Tell us which mini masterpieces you'd choose to calm Christmas nerves
'Tis the season to be stressy - and while the pages of Bleak House or Middlemarch might seem the ideal refuge, it's hard for most of us to square such long-form escapism with the clamour of the Christmas to-do list.
Enter the short story and perfectly formed poetry collection: manageable morsels that can be consumed in under an hour, but still provide a welcome break from the hustle and bustle.
If you're desperately lacking that festive feel, turn to Carol Anne Duffy's book-length poem, Another Night Before Christmas, a modernisation of the Victorian classic. Or if you fancy a Dickensian Christmas, why not try some of his short stories such as "A Christmas Tree" in A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings. They are a wonderfully descriptive reminder of an age when a turkey on the table was all a family needed.
If you would prefer to forget about Christmas altogether, why not turn to Oscar Wilde's short stories, ranging from the melancholic "The Nightingale and the Rose" to humorous social critiques, such as "The Model Millionaire". If, on the other hand, you're minded for a piquant corrective to the surfeit of seasonal riches, Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories will serve you up with a Beauty and the Beast and Puss in Boots a full seven leagues from the local pantomime dame.
If poetry is your preferred retreat, it's always safe to turn to a master. Seamus Heaney's selection of Wordsworth poems gives you two for one. And you can't go wrong with Shakespeare's sonnets: Penguin's clothbound classic version of the sonnets and A Lover's Complaint– with its beautiful cover art – could double as a comforter for you, and an emergency gift for that friend who also needs cheering through the season of tat and hollow merriment.
Which short stories or poetry collections would you recommend to counter the Christmas chaos?