Karen Swan on the books she'll be gifting this Christmas

11 December 2017

Bestselling author and queen of cosy Christmas reads Karen Swan shares the books she’ll be gifting this Christmas. Karen's new festive story, The Christmas Secret, is out in paperback now. 

The Christmas Chronicles

I’ll be giving this to my husband this Christmas as he’s a keen cook and Nigel Slater is the master of comforting home cooking. But I am also especially drawn to this book’s additional content, celebrating winter in all its fullness: cosy nights at home, the wild beauty of foraging in the countryside and the joys of a log fire – all of which are elements I try to capture in my own Christmas books.

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The Explorer

I’ll be giving this to my nieces and goddaughters. I bought it for my daughter’s birthday in the autumn and read it aloud to her, not because she needed me to but because I am such an avowed Rundell fan, I couldn’t bear for her to enjoy the story without me. Apart from Philip Pullman, there is arguably no-one writing such vivid, inventive children’s book as Katherine Rundell. Her imagination is boundless, her prose a delight and I love that all her female protagonists are feral - not a princess in sight.

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Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

On the same riff, I’m buying this for my 11-year old daughter. When the law was changed in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, finally allowing women to drive, she looked at me for an explanation as to why that was only happening now – I found it so hard to try to explain how, in some places, in this day and age, women are still seen as inferior. This book demonstrates exactly why we’re not.

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The Great Alone

The Great Alone

This book isn’t out till February but I was lucky enough to read an advance copy and it’s so good, I’d pre-order it for my mother-in-law because it’s a promise of excellence. Set in the 1970s, it’s told from the perspective of American 14-year old Leni, when her parents decide to relocate to Alaska after her father returns from Vietnam. I can still feel the startling purity of that polar sky breezing about my head whenever I think about it; that book made me absolutely furious, it made me shine from the inside and it made me sob.

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Her Frozen Heart

Her Frozen Heart

Lulu Taylor and I did a reader event together recently and she read an excerpt aloud from this. Suffice to say, she ended on a cliffhanger and now I can’t rest until I find out what happened.

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The Lost Words

I came across this book when I saw the author and illustrator interviewed on breakfast TV one morning and was intrigued by the concept - they had realized that this generation of children are growing up without ever using what we would consider to be ‘ordinary’ vocabulary of the natural world, such as ‘bramble’ and ‘otter’, and that subsequently, these words are being lost. I live in rural Sussex and it really matters to me that my childrens’ childhoods are rooted in nature and natural experiences. The rise of tools like meditation and mindfulness have shown that happiness and peace are synonymous with a connection to the natural world and I want that to be the case for my family. Plus the illustrations are truly stunning; if I could, I would frame them.

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