Bill Bryson coming out of retirement to write The Secret History of Christmas

The book will explore the origins of many popular Christmas traditions including mince pies, A Christmas Carol and the true identity of Santa Claus.

Bill Bryson stands at the ‘Gates of Hell’
Bill Bryson stands at the ‘Gates of Hell’

Award-winning author Bill Bryson will be temporarily coming out of retirement to pen a new book, The Secret History Of Christmas.

The book will explore the origins of many popular Christmas traditions, including mince pies, A Christmas Carol, and the true identity of Santa Claus.

It will be released exclusively on audiobook platform Audible in November and will be narrated by Bryson himself.

“Christmas is full of traditions and rituals that most of us have been observing all our lives but often without having the slightest idea of where they come from,” said Bryson, who announced he had “retired” from writing books in Ocotber 2020.

Wellcome Book Prize 2015
Bryson is known for bestselling non-fiction titles which shine a light on topics that are often overlooked or inaccessible (Thom Atkinson/Wellcome/PA)

“Why is it called Boxing Day, for example?

“Why do we sing about Good King Wenceslas, who wasn’t a king or possibly even good and had nothing to do with Britain?  What’s the story behind Christmas crackers?

“Somebody must have decided these things. They can’t have happened by chance.

“So Christmas, and how it got that way, is full of surprises. And that is what this audio presentation is all about.”

Bryson is known for bestselling non-fiction titles which shine a light on topics that are often overlooked or inaccessible, including A Short History of Nearly Everything, Notes From A Small Island, At Home: A Short History of Private Life and Shakespeare: The World as Stage.

Hay Festival
Bryson served as the chancellor of Durham University from 2005 to 2011 and has a library on the campus named after him (Ben Birchall/PA)

The former copy editor at The Times served as the chancellor of Durham University from 2005 to 2011 and has a library on the campus named after him.

Aurelie De Troyer, Audible’s senior vice president of international content, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Bill Bryson has come out of retirement to partner with Audible on this exclusive exploration of the weird and wonderful origins of Christmas traditions.

“Bill is a favourite author and narrator for Audible members, and we can think of no one better to whisk listeners away on this festive adventure.”

The Secret History of Christmas will be available exclusively on Audible globally on November 10 2022.

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