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The Best Festive Books to Read This Season (staff picks)

  16 Nov '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

The best way to pass the time in the lead up to Christmas is cosying up by the fire with a new book! Now that the sun is setting earlier and earlier, there’s no better time to treat yourself to some enchanting festive books and get your Christmas reading off to a great start. Read on for the Birlinn staff’s top picks for books to enjoy this holiday season.

Kinloch Tales by Denzil Meyrick

Set in the quaint fishing town of Kinloch, these short-but-sweet tales of mystery and intrigue will suck you in and keep you entertained on a cold winter evening. Join familiar characters, skipper Sandy Hoynes and first mate Hamish, as they face the unexpected. From heavy snow cutting off the town to the sudden reappearance of old enemies, these nostalgic tales make for the ideal fireside reads– not to mention how perfect and festive the set looks all together!

The Edinburgh Skating Club by Michelle Sloan

It’s Edinburgh in the eighteenth-century. Poet Alison Cockburn accepts a light-hearted challenge from her friend Katherine Hume to dress as a man and infiltrate the exclusive, gentlemen-only Edinburgh Skating Club. Neither can anticipate the ways in which Alison’s new identity will shape their lives. In the present, art historian Claire Sharp investigates an unforeseen mystery behind the identity of the famous figure who appears in the iconic painting, The Skating Minister. This fun, feminist tale brings together past and present, celebrating women in history, art, and love in all its forms.

A Gathering: A Personal Anthology of Scottish Poems chosen by Alexander McCall Smith

Discover lesser-known, beautiful Scottish poems personally curated by renowned author Alexander McCall Smith. Read a poem a day to get you through the winter– uplifting, meaningful, reflective works you may not have read before. Each piece is accompanied by short epigraphs from the editor, who shares his intimate thoughts and joys derived from each one. Christmastime can be as introspective as it is joyful, so there’s no better time to dive into this timeless collection.

The Two-Headed Whale by Sandy Winterbottom

When author Sandy Winterbottom embarked on an epic, six-week sailing excursion to Antarctica in 2016, she expected to find a pristine natural landscape and idyllic escape from the stressors in her life. Instead, she discovered eerily quiet waters, an abandoned derelict whaling station, and the grave of a nineteen-year-old boy from Edinburgh. These shocking finds lead her into the dark history and legacy of whaling and Scotland’s particular role in it. This book braids together the story of Sandy’s journey with the life of Anthony Ford, the young whaler who lost his life after toiling in an industry where profits outranked human rights. Christmas holidays can offer a bit of free time to learn something new, and this contemplative, powerful read will stay with you long into the new year.  

The Enigma of Garlic by Alexander McCall Smith

As the latest 44 Scotland Street instalment, The Enigma of Garlic is part of the world’s longest-running serialised novel. Witty, wise, and full of warmth, legendary author Alexander McCall Smith captures the wholesome joy we all hope to be feeling during Christmas. Join Bertie and the other delightful denizens of Edinburgh’s most famous address for their latest adventures. From a highly anticipated wedding to unexpected visitors disrupting the tranquillity of 44 Scotland Street, this charming new novel will keep you company on a chilly winter evening!

Homecoming by Rosemary Goring

This iconic Scottish queen spent a mere twelve years in her home country. Homecoming by Rosemary Goring explores these years through the atmospheric, historic locations and settings that shaped the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. This book includes some little-known anecdotes about Mary Stuart, as well as examining the role Scotland, with its tumultuous court and divided social landscape, played in her downfall. From Edinburgh Castle to Linlithgow Palace, this fascinating story will definitely keep you captivated on a dark winter’s night.

The Horizontal Oak by Polly Pullar

With trees bare of their leaves, rain pouring down, and so few hours of daylight at this time of year, we can certainly appreciate nature and the effect it can have on our mental health. In Polly Pullar’s life, nature and wilderness have been at the heart of her world since childhood. The Horizontal Oak is her meaningful memoir, revealing how nature has helped her persevere through the challenges she has faced and also become her greatest passion. As a wildlife rehabilitator, Polly has had some incredible, heart-warming connections with animals that have healed and motivated her. Told with warmth, compassion, and humour, this is her inspirational life story, and well-worth reading this festive season.

Browse our festive reading recommendations here:

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