AAh, a crackling fire, eggnog, sparkling lights and Shane MacGowan trying to convince Kirsty MacColl that her dreams are safe. Yes, it’s my favourite time of the year; a hearty Merry Christmas to you all from me: Burning Chair’s Simon!
So, as we all limber up for two weeks away from the rat race and more time with family and friends than is healthy, I’ve already started thinking about what books we should all be asking for in our stockings from Santa Claus, or even just taking down from a dusty shelf and dipping into over the Christmas period. The late nights and lie-ins are a great opportunity to get through a nice big juicy pile of genre fiction at a rate rarely seen at any other time of year.
So, what are you going to go for? A quick look online shows that most of you will buy, or be bought Michelle Obama’s sensational autobiography, which is nice. But, looking specifically at fiction, it looks like either The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah or Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty are going to grab the most popular crown. I’m humble enough (really? – Pete) to say that I’ve not read any of Kristin Hannah’s 20 or so books (I feel a New Year’s resolution coming on), but I have read Nine Perfect Strangers, and it is every bit as good as Big Little Lies, which I adored (my top tip: stick with it, it’s a slow burn!).
That said, neither of these titles are particularly Christmassy. Although they are better than the most gifted book last Christmas, which was The Instant Pot® Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook! With huge apologies to its author Laurel Randolph, I do have to ask what kind of relationship one would have with someone that leads to buying them an Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Christmas???
Any-hoo, as you’d probably guess from me, and all the rest of the team at Burning Chair, I like our Christmas reading material a little more traditional. So with apologies for its Anglo-centric nature, here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for….it’s my top five books for reading at Christmas:
5. The Box of Delights by John Masefield.
Such an amazingly beautiful book, I do have to come clean and declare that I actually got to know it from the BBC TV series when I was at school (yes, Pete, the printing press HAD been invented!), but nevertheless it is just fab. Amazingly, it is over 80 years old but has all those special ingredients that make a true Christmas story.
4. The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson
The only recent novel on my list, I read this last Christmas and loved it. Sure, it’s meant to be for kids, but then so was Harry Potter and similarly this has a depth that rivals most ‘grown-up’ fiction. Centred on a boy who is left alone it deals with everything from mental illness to treasure hunting. Beautiful writing.
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Ten points if you know what the CS stood for without Googling it? Ha, thought so. Anyway, TLTWATW is an absolute pillar of Christmas reading. Sure, it’s a bit heavy on the metaphors and the rest of the series is a bit variable, but c’mon, Mr Tumnus? The White Witch? Aslan? Turkish Delight? If you’re not desperate to pick up a copy after just reading that, then I’m sorry, you should check your pulse as you’re probably dead (sorry, too far???).
2. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
Just to show that kids don’t have all the fun at Christmas, let’s be honest there’s nothing better than a cozy murder to get your teeth into. This is in no way the best Poirot story (cough – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) and possibly not even the best Christmas murder mystery, but it’s still got the world’s second-best detective waxing both moustache and words in a beautiful Christmas setting.
“It is the brain, the little grey cells on which one must rely” – Hercule Poirot
1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
You know, at Burning Chair we try and be different. We try to separate ourselves from the crowd (in a good way), but there are times when humanity just gets it right. And even though there are countless articles out there that name A Christmas Carol as the best Christmas story of all time, I have to absolutely and completely agree. Dickens was a genius, not a great human being all of the time, but a genius, and this is him absolutely nailing it. Morality, redemption, free will, humanity all wrapped him in a shiny red bow. God bless you, Dickens. God bless us all.
So there it is, my list. Agree? Disagree? Post a comment or send us an email and tell me where I got it wrong.
And have a very Merry Christmas.
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