What We Are Reading This Festive Period
Thursday 21st December 2023
As we look forward to the winter holiday, we’ve been chatting in the office about our favourite books this year and what we are looking forward to reading over the festive period!
What will you be reading over the break?
James: I’ll be reading a graphic novel called THE KILLER by Matz and artist Luc Jacamon. It has just been made into a TV series directed by David Fincher, so once I’ve finished reading, I’ll be watching that.
Megan: I am excited to dive in to WELCOME TO THE HYUNAM-DONG BOOKSHOP by Hwang Bo-Reum over the break, as well as finishing SEVEN DAYS IN JUNE by Tia Williams. I was craving cosy and romantic, and those fit the bill!
Laetitia: Rachel passed me her copy of Kate Atkinson’s SHRINES OF GAIETY – this will be sure to engross whatever the background noise. I also have THE YEARS by Annie Ernaux on my holiday pile, and what looks a fascinating investigation of the global shadow economy, CHASING SHADOWS: A TRUE STORY OF DRUGS, WAR AND THE SECRET WORLD OF INTERNATIONAL CRIME.
Donald: I’ve just moved house, so my books are everywhere and nowhere at once, meaning that my reading is likely to be more of a lottery than usual. But I’m hoping to dig into Philippe Sands’ THE LOST COLONY, reread Angela Carter’s WISE CHILDREN, and make further inroads into Misha Glenny’s THE BALKANS.
Ciara: I am planning to read Claire Kilroy’s ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED, I have heard excellent things about her latest novel SOLDIER SAILOR and wanted to begin with her earlier novel about a writing group in 1980s Dublin. I am also excited to read the new Jesmyn Ward novel LET US DESCEND, whose work is always exquisite and masterful. And I’ve also gifted myself ABOUT ED by Robert Gluck, a memorial by Gluck to his partner Ed, and an Era, lost to AIDS.
Annie: Over the Christmas break, I am planning to finish off several books: BOOKSHOPS AND BONEDUST by Travis Baldree, ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear, and TOMORROW, TOMORROW, TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin. Additionally, I am very excited to finally read Rebecca Yarros’ FOURTH WING!
Rachel: Over Christmas break I’ll be reading THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT by Clare Pooley – it’s a title that often comes up as an example of what foreign publishers are looking for, so I want to check it out.
Helena: This Christmas, I’ll be popping my cherry Tartt with THE SECRET HISTORY, as well as finishing KALA by Colin Walsh.
What book would you recommend buying for a loved one?
Megan: I love to gift cookbooks and so the stunning ROAST FIGS, SUGAR SNOW by Diana Henry is top of that list.
Laetitia: THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett is a book I often give, this time to my sister.
Donald: One of two gorgeous, heartbreaking memoirs – DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT by Alexandra Fuller or THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls. (But be warned – only if they can handle being very, very sad.)
Ciara: I want to give Paul Murray’s THE BEE STING to everyone I know and love. I can’t imagine anything better than settling into this during those funny and unusual days between Christmas and New Year. This bittersweet tale, set in a small Irish town, of the decline of the once prosperous Barne’s family is a true delight that will stay with you long after finishing.
Annie: Michiko Aoyama’s WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS IN THE LIBRARY was the coziest and most uplifting book I read this year, and I would love to share that joyous feeling with everyone. The gentle exploration of the self, ikigai, and the value of community is very heartwarming and a great reminder that it is never too late for anything.
Rachel: I’d recommend buying a copy of THE SUITCASE by Chris Naughton, a lovely, timeless picture book about the importance of kindness to strangers in times of need.
Helena: Last year, I brought the same present for all the women in my family which was LESSONS IN CHEMISTY by Bonnie Garmus. They all absolutely loved it, and it was wonderful to hear them discuss it. I think this year, I’ll be doing the same thing with THE PARTY by Elizabeth Day, which was the most gripping book I read this year. A sophisticated thriller that oozes atmosphere – I hope my nan likes it!
What is the best book you’ve read this year?
Megan: There have been so many books I’ve enjoyed reading this year but VERA WONG’S UNSOLICITED ADVICE FOR MURDERERS was so, so much fun. I loved it! Jesse Sutanto is an auto-buy author for me, for sure.
Laetitia: Some of the most memorable books I read this year were DETRANSITION BABY by Torrey Peters, GREAT CIRCLE by Maggie Shipstead and AFTER SAPPHO by Selby Wynn Schwartz.
Donald: In fiction, I have two: Otessa Moshfegh’s LAPVONA, Brigid Brophy’s criminally underrated THE SNOW BALL – for their outstanding prose and imaginative narration. And in non-fiction, I loved (and learned so much from) Lea Ypi’s FREE and Anna Della Subin’s ACCIDENTAL GODS.
Ciara: I would never have believed at the beginning of the year that I would want to answer all three of these questions with a 900-page Western about two aging Texan rangers and their adventures herding cattle from Texas to Montana, and yet here I am, certain it is one of the greatest novels of all time. Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE is funny, and mournful, and grim and dark, and full of tension, adventure and heartbreaking tenderness, I cried and cried and cried upon finishing. It was a totally absorbing and pleasurable reading experience and so has to be my best book of the year.
I also couldn’t not mention KICK THE LATCH by Kathryn Scanlan, all-consuming, spare but full of all kinds of detail, this book is joyful and brutal and finds the extraordinary where you don’t expect it. And surprising myself, I find both my books of the year are heavy on the horses…
Annie: I think my favourite read this year was HALF A SOUL by Olivia Atwater. I felt that the romance and fantasy elements were perfectly balanced, and what made it even better was the social commentary on workhouses and war within the historical setting. Slow-burn is my favourite romance trope, and when combined with Fae lore and well-written character arcs, I’m sold.
Rachel: The best book I read this year was SHRINES OF GAIETY by Kate Atkinson. An absorbing, intricate, whisk-you-away read with something for everyone: murder, romance, illicit nightlife, and a satisfying comeuppance.
Helena: The book that has stayed with me the most this year is THIS IS NOT A PITY MEMOIR by screenwriter Abi Morgan, which is a fiercely moving account of how her life changed forever after her husband woke from a coma and could no longer remember who she was.
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