'Tis the Season: A Christmas Reading List

The Christmas period is the perfect time to tackle your (ever-growing) reading list. The nights are longer, the days colder, and what better way to spend it than curled up with a good book, blanket and a hot drink? Like most bookworms, most of the world’s literary creations are on my "to be read" list. I’m constantly buying books before I finish my current one and I don’t think I’ll feel like I’ve read enough. 

However, these are seven literary works which are on my Christmas reading list—in between all the mince-pie eating and hot-chocolate making, of course. 

The Diaries of Anais Nin—Since taking a module on the Americans in Paris post-WWI, I’ve became fascinated with Anais Nin. She led a thrilling, seductive, scandalous life with an array of lovers and seemingly had everyone falling at her feet. She’s commonly overshadowed by one of her famous counter-parts Henry Miller, yet she herself is a literary force to be reckoned with. Her massive seven volume diaries detail all the fascinating things she got up to during that time; the secret hook-ups, the fights, the endless parties. Oh, to have lived during that era!

The Secret Life of Cows (Rosamund Young, Faber & Faber)—as a sufferer of anxiety this one immediately caught my eye. Though its title is not the most exciting, over the summer I read a similar book about the background and complex origins of lemons. Yes, lemons. And it was the most soothing book I’ve ever read. Critics have already said The Secret Life of Cows should be prescribed to anyone with anxiety—or just looking to destress over the festive period—so I can’t wait to get stuck into this one. How much do we really know about cows after all?

How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump (Laura Briggs, University of California Press)—The reproduction debate in the United States is something that has fascinated me since taking a Gender in American Culture class at University. With the election of President Trump, things seem to be boiling to the surface once again. I was so unaware of the court-cases, prison sentences and difficulties women faced for wanting to control their own bodies regarding childbearing. And still it continues. I think this will be a fascinating read, even if it will make me angry.

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: and other prose writings (Sylvia Plath, Faber & Faber)—I read The Bell Jar at a time when I was feeling very low and out of place. It was a story I identified with strongly but I sadly haven’t touched any Sylvia Plath again. I find her whole tragic story so interesting and really want to delve into her work again. I picked Johnny Panic as I’m not a huge poetry lover (although I really should be, I know) so thought I would start out with this lesser known short-story collection which was published after her death. 

Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders, Bloomsbury) —"the Man Booker prize winner of course" I can hear you thinking. But again, it’s more the author which led me to add this to my list. George Saunders was in conversation at a literary festival at my university earlier this year, which I luckily got a ticket to. He spoke frankly about his writing—the joys, the struggles, the late start to it all he had—and then performed (with actors and everything) a section of Lincoln in the Bardo, which had then only just been published and was yet to gain the fame it now has. It was extraordinary. I’ve read his short story collections before and thoroughly enjoyed his satirical wit, but I can’t wait to enjoy the different route he’s now taken with this huge novel.

Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood, Bloomsbury)—another lengthy book. And another one that’s been in the spotlight recently, thanks to a superb Netflix adaptation. I started the series with trepidation, having really not enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale television series. Yet I was not disappointed—Netflix really did outdo themselves. I vaguely knew the story background having meant to read it last summer but never getting round to it, and the success of the recent series has only placed it back on my "to be read" list once again.

Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven (Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman, Quirk Books)—finally, something a little different and perhaps a bit more light-hearted. Advertised as tongue in cheek and full of pop culture references, I thought this one would be an interesting yet enjoyable read. I loved the cover (as much as were told not to judge) and I’m always looking to expand the type of thing I’m reading—it doesn’t all have to be so serious after all! Plus with a title like that, don’t tell me you’re not immediately enticed?