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R29 Reads: The Books We’re Picking Up This December

Alicia Lansom

Ah December, filled with nothing but office parties, pub crawls and painfully expensive Christmas markets. It may be one of the most social months of the year but let's not overlook December's potential for hibernation. Those hazy Sunday mornings, long commutes and hours spent hiding from the family over the Christmas break are all perfect opportunities to kick back with a good book (and a selection box).
There have been some great releases over the last couple of months. We've had Mary Gaitskill’s This Is Pleasure, a fictional tale of power, sex and consent in the modern workplace, and the return of one of the greatest love stories in recent years with André Aciman’s Find Me, the eagerly anticipated sequel to Call Me By Your Name.
If you’ve already worked your way through the big names and are hungry for more, we've got you covered with some new and exciting titles for the coming month, alongside a few gems that you might've missed when they first hit the shelves. From a magical historical fantasy to a gripping psychological thriller, our December reading list has something to suit everyone. Take a peek at what R29 staff are reading this month.

Sadhbh O’Sullivan, Health and Living Writer

Book: Steal As Much As You Can: How to Win the Culture Wars in an Age of Austerity by Natalie Olah

Why is it your December read? It feels more important than ever to remember what the age of austerity has done to shape the UK and this is such a smart, acerbic takedown of its direct impact. Nathalie’s book focuses on how disenfranchisement of poorer people from mainstream media (and the institutions shaping it) coincided with the legacy of Blair’s education policies, which encouraged and enabled more people from low-income backgrounds to access higher education, before denying them jobs and opportunities. She argues that it does not have to be this way and, more excitingly, the tides can be shifted by rejecting current systems and stealing what you can from them. Maybe not a traditional December read, but with a general election on the 12th, it could not be more timely.
Katy Thompsett, Sub Editor

Book: Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

Why is it your December read? There’s so much more to European fiction than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, although you’d never know it – according to The Bookseller, translations made up just 5.63% of fiction published in this country last year. We can all do better, so I’m making an effort to expand my literary horizons, starting with Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights. Published (in Polish) in 2007, it’s been getting a lot more attention since Tokarczuk won the Nobel prize for literature in October. By all accounts it’s a bit of an oddity, meandering playfully across space and time: after his death, Chopin’s sister secretly transports his heart to Warsaw; a woman returns to Poland to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart; a man unravels when his wife and child vanish, then just as suddenly reappear. With the UK seemingly determined to turn in on itself, this is a reminder to look beyond our borders and embrace the strange and unfamiliar.
Jess Commons, Lifestyle Director

Book: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Why is it your December read? This book actually came out in 2016 but I thought Room (if you didn’t read the book you definitely saw the Oscar-winning film) was astonishing and when I came across The Wonder in my suggested reads I realised I’d never read any of Donoghue’s other works. This book is different from Room but so far, it’s really great. Set in 1850s Ireland, it’s about a young girl who stops eating – but somehow continues to survive. Is it a religious miracle? A medical marvel? Or is there some kind of hoax at play? A no-nonsense nurse, trained under Florence Nightingale, is determined to find out. Painfully relevant as diseases related to anti-vaxxers rise again.
Alicia Lansom, Editorial Intern

Book: Fleabag: The Scriptures by Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Why is it your December read? Having spent the majority of my youth with my head buried in a script or acting out awful improvisations in drama classes, the mechanics of performance have always fascinated me. Which is why when Fleabag: The Scriptures was announced, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Although the obsession surrounding the series seems to have gone entirely too far (an IRL guinea pig café, really?), the opportunity to dissect the DNA of an award-winning show is too good to miss. Containing annotated film scripts of both series of Fleabag, the book gives readers a behind-the-curtain look at the origins of the show, as well as insider commentary from writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Jazmin Kopotsha, Entertainment Editor

Book: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Why is it your December read? "It begins with a woman. For this story, it is her story. It begins with her." This little snippet of the blurb from Gods of Jade and Shadow is referring to Casiopea, a young woman with a familiar dream; one that takes her far beyond the life she’s living at her grandfather’s house in a little town in Mexico. It’s been a while since I’ve lost myself in a brilliant fantasy novel like this one promises to be, and when I read about the ancient Mayan God of Death turning up to offer Casiopea a deal (not without dramatic consequences, I’m sure) it didn’t take much more convincing for me to add it to my pile.
Katy Harrington, Managing Editor

Book: Sex and Lies by Leila Slimani 

Why is it your December read? I read Slimani’s book Lullaby when it came out and it left a mark. It’s such a sensational story – no spoilers here, the first line of the book reveals a nanny has killed the child in her care and if you can believe it, from there things only get more fucked up. Slimani’s prose is unique and she is unabashed about taking on taboos – a dead baby, then sex addiction in Adele, her follow-up about a disturbed and damaged woman who has little interest in her child but an insatiable desire for violent sex. I vividly remember passages of both, more than a year or two later. Now Slimani is up to something different. For Sex And Lies she interviewed Moroccan women about their sex lives (in Morocco, the only 'acceptable' sex is between man and wife). To say the conversations are eye-opening is a disservice to Slimani and the women who she has talked to; it’s more complex and challenging than anything I’ve read this year. Basically she’s done it again but this time Slimani proves that reality is not just stranger, but more shocking, than fiction.
David Farrell, Junior Audience Development Manager

Book: The Woman In The Window by A.J Finn

Why is it your December read?  I’ve been a sucker for a psychological thriller ever since I snuck downstairs after my parents went to bed to watch The Shining when I was 8 years old. I simultaneously lived all my best lives at once and was scarred for life – it was awesome. I’ve been through peaks and troughs of interest in the genre since then but recently I finally got round to finishing two of my bucket list reads, The Girl On The Train and Gone Girl, which were two of the most gripping stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I hear The Woman In The Window has a similar vibe with an unreliable narrator and shocking twist ending, which is right up my alley. I also want to get in there before the film with Amy Adams, who I adore to pieces, comes out next year. See you on the other side.
Vicky Spratt, Features Editor 

Book: I Choose Elena by Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Why is it your December read? Women’s pain – both psychological and physiological – is at once talked about all the time and poorly misunderstood. From PMDD to migraines, vaginismus to endometriosis – there seems to be more that doctors don’t know, than do. This essay is an honest, compelling and visceral exploration of all of this trauma; you’ll want to underline almost every single line as you go, to revisit later.

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