The twelve books of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

Twelve Shakespeare Tragedies

The spearhead of this literary carol is the spearhead of English Literature himself, Shakespeare. A pioneer of the use of the English language, suffused into our everyday speech, studied, watched and enjoyed worldwide, with some of the most iconic scenes, characters and lines, Shakespeare’s twelve tragedies have been enthralling, frightening and defining theatre for centuries and continue to have relevance to contemporary audiences.

Eleven Toni Morrison Novels

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, this author cannot be critically acclaimed enough for us to comprehend the extent of the impact she has had on readers worldwide and the state of Literature today. Boasting an evocative, heartbreaking and defiant oeuvre, including Beloved, Sula and Song of Solomon, Morrison’s lyrical and convention-defying prose explores the intersection of race and gender, all whilst centring on universality of human behaviour.

Ten Wargrave’s Victims

Whilst it may seem morbid, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the thrills of Agatha Christie. And Then There Were None works to uncover the culprit of the 10 murders that take place on a secluded island and which mirror the haunting lines of a nursery rhyme.

Nine Penguin Houses

The UK’s largest book publisher, Penguin Random House, is home to nine individual publishing houses, including Vintage and Transworld. It is likely your stocking will hold one of the 15,000 books they publish each year.

Eight Homegoing Generations

Yaa Gyasi’s enthralling family saga follows eight generations of a divided family lineage after two sisters are separated when one gets sold into slavery and the other marries a white slave owner. The narrative that follows traverses the shores of the Cape Coast and an evolving America, exploring what it means to be African, African American and an African in America. As the characters each navigate the contours of their world, the ultimate search is for family unity.

Seven Harry Potter books

Having sold over 600 million copies worldwide, become a multi-million-dollar movie franchise, and now gracing the West End, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books certainly earned their place on this song-sheet.  

Six Romantic Poets

A pioneering group of poets, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats, are emblematic of the Romantic literary movement. As the Industrial Revolution saw the topography of the country become urbanised, dominated by technology and shrouded in the smoke from factories, the reactionary work produced by these poets sought to reignite feelings of both awe and fear at the ‘terrible sublime’ prowess of the natural world and reposition this world above the man-made domination under which it was become increasingly subject.

Five Bennett sisters

Five Bennett sisters

Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia Bennett are the iconic sisters who define Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A must-have on any bookshelf, Austen chronicles the mundanity of life for women as they had to navigate the upper- and middle-class circles of Regency England in which marriage for wealth was the highest expectation. Passionate, intelligent and headstrong, the Bennett sisters’ defiance of these norms creates ruptures in their corner of southern England in this lively novel where the perception of ourselves and others is put under the microscope.

Four Christmas ghosts

Haunted by Marley’s Ghost and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, these spirits all work to reform Ebeneezer Scrooge of his avarice before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve in Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol. Infused with magic and the supernatural, Dickens oscillates between time frames in this story of love and friendship, wealth and poverty, the meaning of life and, of course, the meaning of Christmas.

Three Unhappy families

‘All happy families are alike. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ The iconic opening line of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina which interweaves the stories of three families: the Oblonskys, the Karenins and the Levins. Balancing the domestic and political, the consequences of an extra-marital affair provide the foreground of this tragedy set against the unstable political atmosphere of a Russia approaching revolution.

Two Booker winners

The 2019 Booker Prize secured its place in the history books, with its unprecedented decision to award the prize to two authors. Sure to become feminist classics due to their respective exploration of the female subject in a dystopic world and millennial London, The Testaments, written by previous winner Margaret Attwood, shared the prize with Booker-debutant, Bernadine Evaristo, whose Girl, Women, Other, made her the first black woman to win the prize.

And a Room of One’s Own

The resounding and inspirational words of literary and feminist trailblazer, Virgina Woolf, provide the fitting conclusion to this bookish carol: ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ Theorising the conditions of a literary sphere in which it is possible for women to carve out their space, Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own speaks to the gender bias against which she and her contemporaries had to struggle to get their voices heard, reminding us how far we have come and galvanising us to strive further.

Image credit: Andy Mabbett via Wikimedia Commons

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