During the summer, I love to read outdoors. There’s not much that can top reading Thomas Hardy under the shade of an oak tree, or sipping cold water while drinking in My Family and Other Animals on a beach in Corfu. Summer is all about Wodehouse and Austen round these parts.
But winter reading is a different matter altogether. Winter reading is done curled up in my favourite armchair, with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate to hand. During the winter, I want to read magical stories that make me forget the radiators need bleeding and there are draughts coming from between the ancient floorboards.
If you’re looking for some good books that make perfect fireside reading, then here are my top 5 recommendations for snowy afternoons. What are yours?
- Dark Materials Trilogy, Philip Pullman: For me, winter is made for magical stories of imaginary, epic lands. I love Harry Potter, but for my money these books are so much smarter and more richly imagined than the Potter stories – and why shouldn’t kids’ books ask big questions about morality and atheism and belief?
- Eat, Love, Pray, Elizabeth Gilbert: In summer I want light, wry writing and satire. In winter, I seek the comfort of sentiment, and this book has it by the bucket-load. Set your cynicism aside for an afternoon of positive thinking. You might have your own equivalent to this book. I'm good with that. Providing it doesn't have 'chicken soup' in the title. And isn't called 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven'. There's hokey and then there's just rubbish.
- The Secret History, Donna Tart: A fabulous literary suspense novel, full of atmosphere and isolation, building to a terrible conclusion. And to think the first time I read it, I almost ditched it after 20 pages.
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: I loved this story about the orphan Bod, who spends his childhood hiding from the Jack of All Trades. Dark, quirky and full of belly-laughs.
- Letters from Father Christmas, JRR Tolkien: I have nothing more to say other than that this is basically Christmas in paper form. Just perfect. Every home should have a copy. You don't need to waste it on the kids, but Flea does love taking the little letters out of the envelopes and letting me read them to her.
I was lucky enough to be invited to go and talk about books with the hilariously potty-mouthed and frighteningly intellectual Claudia Winkleman last month, along with some other bloggers. You can see video highlights of our immensely highbrow encounter (aka – the one where I ask Claudia about her hair and she says she’s aiming to look as though she just ‘had it’ against the bins outside) over on the Who’s the Mummy Facebook page. Although – Claudia – you could not be MORE wrong about I've Loved You So Long.
If you're looking to discover some new books this winter, Galaxy is giving away a million books through special Galaxy chocolate bars – to find out more details and enter, visit www.galaxybookclub.co.uk.
So, what are your favourite fireside reading choices?