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For the nights before Christmas

christmas films and books

No matter how much entertaining the festive season brings there’s no doubt that one of the finest gifts of the season is the chance to curl up in front of some favourite films, ideally with wine and chocolate to hand. We also love having time to spent some time with books, both new and classics. Here are a few of our favourite things (and we’re not including The Sound of Music because some people in the office think Christmas movies can only be about Christmas – personally the jury is out on that!).


Die Hard – the original and always the best, Bruce Willis’ tough guy John McClane must beat the odds, or a lot of terrorists, to save his estranged wife and many others. He’s a New York cop working alone in LA, barefoot, but he’s just too tough to stop.

If you’re looking for superbly executed suspense, you could also get comfy with Nelson DeMille’s latest spy thriller, The Deserter. Written with his screenwriter son Alex and inspired by a real-life story, we follow military cop Scott Brodie as he travels to Venezuela to track down and apprehend an ex-Delta Force deserter. Could he face a tougher opponent?


Home Alone – while it spawned several increasingly less plausible spin-offs, Macaulay Culkin’s first outing as an eight year old accidentally left at home by his extended family when they jet off for Christmas in Paris is all about the joy of having some quality alone-time, until burglars put him on the defensive.

If you love mischievous, creative and independent kids you could try an old classic, What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, or if you prefer some actual crime fighting try A Girl Called Justice by Elly Griffiths, her first book for kids.


Love Actually – wonderful on so many levels, although my favourite part will always be Bill Nighy’s reformed rock star indifferently addressing ‘Ant or Dec’. Richard Curtis’ star-studded cast is the ultimate feel-good film with a perfect sound-track and some great dad/Prime Minister dancing from Hugh Grant.

To read alongside try the perfect read-along book: Ali McNamara’s From Notting Hill with Love… Actually, full of references to feel-good romantic comedies with plenty of humour.


The Nightmare Before Christmas – ok, this could also sit in the Halloween movie list (in fact, is it in there?) but it’s definitely about making Christmas a little spookier than it usually is. Tim Burton, awesome animations and wonderful singing – what’s not to love. And why shouldn’t the ghouls and ghosts get to join in the season of goodwill?

To read in this mood try Grave Importance, just published, by Vivian Shaw. Funny and whimsical, it is set in Oasis Natrun, a highly secret health spa for mummies near Marseille, which is equipped with the very latest therapeutic innovations both magical and medical.


Christmas Carol – so many versions to choose from, from the brilliant and elderly Alastair Sim to Jim Carrey’s beautiful animated outing from 2009 but we think you can’t do better than the absolutely classic 1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol. Who could ask for more than Michael Caine’s Ebenezer Scrooge supported by Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy as his wife?

The only appropriate reading is obviously the original A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. And something to look forward to for when the festivities is ending is our new edition of David Copperfield which comes out at the same time as the eagerly awaited film by Armando Iannucci


White Christmas – you’ve got to really, haven’t you? A spin-off from an earlier Bing Crosby vehicle, Holiday Inn, but this time resplendent in glorious Technicolour and replacing the big (tiny?) shoes of Fred Astaire with those of Danny Kaye. Kitsch and jolly, and perfect for a cozy afternoon in front of the fire and TV, it has one of the best Christmas songs.

It’s got to be a book set firmly at Christmas time, with plenty of romance. How about An Island Christmas from our incomparable Jenny Colgan? Set on the remote Scottish island of Mure, can Flora and Saif find their respective merry Christmases?