A.M. Heath Team Christmas Reads 2018
If there is one cruelty of work at a literary agency, it might be the shortness of time and the hugeness of choice on what to read. Too many recommendations, too many proofs begged from publishers, too many shiny new covers that would look great on our shelves at home.
Thankfully, Christmas will soon be upon us, meaning it’s almost the perfect time of year for eschewing all social obligations and curling up with a good book. Or six.
This is what our office will be reading for pleasure over the winter break – the books that have been just beyond arm’s reach all year, be they new releases, rereads of classics, trusted recommendations, or forgotten gifts from last Christmas that Aunt Susan is definitely going to ask after.
Happy holidays and happy reading!
I could just call up my Christmas reading from last year and pop it in for 2018, given that I have failed to read half of what I confidently predicted I would be reading. I won’t, though, because I really want to finish reading Anna Burns’ Milkman, which I started, was loving and then had to put to one side for a quieter moment. I also have Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy waiting for a quieter moment. It is one of those events which loomed so large but about which I know very little. I am looking forward to remedying that. Well-read colleagues have insisted I read David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide, so I shall. There are laughs to be had in the Anna Burns, I think, but otherwise laughs in short supply. So I may supplement the above with one of my regular returns to Nancy Mitford. I have just re-read The Pursuit of Love, so will probably go for Don’t Tell Alfred. Happy days.
Somehow Christmas always feels to me like the right time to hunker down with the classics, so this year I’ll be reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier and Middlemarch by George Eliot. This selection will no doubt stretch people’s eyes and lead to various exclamations of “I can’t BELIEVE you’ve not read this before!” but I feel no shame, only delight at the prospect of finally getting to so many beloved gems. I’ll also be dipping into Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey which I was given recently, whilst eyeing up other people’s piles of Christmas books.
I am always wildly overambitious when it comes to how many books I can read in a holiday, but I have a couple of long train journeys this year – so I’m feeling optimistic. First on my list is Michelle Obama’s Becoming; I was disappointed not to get a ticket for her event with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but can’t wait to read nevertheless. Several bookish friends have (passionately) recommended Tana French to me, and I’ve been told to start with The Secret Place, so that is what I plan to do. This is technically work reading, but I have been saving A Place of Greater Safety for a quiet week by the fire – so I am hoping for extensive snowfall (or even rain, sorry everyone) to make that possible. Heaven. I’m keen to read The State of Affairs by Esther Perel (I love her podcast), and I’m also intrigued by Sue Prideaux’s I am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche which I hear is excellent. Realistically, it also seems unlikely that I’ll be able to resist rereading The Pursuit of Love and possibly a Harry Potter book, or two…
One tradition I have over Christmas is to read the year’s Booker winner and I’ve got my copy of Anna Burns’ Milkman ready to go. There’s obviously been a lot of talk about it so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.
I love everything about Christmas, not least the joy of all that guilt-free reading time by the fire with the possibility of a snooze between chapters. My holiday reading this year is a pick-a-mix of: The Ethical Carnivore by Louise Gray prompted by her fascinating interview on Jess Fostekew’s brilliant Hoovering podcast, Letting Go by David Hawkins (according to my cousin ‘Everyone in Somerset is reading this. It will change your life.’ Who can resist such a promise?); Barkskins by the mighty Annie Proulx – a literary epic links the making of early America to its mass deforestation and, finally, Coming Up Trumps by Baroness Trumpington (because obviously). Of course I won’t finish all these but there is nothing more comforting and delightful than a stack of books by your bedside, is there?
First up will be Sally Rooney’s Normal People, which I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet given all the hype and prizes it’s won. Conversations with Friends sparked much debate in the AM Heath offices so I’m looking forward to coming back in January ready to discuss Normal People with my colleagues. I’m also looking forward to reading The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman and Educated by Tara Westover, which have been sitting on my shelves for some time – two very different memoirs but which both prove the power that books can hold. And finally, if I have time, I want to plough through the remaining Liane Moriarty novels I’ve not yet read: compelling writing and brilliant entertainment, I’m such a fan.
I’m going to Cornwall for Christmas; lots of walks are planned so inevitably it will rain the entire time. At least that means lots of reading time. I plan to read Truth & Beauty: A Friendship and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I read Commonwealth last year and absolutely loved it. I also want to read the third Wayfarers: Record of a Spaceborn Few. I like intelligent (but not overwhelmingly science-y) sci-fi. Victoria recommended The Weather in the Streets to me recently which sounds wonderful. Finally, the novel to get me in the Christmas spirit will be One Day in December. Bring on the holidays!
First up on my list is The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. I loved The Secret History and The Goldfinch, so I’m hoping this one won’t disappoint. I’ve also been meaning to read Elif Bautman’s The Idiot for a while now, which I’ve heard so many good things about. And, working my way through the Women’s Prize shortlist, I’m expecting to receive Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing this Christmas, after some not-so-subtle hints to my mum. Finally, it’s the perfect time of year to settle down with an old favourite, so I will be rereading Steinbeck’s brilliant East of Eden, with a glass of mulled wine.
I recently made a discovery even better than a fiver in an old pair of jeans – a £30 book token from last Christmas, that I’ve apparently been saving for a rainy day these whole past twelve months. The first item on my shopping list will be, I think, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. It’s been beautifully published in the UK by Granta and I’ve had my eye on it for a while now. Then, I think for company on all my (many) train journeys of December I’ll turn to Barbara Trapido’s oeuvre. Brother of the More Famous Jack pulled me out of a little reading slump lately, and numerous trustworthy sources have sworn that she’s one of those writers who brings joy on every page of every book – exactly what I’m after at the moment. I’ve also been planning to read Emma Healey’s second novel, Whistle in the Dark, and Daisy Johnson’s Booker-shortlisted and gorgeously jacketed Everything Under. The last planned endeavour, apparently featuring twice on this company round-up, is Steinbeck’s East of Eden. A friend read it recently, adored it, and has since been rabbiting on about how I’m only hurting myself not giving it a go. Time to see what I’m missing.