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Feeling festive? Try these winter book suggestions

Our Library staff write about their favourite books to read around winter-time. Well, we are a Library after all and rather fond of a good novel…

Christmas is fast approaching and by now we’re all beginning to feel rather festive. So what’s better than making yourself a large cup of hot chocolate, settling yourself in an armchair near an open fire (or failing that, the nearest active radiator) and cracking open a good book? Here are our festive favourites…

R. James’Collected Ghost Stories– selected by Kate Williams

I’m not sure why Christmas should be the traditional time to enjoy a good ghost story – perhaps stories were just more believable when read by the flickering light from a guttering candle, and after one too many sherries…? There is something lovely though about sitting on the sofa in the late afternoon, when it is getting dark outside, and scaring yourself silly with some M.R. James. He is the master of the ghost story and his rather academic and literary style (he was a medieval scholar and the provost of King’s College, Cambridge) just makes his chilling tales seem all  the more believable. I envy anybody who hasn’t read stories such as “O, whistle and I’ll come to you, my lad”, and “Casting the runes” (set in Warwickshire, by the way). One of his tales, the Tractate Middoth, is even set in a Library. You are in for a treat. Just make sure there is someone else around, in case you get nervous after dark.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs – selected by Nuala Clarke

It’s a classic. You may be familiar with the film or at the least failed to reach the lofty notes of ‘Walking in the Air’ when it begins to play on the radio, but for me The Snowman will always be the well-loved (and worn) book that resurfaces every Christmas. The beauty of this book is in the illustrations, as it should be, being a picture book with no words! The book tells a story of a boy, whose snowman comes to life. The two interact as the snowman explores the boy’s house, they share a candlelit meal and take a flight over the rolling landscapes. But can this friendship really last? We all know what happens to snowmen…  Pop up to the Schools Collection on Floor 4 to take a look. It’ll make a lovely study break!

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – selected by Liz Kennedy 

My festive pick is ‘The Jolly Christmas Postman’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. If you haven’t read ‘The Jolly Postman’, the first in the series, don’t worry, you can just dive straight in (although then please go and read ‘The Jolly Postman’). The book follows the postman on his round as he delivers Christmas greetings to beloved fairytale and nursery rhyme characters, before he ends up at the home of a very special man with a beard (clue: it’s not Noel Edmonds). Not only do we follow him, but we actually get to see just what he’s delivering, through ‘envelope’ pages throughout the book. It’s jam packed with award winning illustrations and clever references to all your favourite characters from childhood. If you are a child, know a child, or once were a child, get this on your Christmas reading list.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – selected by Barbara Ottmann

One St Stephen’s Day afternoon more years ago than I care to count I spent lazily watching the 1940s film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (it seems to reuse Gone with the Wind’s American Civil War costumes and settings, so I am not sure if I’d recommend it beyond lively Greer Garson and super-haughty Sir Laurence Olivier). It started my general love for Jane Austen’s famous novel and my particular affection for it around Christmas time: taking a break from essays and exams, I would cozy up by a window, wait for the snow to fall outside and imagine myself to be Miss Elizabeth Bennett as she reads and rereads her sister Jane’s letters from town. This year however I want to change up my holiday reading and dip into the many rewrites and reimaginings—just which one should I choose? One that tells the story from another character’s perspective, adds a choice of crime or Zombies to the mix or sets the story in Cool Britannia or, only this year, modern-day America…

Terry Pratchett’s The Hogfather – selected by Chris Vernon

It was perhaps inevitable that Terry Prattchett would put his particular Discworld spin on Christmas, and the “The Hogfather” doesn’t disappoint. This is a Christmas story with a darker edge, as Pratchett says of the Hogfather “it’s true what they say ‘You’d better watch out…’”. Pratchett weaves this older, midwinter myth with hilarious send-ups of something akin to our modern Christmas, along with memorable characters, a genuinely scary villain, a surprisingly heart-warming ending, and all the usual Pratchett absurdity. Oh and it has a personified Death disguising himself as the spirit of midwinter festivities in order to make sure that the children have a good Hogswatch, really, what more could you want?


Do you have a favourite winter-read? We’d love to know – tweet us!

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Image:  CC0 Public Domain

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