Alexandra Heminsley | Contributing Writer | 1,028 day ago

Books To Read In The Time Between Christmas And New Year

The Debrief: Finally you've got time on your hands. Here's all those books you *should* have read that you finally can.

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

We don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy time spent reading The Goldfinch, but we also know a lot who have been put off even starting it because it’s so damn long. This makes it the perfect book for The Vortex. These lazy few days between Christmas and New Year mean plenty of time for day-reading, rather than trying to grab time for a few pages before bed or on the commute. You can luxuriate in Tartt’s long, admittedly indulgent, descriptive passages as she charts the life of Theodore ‘Theo’ Decker and his attempts to reconcile himself with one bad move he made as a thirteen year old. It took Tartt eleven years to write, and we promise it’s worth a week of your time.


Arthur & George - Julian Barnes

Barnes’ slimline Sense of an Ending won the Man Booker prize a couple of years ago, but Arthur & George, which was nominated a few years before is the one to really lose yourself in over Christmas. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, depressed since the death of his life, becomes obsessed by turning around a miscarriage of justice: George Edalji has been convicted and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Think Serial, but with the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and an actual ending. It’s warm, and funny and really, really smart. And the TV adaptation is on TV in 2015.  


Middlemarch - George Eliot

It’s a rare reader who wants to kick back on the tube with a copy of Middlemarch when there’s a portfolio of social networks to catch up on and a bunch of potential selfies to edit before the soaps start for the night. But given a week of the year with no work and some relatives to hide from, there’s little as satisfying as reading one of the classics. This one - set in the early 19th century Midlands - is basically the story of a provincial town. It takes a little patience to adjust to the pace and tone, but then … well, it feels a lot like one of the serial dramas we enjoy on TV. There’s humour, scandal and insight. Feel your brain stretch and thank you as you read…


 The Quick - Lauren Owen

Just when we thought vampires were absolutely over since the Twilight franchise faded from favour, Lauren Owen popped up and gave them a gruesome reboot in the form of a gentleman’s club with a difference. The Quick is a gobsmacking - and terrifying - debut set in a spooky country manor house and a smoggy, rotting, Dickensian London. It’s a long read, but the story crackles along and its creepy, menacing characters are ideal for haunting your imagination during the longest nights of the year. Don’t pick it up if you like talking to your family during the holidays, as you’ll ignore them until you’ve finished this.


 On Beauty - Zadie Smith

White Teeth has a pacier plot, and Smith’s journalism is always worth reading when it appears, but On Beauty - which won the then Orange Prize on publication - is the strongest, and most life-affirming of her novels so far. Loosely based on EM Forster’s Howards End, it takes two families, one in New England and one in North West London and uses them to look at what makes us love, what makes our family relationships tick and why we humans relate to each other the way we do. Funny, moving and insightful, it’s a meditative read that might just help if your family’s starting to get on your nerves. Treat yourself to Smith’s Desert Island Discs afterwards, it’s the perfect chaser. 


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