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Critics' Christmas Picks

There are thousands of new books to browse and read in our Critics’ Picks collection, in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room. Every book has been reviewed by top critics, including the Australian Book Review, New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. Have you made any surprising discoveries on our shelves?

Critics' Picks photo - Christmas Food and Feasting cover

Christmas is a time for gathering, eating, and heading to the beach for some people, while others may just enjoy the company of a good book.

’Tis the season to be reading. Whether you have some time off over the Christmas/New Year period or just want to take advantage of the daylight we’re saving, it’s a great time to catch-up on the latest releases or discover something new.

The Critics’ Picks collection in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room is filled with festive favourites, seasonal samplings, and end-of-year engagements. Here we’ve put together a small selection of some of the bookish bon bons available for your December delights.

Also make sure you join us on 5 December 2019 for a festive show-and-tell to discover how Christmas has been celebrated in Australia and internationally from colonial times up to the present day in the Library’s Christmas in the Collections lifelong learning session.

Critics' Picks photo - A Maigret Christmas

Madeline Shanahan’s Christmas food and feasting: a history is the first stop on the journey, especially if you’re already feeling peckish. Exploring the origins of the Christmas meal — and how the British Christmas dinner evolved throughout the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — you can try recreating everything from meats and mains to cakes and drinks. (Just not in the Library, please!) For the record, my favourite chapter is simply labelled ‘sweet treats’.

For an absolute Christmas classic there’s a new David Coward translation of Georges Simenon’s A Maigret Christmas, bringing together three of Simenon’s most enjoyable Christmas tales featuring Inspector Maigret and other characters from the Maigret novels.

Critics' Picks photo - Charles Dickens: A Bibliography of His First American Editions

A detail from an early edition of A Christmas Carol as featured in Charles Dickens: A Bibliography of His First American Editions: The Christmas Books and Selected Secondary Works (Oak Knoll Press)

For something closer to home there’s Black is the New White from Australian actor, writer and comedian Nakkiah Lui. Winner of the Nick Enright Prize for playwriting in the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, this Christmas-set satirical family drama about a young Aboriginal lawyer was described by the judges as ‘a warm and quick-witted romantic comedy revelling in the intersection between contemporary Australian cultures’.

Few people are more synonymous with Christmas than Charles Dickens and his oft imitated but rarely bettered ghost story set on Christmas Eve. Charles Dickens: a bibliography of his first American editions is Walter E Smith’s collection of materials from Dickens’ Christmas books and selected secondary works, with photographic reproductions of bindings and title pages from the likes of The Cricket on the Hearth, The Chimes and, of course, A Christmas Carol.

This is also the time of the year when it’s impossible to go into a shopping centre or turn on the telly without hearing seasonal songs. In Bing Crosby: swinging on a star, Gary Giddins revisits the years during which some of Crosby’s most enduring works — including perennial favourite ‘White Christmas’ — were created. Now try and get that song out of your head.

Whatever you’re doing this time of year, we hope to see you in the Library!

Reviewer: Richard Gray, Information & Access