I'll be the first to admit that I'm not overzealous when it comes to the Christmas season. I don't send out cards to friends and loved ones. I don't listen to Christmas music. I haven't been to church on Christmas eve since I was seven and had no say in the matter. And most importantly, I stay indoors during the black Friday sales, where it's safe, and do most of what little shopping I have to do online. This isn't to say that I don't enjoy the holiday season in my own ways. I love the cooler weather, the online sales, the gathering of friends at parties where alcohol is abundant.
I also enjoy settling in with a good book, and while this is true for me throughout the year, there are a few books I especially enjoy at this specific time of the year, so I thought I'd take a moment to share them with you. Here's a list of my top 5 favorite Christmas reads, in no particular order.
1. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris:
David Sedaris is a brilliant writer. And hilarious. From the first pages I was literally laughing out loud, which doesn't happen often, and I continued laughing throughout these twelve short stories, which I read in a day but reread during the holiday season (the first story, Santaland Diaries, being my personal favorite). This is the perfect book to help cure those holiday blues.
David Sedaris's beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy's elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris's tales of tardy trick-or-treaters ("Us and Them"); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French ("Jesus Shaves"); what to do when you've been locked out in a snowstorm ("Let It Snow"); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations ("Six to Eight Black Men"); what Halloween at the medical examiner's looks like ("The Monster Mash"); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry ("Cow and Turkey").
2. The Shining by Stephen King:
While this book doesn't necessarily qualify as a Christmas book, it does conjure images of snow-covered landscapes, good whiskey (a mandatory staple in my home, especially during the holidays), and family togetherness...at first anyway, then you get the perfect dysfunctional family, also a popular holiday theme. Hell, the woman in room 237 could even qualify as your creepy great aunt.
Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.
3. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis:
This is one of my favorite books of all time (I've only read it about a hundred times) and it is also the book that solidified my decision to pursue writing. Aside from the fact that this story takes place during the protagonist's Christmas break from college, there is very little to do with the holiday itself, aside a Christmas party or two, and one of my favorite lines, "It's Christmas morning and I'm high on coke..." certainly stirs up some holiday zeal. This is another short read, making it just under the two-hundred mark, and Ellis' prose is as smooth as your mother's warm apple cider, although mine is pretty damned good as well!
Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or hope.
Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porches, dines at Spago, and snorts mountains of cocaine. He tries to renew feelings for his girlfriend, Blair, and for his best friend from high school, Julian, who is careering into hustling and heroin. Clay's holiday turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the relentless parties in glitzy mansions, seedy bars, and underground rock clubs and also into the seamy world of L.A. after dark.
4. Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom:
Who couldn't have Christmas without Krampus? For those of you who don't know who Krampus is, there's Google, or just read this book. I can't stress this enough: READ THIS BOOK. You'll be happy you did, even happier you weren't on his list...
One Christmas Eve in a small hollow in Boone County, West Virginia, struggling songwriter Jesse Walker witnesses a strange spectacle: seven devilish figures chasing a man in a red suit toward a sleigh and eight reindeer. When the reindeer leap skyward taking the sleigh, devil men, and Santa into the clouds, screams follow. Moments later, a large sack plummets earthward, a magical sack that will thrust the down-on-his luck singer into the clutches of the terrifying Yule Lord, Krampus. But the lines between good and evil become blurred as Jesse's new master reveals many dark secrets about the cherry-cheeked Santa Claus, and how half a millennium ago, the jolly old saint imprisoned Krampus and usurped his magic.
Now Santa's time is running short, for the Yule Lord is determined to have his retribution and reclaim Yuletide. If Jesse can survive this ancient feud, he might have the chance to redeem himself to his family, to save his own broken dreams...and help bring the magic of Yule to the impoverished folk of Boone County.
5. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore:
And finally, Christopher Moore brings a bit of light-hearted humor to the proverbial table with this tale of a not-so-bright angel and a seven-year-old boy who work together to try to save Christmas for a small community in California. With an opening sentence like "Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe" how can you not want to keep reading? Oozing eggnog? Threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe? Okay, perhaps not the most pleasant images for Christmastime I'll agree, but I guarantee you'll be oozing with holiday spirit after reading this little chestnut.
'Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit. But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he's not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn't run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead. But hold on! There's an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It's none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel's not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say "Kris Kringle," he's botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.
Move over, Charles Dickens -- it's Christopher Moore time.
And speaking of Charles Dickens, I suppose I could throw in A Christmas Carol as well, although admittedly I've never read the thing, nor do I really have any desire to. It seems to be on the top of everyone else's reading list though.
These are just a few of the many books I've found to help ease the insanity of the holidays while still allowing me some of the smaller pleasures.
So, what books help get you through the holiday season?