Chosen by The Margate Bookshop
Foreword by Leona Chapman
Written by Francesca Wilkins and Anna Lounguine
What's better than curling up with a good book during these chilly Winter months? We love a cosy winter read, so we asked our good friends at The Margate Bookshop to put together the ultimate Winter reading list for us - and wow did they deliver! The Margate Bookshop is an independent bookshop in the heart of Margate's Old Town on the Kent coast, selling both new and secondhand books. The shop's owner, Francesca, has a fantastic knowledge of books from classical to contemporary literature, she is sure to pick out the perfect read just for you.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber, £10 hardback)
Set in the Ireland of the 1980s, in a small rural town, this short novel from Claire Keegan captures a deeply moving story of gentle heroism. Bill Furlong is a coal merchant, a father, a son. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, his busiest time of the year, he happens upon a young girl who is locked away - held captive - in a nearby convent. Desperate and distressed, she begs to see the baby she has been separated from, and Bill Furlong begins to ask himself whether he once verged upon a similar fate as a child. Small Things Like These is a moral tale, but one set in recently times, offering a brief glimpse into the history of Ireland’s magdalen laundries. Keegan’s writing is tender and hopeful, making this a perfect read for the time of year, kindred to the tales of Dickens or Chekov.
Nativity by Jean Fremon and Louise Bourgeois (Les Fugitives, £8.50 paperback)
To any self-respecting winter theme its comforting Christmas-themed book! Nativity, written by Jean Frémon, was originally published in 2009 in France on the 25th of December, Jesus’ and incidentally, Louise Bourgeois’ birthday. Released in the UK for the first time, it was translated from French into English by Cole Swensen for Les Fugitives. How should one paint the baby Jesus? That’s what drives this work of fiction, ‘the story of the first painter who had the idea of representing the baby Jesus completely naked rather than in swaddling clothes’. The book is a miniature format, with fewer than fifty pages and punctuated by five carnal drawings on birth and motherhood by the amazing Louise Bourgeois, which she made especially for the text. So this is about Christmas and also totally not about Christmas. It’s short and sweet, we're hoping the same can be said about the upcoming winter.
Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath (Faber & Faber, £10.99 paperback)
The poems in Winter Trees were written in the last few months before Sylvia Plath tragically took her own life. Published posthumously in 1971 and recently reissued by Faber, they formed part of the group from which the iconic Ariel poems were chosen and, paradoxically, reveal Plath at her best. Showing the colour of her voice, nearly all the poems here have her very own image-heavy, soft, sensitive, dramatic thing going, that’s so particular to her. In a sense, Plath can be your winter companion because reading her is being intimate with her immediately, but she also is a bit like winter: the dichotomy between the warmth of emotion and the iciness of sadness, between frailness, fragility and resilience and indignation, between love and fear. This should feature on any list of any books for anyone, it’s obviously total genius, and if that’s not a winter warmer then I don’t know what is.
Wintering by Katherine May (Ebury Publishing, £16.99 hardback £9.99 paperback)
Like many people, I’ve often struggled to properly embrace the Winter months, but here’s a book that can change our perception of the colder, darker time of the year. Wintering can be read as a memoir or as a meditation, as nature writing or as poetry. With her elegant, thoughtful prose, Kent-based author Katherine May gently invites us to celebrate the moments in life that are traditionally, and by nature, reserved for rest and for repair, moments in which to retreat in anticipation of the spring to come. Looking at folklore and religion, bridging culinary traditions or Icelandic rituals, in sickness or in health, this is a book that diffuses in soft light the mechanisms of nature during these times. Whether you welcome the bitter bite of winter and perhaps continue to swim in the North Sea, or whether you desire nothing more than to hibernate for a little while, Wintering is a perfect accompaniment to cosy evenings as the days grow ever-shorter.
Notes from an Island by Tove Jansson (Sort of Books, £12.99 hardback)
In the bitter winds of autumn 1963, Tove Jansson, helped by Brunstroem, a maverick fisherman, built a cabin on a treeless skerry in the Gulf of Finland. The island was Klovharun, and for the subsequent thirty summers Tove and her partner, the artist Tuulikki Pietila, retreated there to live, paint and write, basking in the solitude and lulled by the motion of seascapes. Notes from an Island, published in English for the first time, isn’t just a chronicle of this period but also a kaleidoscopic love letter from Tove to Tooti and Tooti to Tove, and both to the island. This is a book to remember that small details make beautiful things, and that the most beautiful things are often the simplest, most evident ones. Combining Tove's prose and Tuulikki's graphics, this has a real, meditative earnestness to it. A real, meditative peacefulness to it.
The Book of Change by Stephen Ellcock (September Publishing, £25 hardback)
Such a brilliant awakening, rooting for our potential, creative energy and capacity for change and challenge, from the beloved, art-fugitive curator Stephen Ellcock (I highly recommend following @stephenellcock on Instagram, it’s a real treat). Featuring 240 reproductions of art, photography and objects, through history and across the globe, this is a powerful and inspiring collection and an ideal coffee table book for those dim winter afternoons. ‘By reassembling, repurposing and repositioning fragments of the past and combining them with new visions and fresh ways of seeing, a collage of unfamiliar, unspoiled possibilities can emerge, exorcising the ghosts of struggles, failures and traumas past, providing glimpses of a better world, of overgrown paths in the clearing, of potential routes out of crisis into a brighter, bolder future.' The Book of Change is like the glimpse of spring at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer of hope for brighter days ahead. Love is the message here.
You can find all of these fantastic books at The Margate Bookshop, or order them through their online shop here. You can also follow The Margate Bookshop on Instagram here (be sure to keep your eyes peeled for an exciting joint giveaway!)