I’m 99% sure I was born with a book in my hand.
I was one of those kids who read 24/7. We had to write about our weekends on Mondays at infant school, and on every single page of my book I’ve written about the Enid Blyton book I read or bought. I wrote my own stories and read them to the class. Literacy, and then English, were my favourite subject. I love words, and why wouldn’t you? I got a Kindle last year, but there’s still nothing quite like reading a real book in bed in winter. So, in light of this, I’m going to let you into some secrets about some cosy books to read in the run up to Christmas. Get yourself a cup of something hot and delicious, claim your favourite spot on the sofa and get ready to be swept into five different worlds of festive loveliness.
Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann
This is the book that started it all. Without it, I don’t think this blog would exist. Imagine – a life without Hello Hygge! Doesn’t bear thinking about. This book is by Trine Hahnemann, a Danish chef, writer and expert in food culture (can I have that job please?), and is a glimpse into the beautiful, cosy world of Christmas in Scandinavia. The gorgeous imagery is the epitome of hygge, and every single traditional Scandi recipe looks divine. I have a few Nordic cookbooks, but this is by far my favourite, with its smattering of anecdotes and interjections about what it means to celebrate Christmas in Scandinavia.
Celebrate one of the Advent Sundays outside. Play in the snow; remember there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. Serve hot drinks, salmon sandwiches, and ‘nisse’ (elf) cake, make a stew and bake bread over the open fire…
This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You by Jon McGregor
Don’t you just love a title that rolls off the tongue? I must confess, I’m a bit of a Jon McGregor evangelist. He wrote my favourite book, I’m reading one of his books now, and I’m including this here, despite the fact it’s not strictly a ‘wintery book’. It’s set in Norfolk, where the author grew up, and it’s a series of snapshots of life in the fens. It’s an intimate way to explore the landscape, and McGregor’s way with words gave me heart palpitations more than once (I’m a delicate little flower, I know). The story that has always stuck with me is called In Winter The Sky. There are several little poetic interludes, and the one I really love is:
The snow will come fast in the night and
block the roads & drains and leave
(all lines & textures concealed).
Buy This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
This book arrived literally two days ago and I’ve fallen madly in love with it. The cover is GLITTERY. You don’t get glitter on an ebook. A Boy Called Christmas is inspired by a question Matt Haig’s son asked him one day: “What was Father Christmas like as a boy?” It’s a good question, and I’m glad he asked it, because this book is an instant classic for children and adults alike. It’s hard to write an original Christmas story, but Matt Haig has unlocked the magic here. It’s fantastical, whimsical and answers all the questions that other boys and girls might have throughout the festive season. Ever wondered what it’s like to slide down your first chimney? You’d better read this book to find out. I promise you won’t regret it. And if you get your hands on a copy quickly, you could even read it to your kids as a bedtime story throughout December to prolong the festive wonder and for as long as possible.
‘Do you believe in magic, Miika?’
‘I believe in cheese, if that counts,’ said Miika.
There was no way of Nikolas knowing for sure if the mouse did or didn’t believe in magic but, comforted by hope, Nikolas and his little rodent friend managed to fall slowly and gently asleep, as the cold breeze kept blowing, and whispering all the unknown secrets of the night.
Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson
Hear me out, OK! Yes, there’s another Christmas cookbook in a list of five, but I absolutely stand by this decision. I hereby crown Nigella Lawson the queen of Christmas cooking. I’ve been known to read this in bed in December (and June) to lust over all the dreamy, fairylit photos. It’s thoroughly aspirational – I will never host a Christmas party worthy of Nigella’s cocktails and canapés – but that’s partly why I love it. I can make one or two things and feel like I’ve accomplished a great Christmas. Every single photo is exquisite, and Nigella’s writing is warm and inviting, meaning the flavours leap off the page and onto your tongue. Everything from the passionfruit-and-raspberry-flecked Prodigious Pavlova to the Butternut Orzotto to the Christmas Morning Muffins (made them last year – painfully delicious, everything will make you feel snug, satisfied and, to be honest, happy.
When I read the menu that follows, I feel exhausted, hungry, flabbergasted and proud. How could I have cooked so much? How could we all have eaten so much? But how I want to eat it now. I am warmed by recollection and anticipation.
101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason
If you’re not one for traditional, saccharine Christmas cheer (and bah humbug to you too), 101 Reykjavik is probably the one for you. Now how do you equate a book about a 30-something Icelandic slacker with hygge? Here’s how: it’s BEAUTIFULLY written. It’s about a man who does nothing in moderation and essentially has a desperately miserable life, but it’s written with such humour and style that it’s a compelling read. The descriptions are absolutely bang on, and you can’t help but almost like the disturbingly lazy, incompetent protagonist. Reading about this slightly terrible man in this magnificent city makes me want to hop on a plane and fly out immediately. If downtown Reykjavik looks this charming through the eyes of Hlynur Björn, it’s got to be pretty hyggeligt. It’s not one for the easily offended, but if you want a book that will make you laugh, think and massage your wanderlust, this is the one.
