Credit Andreea Radu

Winter: the most wonderful time to read

By Georgia McHaffie

Georgia McHaffie recommends books to get you in the festive spirit.

I firmly believe that Christmas is the best holiday for a book lover. Our natural habitat, snuggled under a cosy blanket next to a (in my case, imagined) fire, is much more socially acceptable when you can finally feel the frost outside. So, to start feeling the festive spirit, here are some book recommendations for the run-up to the holidays!

I find when the nights start to get longer, I’m drawn back to the classics, and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a true staple of the season. It is a story as intrinsic to the holiday as reindeer, mince pies, and a decorated tree. Scrooge and his lessons in kindness, from a series of equally entertaining and terrifying ghosts, represent the true meaning of the holiday. (This one is also a good choice if you are looking for a quick read, as it is a novella, under 100 pages).

If you are looking for a reading goal this Winter, I like to pick up a collection and set myself the challenge of one story a day up until Christmas morning. This year, the Penguin Book of Christmas Stories has some magical tales from all around the world. Featuring authors such as Angela Carter and Hans Christian Andersen, the collection’s fairy tale snowscapes will put you in the perfect festive mood.

My favourite thing about Christmas when I was younger was finally bringing all the baubles out of the loft. My prized ornament was a little pink ballerina who always got pride of place. It’s no surprise then, that my favourite Christmas time story is The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Marie’s adventure with her nutcracker going into battle against the mouse king has so much Christmas nostalgia. There are also some beautifully illustrated editions out, such as Sanna Annukka’s clothbound version, which I definitely need to add to my Christmas list.

Now, for some less traditional picks. I am a fantasy reader at heart, so a series I love to reread this time of year is Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy. This series is a beautiful retelling of Russian folklore, set against a backdrop of winter snow. There is also a brilliant examination of the importance of familial bonds, which I think we always consider a little bit more this time of year, and of a very human battle with tradition. With some magical frost demons mixed in, it is a brilliant series to keep you entertained all Winter.

My next recommendation might seem an odd choice, but I am currently reading the sequel to The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, and the first book’s dark academia aesthetic really resonates with me this time of year. For some reason, the visual of ink stained researchers, isolated in the grand townhouse of a secret society, makes me think of the traditional Christmas murder-mystery. There is definitely an energy about this series that fits the festive period.

Furthermore, the art style and fantastical stories of studio Ghibli films always put me in a cosy, comforted mood, perfect for this time of year. So, a book I’ve been meaning to read is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. The fairy tale nature of Sophie’s curse is reminiscent of traditional Christmas stories, so I imagine the book would perfectly capture the festive mood! It is also a great excuse to have family or friends round to watch the movie this year.

So, it might not be snowing just yet, and we still have a few more days to go before we’re free of assessments for this semester. However, you can hopefully get into the Christmas spirit a little by picking up a good book this season!


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