The Three ‘R’s of Christmas: Reading, Red Wine, and Re-Watching Christmas Movies – by Gigi Bushell

A little festive list of books turned on-screen to read and watch this festive season.

Just imagine – the open fire is popping and crackling away in front of you. Your cup of tea is steaming away on your left with a couple of biscuits ready for dunking, maybe even the box of Christmas chocolates is a little beyond the tea but still within reach if necessary. Your pet is curled up in a little ball of fluff on your right snoring gently. Amongst all this, you are fully submerged and snuggled into a loose hand-knit blanket and it all feels just right for this festive season. There is just one thing missing, the holly on top of the Christmas pudding if you will, a good light-hearted festive read. So after the year we’ve had, Christmas reading is a welcome bliss to help send 2020 off in the best way possible.

For me, reading at Christmas always feels extra special. Particularly when I read a festive book, it somehow increases the season’s cheer within me. There are so many wintery books out there that it can be hard to choose which one(s) to choose. Plus there is always that one family member that is too lazy to read the book and just watches the movie instead (despite the book almost always being better than the film adaptation). I face this struggle of film vs. book with a particular family member (I won’t name names) every year without fail. But I’ve decided that I cannot possibly be the only person out there who has the same annual argument. So I am sharing with you a shortlist of some festive books for you to read and then watch the on-screen adaptation with all the family.

1. The Polar Express

Yes, this is technically a children’s book but Christmas is a time that re-ignites every adult’s inner-child. So I thought I would kick off this list with a book that helps adults see that magic is all around. If you don’t already know, the story follows a young boy who clambers aboard a magical train bound for the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Chris Van Allsburg’s illustrated book is perhaps slightly less known than the animated film starring Tom Hanks but it is so much more satisfying if you ask me. This low fantasy novel helps all readers bring the novel to life in their everyday lives by imagining and seeing the possibilities of magic in everything. All you need to remember is; “seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

2. Let it Snow

We all adore ‘Love Actually’, and it will always be a classic in our hearts but if like me, you wish there was a book to read, Christmas would be even more perfect. Well, sadly there isn’t, but ‘Let it Snow’ does try to fill that gap for me. ‘Let it Snow’ comprises of three holiday romances in three separate stories in one novel that intertwine with one another. It’s a fun easy read, and once you’re done, Netflix released the movie adaption of the same name last year so you can get another cheesy Christmas movie fix.

3. The Man Who Invented Christmas

Author Les Standiford writes of a time before the story that lit the fire in the hearts of humanity at Christmas. ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ is a story about how Charles Dickens came to save his career by writing the Christmas classic – ‘A Christmas Carol’. There’s also an excellent, almost forgotten film adaptation starring Dan Stevens as Mr. Dickens himself – a true British Victorian Christmas.

4. The Snow Queen

You may not have heard of this book but I can almost guarantee that you will have heard of its film adaptation – ‘Frozen’. Disney had a little help behind this instant classic film that captured the hearts of everyone across the world. The film is loosely based on a Danish fairytale from Hans Christian Andersen who wrote a story about good, evil, and deep snow. What makes this book even better is the fact that the vintage-style illustrations cannot be beaten. The drawings are so beautiful and simple that they always strike a characteristically Christmas chord in my heart.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Another children’s Christmas classic by Dr. Suess with an amazing film adaptation starring Jim Carey. Or perhaps you would like to go a bit more recent with the animated version with the voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, Pharrell Williams, and Angela Lansbury. ‘The Grinch who stole Christmas’ is a holiday rhyming book about a furry green curmudgeon who hates Christmas and decides to steal from those who love it. The film adaptations are an annual must-watch but the illustrated classic that remedies the season’s humbugs is the one for me.

6. Nothing Lasts Forever

Again, this book title probably won’t sound familiar however its film counterpart will – ‘Die Hard’. I can hear you say that this doesn’t count as a Christmas film however, the producers of the film stated in 2018 for the film’s 30th anniversary that it was, so, I’m putting it on this list. In fact, they said “it was the greatest Christmas story ever told” in the film’s re-released trailer. Technically this thriller novel is a sequel to ‘The detective’, however, you can easily read this book as a stand-alone. The novel follows a Christmas office party turned hostage cage-fight between a singe NYPD cop and a gang of international terrorists. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fight to the death!

7. Bridget Jones’ Diary

Another little British classic that technically may not count as a Christmas story seeing as it takes place over the course of a year, however, the story starts and ends during the Christmas period. ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ is written in the form of a personal diary belonging to a thirty-something single working woman living in London. She writes about her career, self-image, vices, family, friends, and romantic relationships. This book sparked a whole sub-genre of modern ‘chick-lit’ books about young women, three more books, newspaper columns, and three box office hit films! If you haven’t seen or read this story, I insist you do this Christmas!

8. Dash and Lily’s Little Book of Dares

This was a recent discovery for me and I fell in love with it instantly. It’s a lighthearted story of two people falling in love over their passion for books. As the novel progresses, Lily and Dash contemplate whether they are compatible or only compatible as their notebook versions of themselves where they share thoughts, wise words, and innovative dares despite having never met one another in person. This cute little book was recently adapted into a TV series by Netflix and the 20-minute episodes are the perfect length for a quick little festive break from all that Christmas pavlova – I mean palaver.

9. A Christmas Carol

You simply cannot have Christmas without Dickens. This classic story (as mentioned earlier) follows the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from a greedy old miser to a joyful kind chum through a series of supernatural visits. Nothing beats the original novella as told by Mr. Dickens himself, however, there are so many on-screen adaptations to choose from I can hardly pick just one for you and your family to watch. But, in my opinion, one of the best adaptations is the 1988 film ‘Scrooged’ starring Bill Murray which sets the tale in a modern setting about a TV executive who lives ‘A Christmas Carol’ while filming a traditional (musical) version of it.

Current Status: Ready for a long winter’s nap – I mean read

I hope this little list has helped get you even more excited for this holiday season – I can tell you writing it most certainly has for me. Now go and pop the champagne, reserve your favourite Quality Street, and open that book before the family finds you and asks where all The Purple Ones went.

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About the Author – Gigi Bushell:

As a Creative Writing MA student at the University of Surrey I spend most of my time writing (big surprise) educational articles on taboo subjects. I love writing for The Stag magazine and I strive to share stories that can help everyone. Whether it be about mental health, sexuality, or simply how to make the most of spending so much time at home – it’s all very zoom and gloom right now. I also find writing a charming and hopefully hilarious bio very difficult. Find me @gigibushellx on both Twitter and Instagram.

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