AMH Christmas Reads
December is upon us, which means it’s no longer permissible to complain about Christmas adverts, or carols being played in shops, or the sudden reappearance of Michael Bublé, or any other artefacts of pure joy. With this in mind and holidays decidedly around the corner, we polled the full AM Heath team for the books we’re most looking forward to reading over Christmas. Amongst them are the new releases we’re itching to read and the books that have been tantalizingly close to the top of the TBR pile all year. Happy holidays!
As a newbie at A M Heath I have got a list as long as Santa’s of wonderful books by agency clients to read, but outside of ‘work’ reading my choice is Autumn by Ali Smith. Heading towards the new year is always a time to take stock of the year gone by and globally and politically the last few years have been bizarre and somewhat terrifying. Although Autumn was published last year I am expecting the observations on Brexit Britain will be no less pertinent now as we hurtle headlong into the unknown. Also in my pile is Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, which is my book group’s Christmas choice!
I loved Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, and this Christmas I’ll be reading her latest book, Hunger. It’s been so well reviewed and sounds honest, interesting and a little uncomfortable, about the author’s relationship with food and her body. For fiction, it will be Lincoln in the Bardo. I tried reading it a few months ago, but it’s experimental on the page which threw me and I didn’t get far. Since then so many of my clients have told me it’s hilarious and riveting so I’ll be settling down with it again over the holidays.
The top of my Christmas reading pile is Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, which I’ve never read, despite committing myself to the same trek that causes him such trouble and hilarity. For a more serious take on the same subject, I’m also looking forward to Robert Moor’s On Trails, another Appalachian thru-hiker whose goal ‘to live in a prolonged state of freedom’ is totally inspiring. I’m getting off the trail when it comes to fiction, lining up Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, which has been strongly recommended by some of the Nobel-winner’s most admiring fans, and Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward, who has been compared to some of my favourite writers, including William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, but who I expect has a voice entirely her own.
I will be reading/weeping over We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
To cheer myself up I’ll re-read Seasonal Suicide Notes by Roger Lewis.
I just made the mistake of picking up Steve Cavanagh’s debut crime novel The Defence and now I can’t put it down. So I’ll be reading everything else he’s ever written.
Hoping to catch up on an enormous amount of reading, starting with Lincoln in the Bardo, plus some classy thrillers for the beach (ahem) and at least one classic.
We are lucky enough to have a beautifully curated Blackwell’s bookshop just by the AM Heath offices. The staff picks are always interesting and unexpected and I usually walk out with at least three books I hadn’t planned on buying, one of which recently was Muriel Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye. Another slim volume lined up for Christmas is The Story of a Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam. The story of two young people in the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war. It is not going to be a cheerful read but I have been told that it is an extraordinary piece of writing. Similarly, Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go Went Gone comes highly recommended. Clearly now is the moment to be reading a great European writer on the subject of race and nationality. Plus (my husband does all the cooking so I will have time for all these books), I have just roared through the first three Jackson Lamb novels, by Mick Herron, and am delighted to have numbers 4 and 5 ahead of me. Reserve titles: everything my colleagues have suggested because they tend to be right thinking people with excellent taste, plus Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story and Paul Beatty, The Sellout. Enough.
Holiday HA! HA! HA! by Joanna Nadin. Oh Ho Ho Yes, my place will be very busy this Christmas, full of kids, full of food, presents, sweets so I will read all over again: Nicholas Allan, Pip Jones (The Chocolate Monster for sure as there will be few monsters around the house), Julia Donaldson, Amy Sparks and Holly Webb. And once everyone is fast asleep I will sneak out into my secret place to read: Steve Cavanagh’s The Liar – once you start reading one of his books you won’t stop until you finish them all; Lesley Downer’s The Shogun Queen, Tim Shipman’s All Out War and then 2018 I will start with… Conn Iggulden.
Traditionally I read the Booker Prize winner over Christmas but this year, thanks to a five month old baby, I’m not sure I’ll get much reading done at all. But we do have a couple of long drives planned which are perfect for audiobooks. I tend to listen to non-fiction rather than fiction and I’ve really been looking forward to getting into The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. I was intrigued by the reviews and have heard nothing but good things about it. And as a devotee of Serial and other true crime podcasts, this first hand investigation into death row convict Ricky Langley sounds right up my street. Perhaps not the most Christmassy pick but anything to avoid hearing Driving Home for Christmas for the millionth time…
I can’t wait to read Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach this Christmas. I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad and Look at Me – her writing is always so unexpected and brilliant, and I’m eager to see how she handles historical fiction. A recent trip to Spain also inspired me to pick up Gabriel García Márquez’s slim volume Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which comes highly recommended by a friend and will hopefully make up for the fact that I’ve never got round to reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Also on my list this year is Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, which I started back in September but had to abandon in the midst of the Frankfurt Book Fair frenzy. So I’m looking forward to settling back down with that over the break.
I’ve always loved series; I find the thought of knowing exactly what I’ll be reading next surprisingly comforting. That’s why this Christmas I’ll (finally) be reading the much recommended Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. If I somehow manage to finish five books in 12 days then I’ll go back to my historical roots and start Simon Sebag Montefiore’s captivating and apparently quite salacious The Romanovs.
I’ve neglected my non-fiction reading this year so over Christmas I’m going to treat myself to comedian Adam Kay’s memoir This is Going to Hurt, about his life as a junior doctor. I love anything medical and this is meant to be hilarious, heartbreaking and humbling and I’ve been saving it up so I don’t have to read it on my commute. And in fiction I’m going to read Rosamunde Pilcher’s classic Coming Home, which I embarrassingly have to admit to never having read even though a wartime weepy is one of my all time favourite things.
I’ve been itching to read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng for a while now, having seen a lot of hype and a lot of claims that it deserves the hype. Celeste is one of those smart, funny writers I admire from afar on Twitter but have never read, so I’m especially intrigued to find out what she’s like on the page. The other thing I badly want to read in front of a fire with a glass of something is Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey. I’ll admit this one’s slightly time-indulgent, but it’s being touted as the first complete translation into English by a woman, and the few snippets I’ve read have felt completely contemporary and gorgeous and clever. The last big ticket item is Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage. I wept my way through His Dark Materials last month and I’ve been biding my time for the prequel. May this be the first hint to my mum that I would really like the hardback for Christmas…
It may not exactly be full of festive cheer, but at least I’ll be ready for the robot apocalypse! I’ll be reading Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark. On the fiction front, I’d like to read He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly about which I’ve heard great things and Tom Lee’s debut, The Alarming Palsy of James Orr.
I will be reading Maus by Art Spiegelman because nothing says Christmas like the remembrances of a Holocaust survivor presented in graphic novel form….it won a Pulitzer. That said, I feel people might think I will be spending Christmas immersed in one of humanity’s greatest tragedies so can I add I will also be reading A Canticle For Liebowitz by Walter M Miller, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a collection of monks attempt to preserve what remains of the world’s scientific knowledge. A lot more Christmassy, don’t you think?