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Holiday Reading December 21, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.

Recently I asked my book club members to recommend their favorite holiday titles.  This was not received with the warm enthusiasm that I had expected.  One person expressed the view that they would all be sappy, or words to that effect.

It is true that there can be an excess of sentimentality around the holidays, though one person’s excess might be another person’s exactly right amount.  I retorted that the book I was recommending certainly wasn’t sappy.

And nor were the books recommended by the other participants.  Sylvia recommended Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, a book of short stories by Stella Gibbons, the first of which is a parody of Christmas in rural England.  This title is sadly out of print, but that’s why Interlibrary Loan was invented.

William recommended Christmas in New York (a pop-up book) by Chuck Fischer.  The pop-up artistry is remarkable, and anyone who has ever spent Christmas in New York, or dreamed of doing so, should love this book.

Two people chose books aimed at younger readers, but enjoyable for all ages:

Faith recommended I’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor.  This magical title portrays a young girl who sees the magic in the natural world, and who is alone but not lonely.  (By the same author, The Way to Start a Day describes how people around the world greet the sunrise.)

Peggie suggested The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  Some of the kids in this elementary school are pretty obnoxious, but it is a season of transformation after all.

My all-time favorite holiday pick is The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis – a hilariously satirical novel of upper-class New York manners and mores.  Narrated by the ten-year old son of a couple who decide to divorce after a REALLY bad Christmas, it is a worthy companion to his better-known Auntie Mame.  Originally published in 1964 (and read with delight by me not too long after), it has stood the test of time.

I’d also highly recommend Hanukkah Lights: Stories of the Season from NPR’s Annual Holiday Special.  Really, this is a book that one should savor, reading one or two of the stories each night.  However, I must confess that I greedily devoured the whole book in an evening.  Two of the stories offer interesting alternative explanations of how the oil lasted for eight days:  “Go Toward the Light” by the great science fiction author Harlan Ellison and “The Miracle of the Oil” by Simone Zelitch.  I also loved “Hanukkah in Malaga” by Peter S. Beagle, in which a wonderful Catholic family puts on a Hanukkah celebration for a young Jewish man far from home.

Other writers in this collection include Daniel Pinkwater, Dani Shapiro, and Elie Wiesel.  (Pretty impressive, huh?)

Just one more recommendation from the Public Services Manager, Marsha:  A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg.  Oswald T. Campbell leaves wintry Chicago for small-town Alabama in hopes of recovering his health, and he encounters the kind of neighbors we would all like to have.  Yes, it is a feel-good book – but also hilarious at times.

Do you have a favorite holiday book (any holiday at all)?  I’d love to hear about it.

All the best in the New Year from

The Book Goddess


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