The Lists

The Perfect Books to Read to Feel the Month of December

The Perfect Books to Read in the Month of December

What are the best books to read in December 2020? We’ve shared a list of the fantastic new book releases coming in December 2020.  If you’re in search of still more ideas, here’s our take on the perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of December. Not just December 2020 – any December.

recommended reads for the month of December

So many books, so little time! Reading can be one of life’s sweetest luxuries. But how to quickly find the next great volume to dive into?

To lend a hand, every month we share our Dandelion Chandelier Recommended Reads: books that we’ve personally read and loved – some brand new, and some published long ago. Selected to suit the season, we think they deserve a place on your nightstand. Or your e-reader. In your backpack. Or your carry-on bag. You get the idea.

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In this edition: the perfect books to read in December 2020. We think these books best capture the mood and the essential spirit of the month.

The Perfect Books to Read in the Month of December

The perfect books to read in the month of December.

what is the essential spirit of December?

For starters, December is filled with festivals of light. All over the world, in many disparate cultures, people will gather to beat back the darkness with candles, fireworks, and lanterns released into the night sky.

The month is also filled with music and dance – choirs and orchestras and rock bands; Sugar Plum Fairies and Rockettes and angels. There will be receiving and giving – gestures of gratitude, love, forgiveness and hope. There will be attempts at seductions of all kinds — some passionately overt and some as subtle as a discreet sprig of mistletoe.

It’s the most popular month for people to get engaged. But it can also be a time of sadness, loneliness and disappointment. Of stress, fatigue and grief. Holidays can remind us of our regrets and failures as easily as they can help us recall the brightest moments of our lives.

So what is the perfect reading list in December? We think it should encompass the world.

The Perfect Books to Read in the Month of December

The perfect books to read in the month of December.

what makes for the best December reading list?

Here at Dandelion Chandelier, as the year draws to a close our wanderlust starts to rise, and we’re drawn to books set in foreign lands: India, Nigeria, the Amazon and Seattle. On a winter night, we like to read poetry. Toss in a sexy smart romance; a tale of family; and a hero’s journey (a real one, because we’re seeking inspiration and guidance for our own journey into the New Year. Come to think of it, let’s make it a heroine’s journey).

Hidden treasures, happy surprises, heartbreak and the start of something new. That’s December: skiing and sand; intimate gatherings and solitary reflection; raucous and serene; candlelight and starlight; an end and a beginning.

The Perfect Books to Read in the Month of December

The perfect books to read in the month of December.

Here are 10 books that pair perfectly with December: for reading under the tree, or by the fire, or apres-ski.  Under an umbrella on the beach; on the plane; on the way to the concert or on the way home. It’s time for the accountants to close the books for the year, and for us to open one of these.

perfect books to read in the month of December

1. The Adults by Caroline Hulse.

The Adults by Caroline Hulse is a novel of manners is set at Christmastime. What could be better December reading than that? Smart, sharp, and fast, it’s just the right mix of light and serious for right now. Two couples set out for Christmas vacation at the Happy Forest holiday park: a divorced couple – each with a new partner – and their precocious daughter. And her invisible friend. Lust, envy, alcohol and forced family fun combine in explosively funny ways. And through it all runs a thread of genuine desire for love and connection that makes this a deeply satisfying read.

2. Sad Janet by Lucie Britsch.

This book arrived in our lives in mid-2020 just like the perfect holiday present. It wasn’t something we were looking for – or even that we thought we needed – and yet, it feels as if it was created just for us. The titular Sad Janet is a smart, sarcastic and somewhat sad young urbanite – and to the despair of her mother, she finds it impossible to enjoy the holiday season (or as she says so memorably: to get it up for Santa).

But then along comes the new “Christmas pill” – invented by Big Pharma to help all the misanthropes survive the holiday seasons with their families. Janet wears her sadness like a badge of honor, and is reluctant to let it go. But this is temporary, right? At first the magic pills have no impact. But as Christmas approaches, they prove to have unintended impact. This is the “Christmas novel” for those who don’t really love Christmas – and believe it or not, it’ll make you feel extremely jolly.

3. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman.

It’s December 30th in a small town in Sweden and instead of holiday revelry, there is loss, desperation and melancholy in the air. A hapless robber, reeling from a divorce and overdue rent, tries a spontaneous heist at a bank that turns out to be cash free. The robber turns up at a real estate Open House (who holds those on the day before New Year’s Eve?) There, two married couples are bickering, and two women who have arrived separately are each wracked by grief that they’d rather not discuss. Add a father and son police duo and it’s a hostage drama unlike anything the town has ever seen.

