Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's Your Favorite Holiday Book?

I'm kind of obsessed with Christmastime. I know some people find it stressful, what with all of the good cheer, colorful lights, and egg nog, but I seriously can't get enough Christmas. Santa, bring me a bestseller!!

So last night I was thinking: what's your favorite December holiday book? Doesn't just have to be Christmas (this is an equal opportunity blog!), but there are so many awesome candidates to choose from.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, I'm going with THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg, which manages to be awesomely Christmassy and nostalgic and yet slightly scary at the same time. It just so happens that my favorite Christmas songs are also the ones that are a bit wistful and sad, like "I Heard the Bells" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" -- what can I say, I like a nuanced holiday.

What's yours?






50 comments:

Anonymous said...

It will always be Dr. Seuss with HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! I have the boom somewhere in between the many books that are housed in the two bookshelves in the box which I occupy in my parents room!
This is the first time I'm the first one commenting...it must mean something good is coming for me. ^_^

Scott said...

The Grinch is a great choice, but I have to cast my vote for Dickens. I have a volume of Dickens's Christmas stories, and I enjoy them all. It's hard to beat a story that combines Christmas with creepy, all wrapped up in great writing. As our buddy at 101 Reasons says, I'll never be that good.

That said, last week I read In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd, part of which is the basis of A Christmas Story. It's not *really* a Christmas book, but it was a fun read.

melanie avila said...

Do Christmas catalogs count?

Matthew said...

You know, usually I think Charles Dickens' Christmas stuff is too cheesy(and overplayed, butchered to hell by modernization), but I had a change of heart when I was dismissed out of hand as unChristian lately for not doing anything other than NOT be bad... no active good/charity etc. Soooo... yeah. All of a sudden I can kind of empathize with Scrooge. I don't think he meant to be a jerk, though, of course(and Dickens could empathize with just about anyone- I always liked that about him). So my favorite this year is Dickens' Christmas Carol. BTW dude, thanks for mentioning "I heard the Bells." I think I'd never heard it before because it's too Christian for Christmas radio- you know, mentions God and a one-line note on a theological crisis. Thanks! It's a nice contrast to most of the season.

Nona said...

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, Home for the Holidays & Other Calamities by Chris Radant -- all very "nuanced" Christmas reads.

Anonymous said...

Scott in the spirit of continuing on your trail, I read a book recently that I've absolutely fallen in love with. It too has nothing to do with Chritmas. But since Mr. Bransford nicely promised fairness in allowing non Christmas entries here it is: THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Safron. You have to read it. Everyone must read it. If you haven't, you honestly don't know what you are missing. It is so seductive, and so beautiful...I just totally, I can't believe I paid 3.99 for it (University bookstore sale...they know how to reel me in).

Justin said...

Though I thought the movie was a steaming pile of...coal, I also really enjoyed the book the Polar Express. I think what really did it for me was the picture of all the kids in their pajamas sitting in the train car drinking hot chocolate. Everything looked so warm and friendly (all yellows and reds) and everything outside the train windows was cold and dark (black and blue), and I liked the contrast. It made me feel fuzzy. It was a bit scary, and sad at the end as well, when people stop being able to hear the reindeer bell, but that's part of why I liked it.

The movie really was just wretched though.

Morgan Dempsey said...

The Polar Express.

And no, not the movie. The book. The movie annoyed me.

Anonymous said...

Like others have said, I also love Dickens, The Grinch and In God We Trust. How about a Christmas short story, though? A Terrible Night is my all-time favorite Chekhov!

Liz said...

We have quite the collection of Christmas books in my house. I give each of my three kids a Christmas themed book every year as a gift from the jolly old Elf.

One of my faves (my girls love it too) is ELOISE AT CHRISTMASTIME by Kay Thompson. They used to dream of going to the Plaza and seeing where Eloise lived. We never made it before they closed it down...

serenity said...

The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern is the story that inspired It's a Wonderful Life, which is such a great Christmas story. Unfortunately, the movie is much better and more nuance-y than the book. The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry, though, is perfection. Definitely sweet but wistful. And I can never quite remember just how he unveils the punchline, so it's fresh every year.

Shana said...

My favorite holiday book?

Charlotte MacLeod's first Peter Shandy mystery, REST YOU MERRY.

Nona said...

An Idiot Girl's Christmas by Laurie Notaro

Walter said...

Long time reader...first time commenter. Or is that commentator?

Christopher Moore's STUPIDEST ANGEL. Nothing says holiday spirit like zombies attacking a church full of revelers and a fruit bat named Roberto. Ah, good times.

Michelle Moran said...

Definitely The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell! I also like O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, but can't get over the fact that she cuts off all of her hair. Why? Why?? I have a thing about cutting hair, and I'm looking forward to the day when I'll be one of those old women with hair far too long for their face, and seventy cats.

L.C.McCabe said...

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

Both the book and the television version with Boris Karloff hold special places in my heart.

I saw about half an hour of the movie on cable once and was glad that I had not paid to see it in the theater.

I found it painful.

Happy Holidays!

Linda

CarBeyond said...

