What’s On My Bookshelf – Festival of Festive Reading

Before I tell you what’s been on my festive list (so far), I finished November with the beauties below – all of which were 4 or 5 stars from me.

I listened to Just One Thing (which inspired me so much that I’ll be telling you more about it in a blog series next year) and Date With Deceit (which I would have enjoyed even more had I read). Murder in Williamstown was my choice for my recent flight to Wellington for a 1920s themed party, and Northanger Abbey was read with book club.

The Festival of Festive Reads

During December I read only seasonally themed books – and this year is no different. Here’s what’s been on my Christmas bookshelf… so far…this month.

Merrily Ever After, by Cathy Bramley

I love those novels where we catch up with what comes after the happy ever after in a previous novel – and that’s exactly what this is. Merrily and Cole are planning a Christmas Eve wedding…what could possibly complicate that? Exactly what it says on the cover and a perfect Christmas escape.

A Christmas Celebration, by Heidi Swain

This is the 9th novel set in fictional Wynbridge and (I think) the 5th set at Christmas and it really is like catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Speaking of which, I really must get around to writing my next Brookford instalment…

The Christmas Invitation, by Trisha Ashley

I’m fairly new to the Tricia Ashley party but really like her style. An eclectic bunch of characters, a snowy setting and an unconventional Christmas – what’s not to like?

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, by Agatha Christie

Confession time: this is the very first Agatha Christie novel I’ve read. #truestory It also won’t be the last. Quintessentially English and a ripping mystery. I literally couldn’t put it down.

Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham

It’s been years since I read anything by John Grisham but Grant brought this one home from the Op shop. One of his colleagues had purchased it, but I was permitted to read it first on the strict instruction that I didn’t read it by the pool (or in the pool) where it could get splashed or fold corners. Yes, I am that person.

Anyways, this was a rather hilarious surprise. Scrooge but without London and the ghosts and in suburban America with a giant snowman. As an extra coincidence, Christmas With The Kranks – the movie based on this book which I’d never heard of before either – came up top on my Netflix holiday movie list tonight. So I watched it and it was a faithful adaptation.

Florence the Macarena dancing Christmas flamingo

Christmas in Paris, by Tilly Tennant

My least favourite of this year’s haul, but still enjoyable. After all, it’s set in Paris…

Christmas Listening

The Secret History of Christmas, by Bill Bryson

If you love Christmas, this is essential listening. Bryson covers it all – from the history of Christmas, the religious and pagan origins, to carols, shopping, Santa Claus and food. I loved it so much that I listened twice – in case I missed something the first time around. My head is now full of so much Christmas-based trivia it rivals my Midsomer Murders – The Tom Barnaby years trivia.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

I listened to this for the first time last Christmas and have done so again this year. In fact, I think it could just be part of my annual Christmas ritual. And read by Hugh Grant? Well, that’s just the icing on the Christmas cake as far as I’m concerned – I could listen to him all day long.

The perfect accompaniment to a present-wrapping or festive baking session, there are passages in this where your heart breaks and where it leaps for joy and others where you can’t help but laugh out loud. I loved every single word.

You’re Dead To Me

Not strictly a book, but this episode of the BBC/Radio 4 comedy/history series about Christmas with Charles Dickens is well worth a listen. You’ll find it here.

Christmas Cookbooks

I love Christmas, cookbooks and baking, so it stands to reason that I’ll love Christmas baking and Christmas cookbooks. You’ll find my regular list here, but these are two I’ve read in full this season – one old fave and one new discovery.

Advent, by Anja Dunk

New to my Christmas cookbook library is this one. It is what it says on the cover – festive German bakes. I have a number of recipes bookmarked and have just tried the first of these – vanilla and chocolate shortbread.

The Christmas Chronicles, by Nigel Slater

Slater writes about traditions, Christmas markets, Christmas windows, smells, feels, tastes, and memories from the first sign of winter all the way through to February. It’s gorgeously, evocatively, sumptuously written – and I’m absolutely in love with it. I read it from cover to cover every Christmas.

You’ll find a list of my other fave Christmas cookbooks here.

The books I’d like to see under my tree on Christmas Day…

As for the books that are on my drool list? I’m glad you asked. Let’s just say that if Santa drops any of these down the proverbial chimney, I’ll be a happy woman. As an aside, I have it on good authority that Kali aka Adventure Spaniel has already purchased and wrapped a couple of these… She’s a smart little cocker spaniel.

  • Cooking, by Jeremy Lee
  • Ottolenghi Test Kitchen – Extra Good Things
  • Bake, by Paul Hollywood
  • Tonight’s Dinner 2, by Adam Liaw
  • Paon, by Tjok Maya Kerthyasa
  • The British Cookbook, by Ben Mervis
  • Potato, by James Martin
  • Sea & Shore, by Emily Scott
  • Real Life Recipes, by Tom Kerridge
  • Tomato by Claire Thomson

Your turn…

Deb, Donna, Sue and I would love you to share what you’ve been reading. The linky is below – and it’s open until Monday evening (AEST).

