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Read all about it: Top 10 Fiction books for Xmas

I love a good book, don’t you? Often Christmas and my summer hols are the only time I get to read, and my mum always comes up trumps on the stocking fillers with a decent read.

If you’re looking for a bit of guidance and inspiration, here is the first of the Muddy book guides to help you decide the best tomes for Christmas. As usual we’ve deployed the local experts, starting with Rachel at The Woodstock Bookshop on her Top 10 fiction picks. Find a comfy seat, and enjoy the read.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith


This novel traces the friendship between two girls who dream of being dancers and moves between London and West Africa. Her fifth novel and in my opinion every bit as good as the others – a brilliant study of female friendship and growing up and identity.

All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski


I love this novel which focuses on young woman and her son towards the end of the Second World War, living a strangely suspended life in an almost deserted manor house in East Prussia, and shows how we are slow to adapt to the reality of war around us. Awakening, when it comes, is rapid and changes everything.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf


Our find of the year – Kent Haruf’s final book, completed just before he died – a love story written for his wife about growing old. Everyone we recommend it to has enjoyed this. His other books are excellent too – he turns small town America into poetry.

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett


Mostly unjustly criticised by Virginia Woolf, I think Bennett’s tale of two women‘s lives from youth to old age is brilliant. As Deborah Moggach says in her introduction, ‘an amazing feat of empathy… in fact it’s the perfect novel.’

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

This slender novel by the always entertaining Julian Barnes is about Shostakovich, creating a compelling picture of what it was like to be a composer in Russia during the middle of the twentieth century. A perfect read for the time-poor.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift



Another very short novel that seems to contain a universe – a young girl’s awakening, set during one afternoon.

Transit by Rachel Cusk



In the wake of a family collapse, a writer and her two sons move to London – this continues the themes of her earlier book, Outline. I find these books completely addictive. The writing is spare and totally satisfying.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry


A beautifully written historical novel, a love story set in Victorian Essex. Shortlisted for the 2016 Costa novel award.

Conclave by Robert Harris


Robert Harris has done it again – an un-put-downable book and about the intrigue and machinations of choosing a Pope. From the first page I was hooked by this intelligent thriller. Totally recommended.

Raymond Chandler – all, any!


An oldie but a goodie. I recently read The Lady in the Lake and loved it – dry wit, exquisite writing, good pace, dead-pan humour, and like most books, even better than the films!

The Woodstock Bookshop, 23 Oxford Street, Woodstock OX20 1TH, 01993 812760,


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