There is no way around it: winter is finally here. The city is full of Christmas decorations, each shop shines in gold, red and green. The smell of gingerbread cookies and mulled wine permeates every corner. Sometimes, while rushing from one place to another, we hear a familiar melody, an old Christmas tune, or smell the cinnamon rolls, and we are taken back to our childhood. When we come home, we have only one wish: to drink our tea, curl on a sofa underneath a warm, cosy blanket, and read a book which would remind us of some of that Christmas magic we felt as children. Which book do we pick up?
1.Letters from Father Christmas, J. R. R. Tolkien
The first title that comes into my mind is a well known Christmas classic written by an author we all know and love. Originally intended for Tolkien’s own children, the Letters are a dream come true to every little boy or girl who has ever written a letter to Father Christmas. The adventures of a North Polar Bear who fell through the roof of Father Christmas’ house are hilarious and adorable at the same time and are sure to warm your heart this winter.
2.The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia are one of the most well known classics of children’s literature, loved also by adults. The image of a Faun in the woods, holding an umbrella for a little girl on a snowy day is one of the iconic illustrations in the series. Readers should keep in mind one thing, though: the correct order of reading the books (as specified by the author), is not a chronological one. However, even if you decide to ignore this, each book can be read (and enjoyed) separately.
3. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Alcott tells the story of a family of six: a caring mother, a farher who is far away because of the war, and four sisters, each with her own set of virtues and faults. (Jo, the tomboy, has always been my personal favorite. Which one is yours?) The book reminds me of simpler times and also sends a strong message that honesty and virtue are more important than material possessions, which the sisters learn throughout the novel, each on her own way. In today’s world, when love is often measured in gifts, it is important to remember that there are other ways to show your family and friends you care about them, without expensive presents underneath the Christmas tree.
4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
While this may not be a typical holiday read, it is a story that undoubtedly evokes the magic of Christmas. Miss Peregrine is a caretaker at the orphanage which brings the saying “all children are special” to a whole new level. There is an invisible boy, a girl whose mouth is on the back of her head, and that’s just the beginning. The protagonist, Jacob Portman, is just as astonished by this discovery as the readers, and following his steps allows us to learn about the new dangers that threaten the orphanage. This is a book that teaches us to embrace our differences, even those we see as flaws, because they are what makes us special (a notion which might come in handy during feisty Christmas discussions with your family).
5. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Christmas is a time when we are forced to spend a little more time than usual with our family. Some strong emotions may arise, and Wuthering Heights is all about that: there is romance, betrayal, jealousy and more. So, even if your uncle or aunt (everyone has someone like that in their family) makes a sexist or a racist joke, at least remember that the situation is unlikely to get out of hand like it did with the Earnshaws: when Cathy’s father adopts the orphan Heathcliff and she develops feelings for him which surpass those between siblings, all hell breaks loose. The windy moors also accentuate the drama.
6. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is another novel which raises important questions about social inequalities. It also opens our eyes to the things which matter the most. I have first read it when I was eleven, and Jane Austen has remained one of my favorite authors to this day. If you do not feel like reading, I will let you get away with the movie adaptation this time, but only if you stick to the BBC version: the sight of the elaborate dresses the Bennet girls wear immediately create a celebratory atmosphere.
7.The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
The protagonist of the novel is called Vida Winter, which to me sounds like something straight out of Frozen. However, The Thirteenth Tale is much darker and much more mysterious. This is a book so full of secrets that you cannot trust anyone to tell the truth. Yet, you’re eager to find out. I have read this book in one day, because I simply couldn’t put it down. It is a perfect read for a lazy winter afternoon, but beware: you might jump out of your chair if you hear a strange noise while reading this book.
8. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus is a love story which transcends the limitations of the genre and develops into something much more etheral and mesmerizing. I was in love with this book from the very first sentence, and than it got better. The story is set in Victorian London, and follows two young protagonists, Celia and Marco, the Romeo and Juliet of fantasy world. Reading this story feels like a treat, like watching a personal circus performance. Still, do not think for a second that this is merely a feel-good book: there are deeper and darker things in there which only add to the complexity of Morgenstern’s debut novel.
9. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
When was the last time you have read a book in which Death was the narrator? Thought so. Liesel is a girl who is both brave and timid, confident and sensitive, who “hates and loves” words at the same time. One thing is sure: she is a real bookworm. There is a part of her in each of us, or at least that’s what we like to think. That is the reason why we identify with her so easily, despite the fact that she lives in Germany during World War II. I should warn you, though: this book will break your heart. But you will enjoy every single moment of it.
10. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
A list of winter reads could hardly be complete without Dickens’ Christmas Carol. This Christmas, silence the Scrooge inside of you and embrace the Christmas spirit, even if you don’t feel like it. Because, underneath all the decorations and heavy Christmas meals, there is a message about the importance of being there for one another in times of need, which, no matter how you feel about Christmas trees and hanging with your extended family, is an important takeaway from all Christmas customs.
These are my suggestions of great winter reads, and are definitely the ones I will be picking up these holidays. What are you reading?