Far be it from us to throw the C word around, but Christmas is coming and Anne Miller‘s taken a look at some festive reads.
I was recently surprised to see a friend’s Facebook post celebrating that there were “only seven weeks until Christmas!” I suppose I should have realised sooner, after all the lights are up in town, the nights are drawing in and it seems like I’m never more than a few feet away from a mince pie.
Still, whether you’re at the present buying stage (I really must make a list) or want a festive read to enjoy under a blanket, here are a selection of treats to get you through.
Mistletoe and Murder, Robin Stevens
Set in the 1930s, the fifth book in Stevens’ award-winning mystery series sees Detective Society members Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells heading to Cambridge for Christmas. They are supposed to be staying with Daisy’s aunt and visiting her brother but before long there is a murder and the girls need to track down and identify whodunit.
Stevens’ books are always meticulously plotted and beautifully written but this one is extra special. The Detective Society come up against the sexism and racism of the 1930s, which is handled with a deft touch, and there are Christmas festivities, Chelsea buns at Fitzbillies (which can still be found in Cambridge today) and a friendly rivalry with fellow young detectives The Junior Pinkertons.
Tom Fletcher has a lot of strings to his bow. The McFly frontman and co-author of The Dinosaur Who Pooped… picture books has joyfully combined his loves of Christmas and dinosaurs for his first children’s novel, The Christmasaurus. It’s a riotously fun adventure with a boy called William Trundle, the last dinosaur on Earth and Santa Claus himself. It’s full of delightful touches, from the revelation that children can do magic to the fact that Santa and his pals get their hot drinks from “North Star-Bucks”.
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan
Jenny Colgan’s books are always full of warmth and humour but her Christmas titles manage to take this up another level. This is the third book in the Little Beach Street Bakery series which is set on Mount Polbearne, a remote Cornish tidal island (based on St Michael’s Mount) and focuses on the tight-knit community who live there.
By book three, our heroine Polly is living in a lighthouse, running a bakery and has a pet puffin called Neil and a bee-keeping boyfriend called Huckle. Her plans for a serene Christmas are disrupted by a crisis at a puffin sanctuary, several secrets and a long lost family member. It’s a delight of a read and comes complete with festive recipes if you fancy some Christmas baking. The perfect book for curling up with.
A Christmas Cornucopia, Mark Forsyth
Forsyth’s latest book is centred on the premise that a lot of the things we do at Christmas because they are ‘tradition’ are actually often a) a little bit odd and b) not really traditional at all. Explanations for why we bring a dead tree indoors or like to kiss under a parasitic plant are often explained as being either ‘pagan’ or ‘from the Victorians’.
Here, Forsyth delves into the evidence to discover the truth and his finds include that Brussels sprouts were originally buttered and served on toast, that Christmas trees should technically have a snake in them and that the 12 Days of Christmas may actually be a recipe. (From Seven Swans A-Swimming down, not the verses containing humans).
The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus, Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Thomas Oléron Evans
Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Thomas Oléron Evans mix mathematics with Christmas to show the ideal pattern to arrange cracker pulling, how to most efficiently wrap your presents and, perhaps most importantly, how to win at Monopoly.
They also use mathematics to prove the existence of Santa Claus but not before noting that for Santa to visit every child in the world he would have to travel at 3,000 times the speed of sound while carrying 300,000 tonnes of presents – the combined forces of which would almost vaporise the reindeer at the front of the sleigh and wouldn’t exactly be healthy for Santa either. It’s an awfully good thing that he’s magical.
This year’s QI offering is 1,342 flabbergasting facts that all link together (and I know this because I did the linking!). Personal highlights include that there was a Nando’s in London in the 1600s; in 2015 a plane made an emergency landing after farting sheep triggered the smoke alarm and that in the time it takes to listen I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers, the International Space Station travels 500 miles and then 500 more.
Catch up on Anne’s previous Fully Booked columns here.
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Anne is a QI Elf. She has two Blue Peter badges, reached the semi-finals of Only Connect and really likes puffins. @miller_anne