Year of Historical Reading – December Update

The last month of my Year of Historical Reading is here! While there are still 1 ½ days left in the year, I’m fairly confident I won’t finish any additional books. My reading this month wasn’t as prolific as usual, due to my focus on writing. For reading this month, I wanted to get caught up on my NetGalley Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), along with several books with a Christmas or holiday theme. 

Here are my books for December, and I have indicated if they were pulled from my unread shelves, purchased, or borrowed from the library.  

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Historical Fiction:

Christmas Bells: A Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini (purchased this month)

I wanted to read a holiday-themed historical fiction book this year, so when I saw that one of my favorite authors wrote a book about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s well-known Christmas poem, “Christmas Bells,” I knew I had found it! This poignant and delightful novel is dual-timeline, taking place during the turbulent mid-19th century in which Longfellow wrote the poem and in present-day Cambridge, Massachusetts. I felt a special connection to this book since I lived in Cambridge for 2 years and walked by Longfellow’s house weekly. I loved the historical plot in the book and enjoyed learning more about Longfellow’s life and the sad events that inspired his writing. Chiaverini is at her best in weaving historical facts from Longfellow’s life into a compelling story, from his wife’s tragic death to his son’s wounding in the Civil War. The present-day timeline seemed a bit light at times, in comparison to the historical plotline, but I enjoyed it as well. It was the perfect read in December!

The Christmas Letters by Lee Smith (purchased this month)

I saw this book on one of my favorite bookish blogs, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and was instantly intrigued. I haven’t read any books by Lee Smith but have always meant to since she grew up in my husband’s hometown of Grundy, Virginia. This epistolary novella was a quick and light read for the Christmas season and tells the stories of one family through the decades using annual Christmas letters sent by a mother and her daughter. These breezy letters contain a lot of personal history that happens in every family – deaths, births, moves – and also provides a unique perspective of a World War II bride suddenly thrust into living with her in-laws. I just wish it had been longer! 

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva (purchased this month)

Another Christmas novel! This book imagines the creative process of Charles Dickens in writing the famous novella, A Christmas Carol. It is a fun and rollicking ride through Dickensian London as Dickens has writer’s block at the worst possible moment in his storied career. Needing a Christmas story to earn a living for his growing family, along with all of his friends and relatives who depend on him, almost drives him mad. Thanks to the ministrations of a new-found friend, Dickens is able to write an instant classic that still influences our Christmases today. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to reread A Christmas Carol again!

In December, I read two historical fiction novels to be released in 2021. I plan to do a Most Anticipated Releases of 2021 post next week so stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of these books. (Here’s a hint – they are both 5 star reads for me – get those preorders in now!!!)

Under the Light of the Italian Moon by Jennifer Anton

A Woman of Intelligence: A Novel by Karin Tanabe

Historical Nonfiction:

First Ladies of the United States by the National Portrait Gallery (purchased this month)

I love learning more about the women who have served as America’s First Ladies. They are endlessly fascinating (much more so than their husbands!) and have compelling stories that affect the way they take on this unofficial but ever-so-important role. The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has a new exhibit featuring the First Ladies, Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States, and while the museum is temporarily closed due to COVID restrictions, we can visit virtually through its website and now this beautiful book. The photos are gorgeous, and I loved learning about each First Lady and the details behind each portrait. There are so many amazing women who aren’t well-known in today’s world, and I hope this book starts a new conversation about their accomplishments.

Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins and WWII Heroes by Tim Brady (ARC)

This book is releasing in February so I will discuss in more detail in next week’s post. It’s a riveting narrative nonfiction account of three teenage girls who became part of the Dutch Resistance in World War II. A must-read for World War II history buffs!

I read one additional book this month outside of the historical genre from the library. Plus I DNF’d two ARCs, which is quite unusual for me. 

Stats for December:

88% historical fiction and nonfiction 

0 of 125+ unread books (I purchased too many books this month!!)

1 library book

If you enjoy following along on my Year of Historical Reading, be sure to friend The History Mom on Goodreads and to follow me on Instagram where I post the books I am reading in real time.  

Next week, I’ll share a synopsis of my Year of Historical Reading and also post about the Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Releases of 2021. It’s going to be a great reading year!

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