Each year, we tell ourselves that it will different, but it is so easy to become caught up in the trappings of the holiday season. The shopping, the food preparation and the travel plans all take our focus away from our relationships with family and friends. In fact, we can find ourselves feeling more and more like the Grinch.
Five books to read this holiday season
Here’s an idea. Choose one or two of these slim volumes to read over the next week. Better yet – put away your phones for a while and take turns reading a selection aloud to each other. Here are five holiday classics to read and cherish this holiday season.
Holiday Season books – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (first published Dec. 19, 1843 in London by Chapman & Hall)
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I never get tired of A Christmas Carol. I enjoy it in its stage versions, its Hollywood versions and even in its cartoon versions. However, if you have never gotten your Christmas Carol straight from Dickens himself, this is the year. Read for yourself the classic novella that met with instant critical and popular success and has never been out of print.
It is a timeless tale of redemption and love is great to read aloud in front of a fireplace, in front of the Christmas tree or just around the dining room table. For you trivia fans, the novella is credited with popularizing the phrase “Merry Christmas.”
Favorite Quote: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Holiday Season books – The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, the pen name of William Sydney Porter (first published in The New York Sunday World, Dec. 10, 1905. Published in book form in the anthology The Four Million, April 1906)
This beloved short story tells a charming message of love and sacrifice that rings as true today as when it was first published over a century ago. In fact, its famous “twist ending” has been used in many other stories and films.
Join Jim and Della, a poor young couple who have two favorite possessions between them – his grandfather’s gold watch and her beautiful, long hair — as they search for and find the perfect Christmas gift for each other.
Favorite quote: “There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.”
Holiday Season books – The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (first published in 1978 by Hamish Hamilton in the United Kingdom and later that year by Random House in the U.S.)
Here’s one that will get your imagination flowing. The Snowman is a wordless picture book that beautifully tells the story of a young boy whose Christmas Eve snowman comes to life. The two go on a magical journey together.
After you have “read” this lovely book, watch the short film of the same title that debuted on TV in 1982 and has since become a holiday classic. With music scored and conducted by Howard Blake and performed by Sinfonia of London, the 26-minute animated film is a treat for the eyes and the ears.
Favorite quote: No quotes from the book, but the lilting phrase “We’re walking in the air” is memorable from the film’s soundtrack.
Holiday Season books – The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans (self-published, 1993. by Simon & Schuster, 1995)
Richard Paul Evans wrote The Christmas Box as a gift for his two daughters. He self-published the story of a widow and the young family who comes to live with her and then gave 20 copies as Christmas presents to family members and friends.
Those few copies were then passed along to other friends, and the little book’s reputation and its message of love and hope began to grow by word of mouth. The book gained national attention and was published two years later by Simon and Schuster. In 1995, The Christmas Box was made into a successful TV movie starring Richard Thomas, Maureen O’Hara and Annette O’Toole.
Yes, the story is sentimental, but at this time of year, sentimental works for me.
Favorite quote: “The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood.”
Holiday Season books – A Visit From St. Nickolas (also known as The Night Before Christmas) by Clement C. Moore (first published anonymously in 1823)
How did Santa get his red suit, his reindeer, his plump stomach and his red nose? Largely from the words of the classic poem A Visit from St. Nicholas. In fact, the poem even gives us the names of Santa’s reindeer.
The story goes that Moore, who was a professor of classics at the General Theological Seminary in New York, wrote the poem as a gift for his children and never intended for it to be published. However, a family friend, Harriet Butler, copied it and submitted it to the editor of the Troy (New York) Sentinel where it was published anonymously on Dec. 23, 1823. The poem was reprinted in other newspapers, and magazines and later appeared in The New York Book of Poetry, which was published in 1837.
In 1844, supposedly at the request of his children, Moore acknowledged authorship of the poem and included it in a volume of his poetry, called simply Poems. Today, it is the most-read and most-memorized form of Christmas literature.
Favorite quote: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”