Matt Haig Recommends His Top 10 Christmas Reads
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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