Great Christmas Reads: Books to Share or Savour

If you’re on the hunt for a gift that can both captivate and enlighten, look no further than a good book. BIF’s Book Festival Director, Vicky Dawson, has diligently combed through the options and is eager to share her selection of the top five holiday reads this Christmas:


In amongst the swirl of Christmas markets now branded as ‘experiences’; increasingly luxuriant advent calendars (that rather seem to have abandoned the concept of advent); and the eye watering cost of gift suggestions within the broadsheet’s colour sections (‘Stocking Fillers!” Really?) the gift of a nicely wrapped book continues to be both a thing of joy and excellent value for money. Cosying up with a book for several hours of entertaining reading alongside the added bonus of being able to pass it on to a deserving friend, is surely the nicest way to enjoy the commercial side of the festivities.


My top five reading choices for this Christmas (in no particular order) are:

Helen Rebanks-The Farmer’s Wife


Voted Observer Food Monthly’s number 1 Book of the Year, Helen has quietly supported her husband, James at his two BIF events. The Observer described him as ‘a celebrity shepherd’ which made me giggle. Helen has shown how talented they are as a writing couple and has delivered a book of both charm and steely honesty and wit.  Both recipe book and myth busting account of rural life, I loved this for its illustrations and measured insight. Buy this book here.

Florian Gadsby- By My Hands: A Potter’s Apprenticeship

Sadly my own attempts at learning the potter’s art have not resulted in a creative epiphany. Florian Gadsby on the other hand is a potter of astounding talent, who’s thrice yearly pottery sales are hotly anticipated. By My Hands is a beautiful book about creating soulful yet functional art interspersed with illuminating memoir. Educated in England, Ireland and Japan. Florian’s discipline, perseverance and quest for perfection may also resonate with music lovers and practitioners. Buy this book here.


Dame Jane Glover- Mozart in Italy: Coming of Age in the Land of Opera


A firm favourite at BIF,  Dame Jane is both an exceptional conductor and acclaimed writer. This is a celebration of Italy and all things artistically Italian as much as it is a compelling portrait of a precocious talent. Mozart visited Italy just three times between 1769 and 1773 but it was to act as a benchmark and inspiration for his artistic vision. Buy this book here.

David Reynolds- Mirrors of Greatness: Churchill and the Leaders who Shaped Him

I think those who have heard me introduce David from the Buxton stage before, as both one of ‘our’ authors and interviewers, will know that I am a great fan of his writing. His book ‘The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century’ remains one of my favourite works of non-fiction. Mirrors of Greatness is equally bold and international in outlook and considers the leaders Churchill met, who inspired and shaped his legacy. You do not have to be a Churchill afficionado to be entranced by this book. Buy this book here.


John Crace- Depraved New World: Please Hold, The Government Will Be With You Shortly


If, like me, you jump on John Crace’s satirical column in the Guardian each day then this is a must for your Christmas stocking. At some points this year, the actuality of political life has felt more like a John Crace sketch….than a John Crace sketch. If laughter is the best political medicine then maybe this will help….a bit. Buy this book here.


As always, please buy your books from a bricks and mortar high street bookshop.  I look forward to seeing you at Buxton International Festival. There are just 204 days to go (at time of writing)


Merry Christmas, One and All,

Vicky Dawson.