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Matt Haig Recommends His Top 10 Christmas Reads

Posted on 21st November 2017 by Martha Greengrass

There can be few authors who so successfully capture the magic of Christmas as Matt Haig. Having gifted readers A Boy Called Christmas and The Girl Who Saved Christmas, this year he completes the trilogy with Father Christmas and Me. So, who better to choose the best books to make you feel festive? We sent Matt on a special Waterstones mission to the North Pole to collect a sackful of his top 10 favourite Christmas reads; here’s what he brought back with him.

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Hardly needs any introduction. The book is almost synonymous with Christmas. The thing about it, and the reason it remains such a classic is that it's a transformation story - with Christmas - via the spirits - being the trigger for that. So many Christmas stories since have followed that model. Dickens wrote it when he was only 30 and the energy of the book can be felt from the first page.

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Since it was first published in 1843 A Christmas Carol has had an enduring influence on the way we think about the traditions of Christmas. Adapted into countless film and stage versions since it was first published, A Christmas Carol is the quintessential Christmas story, a timeless tale of generosity, forgiveness and friendship.
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2. The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris

So hilarious. This is a collection of personal essays about Christmas. The author's memory of working as an elf during the festive season at Macy’s department store is excruciatingly awkward and funny. 

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A collection of personal essays - surprising, disarming, heart-breakingly funny - from the No. 1 bestselling writer Time named as America's Favourite Humourist.
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3. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

Such a poignant book. It's not a sad book in itself but all the happy memories of a sentimentally happy childhood juxtaposes with Thomas’s troubles and alcoholism in later life. Christmas becomes in the poet's mind a place of fenced-off innocence he can only return to via writing. 

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The timeless classic story of Dylan Thomas's childhood Christmas memories. Beautifully illustrated by Peter Bailey, this classic edition is beloved by fans of Thomas's work and a perfect Christmas gift for young readers building their own childhood Christmas memories.
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4. Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr 

Mog’s misadventures with a poor Christmas tree is a great story for younger readers and my kids, Lucas and Pearl, used to love it being read to them. Mog is a very believable and characterful feline and kids respond to that. It will always remind me of those early Christmases with my children. Kerr's illustrations, as ever, are perfect. 

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The classic Christmas story of everyone's favourite family cat, Mog, complete with a stunning foiled cover for extra Christmas sparkle! It's Christmas, and Mog's house is full of strange noises and peculiar smells. Everyone is busy hanging holly and blowing up balloons, and where is that tree going...?
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5. Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs 

This was probably the book that most influenced my own Father Christmas books. Briggs' Father Christmas is grumpier than mine, but the idea of having a behind-the-scenes look at Father Christmas in domestic settings was definitely something that inspired me. As a kid I loved how Briggs showed the trudging normality behind the magic. It was quite a subversive, rock and roll approach. 

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Introduces us to a rather grumpy Father Christmas. In this book, Father Christmas has awoken from a dream of summer sun to discover it is December 24th, Christmas Eve - the start of his longest night's work of the year.
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6. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

With both this, and Father Christmas, Briggs established himself as the king of Christmas, second only to Dickens. This was the warm, poignant, sentimental antidote to the funny cynicism of Father Christmas. 

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One winter's night, a snowman comes to life and an unforgettable adventure begins. This title captures the wonder and innocence of childhood. It introduces a adorable character, snow puppy.
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7. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper 

The second novel in the Dark is Rising sequence, called eponymously The Dark is Rising, is the one centred around Christmas, but not as we know it.  Set in a snowy wintery world, closer to the Underworld than, say, Narnia. Will, the hero, must find the six “signs of the Light” – circles quartered by a cross in wood, bronze, iron, water, fire and stone – before twelfth night. When I was 11 this was my favourite book. 

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It's Christmas-time in the Stanton family house: presents, carol singing, good cheer. But for eleven-year-old Will Stanton something sinister has begun, inching round his subconscious, shouting silent warnings he can't decipher.
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8.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Actually this is one of my favourite books, full stop. It might be a stretch to call it a Christmas book but Christmas is quite a big component of the novel so I am putting it in there. My list, my rules! 

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'Rich or poor, we will keep together and be happy in one another' Christmas won't be the same this year for Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, as their father is away fighting in the Civil War, and the family has fallen on hard times. But though they may be poor, life for the four March sisters is rich with colour.
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9. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Actually, before they ever became a book, these were letters Tolkien gave to his children every year, and tell wonderful tales of life in the North Pole, about reindeer and polar bears. 

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This revised edition of Tolkien's famous illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children includes a number of pictures and letters that have not been seen in print before. The perfect Christmas gift for Tolkien lovers of all ages.
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10. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

This is the best heartbreaking tale ever. It tells the story of a poor girl selling matches in the cold and dying from hypothermia. On New Year’s Eve the girl lights matches to warm herself and in the flame sees hallucinations of a Christmas tree and a delicious feast. Ridiculously Andersen thought it had a happy ending. Spoiler alert: it isn't. But it does make it an eternal classic. 

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With this new translation and selection, the unique inventiveness of Andersen's genius is revealed. Tiina Nunnally's sparkling translation captures the rawness and immediacy of Andersen's style, for the first time enabling English readers to be as startled and amazed as his original readers were, and revealing the unique inventiveness of Andersen's genius.
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