This week the Christmas decorations have been sprouting up all around our London offices and so we thought it would be the perfect time to ask the literary agents at Curtis Brown and C&W what they will be reading over the festive period, as well as the books they will be gifting to their loved ones. So, if you’re looking for reading recommendations yourself, or stuck for ideas of what to buy your fellow book-lovers, you’ve come to the right place!
I always use Christmas as an excuse to mix some classics and books I should have read that were represented by colleagues or outside the agency.
So, I want to finish my enormous collection of John Cheever’s short stories which I’m enjoying, read Lucy Foley’s thriller The Hunting Party that I’m hearing great things about, Jane Harper’s new thriller, Force of Nature and keep pushing on with Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate which I never seem to have enough time to finish. Non fiction wise, I will read Michelle Obama’s Becoming to dream of a better world.
I’ll be buying Roar by Cecilia Ahern for all the women in my life. It is the most affirming book, perfectly captures the story of what it is to be a woman.
I’ll also be buying An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato, which has just been shortlisted for the Costa. It is a quietly and intensely powerful book, beautifully written, capturing these small lives in a powerful whammy (a bit like Stoner).
I will be buying lots of people Normal People by Sally Rooney for Christmas. It’s utterly compelling, effortless and my favourite pleasure read of 2018. I’ll also be gifting The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. Ali’s the first writer I ever took on as a young agent and his debut is magical and wintery so perfect for reading by the fire.
For myself, I’m saving Circe by Madeline Miller for Christmas. I’ve never read her before, hear great things and love Greek mythology so I suspect this will be an absolute treat.
I will be buying Johanna Basford’s World of Flowers for my non-reading buddies because colouring in is good for the soul – and makes you stop and really concentrate on something calming and gorgeous and Convenience Store Women for those who like a weird page-turner and have always fancied packing in their tough jobs and just working as a check-out girl forever (preferably in Japan).
My treat read is going to be the rest of the AMAZING graphic novel Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drewe is my favourite heroine ever!) and getting to grips with Ottolenghi’s Simple in preparation for the cooking fiesta.
First on the list is Winter Papers 4, an arts anthology of writing from Ireland and beyond edited by Kevin Barry and Olivia Smith which is beautifully produced and packed full of brilliant words and images and interviews. I can only gift this to people I know will appreciate it, so those who love books and words and music (turns out quite a long list), second is Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands which is perfect to read sat in front of the fire with a large glass of something post-prandial in hand. And for those looking for a new discovery I’ll get Dorthe Nors’ Mirror Shoulder Signal which I read in the summer and loved – about a woman living in Copenhagen who, in her early forties, is learning to drive while thinking back to decisions she’s made and what her childhood in rural Denmark meant to her. Loved it.
I have a pile of at least 25 books on my Christmas treat pile, I’ve promised myself two weeks of no work books and that means I’m hoarding everything. First on the list is Anna Burns’ Milkman which I’ve started and am loving but want to savour. Also Washington Black by Esi Edugyan and London Rules by Mick Herron. Oh yes and An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas as I’ve been wanting to read her for years. And the Collected Stories of John Cheever because wonderful stories are necessary. And so many more.
I will be giving my Dad a copy of Adam Weymouth’s The Kings of the Yukon, an elegiac and captivating portrait of a disappearing world.
I will be buying another copy of Sally Rooney’s Normal People for someone who has yet to meet Marianne and Connell in this beautifully realised, wise and emotionally rich novel.
I am looking forward to reading Tana French’s The Witch Elm – one of the finest contemporary writers and this sounds wonderfully chilling and exquisitely plotted.
I’ll be giving my family and friends a copy of Unexplained by Richard MacLean Smith, which has been a joy to work on. The atmospheric, chilling and insightful storytelling is perfect for a cosy winter night indoors, safely curled up away from the dark. And to my daughters, I will be buying the brilliant Little People, BIG DREAMS series, so that we can read these inspiring and humbling stories together this next year.
The book I’ll be gifting to myself is Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein, which promises to be the sort of immersive and moving contemporary storytelling I love.
I have, years later than everyone else, fallen in love with Tana French so I’ll be curling up by the fire to read The Secret Place and, after thoroughly enjoying The Song of Achilles recently, I’m hoping to dive into Circe.
As for books I’ll be buying, Michelle Obama’s Becoming is high up on my list, because I adore her, and if there’s anyone in my family who hasn’t already had a copy of The Language of Kindness pressed on them, I’ll be giving that: it feels particularly timely at Christmas to think about what we value most and Christie’s brilliant book is a testament to all the things we should celebrate, protect and cherish. On the fiction front, my go-to book gift is always Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which is clever and perceptive and moving, and which I could happily re-read yearly.
If you’re currently working on a novel, take a look at our selective entry novel-writing courses. Our spring 2019 courses are currently open for applications: Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell or Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Laura Barnett.
Or, if you’re writing YA or children’s fiction why not take a look at our dedicated selective entry online course for Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson.
We also run three short online courses at budget-price designed to help writers at different stages of their novel-writing journey: Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel – all starting in January 2019.
And if you want to gift something for the writer in your life, you can purchase a Curtis Brown Creative gift voucher, which covers the price on one of our six-week online courses.