What follows is a knowing and sharp meditation on depression, loneliness, parenthood and marital love. It’s sweet and funny and perfect for this time of year: in a chilly climate when everyone thinks they’re the only ones who can’t figure things out, an unlikely group of strangers comes together. And it turns out that when they combine forces, even seemingly intractable problems can be elegantly solved.

4. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This brilliant novel wins our prize for the “most December” book on our list. It’s zany, frantic, and eventful – and filled with peer pressure, family angst, trust issues and a wild desire to escape. Plus snow and ice. What could be more December than that? It’s a guaranteed good time. This brilliant novel launched Maria Semple’s deservedly stellar career.

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5. Winter by Ali Smith.

What could be a better read for the month of February than a book entitled Winter? Winter by Ali Smith is the second in the series of four volumes in the Seasonal Quartet by the Man Booker Prize-nominated author. While it’s set on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s anything but warm and cheerful. This novel hit us like a snowball to the face – it’s hard, and cold, and demands one’s full attention.

Winter is filled with foreboding, and regret and a sense of an ending. There are absent fathers, crumbling houses, estranged sisters and displaced people. There’s even a benign floating head. As when one is hit unexpectedly by ice or snow, it takes a moment to recover one’s bearings. Because this book is deeply strange, deliberately so. But it’s worth all the hard work involved. Stay with it, dear reader. And just like being showered with ice, you’ll emerge from this novel as one does from the bracing cold. Fully awake. And fully aware of the need to stay that way.

6. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. It’s a close call for the book that wins the prize for “most December of all” and this novel is definitely on our short list: elegiac, melancholy, wistful, perfectly crafted and deeply emotional – and oh yes, it features a family. And the holidays. Among other things. Over the course a year we see 30-year old Ruth deal with the challenges of a history-professor father with Alzheimer’s, a mother who blames herself for his illness, a brother estranged from the family, and her own broken engagement. Laugh-out-loud funny at times, and piercingly sharp in others, Khong is brilliant at penning memorable aphorisms and also at getting to the very heart of the matter with the lightest possible touch. This should come as no surprise, as she was the executive editor of the dearly departed Lucky Peach.

7. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. The narrator has lost her closest friend to suicide. And in the midst of struggling to recover, she finds herself the custodian and caregiver of his Great Dane, who is nearly as large as her rent-controlled Manhattan studio apartment. It’s smart, surprisingly funny (we laughed out loud several times, despite the dark subject matter), and deeply honest about loneliness and the hard work of grieving. And the enduring power of friendship and loyalty, both human and canine.

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8. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. A winter’s day or evening is the perfect time for poetry, and this novel about a poet with writer’s block is the perfect way to ease into reading an actual book of poetry. Paul Chowder is living in New England and trying to write the introduction to a new anthology of rhyming verse. He’s failing miserably, struggling with credit card debt and losing the love of his life, Roz, in the process. He elucidates the basic principles of poetry as he wrestles with these challenges (he’s also trying to clean up his desk, and we all know how impossibly difficult that is). It’s a gentle and cerebral companion for any adventure you may have planned this month. You’ll come away smarter and more optimistic when the journey is done.

9. L’Affair by Diane Johnson


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10. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker.

11. The New Parisienne: The Women & Ideas Shaping Paris.

What better place to travel by armchair (or Kindle screen) to this month than Paris? The City of Lights is magical at this time of year – and yet it’s so much more than a clichéd collection of pastries and roasted chestnuts and shopping (although we have a great deal of time for all three of those things). This is a wonderful and educational window in the real Paris of the present day, and into the women with influence who are making things happen in a society known for its traditional love of patriarchy. Emily in Paris may be a great escape and a guilty pleasure – but these women are fierce. And they’re the real deal.

12. Christmas in Austin by Benjamin Markovits.

Christmas in Austin is a sequel to Markovits’ debut novel about a high-performing yet somehow still dysfunctional upper class cosmopolitan family in A Weekend in New York. The four Essinger children gather in Austin for Christmas, each with a bold plan for what they hope to achieve in the New Year. But their parents – in some cases, at least – have different ideas.

books that capture the essential mood of December

What to read in December? Those are our picks for the perfect books to read in the month of December. Twelve books that can travel with you, or be a key part of your stay-cation. They’re as complex and involving as the month of December itself.

And if your desire is, as Virginia Woolf advised, to only connect – then one or more of these could very well fuel that quest. What’s on your reading list this month?

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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.

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