Bill Bryson has come out of retirement to write a new book about Christmas traditions.
The Secret History of Christmas is a novella-length audiobook, which will be released by Audible in November as an Audible Original.
In it, Bryson – who also narrates – will explore the stories behind Christmas traditions and topics including mince pies, Good King Wenceslas, and the true identity of Santa Claus.
Bryson said: “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.
“So Christmas, and how it got that way, is full of surprises. And that is what this audio presentation is all about.”
Bryson announced his retirement from writing in 2020, during the pandemic, in an interview on Times Radio. He told the station he was “really quite enjoying not doing anything at all” and had been “treating retirement as an experiment so far this year”. The experiment, he said, had been “very successful”.
“I was worried, as I think most writers would be, that maybe I would run out of things to do in my leisure time, or that I would just miss having an occupation, professional distractions … but so far that hasn’t been the case,” he said. “The world is full of lots of other things you could do that are enjoyable without any of the pressures that come with trying to do these things as a job.”
Bryson’s bestselling books include Notes from a Small Island, in which he recorded observations from a trip taken around Britain before he moved back to the United States, and its sequel Notes from Little Dribbling.
His most recent book was The Body, an exploration of the human body, how it works and how it heals itself. Gavin Francis in the Guardian said the book’s prose “motors gleefully along, a finely tuned engine running on jokes, factoids and biographical interludes”.
He has previously partnered with Audible on a number of exclusive titles including The Body: A Guide for Occupants and the podcast Bill Bryson’s Appliance of Science.
Aurelie De Troyer, senior vice president of international content at Audible said: “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.”
Other famous figures who have created Audible Originals include Stephen Fry, Cate Blanchett, Derren Brown and Tan France.
The Secret History of Christmas will be released on 10 November.