This is the last WOYBS for 2022, but we’ll be back next year on the third Friday (southern hemisphere) of each month. Hope to see you there.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

34 thoughts

  1. Hi, Jo – I love how you only read and watch Holiday-themed pieces during the Christmas season. I had the best of intentions of doing that this year, but repeatedly became distracted. 😦 I hope that many of the books on your list land under your Christmas Tree. Kali is truly amazing!

  2. I forgot that you always read Christmas books.

    Also, I can’t believe that’s your first Agatha Christie given you enjoy cosy crime!!!

  3. Wow, you’ve packed a lot into this post! And, now I have more to read and listen to… yay! I think I’ll tackle the Grisham one first (he is a guilty pleasure) and check Christmas With The Kranks. I have heard of it but didn’t realize it was based on his novel.

    Best wishes for a Christmas tree surrounded by books wrapped just for you!

    1. Skipping Christmas is a good short read. Some Christmas spirit, a fire and a couple of free hours and you’re done. Wishing you and your family a lovely Christmas. It’s been great to connect with you this year.

  4. Skipping Christmas and Christmas with the Kranks are some of my all time favorites! I even tried to talk my WHOLE family (parents and siblings included) into “skipping” Christmas with us one year and going on a tropical beach trip instead. LOL They didn’t go for that at all.

    1. Now, I wonder why they didn’t go for that lol. I have no idea how I managed to miss Christmas With The Kranks, but up until now I have.

  5. I picked up Skipping Christmas at a library book sale on vacation this fall. Wasn’t crazy about it at first but the story picked up and loved the ending. Had never heard of Christmas with the Kranks but kept thinking there was something familiar about that last name!! Now I know why. The book club read The Christmas Dress this month which was slightly predictable but very enjoyable.

    1. It really did pick up, didn’t it? I actually like the predictability of a Christmas story – especially against the chaos of the season.

  6. For the first time in a few years I decided to read no Xmas books this year. I’ve put some of yours on my Want To Read list on Goodreads for next year. I’ve loved the #WOYBS linkups this year. Thanks for hosting.

  7. That’s a LOT of Christmas themed reading – and I am most impressed with how you stick to your genre during December (although you’re probably more than happy to move on to newer themes in January). Hope the ankle improves and the baking looks delicious. x

  8. These posts are always such a fun read, especially the Christmas edition! I’m keen to read the Bill Bryson (listening on our road trip maybe) and John Grisham’s – just off the top of my head. You have taught Kali well and anticipate some good vibes when you open some of those presents under the tree. It’s been another fabulous year of WOYBS made even more fun because of you, Sue and Donna being stunning co-hosts. xx

    1. I could never skip Christmas – it would completely horrify me, but I know plenty of people who are, indeed, tempted!

  9. Hi Jo I love your Festival of Reads and I think next December we should make it an official event! Thanks for some ideas for the Festive season reads. I’ve been busy and only read a couple this year but the Festive Season isn’t over yet! Thanks for your friendship, your insight into the books we have read in Book Club and your reviews. Congratulations on Philly Barker and I so admire your talent. Looking forward to co-hosting #WOYBS with you again next year. Best wishes for the Festive Season and happy reading in 2023. xx

  10. Wow. I started reading Agatha Christie as a kid, and then had a resurgence of rereading them as an adult – I discovered the Tommy and Tuppence ones on audio read by Christopher Lee and they are delightful, both his voice and reading and the fun characters. Happy Christmas and enjoy the holidays.

  11. THose cookies look so good, I could almost taste them! We call them pinwheels and they were my mother’s favortite. I make them occasionally, but they are a bit of work. I love Christmas with the Kranks and I agree the adaptation was spot on. I also like the idea of trying for December/Christmas themed reading for December 2023. It is always interesting to see what other people are reading. Thank you for hosting. See you in January, I hopee! Best and blessings, Michele

  12. Jo, I totally forgot the stack of comfort Christmas reads I have stashed away – now I need to find where they are stashed. Yes, since the move 18 months ago, as I didn’t read them last year either. Like you I do love some happy-ever-after Christmas stories. Hubby and I also watch Love Actually every year as a Christmas tradition. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    1. Love Actually is a Christmas Eve watch in our house too. I hope your Christmas was lovely and here’s to a happy 2023.

  13. There’s a Poirot Christmas mystery? How did I not know this? Guess what I’m reading next…
    I also added the Grisham and Bryson books to my already-bloated TBR list.

    I have an audio version of A Christmas Carol read by Jim Dale. So wonderful.

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