Our Christmas Reading List

The holidays are upon us, which means we’re gearing up for overwhelming amounts of time with family and stress eating mince pies at awkward gatherings. If there’s one thing that can take the edge off the Christmas chaos, though, it’s sitting down with a book — be it one with an un-cracked spine or one that’s fraying at the edges from overuse.

This year, in our break from making books, we’re looking forward to diving into some as well. Here’s what’s on our Christmas Reading List for 2019:

Kate:

This Christmas I’m forgoing my annual schlep back to Australia’s baking heat, white sand, and wild afternoon storms. Instead of using salt water-soaked paperbacks to shade my eyes from the sun and coaxing my tan back from wherever it was banished to by twelve months of English weather, I’ll be curled up by a fire, happily overeating.

Thankfully, one part of my Christmas tradition will remain unchanged: several days of uninterrupted binge reading. I look forward to drawing most of my reading material from the treasure troves that are other people’s parents’ bookshelves but will also find time for these three:

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

The book most frequently recommended to me this year. Although 98% of those recommendations may have come from a single source, Agora’s Laura Pearson. I’ve been promising to read it for months and worry Laura may hold her next novel hostage unless I do. It also sounds generally wonderful.

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

If I’m not making it back to my hometown in person I’ll have to do some themed reading instead. It might be a very different Brisbane, Australia to the one I know (set in 1983, in the city’s crime-riddled fringes) but it’s been called ‘extraordinary’, ‘joyous’, and ‘magical’ so I’m all in.

A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros

Is this cheating? I’ve read it before, more than once. But I love it and seem to find a new, comforting/ wise thought each time I do. Also, I plan to spend as possible of what is left of 2018 walking… Partially in an attempt to atone for December’s relentless overconsumption, but mostly because it makes me very very happy.

Sam:

Unlike Kate, I am making the epic journey back home and to a real-life Winter Wonderland. Despite the fact that I’ve been in a bit of reading slump recently, I have a feeling that the -30⁰ temperature and 3 feet of snow might just snap me out of it.

Despite not reading much, I have amassed an alarming number of books. Having recently carted them all over London, I’m now nervous I might be a hoarder. But with so many choices and so little room in my suitcase, how to choose? Well…

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

… When you’ve owned a book for over three years, it’s overdue, but mostly because Christmas for me always means both going home and leaving another, now seems the perfect time for me to read Michael Crummey’s Sweetland. Set in one of the most remote parts of Canada, in the tiny province island of Newfoundland, and on an even tinier island off the coast of that, Sweetland is a story of being forced to give up your home and all the history that makes it so, fighting for your sense of place in the world, and feeling all sorts of lost along the way. And also, that east coast island used to be my home too, and I miss it.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

… When you’re unsure where to start your new reading kick, the best thing to do is retrace your footsteps. The last time I absolutely tore through a book was last year with The Secret History. My plan, then, has been to grab another tome by Donna Tartt to really kick things off again, and, serendipitously, I was just gifted The Goldfinch. So that’s that sorted.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

… When your dad reads a book before you, you know you’ve really dropped the ball. So, primarily out of guilt as well as an unhealthy obsession with true crime, I’m finally going to read a birthday present from months ago. I’ve been desperate to read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara but just haven’t found the right time. Is an eight-hour flight at Christmas the right time? I don’t know. But the people seated next to me are just going to have to deal with the gasps, tears, and arm flaps.

Peyton:

To round off our very un-British team that works in the heart of London, I am also making a long trek back to a foreign homeland this Christmas — the U.S. for me — which means I have quite a few hours of flights and hovering around airports that are begging to be filled with reading time. Over the holiday, I’m looking forward to finally eating good Mexican food again (something London just can’t get right) and, of course, having some time to sit down and devour a book or two. This break’s reads will be a combination of work, recommendations from work, and things I can finally read now that I get a break from going into work.

Crooked Daylight by Helen Slavin

I know most of my days are spent trying to convince people to read Agora books, but this truly isn’t just a shameless plug. If nothing else, working in publishing is great for an (almost) never-ending bookshelf to dip my greedy paws into, so I’ve certainly been taking advantage of Agora’s since I started working here. There’s a new Witch Ways title on the horizon, and I want to make sure I’m all caught up with Anna, Charlie, and Emz Way by publication day.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

Last month I went to an event for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year award with the shortlisted authors, where I walked away with four shiny books to add to my TBR pile.  Elmet was one, and I was immediately drawn to its dark cover and haunting jacket copy. On top of my own desire to read it, I also have a list of people who have requested to borrow it, so it’s probably time for me to stop holding it hostage.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

I feel like I’m a little late to the Sally Rooney party, but I tore through Normal People earlier this month and her writing is my new obsession. I’m quite a slow reader, so it’s unusual for me to finish a book in less than a week, which means a book has to be extra special for me to get sucked in so hopelessly like I did with Normal People. Because of that, I’m going to do a little backpedaling and read Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations with Friends, which I’ve heard is equally brilliant. And then, who knows; maybe I’ll just keep re-reading Normal People until it’s 2019 and I’ve finished with my transatlantic travels.

As always, thank you for reading and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your holiday reading lists! We hope you have a wonderful, wintry season and a happy new year! See you in 2019.