Mom’s such a softener. Like a voice-over in a Fairy Liquid ad. She has that, you know, soft voice and always talks in the same tone. Doesn’t matter what she says, always sounds pretty good… she has that warm matt amber voice, with a coffee aroma. Maybe it’s the Danish element in her.
Which books do you reach for at this time of year? Do you have anything you read as a tradition? Let me know in the comments!
18 Comments Add yours
Great selection of books . I love the sound of the Scandinavian cookbook – I imagine the recipes make the house smell wonderful.
And “If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things” is my favourite book – the poetry in writing is amazing, The scene with the attic wild flowers is stunning and I found myself remembering and making new connections for days after I finished it. I will be buying this new one for sure.
That’s my favourite book too! Utterly incredible. I’ve read it countless times and it amazes me every single time. I highly, highly recommend This Is The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You. There’s a story in there that’s one line long, but it convey in those few words what other authors couldn’t in a chapter. I’m currently reading his book Even The Dogs, and it’s just as sumptuously bleak as you might expect (and hope).
Thanks so much for stopping by!
I love the photography in “Nigella Christmas”. I developed a bit of an obsession with the shiny metal nut bowls she had in the TV series and finally tracked down something similar last year. I had no idea they would be so hard to find. And poinsettia cocktails – lovely!
It’s gorgeous isn’t it? I read it constantly and fanatically. I know the exact bowls you mean! I’m currently lusting over her pink and green crockery in her new show. She can do no wrong in my eyes!
I like the sound of Elf cake…….
It’s such a fantastic book! I highly recommend it – it’s the perfect book if you’re looking for comforting Nordic food. And just in time for Christmas!
I have just added most of these to my Amazon wish list, thanks for the awesome recommendations Kayleigh!
Ahh amazing! No worries, hope you enjoy them 🙂 Let me know what you think if you read any! X
Hello! I have just begun exploring your blog. (I have a Facebook group called Snowglobia, which is all about hygge and the year-round keeping of the Christmas spirit.) I just began assembling a Christmas Library, which I of course intend to read all year. My current favorites for cozy reading are “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas and “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote. Like you, I also love cookbooks, 10 percent for cooking and 90 percent for comfort reading. I just added “Scandinavian Christmas” to my list this morning! And now based on your blog, I’ve added “Nigella Christmas.” More books to come. I look forward to reading more of your blog, kindred spirit!
Hello! That group sounds great, I’m definitely going to check it out 🙂 I’m also going to be looking at those books later! Yes, there’s little more soothing than flicking through a cookbook in bed… for me anyway 😉 Thank you for taking the time to comment and for letting me know about your group!
My favourite Christmas book is The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. I start it in the 1st December, rationing myself to one chapter per day. By the time it ends on 24th Dec, I am soooo Christmassed up 😀 thanks for the Scandi cookbook link!
Ooh, thanks for “The Christmas Mystery”! Looking into that!
It is super hygge – starts in snowy Norway, it’s funny, comforting, mysterious and if you do the chapter-a-day thing, it becomes a cosy ritual… and my copy has a metallic red cover … What’s not to love!
I’m already on the hunt to add this to my ever-growing Christmas Library. Right now I’m gathering Little Golden Books about Christmas — are you familiar with those? One of these days, I’ll post my Christmas Library inventory on here so you can tell me more great additions for it!
No, not heard of those.. I’d love to see the list and I’ve got some great ones to add 😀
SorayaSevenStars, here’s the list — to which I soon will add your “Christmas Mystery” suggestion, and thank you! Also, someone today recommended the books of Jan Brett. “Lots of hygge there,” my friend said. It looks like it, too.
1. “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” Dylan Thomas
2. “A Christmas Memory,” Truman Capote
3. “Christmas Day in the Morning,” Pearl S. Buck
4. “Christmas in Plains,” Jimmy Carter
5. “Dickens’ Christmas Spirits,” Charles Dickens (includes “A Christmas Carol” and several other lesser-known Christmas short stories)
6. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Dr. Seuss
7. “Nutcracker,” words by E.T.A. Hoffmann, pictures by Maurice Sendak
8. “Scandinavian Christmas,” Trine Hahnemann
9. “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce,” Stanley Weintraub
10. “The Christmas Eve Ghost,” Shirley Hughes
11. “The Cobweb Christmas,” Shirley Climo/Joe Lasker
12. “The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall,” Washington Irving
13. “The Polar Express,” Chris Vann Allsburg
14. “12 Days of Christmas: 144 Ideas for Traditions, Homemade Gifts, Recipes, and More,” by the six blogging sisters of “Six Sisters’ Stuff”
Little Golden Books:
15. “Christmas Carols”
16. “Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book”
17. “Frosty the Snow Man” (1951)
18. “Jingle Bells”
19. “Santa’s Surprise Book”
20. “The Animals’ Christmas Eve”
21. “The Gingerbread Man”
22. “The Night Before Christmas”
What am I missing??