Christmas without leaving home

From fantastic fables to a feminist Santa story: 5 reads for Christmas

PHOTOS: PENGUIN CLASSICS, LITTLE, BROWN

SINGAPORE - Wondering what to read over the holidays? Here are five books to cosy up with during the festive season:

1. THE PENGUIN BOOK OF CHRISTMAS STORIES

Edited by Jessica Harrison

Penguin Classics, 2020, $21.40, available here

This anthology collects Christmas stories from acclaimed authors around the world: Hans Christian Andersen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson and more. There is even Ray Bradbury's sci-fi tale of Christmas in space.

These are not all clear-cut stories of cheer - some, like Italo Calvino's satire on consumerism, are subversive looks at the meaning of the season. Irene Nemirovsky's cinematic portrait punctures the mirage of a Paris society Christmas, while in Cyprian Ekwensi's story, a penniless widow in Lagos, Nigeria meets a mysterious benefactor.

2. THE ICKABOG

By J. K. Rowling

Hachette Children's Group, 2020, $36.95, available here

During the Covid-19 lockdown, the Harry Potter author dusted off an old story she had made up to tell her younger children when they were small and published it in instalments online. It is collected in this volume with illustrations submitted by child readers.

It is set in the kingdom of Cornucopia, which is ruled by a foppish king and controlled by his corrupt courtiers. When rumours come from the Marshlands of a voracious monster called the Ickabog, two children, who have each lost parents to court intrigue, brave the bitter winter to find it.

3. WINTER


PHOTO: ANCHOR BOOKS

By Ali Smith

Anchor Books, 2018, $19.26, available here

In the wondrous second novel of Smith's seasonal Brexit quartet, an elderly woman, haunted by a disembodied child's head, sits down for Christmas with her estranged activist sister, her apathetic blogger son and a homeless immigrant he picked up at the bus stop to pretend to be his girlfriend.

4. D: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS


PHOTO: TRANSWORLD

By Michel Faber

Transworld, 2020, $27.82, available here

In this fable stuffed with Dickensian references, Somaliland refugee Dhikilo Saxardiid Samawada Bentley escapes her war-torn homeland as a baby and is adopted by an English couple. When the letter "D" begins to go missing, the teenager is sent on a quest to restore it, stepping through a giant book into the wintry land of Liminus.

5. TINSEL: THE GIRLS WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS


PHOTO: BLOOMSBURY

By Sibeal Pounder

Bloomsbury, 2020, $21.51, available here

This children's novel puts a feminist twist on the Santa story, attributing the idea to a pair of orphan girls from the streets of London who wind up changing Christmas forever.


CHRISTMAS BOOK BOXES

Fancy having your festive reads delivered to your doorstep all wrapped up in a box? Check out some of the Christmas boxes curated by booksellers here.

BooksActually and distributor Times Reads have put together three limited edition $88 boxes. There are 50 of each type of box, with books such as Zadie Smith's essay collection Intimations and The Puffin Book Of Christmas Stories. The Yellow box, which is for ages 12 and below, contains an A5 sticker sheet featuring BooksActually's resident cats Cake, Pico and Lemon.

Online children's retailer Natventure Books has curated three boxes of books, toys and snacks for kids, from Love In A Box ($38.50) for those aged three and below, to the Bug Explorer Box ($69.90) for young bug enthusiasts.

Times Bookstores is offering Christmas bundles of books, stationery and care products. Some are for kids of different ages, while there is also a self-care bundle and a literary bundle with books like local love story anthology A View Of Stars.

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