By Richard Jay Parker
Usually, at this time of the year, the lists of worst books and best books start circulating and there's always some fun to be had from constructing your own personal versions.
But rather than slagging or praising books I usually aim for a different area of discussion - comfort books. Everything about Christmas is about comfort - comfort eating, comfort viewing, comfort gifts. So, rather than selecting a book for the holidays that I feel I should be reading (ie list of recommendations for contemporary authors I feel compelled to catch up with), my eyes usually alight on something I wouldn't normally read during the other eleven months of the year.
It's very often from my own shelf. Don't get me wrong - my credit card is already bloody and bruised from its Amazon gauntlet and I know there'll be plenty of requested books plumping up my stocking. However, my 'to read' list can go on hold just for a couple of weeks and I'll immerse myself in something as tried and tested as Its' A Wonderful Life.
Last year it was a book of Ghost Stories by M R James. This year it's Dennis Wheatley's The Haunting Of Toby Jugg. Books from my warped childhood! It's an old yellowed copy and there's something deeply satisfying about spending some leisurely time with something that's been patiently waiting on my shelf for the right occasion. It's like time out.
In 2010 I'll look forward to diving into the latest thrillers. A pristine copy of something new and exciting is the best way to start the year. I've been chatting to a lot of great authors in 2009 and have bought their books as a result. My Christmas list has got increasingly longer as well. A lot of them are newbies like me and I can't wait to discover what they're capable of.
So as well as giving much needed support to the up and coming writers this year go to your bookshelf and find something classic, nostalgic and familiar as well - for a lot of us, it's what Christmas is all about.