Book Review: Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas – Adam Kay

Welcome back!

Well, look at me posting an actual book review. I read Kay’s new book, Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas, on its publication day in October. I demolished it in well under two hours, laughing manically the entire time. Life got in the way so I decided to sit down and re-read it (it seemed like a good excuse to re-read it) so I could refresh my memory for the review.

I hope you enjoy.

Author(s): Adam Kay
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: Out now


Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat . . . but 1.4 million NHS staff are heading off to work. In this perfect present for anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious, horrifying and sometimes heartbreaking peek behind the blue curtain at Christmastime.

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is a love letter to all those who spend their festive season on the front line, removing babies and baubles from the various places they get stuck, at the most wonderful time of the year.

Taken from Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas


If you’ve not read Adam Kay’s first book This is Going to Hurt, may I ask where on Earth you have been?* I have to confess to being nearly two years late to the book myself and had the joy of listening to the audiobook on holiday in June. (*You do not have to read This is Going to Hurt first, but I do generally recommend reading it!).

When I found out Kay had a second book coming out, I was all over it. Despite my pleas to the publisher to let me have a proof, the book gods had decided I was to wait until publication day. So, I did.

It was so worth the wait. As soon as I got in from work I sat myself down with the book and a cup of tea and didn’t stop reading until I’d read every last word. Kay is, without any shadow of a doubt, hilarious. He relays his experiences of his six Christmases as an NHS doctor with so much candour that you feel like he’s talking directly to you.

“Christmas is this pine-scented, tinsel-strewn timeout where, like it or not, everything just… stops. […] And all this is made possible because – thanks to the little baby Jesus – you no longer have to work. Well, most of you don’t. The NHS sadly doesn’t get invited to Christ’s all-you-can-eat birthday shindig.”

His experiences range from the downright cringe-worthy (it’s amazing what people put in their orifices) to the heartbreaking. Readers should be aware that there is one particularly harrowing story in the book that some may find too upsetting to read – I can’t speak to the paperback but in the Kindle edition there is a warning and an opportunity to jump past it.

As hilariously funny as Kay’s book is, much like his first book, there are serious messages behind it. The NHS is desperately underfunded and staff are expected to work dangerously long, busy shifts without opportunity for breaks. He also calls out families who are guilty of ‘granny dumping’ – those who drop their elderly relatives at A&E so they do not have to take responsibility for them over the Christmas period.

“‘Shifts are defined as twelve hours,’ the email barks, ‘irrespective of the number of hours worked.’ Who needs the scientific laws of space and time when you’ve got whichever handbook this bastard flicked through to get the answer?”

In the UK we have a duty of care to look after the wonderful NHS and the current political situation is the opportunity to do just that. If you need any further persuasion, or if like me, you love medical memoirs, definitely give this amazing book a chance. I would also recommend the audiobooks as they’re fantastically narrated.

This book would make a fantastic stocking filler for the non-fiction fans in your life or prospective junior doctors. Highly recommended.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to extend my thanks to every NHS member of staff for their hard work and, if you’re working this coming Christmas, you guys are amazing – THANK YOU.

You’ll like this book if you enjoyed:

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
This is going to Hurt – Adam Kay
Being Mortal – Atul Gawande
Unnatural Causes – Richard Shepherd
War Doctor – David Nott
Breaking & Mending – Joanna Cannon (You can find my review of this book here)

I purchased this book myself and was not asked to review it.

Order now

You can support your local bookshop by buying Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas through them directly, or via Hive.

Comment below

What do you think of Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas? Will you be reading it? Let me know in the comments below.

Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas – Adam Kay

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