Books have always been an important part of Christmas to me. As a child, books set my expectations about what Christmas was. They, or the Book Tokens that would let me buy them, were my most wished for Christmas gifts. As an adult, I still love to give and receive books at Christmas. Perhaps the only piece of Christmas shopping that I look forward to is when I walk into Waterstones in October or November and see all the released-just-in-time-for-Christmas books on the shelves, many of them with covers designed to trigger a feeling of Christmas in my imagination.
Not surprisingly, my physical and digital bookshelves are spiced with books with Christmas covers that my wife and I love. Below, we’ve picked out eight of our favourite covers. As well as having cover designs that we enjoy, they each present a different way of imagining Christmas.
‘A Redbird Christmas’ reminds us of the American Hallmark Movie version of Christmas – brightly coloured, deeply cold and completely romantic. The Redbird is startling and not something you’d see in Europe.
The cover of ‘An English Murder’ is an astonishingly good piece of graphic design. The blood-red sky brings menace to a classic English country scene and is all the more powerful because of the simplicity of the lines and the bold three-colour palette. This says Posh English Christmas with a dash of festive blood to me.
In contrast, the cover of ‘A Maigret Christmas’ just shouts Paris, and period Paris at that. The snow in ‘An English Murder’ is dominant. The snow in ‘A Maigret Christmas’ is a seasonal inconvenience to be overcome and worked around, softening the edges of the city and slowing its pulse but never dominating it. This is a cover that works around Christmas without surrendering to it.
‘The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror’ is one of my favourite Christmas books. This isn’t the cover on the copy we have but I like it for its naive art. This book is a curious mixture of the anarchic and the wholesome that twists just about every Christmas trope and still delivers an American Small Town Christmas that Frank Capra would have been proud of. I think this childish image of a more-than-a-little-on-the-dumb-side angel makes the perfect cover.
I bought ‘A Large Measure Of Snow’ because the cover said ‘Christmas Present’ as clearly as flashing Christmas lights. This is a Boy’s Own Adventure kind of Christmas, with feats of daring-do performed in the face of adversity by ordinary people trying to do the right thing.
The cover of ‘The Twelve Clues Of Christmas’ is all stylised retro-chic. It’s the spirit of posh English Christmases past, that the likes of you and I would only have experienced if we were waiting tables for the gentry. It speaks to a playful knowingness about Christmas and the foibles of posh people.
‘The Storied Life Of A. J. Fikry‘ isn’t a Christmas book but this cover, with its rich reds and its welcoming bookshop, summons up a booklover’s Christmas. A Christmas where you can escape from the world into a pile of books and not come out again until Christmas is over. I love the hint of magic given by having the original cover of the book on display in the bookshop window.
The cover of ‘Wolfsbane and Mistletoe’ is simple but effective. The green and red in the palette invoke Christmas but it’s the black that dominates. Yet any sense of threat is dispelled by the red antlers on the howling wolf. This is an Urban Fantasy Christmas Special kind of Christmas where sword-toting heroines and dangerously fanged and clawed werewolves get just as entangled and befuddled by Christmas celebrations as the rest of us.
So, what are your favourite Christmas book covers and what version of Christmas do they summon for you?