Books to read at a consumerist Christmas
There are classic and contemporary books. They are nostalgic, mysterious, joyful and romantic, but they all tell stories that happen at Christmas. At 11Onze we have compiled fifteen books for a winter by the fireplace. Do you remember any other books?
The Christmas holidays are always a good time to be reckoned with ourselves and those around us. Maybe that’s why all Christmas stories have something of a life lesson in them. It doesn’t matter whether they take place in a 19th century mansion, an ice castle, a boarding house or a flat in Brooklyn. All these books, in the end, seem to be asking us in our ear: how will you change your life from now on?
- ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) by Charles Dickens. The old miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who enslaves his young worker, will receive a good lesson in life on Christmas Eve from three ghosts: the one from the past takes him back to his childhood, the one from the present brings him closer to his worker’s home and the one from the future transports him to the day of his death. Frightened by the visions, will Scrooge decide to change? After the great success of ‘A Christmas Carol’, Charles Dickens wrote a story every Christmas and it was the great annual event in mid-19th century Britain. All these stories, such as ‘The Bells’, ‘The House Cricket’ or ‘The Cursed Man’, were collected in Catalan by La Magrana, and perhaps they need to be republished.
- ‘The Best Fables’ (1844-45) by Hans Christian Andersen. The great storyteller of all times is a must for Christmas. From Andersen, in this compilation of fables, we find ‘The Match Girl’ and ‘The Snow Queen’. But we cannot fail to mention ‘The Christmas Tree’. Dark, melancholic and pedagogical, all of Andersen’s stories leave a little piece of ice in our hearts.
- ‘Little Women’ (1868) by Louisa May Alcott. Incredible as it may seem, in Catalan today, you can only find an edition adapted for young audiences from Editorial Barcanova, but it is an indisputable Christmas classic, because its versions adapted for the cinema are a must after dinner and because the story begins at Christmas. ‘Little Women’ is one of the most influential and widely read novels in the history of literature and explains the life of the four March sisters during the American Civil War. But it is Jo March’s central character that has become a reference point for the feminist struggle.
- ‘The Selfish Giant’ (1888) by Oscar Wilde. This fairy tale tells the story of children playing in the magnificent garden of a giant, who is always on a journey. But one day, the giant returns from visiting his cousin and, seeing all these children jumping and playing in his garden, he decides to chase them away and build a wall to keep them out. However, as soon as the children stop using the garden for their mischief, it will wither away like winter.
- ‘Christmas pudding’ (1932) by Nancy Mitford. Miss Bobbin, a prestigious foxhunter, is holding a Christmas party at her home. The guest list promises an entertaining feast. Mitford’s first novel, with eccentric characters, love and heartbreak and plenty of sarcasm, was declared the funniest of the year when it was published. This winter it is brought back by Univers.
- ‘Hercule Poirot’s Christmas’ (1938) by Agatha Christie. On Christmas Eve, the spiteful old Simeon Lee is found dead in a pool of blood with his neck cut in two. Near his mansion, detective Hercule Poirot celebrates the Christmas holidays until he is summoned to solve the case. But instead of finding a family devastated by the death of the elderly Lee, he finds a rather disturbing group of people. They all seem to have a motive for the murder, but who is the culprit? In Catalan, this Christie classic is hard to find, but in Spanish it has been republished this year under the title ‘Navidades trágicas’.
- ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ (1952) by Dylan Thomas. This Christmas novella is considered one of Thomas’s best stories and will make all your childhood memories come flooding back. Thomas builds a legend in a small Welsh seaside village full of cats, cards and children who want to play in the snow. Look out for the illustrated edition by Pep Montserrat that won the 2008 Junceda prize, because it is a work of art.
- ‘Three Stories’ (1956) by Truman Capote. Christmas is a commonplace of childhood and Capote, in these three stories, recalls his family celebrations, two Christmases and a Thanksgiving. Little Truman, Buddy, accompanies us in each of these three stories and shares the limelight with Miss Sook, an old maid relative, naive but very wise.
- ‘Letters from Father Christmas’ (1976), by J. R. R. Tolkien. Although Tolkien is best known for his fantasy novels ‘The Hobbit’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Silmarillion’, which are common Christmas presents for young people, ‘Letters from Father Christmas’ collects the handwritten letters his children received each December, in fine, strange handwriting and beautiful, colourful illustration. With a North Pole stamp, all the letters were from Father Christmas, who told them wonderful tales of his winter life. Sometimes an elf would even hide a message in the letters. If you can find it in bookshops, it will certainly make a good gift.
- ‘Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story’ (1991) by Paul Auster. The ‘New York Times’ commissioned Auster to write a Christmas story and, in order not to fall into sentimental plots and cloying characters, he decided to talk about Auggie Wren, a tobacconist from Brooklyn. A story about a thief, a lost wallet, a blind grandmother and a family meal. The story was the seed for the film ‘Smoke’ and is now a contemporary classic.
- ‘Politically Correct Holiday Stories’ (1995) by James Finn Garner. The author takes classic Christmas characters such as Rudolph the reindeer, the miserly Mr. Scrooge, Santa’s elves or the characters from the mythical Nutcracker and reclaims them as dysfunctional, non-human union leaders, vegans and non-sexist pacifists. Garner gives a new social conscience to the old tales to revive the authentic Christmas spirit.
- ‘Tres Nadals’ (2003) by Quim Monzó. This book brings together three stories that are not strictly Christmas tales, but which go beyond the genre and, with a Monzóian gaze, lead us towards an atypical, festive and satirical Christmas.
- ‘The Weight of Snow’ (2018) by Christian Guay-Poliquin. In a wooded region that has been cut off by an electrical blackout, a young man is recovering from a serious traffic accident. His life is left in the care of Matthias, a taciturn man who has agreed to look after him. Held back by a relentless winter, they will have to face the cold and boredom together.
- ‘Winter’ (2020) by Ali Smith. Four people, strangers and family, share a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas, but there doesn’t seem to be room for everyone. An immigrant brings the warmth that the family has been unable to find. After ‘Autumn’, the author closes her tetralogy talking about post-truth, fake news, the refugee crisis and the climate crisis.
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