Skip to main content


December 16, 2021

The Family that Gifts Together Reads Together

We wrap up this year’s Holiday Author Blog series with Julia Kelly, the award-winning author of books about ordinary women and their extraordinary stories. Her upcoming novel, THE LAST DANCE OF THE DEBUTANTE (on sale January 4th), whisks readers to midcentury Britain as it follows three of the last debutantes to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II. Julia and the members of her family are all voracious readers, so they know that on Christmas Day, each of their personal libraries will be well-stocked with new releases and old favorites. Read on to discover the unique (and fun!) way they exchange their bookish gifts.


Every Christmas morning, amid the sea of torn wrapping paper and discarded ribbons, there stands a tall, proud stack of books next to each member of my family. We’re book gifters, and everyone’s Christmas list always features a healthy number of new releases and old favorites to fill out our personal libraries.

In our house, Christmas Day is as much about reading as it is about paper crowns, the Queen’s Speech and other British Christmas traditions. However, after Christmas breakfast is served and everyone settles in to take a closer look at their presents, the negotiations start. You see, we’re also a family full of people who often gift books they themselves want to read.

The rule is that each person gets first dibs on the books they were given, but then it’s open season on claiming each other’s presents. Dad will deny it, but he’s arguably the worst offender, once giving Mum the Everyman Library’s nearly complete collection of P.G. Wodehouse’s novels because he knew that she would enjoy them --- and he also very much wanted for himself. He maneuvers around book stacks like a shark, scanning the blurbs with open interest before the dust has even settled on Christmas morning. My sister, being the only dedicated sci-fi and fantasy reader in the house, has some protection against her long, magic-filled novels about quests being stolen. But now that her husband is reading more of those genres, she’s no longer safe.

I am predominantly a reader of historical fiction, mystery, social history and literary fiction, all of which my mother also consumes voraciously. Often, as we’re unwrapping our gifts to each other, we’ll keep a running commentary, saying things like, “I’d like to read that one after you” or “Let me know what you think of that. I’d like to read it next.” Altruistic gifting at its finest!

The beauty of giving and laying claim to one another’s gifts is that, throughout the year, a sort of informal family book club forms. We pass books from person to person, and on WhatsApp and FaceTime, debate rages about characters we liked, plot devices that didn’t work for us, and if a book “worked.”

This year, the majority of the family read MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid, THE APPEAL by Janice Hallett and THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman.

I won’t spoil anyone’s Christmas presents, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the 2022 edition of the family book club might include SNOW COUNTRY by Sebastian Faulks, THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY by Amor Towles, HARLEM SHUFFLE by Colson Whitehead and APRIL IN SPAIN by John Banville. The only thing to do is wait until Christmas morning when all of the presents are unwrapped and start to build our reading lists.