completely unseasonal, you see), Pastors and Masters by Ivy Compton-Burnett, and The Unspoken Truth by Angelica Garnett. Whether I'll actually get around to reading any of them is another question - others might force their way in, I like to keep my reading spontaneous when I can, since so much (for research and book groups) can't be.

I'd be interested to hear from you - especially if you have an unusual choice for this time of year...


  1. I'm going to read Robert Browning's long 1850 poem Christmas Eve and Easter Day. I'm just assuming that it's festive, and could be quite wrong.

  2. At this time of year, I always treat myself to a comfort read, not necessarily Christmas-related, per se. This year I'm indulging in a re-read of Dorothy Sayers' Murder Must Advertise and Whose Body? The inscriptions indicate that I received them from my parents for Christmas when I was just fifteen, in 1976.

  3. I'm finally reading Little Women. It opens on a christmas scene and has several episodes in winter. It's lovely so far!

  4. I'm going to read "A Christmas carol" by Dickens. It has just been reprinted in French.
    I hope you'll enjoy "The bell" by Murdoch !

  5. No I never do seasonal reading, themed reading, reading in the nude or anything other than just book reading!

    Omnivorous Cat

  6. I like rereading A Christmas Carol at this time of year, even if it's only to dip into it here and there or read bits to my son. It is just the best Christmas book ever.
    Having arranged to do a joint reread/post with Mrs B at The Literary Stew on The Greengage Summer first thing in January, I'm not exactly following a Christmas theme at the moment, but I might treat myself to another Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors, which begins on New Year's Eve and has snow, churches and lots of bells.

  7. I'm planning to reread the Miss Read Christmas book. Otherwise I have a whole stack of non Christmas books which I know will delight me - a couple of Greyladies titles, a Persephone or two, Nightingale Wood, and Dear Mr Bigelow which I'm very excited about.

  8. PS: I LOVE The Christmas Mystery - it is a while since I read that, but I've left it too late for this advent.

  9. I don't tend to theme my reading but I do want to read The Box of Delights this year. I have whole stack of books that I have saved up for my holiday reading - only a week to go and I can't wait!

  10. The Christmas Mystery is a lovely book and one I read for a book group at Christmas a few years ago.

    I don't normally read as seasonally as I intend to this year but I felt inspired -and a little obligated- because it is my first year blogging. Moreover, I am not feeling very festive this year and I thought that the reading would help. It also gives me an excuse to finally read the festively entitled Comyns book!

    The Bell is also on my immediate TBR pile and yet I can never seem to quite reach it...

  11. A Christmas Carol by Dickens is a perennial favourite of mine, though this year I'm planning on reading the other short stories that come with the book.

  12. I collect Christmas picture books with cats as the main characters! So, every Christmas, I get them out, read all of them again, and then decorate my house with them. The book covers are so festive with the reds, greens, blues, silvers. They add such a classic and classy look.

    Titles include Holly by Ruth Brown, The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes illustrated by Tasha Tudor, A Pussycat's Christmas by Margerat Wise Brown illustrated by Anne Mortimer, Santa's Snow Cat by Sue Stainton illustrated by Anne Mortimer, What Cats Want for Christmas.

    Any suggestions of Christmas cats books would be appreciated -- the more the merry.

    Merry Christmas!

  13. Rumer Godden's The Story of Holly and Ivy is a wonderful Christmas book, and I read it every year. It's all about an orphan girl called Ivy who has nowhere to go for Christmas, and is trying to find a family. It is funny and heartwarming.

    Also, the unjustly unknown Life and Legends of Santa Claus, by Julie Lane. It's a dear book about a boy called Nicholas who makes toys for the children in his village; and in each chapter, he sort of grows into being Santa Claus more and more. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous woodcuts, and the story is wonderful.

  14. My reading is definitely seasonal--but not exclusively. Some books just feel more wintry--almost all of Dickens, for example--and I can't bear to read them in the summer (or a summery book in winter).
    Meanwhile, my husband and I decided to start the tradition last year of reading A Christmas Carol every year. I also used to read To Kill a Mockingbird every fall, but I haven't done that in a couple of years.

  15. I meant to mention (in my own post too) the seasonal reads post that Justine Picardie recently wrote:
    Some wonderful ideas there and ones that I had planned to read/reread this year if it hadn't been for the time constraint. Some of the wintry titles -as opposed to strictly Christmassy- I may read in January/February.

  16. Okay this one's a bit of a guy's Christmas selection, but I'm starting The Thin Man by Dashell Hammett, which is the famous noir crime story set at Christmastime.

  17. The Christmas Mystery sounds like one for me - not least because I can only manage a chapter a day at such a busy time of year!
    Traditionally Christmas is a time for telling tales by the fireside - and ghost stories feature large in the seasonal collection - all the more scary in the darkness!
    Look out for The Turn of The Screw BBC1 9.00 pm on December 30th - some of which was filmed in Norton sub Hamdon churchyard earlier this year. (Folk overseas can pick up a copy by Henry James - your hair will stand on end!)
    The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico is making a come-back on Radio 4 - so grab your copy before the shops sell out. I can remember my sister shedding a tear over it when I was too young to read it myself.
    Failing that, Miss Hargreaves celebrates Christmas, I seem to remember!

  18. I will choose a reading theme if I am going away, so when I went to Israel I made sure I tried to take some Israeli authors or ones based where I am going to. Not really though for seasons, though I duid read a supernatural based book around Halloween.

    I see Christmas as the time to read some big old books I have been wanting to a while like Great Expectations and Peyton Place.

  19. "The cat who came for Christmas" by Cleveland Amory would please cat-lovers. An unsentimental middle-aged journalist rescues a starving, hurt cat on Christmas Eve and thus begins a relationship between the writer and the stray cat.

    Happy Christmas

  20. "Lanterns accross the snow" by Susan Hill is a great Christmas read. Short, evocative and my copy has beautiful woodcut illustrations by Katherine Lindsley. I also enjoy digging out "The Christmas Reader", a Penguin Anthology compiled by Godrey Smith. Then there is the magical short story "The Gift of the Magi" by O'Henry, which my father gave me to read many years ago.

  21. I don't like to tackle anything that might need the exercise of grey matter over the holiday period, don't know why, but just do. So the Byatt and the Atwoods will take a back seat and it will be crime, mystery, adventure and romance all the way. One thing I do every year without fail is to read A Christmas Carol and to watch the Muppet Christmas Carol as well!!


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