I love the holiday season. The lights bring a welcome respite from the darkness of winter’s cold and short days. The messages of hope and goodwill are uplifting. It’s a time of year to cherish your seasonal traditions, whatever they may be. One treasured ritual for me has been attending San Francisco Ballet’s The Nutcracker; Tchaikovsky’s music paired with the grace of the dancers always brightens my spirits. Yet another source of cheer is the periodic return of Christmas music to the airwaves. The crooning of old-time favorites such as Johnny Mathis and Bing Crosby warms up any room—and even the Monday morning commute. And of course, one of my favorite traditions is to immerse myself in the stories unique to this this season.
Movies have always been part of my family’s customs. There are the classics including White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife. And who can resist some of the newer offerings like Home Alone, Love Actually, A Muppet Christmas Carole or The Polar Express? Lastly, the season wouldn’t be complete without A Charlie Brown Christmas.
In addition to movies, there has always been a big stack of holiday children’s books that I would read every year with my sons. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore was a Christmas eve must. But as I scrolled through my book groups on social media this year, I realized that books – adult books – had somehow never been part of my holiday. So I decided I would start to rectify that this year and choose a few of the recommended books to read. Many were romances, a genre I’d not previously read, but I also found a mystery, a classic comedy, and a Sophie Kinsella book to read.
I started with The Christmas Princess by Patricia McLinn. I found this book through a BookBub daily deal, and the cover and title suggested a light, easy read in the romance genre. Which it was and wasn’t. There was an element of mystery and suspense that kept me guessing until the final twist, and I read it in two sittings. McLinn was an author unknown to me, and I was pleasantly surprised at the discovery. It was an enjoyable, quick holiday read.
Debbie Macomber, another new author to me, has written several Christmas books, some of which have been made into Hallmark movies. Twelve Days of Christmas was a quick, sweet story with the life-changing power of kindness as its theme. The protagonist, Julie, sets out to “kill with kindness” her very Grinch-like neighbor whom she nicknames Ebenezer. She starts a blog to document her quest, which goes viral. I appreciated the emotional unfolding of both characters as they began to soften toward each other and surrender to the ultimate transformation they both experienced.
Another BookBub selection, The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove by Karen Clarke, was a quick, sweet book. Protagonist Tilly doesn’t fully believe in herself but the entrance into the story of potential love interest, Seth, hints that he might change all that. No big twists, but rooting for Tilly and wanting to see how she would get to a happy ending kept me engaged. A simple, heartwarming story about family, friendship and love at Christmastime.
I stepped into the past with Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. It wasn’t much of a Christmas book, other than the gathering of a wealthy family for the holidays. But in true Christie style, there were plenty of red herrings and twists that kept me guessing. I deduced several plot points, but the conclusion eluded me, despite the clear clues! Hindsight is always 20/20. A quick, fun mystery that I read in one sitting.
Another step back into the early 20th century, Nancy Mitford’s Christmas Pudding was a joy to read – and a reminder to revisit some classics from time to time. An eclectic cast of characters gather in the Cotswalds over the holidays to escape London. I delighted (a word I rarely use) in Mitford’s humor and language. One example, early in the book: “She belonged to that rare and objectionable species, the intellectual snob devoid of intellect.” Fun, funny, and at times poignant, Christmas Pudding was an enjoyable visit to another time.
The final book I read was Sophie Kinsella’s Christmas Shopaholic. It is a modern-day comedy, but not remotely as subtle as Mitford’s novel! While I have read a couple of Sophie Kinsella’s book, I haven’t read any of the Shopaholic series, so I can’t compare it to earlier books in the series. But this book was laugh-out-loud funny, and a great book to add to your holiday list.
I know I’m barely touching the surface. I want to continue to explore holiday stories in preparation for next year. Do you have any favorites that you think are “must reads?” I’d love to hear about them!