Christmas vacation can be a funny a time of year. I’ve found that after a full-on intensive term, I’m not quite sure what do with myself when I suddenly have four empty (or at least emptier) weeks to fill. Likely, there are some deadlines to be aware of, and a voice at the back of the head saying, “You can get ahead with the reading for next term”. But, I also know just how important it is to enjoy some quality chill time too…
Of course, I’m usually tempted by the latest box set series everyone’s talking about or catching up with all the people I’ve said I’ll get a drink in with before Christmas. However, after about a week of this, I’ve had my fill. I’m definitely over the endless sound of repeating Christmas songs that are just everywhere, and the awful “made for TV” Christmas films.
When I get to the point that I’m feeling like I need a break from… I’m going to call it the “C word”, I usually turn to the gifts I’ve been lucky to receive and there’s almost always a book or two in there, as that’s always going to hit the spot for me.
I can escape into a book and leave all the rest behind me. Bliss. Then I think, wow, why didn’t I do this two weeks ago? Sometimes, I find it difficult to remember to read for pleasure, instead of just because I have to for class. Perhaps this is exacerbated for Literature students, seems silly, because one of the reasons I do an MA in Writing is because I love to read.
So, this is a reminder of some fantastic books to enjoy over the Festive period, to help wind down, pace the partying, or escape from the never-ending “C word” spirit.
Let it snow
For those times when I want to feel the magic of Winter, but not necessarily “C word”, I find that books with lots of snow in them help. These are books where I can settle in front of my imaginary log fire, with a very real hot chocolate, and lose myself for hours at a time. For some reason, this has always taken me to the supernatural, or the murderous…
- ‘Dark Matter – A Ghost Story’ by Michelle Paver. A haunting tale of a Winter Arctic expedition and what happens when all there is to see is snow and darkness.
- ‘The Snowman’ by Jo Nesbo: the seventh of Nesbo’s hugely popular Harry Hole Norwegian Detective series.
A time for more than “C Word”
Despite what advertising would have me believe, December is a time to celebrate many other traditions such as Hanukkah and Winter Solstice. Here are some ideas to embrace those other special holidays.
- ‘How to Spell Chanuka and other holiday dilemmas’ edited by Emily Franklin. Eighteen essays telling heartfelt and funny tales of reminiscence about this holiday.
- ‘The Return of the Light’ by Carolyn McVickar Edwards: a collection of twelve tales from around the world for the Winter Solstice.
When I want to revel in an anti-C Word mood, I like humour as an antidote. Reading about the comic pursuits of characters enjoying the holidays even less than me really helps.
- ‘Skipping Christmas’ by John Grisham: not the usual legal thriller Grisham is known for, instead, a comedic turn as the Krank family decide to not do Christmas.
“C Word” Classics
I’m not completely “bah humbug”. I always find room for a little “C Word” spirit. This is a good time of year to return to those old favourites, those comforting, familiar reads.
- ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens: the classic sentimental tale of redemption from miserly misery to happiness, “God bless us, everyone”.
- ‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs: definitely not the same as Jo Nesbo’s crime thriller. A beautiful story of a boy befriending his snowman and the ensuing Christmas mischief they get up to. (Particularly good to read with family members of the small variety).
The university Library has an excellent selection of literary and genre fiction (the “C Word Classics I mentioned above are both in there), so reading need not be an expensive habit. There are always local libraries, if like me, you find yourself away from campus.
Reading Well, a Reading Agency project, has two reading lists specifically aimed at improving the wellbeing of readers, which might come in handy if the vacation period feels overwhelming. These include a range of fiction and non-fiction titles, all of which I highly recommend, and all of which should be stocked at local libraries.
Here’s to a fun-filled festive period, and the gift of time to read for pleasure. Enjoy!