There is something lovely and old fashioned about giving books as Yuletide gifts, especially if they have a seasonal theme. Although e-books are a more convenient purchase, you can't beat the feel of a real book, beautifully wrapped and waiting beneath the tree. Here are my favourite Christmas books from my library, which would make lovely treats to yourself now all the gift buying is done and dusted.
Miss Read's Christmas Book is a charming compilation of festive anecdotes and literary extracts from famous novels. It is a beautifully illustrated picture book, the art design being reminiscent of the works of Beatrix Potter. Chapters include The Nativity, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Twelfth Night. This is the very first Christmas book I ever purchased, shortly after I left home at the age of 20. I wanted to recreate the magic of my childhood and also find inspiration for creating my own personal festive traditions. It has been a treasured tome ever since.
I am a fan of the Edwardian writer and artist Edith Holden and I own a copy of her Country Diary. Some years ago I stumbled across this tribute to her work and the festive season combined. The Country Diary Christmas Book has all the charm of the original Country Diary. It features Edith Holden's water-colour illustrations and extracts from the nature notes she is most famous for. In addition it includes country lore, folklore, seasonal rhymes, carol lyrics, craft projects and the history of our Christmas traditions. This book was invaluable to me when I set about writing The Witches Almanac over a decade ago and I wanted a similar feel to my seasonal writing as Edith Holden gave to her Country Diary. For that reason it holds a special place in my heart. The blurb promises that it is "As rich and satisfying as a plum pudding..." and I agree.
I saved the best for last - Penhaligon's Scented Christmas Treasury of Verse and Prose by Sheila Pickles is the latest in my collection of Yuletide books. Penhaligons are a famous British perfumers and their fragrances are reputedly worn by Her Majesty the Queen. They have collaborated with the publisher to create a series of stunning scented poetry books. Each anthology has a different theme and is scented to match. They come in their own individual slip case to prolong the fragrance and they are lavishly illustrated. I have been collecting them for years but was never able to track down the final Christmas book until earlier this year. I am delighted to have it as not only does it complete my Penhaligon Collection, it is a gorgeous book to help get into the festive spirit, being fragranced with the scent of Winter Garden. Full of seasonal poems and prose extracts from famous classic novels and authors, it is a rare treat. All the great authors are represented including Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Hardy, Virgina Wolfe, Christina Rossetti, Walter de la Mare and of course Charles Dickens.
All of these books are up on Amazon UK, but you will probably need to buy them used as I think they might be currently out of print. Still, it's always nice to find an older book that someone has treasured and these titles are perfect for curling up by a twinkling tree for some fireside festive reading. Happy Holidays!