Classic reads for the Christmas season
If you’re looking for books that make timeless gifts, here are 10 classics that will continue to spread joy long after Christmas morning.
A gorgeous new edition of an iconic festive novel from Vintage Classics. Arguably Dickens’ most famous tale, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge learning the true meaning of Christmas as he receives a series of ghostly visitations on Christmas Eve has endured for many reasons. Its particular blend of wit, sincere emotion and Christmas spirit is hard to resist, especially in this new edition - complete with gorgeous flapped cover.
Widely considered to be among the first mystery novels, this 1859 story follows Walter Hartright, who gets a job as a drawing teacher to a beautiful young woman and is quickly pulled into far more sinister goings on. Using multiple narrators and drawing on Collins’ legal background to create an electrifying story of suspense, jealousy and murder, it was an instant success when it was originally published in forty weekly installments. These days you can own it in a beautiful one-volume edition, as it’s one of our fifty beautiful Clothbound Classics.
E.T.A. Hoffmann, illustrated by Sanna Annukka
The classic Christmas fairytale is now almost more famous as a ballet, but the original story is just as enchanting. Rediscover Marie’s adventures as her nutcracker doll transports her to a magical world of sugar plum fairies and chocolate kings in this gorgeous new clothbound edition illustrated by Finnish artist Sanna Annukka, who created the artwork for Keane’s album, Under the Iron Sea.
What could make a more festive read than a collection of nine Maigret short stories, all set in Paris at Christmastime? If the recipient is new to Maigret, this is a wonderful introduction to Simenon’s writing, but it also makes a lovely festive gift for long-term fans. The mysteries are mainly focused on yuletide goings-on around Maigret’s own neighbourhood - these include a little girl who insists she’s met Father Christmas, and a boy who leaves an ingenious trail for Maigret to follow in pursuit of a criminal.
From the author of Cider With Rosie comes this lovely and lyrical portrait of England through the months and years. As with much of Lee’s writing, these essays focus on his childhood home in the Cotswolds, exploring the traditions, landscapes and stories of his home, including his memories of Churchill’s icy January funeral, and of carol-singing in the snow. Warm and moving, this book makes the perfect fireside read.
A must-read for fans of Gibbons’ beloved 1932 novel, this is a collection of 16 short stories, including the title tal. Heralding the return of the Starkadders and other familiar faces, and marked by Gibbons’ characteristic wit and gentle satire, this collection includes a new introduction by Alexander McCall Smith, and is packed full of period details, warmth and the magic of Christmas.
James created most of his ghost stories to amuse his friends one Christmas Eve, and ended up transforming the entire genre. In this collection, selected and introduced by crime queen Ruth Rendell, James shows his mastery of the format, imbuing ordinary things with terror through the merest suggestion of something sinister. This is one for those who enjoying embracing the scarier side of the season, to be read with a glass of eggnog firmly in hand, or read aloud to friends in the flickering firelight.
Philip Pullman turns his pen to retellings of his his fifty favourite fairy tales from the stories of the Brothers Grimm. With something for all ages and tastes, Pullman’s collection covers everything from old favourites such as Rapunzel and Cinderella to some lesser-known curiosities. Familiar and timeless, yet modern and magical, Pullman also includes details of on each story’s background and history, and an introduction examining why these stories have captured our imaginations for so many generations.
Tesdell has gathered a broad and full set of festive tales together in this classic collection of stories from some of the most beloved names in literature. Included are an early Dickens story about goblins in a graveyard, a festive Ukrainian fable, a melancholy but witty Christmas tale by Truman Capote, and a story about a father’s grief by Vladimir Nabokov. With every aspect of Christmas covered, this collection is sure to be a crowdpleaser.
A beautiful book that won’t even need gift wrapping, this curious illustrated read by prize-winning author Jeannette Winterson takes the reader through 12 festive stories and provides 12 festive recipes to match them. One for true lovers of Christmas, this collection is packed with love and mistletoe, frost and magic, holly and roaring fires. Perfect for curling up with while snow falls outside, or for reading aloud with some mulled wine in hand.