I actually do like Christmas, but I don’t like the overly sentimental, desperate to make you feel something rubbish that comes along with it.
The six books here are either set at Christmas, or have a wintery, dark feel to them. All of them offer something a bit different to the normal mass produced Christmas stories.
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow
by Peter Høeg, Tiina Nunnally (Translator)
There’s a lot of snow in this book, and it’s actually set over Christmas, though you wouldn’t know it because the main character Smilla is not interested in Christmas at all. It’s bleak and completely unsentimental, but the story about a six-year-old boy who falls off a roof is gripping.
The Last Wish
by Andrzej Sapkowski
Another one that’s not set at Christmas, because it’s set in another world entirely. A fantasy about a witcher, a man with magic powers who hunts monsters for money. This has been made into a video game and I can see why because it’s faced paced and fun to read. The perfect antidote to Christmas mush, I’ve just bought the next book in the series to read.
The Sittaford Mystery
by Agatha Christie
There’s nothing better than a good Agatha Christie to read in the winter. This has all the usual elements, an impossible murder, a country house, a truck full of red herrings, and throws in a seance and a winter with a heavy snowfall. Christmas is there too, but blink and you’ll miss it.
The Taxidermist’s Daughter
by Kate Mosse
Set in the Autumn and not at Winter, but it has dark stormy weather and an isolated house. The creepy Victorian atmosphere makes this perfect for reading at this time of year.
The Snow Child
by Eowyn Ivey
I don’t’ normally recommend books I haven’t read, but the description alone made me want to add this to this list. Jack and Mabel build a child out of snow.
The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
A story “about the ability of books to feed the soul.” this is on the list because a small part of the book happens over Christmas. It’s set in Germany during World War II and it is narrated by Death. Worth reading just for how unusual that is, but the tale of a young girl who is living with a poor foster family and can’t resist stealing books for herself is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I can’t promise you won’t cry at this one, but it’s not cheap sentiment added just to get a reaction.