Want to remind yourself of the true meaning of Christmas? Get into the spirit of the season? Or just escape from all of the stresses of the season with a light-hearted festive read? Then delve into one of these novels set at Christmas time.
Ah, Christmas: it’s a time for family and friends, and should be full of kindness and love.
But, in the face of trying to find the perfect present for a loved one, cook the perfect dinner, and just have the most perfect day ever, we can find ourselves becoming a little burnt out and forgetting what the season of joy is really about.
So why not pause and take some time back for yourself? We recommend you grab a hot chocolate, find a quiet spot, put on your cosiest socks, wrap yourself in a blanke, and settle down with one of these 12 Christmassy books, all of which are guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit.
Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull
In Miss Marley we meet one of the characters we only briefly see at the beginning of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Clara Marley and her brother Jacob are homeless orphans. When a chance for prosperity comes their way, the pair find themselves on the path to security and wealth. But while Clara thinks their wealth should make them kinder, Jacob refuses to open his heart. This novella, completed by Mascull after Lafaye’s death, is a reminder of the power of kindness and love.
Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull (HarperCollins, £7.99)
Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
Although not set purely at Christmas, this childhood classic contains one of the best Christmas scenes ever, when Anne’s foster father Matthew - going behind his strict sister Marilla’s back - presents Anne on Christmas Day with a beautiful brown dress with the puffed sleeves she has longed for. It’s a touching moment full of love and excitement, and will make you wish for that dress under your tree this year.
Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery (Penguin, £9.99)
Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou
In Amazing Peace, performed at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House in December 2005, Angelou talks about the peace and promise of Christmas. In a time when Christmas can sometimes seem to be about things rather than people, this is a beautiful reminder that the season of joy is about friendship and love and hope, which can all help to combat hate and disaster. This edition is illustrated with paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.
Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou (Schwartz & Wade, £4.49)
An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe
In this Instagram-obsessed time, we’re all sure to see images of perfect Christmases, but if you want something that captures the reality of Christmas - dry turkey, the risks of regifting, family tensions - then stop scrolling through your phone and pick up An Almost Perfect Christmas instead. It might not provide lots of inspiration, but it will make you realise perfection at Christmas is overrated.
An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe (Viking, £9.99)
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
The title story in this collection tells of a typical Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm before the arrival of Flora Poste (the heroine of Cold Comfort Farm). It’s a ramshackle event, with unsuitable presents and inappropriate clothing. It’s like a parody of the worst sort of Christmas, only it’s real.
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (Vintage Classics, £8.99)
Christmas with the Chrystals & Other Stories by Noel Streatfeild
This collection of Streatfeild’s work includes the short story of the title, in which a group of cheery young cousins at Christmas warm the heart of a haughty grandmother and brighten up her home. The book also includes Christmas extracts from Streatfeild’s classic children’s novels, including a sequel chapter to Ballet Shoes, plus recollections from Streatfeild’s own childhood Christmases.
Christmas with the Chrystals & Other Stories by Noel Streatfeild (Puffin, £6.99)
Winter by Ali Smith
In the second of her seasonal quartet, Smith takes a look at the most uncompromising of seasons, winter, and our post-truth era through four people who converge on a 15-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas. It might not sound very cheery, but Smith’s writing is as warm and witty as always, and transforms what could have been a bleak novel into something masterful.
Winter by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, £8.99)
Christmas with Dickens by Pen Vogler
Having written one of the most famous Christmas stories ever, Charles Dickens and Christmas go hand in hand. Another thing that goes hand in hand with Dickens is food, and in this book Vogler recreates some of the most famous dishes from his books, adapted for modern cooks. There are Christmas classics including roast goose and chestnut mince pies, and a recipe for a hand-raised pork pie (for you, not for an escaped convict who wants to meet you in a graveyard).
Christmas with Dickens by Pen Vogler (CICO Books, £9.99)
My True Love Gave To Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
If the sheer number of Christmas-themed romantic comedies on Netflix are anything to go by, there’s nothing that gets us in the Christmas spirit more than a sweet love story. In this collection, 12 young adult writers, including To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before author Jenny Han and Fangirl writer Rainbow Rowell, whisk us away to Christmases, Hannukahs, New Year’s Eves and Winter Solstices full of love.
My True Love Gave To Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (Pan Macmillan, £7.99)
This Year It Will be Different by Maeve Binchy
Binchy, whose novels demonstrate her talent at getting to the heart of what makes people and relationships tick, looks at the lives of wives, husbands, children, friends and lovers in this Christmas short story collection. There is a wandering husband choosing between his wife and the other woman, step-families grappling with exes and long-married couples facing problems with the in-laws. This is a collection infused with warmth and wit, in true Binchy style.
This Year It Will be Different by Maeve Binchy (Orion, £7.99)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Arden transports us to the wilderness of northern Russia, where the woods are inhabited by frost-demons and stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King are told to children. For the young, wild Vasya, these are more than just stories… This is a fairytale for adults, full of adventure and tension, and evokes the kind of snowy, woodland winters you dreamed of as children.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Ebury, £8.99)
Making Winter by Emma Mitchell
Even if you’re not crafty, you’ll be inspired by the projects in Making Winter, which all include step-by-step instructions and gorgeous photographs. From crocheted mittens to chocolate mug cakes to nature diaries, this book is full of things to do to fend off the dreariness that can sometimes set in during the winter months, and many of them make perfect, thoughtful Christmas presents.
Making Winter by Emma Mitchell (Michael O’Mara Books, £14.99)
All images supplied by publishers.