I love Christmas too. Well, there are things that I don't like about it, like pressure, etc., and responsibility, but I love the joy and peace and celebration, the camaraderie, and yes, the silvery shimmery sparkling stuff and magic of surprises and the packages.
And the singing. Everyone can sing a carol. And in their real voices too. Not just church voices and karaoke voices.
I love the song The First Noel.
I love the ghosts of Christmas in Charles Dickens although I really am ready for another story line.
Peter Pan is my favorite Christmas story. I heard it and also saw the Disney version of it for the first time at Christmas and now I often think of it as a Christmas story.
And I love short stories at Christmas, how they come out in little books all by themselves. I like the ones that are fun to read as an adult but that children can appreciate too. Books that can be read aloud to a family or a lover. Short, funny, sweet ones that make people feel connected and warm together. I thought there were some very nice scripts on that Steven Spielburg TV show, Amazing Stories, about Christmas.

lspark said...

Great topic! My own faves: A CHRISTMAS MEMORY, by Truman Capote, and MEMORY OF A LARGE CHRISTMAS, by Lillian Smith. More details over at my blog: http://lsparkreader.livejournal.com

All best,
Linda Sue

Jess said...

My husband and I read Max Lucado's Cosmic Christmas together every holiday, but I don't know that I have a favorite holiday book.

Anonymous said...

does Shakespeare's Twelfth Night count? If not, then the Grinch is the topper for me. I just am not that big a fan of holiday books.

Other Lisa said...

I'll go for songs:

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Preferably sung by Judy Garland. Major nuance there.

And modern, how about "2000 Miles" by the Pretenders?

I love Christmas. I have a bunch of regular parties and get-togethers with family and friends. Too much food and drink and a lot of singing.

Bring on the carols!

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget, Ebenezer (literally "stone of help") Scrooge was, in the end, a redeemed man. If someone calls you a Scrooge, smile, it's a compliment.
My favorite Christmas story? The one in Luke.

Dave Wood said...

I guess I don't really have a favorite book with a holiday theme, but someone up above mentioned David Sedaris, and I immediately thought of "SantaLand Diaries."

abc said...

I enjoy reading my little girl The Little Tree which is about a little tree (yes, really) that wants to be a Christmas tree and finds happiness when the little family that live in the little big city take it home. But what happens when Christmas is over? does that make it nuanced?

amanda h said...

The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. It's a bit longer than her other stories.

I've loved it since childhood. Now, my 7-year old enjoys reading it (to the cat!).

There's a great British-made video which does justice to the story.

Josephine Damian said...

I'm going to second Michelle's vote for O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi."

I remember when I first read it as a kid, the budding writer in me got her first impression of the importance of an ironic ending by reading that story.

"Grinch" and "Christmas Carol" were also stand outs when I was a kid - but like a lot of Christmas stories, I experienced them as movies/TV shows rather than books.

Curtastrophe said...

Though someone else already mentioned it, (Drat!) Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris is a classic.

Sue Eves said...

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket -
Oh, and Oliver Twist for the fireside read.

Heidi said...

Good Housekeeping used to put out Christmas short stories when I was a kid and I remember pouring over them. One of my favorites was a story by Madeline L'Engle which has since been published as a kid's book, called The 24 Days of Christmas. It had all the joy and excitement I felt about the holidays as a kid, as well as some disappointments and the lesson about what is really important. It was about the family I hoped I'd have of my own someday.... and now I do!

Still, the Christmas story in Luke never, never, never gets old. It is amazing and beautiful every time I read it!

BTW: I Heard the Bells became one of my favorite carols last year when I read all the words, including the verse that is almost always deleted, about it being war time (it was written during the civil war, I think). I copied it and sent it to about 100 troops with Christmas cards and candy canes last year. It's all about HOPE!

lizamich said...

The Secret Life of Santa Claus, by Gregoire Solotareff. A picture book full of wry, wistful illustrations. Who knew Santa longed to play the violin?

Mary said...

I love all the traditional Christmas stuff. My favourite book: Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. And my favourite carol: Silent Night.

Lora T. said...

I haven't read a lot of Christmas books, so it'd be between The Grinch, though I usually just watch the video with Boris Karloff, and A Christmas Carol. Of course, there's the Christmas story in Luke, but I think that one almost goes without saying.

As for a favorite song, the list goes on and on and on... Some that come to mind immediately are O Holy Night, The Little Drummer Boy, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and One Small Child.

Sophie W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophie W. said...

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, of course! I know all the songs from the movie by heart, too.

The previous comment is deleted because I misspelled "Grinch." I should be whapped over the head with a Christmas tree, I swear...

Emily Ryan-Davis said...

I was a GRINCH girl until my husband introduced me to Terry Pratchett, and now my favorite read-it-every-year holiday book is HOGFATHER.

CarBeyond said...

Isn't Terry Pratchett divine!!!!!
I couldn't believe my luck when I went to hear him speak in Ann Arbor at Borders Bookstore there a few years ago.
He came out, this little magic fellow, looking like he was (really, even if invisibly) in his bathrobe holding to a beer (like he says, he writes in this getup every day) and said: "Wow, my whole North American fan Club is here!!!" People had come from Ohio and parts south. NO ONE I had ever known, (with ALL their degrees in English too) knew who he was, except for my daughter and myself that I'd ever heard of, but here were these two hundred of his fans. He was THE FUNNIEST person I have ever had the privilege of listening to talk. (Robin Williams, you will have to take the second seat.)
Terry Pratchett for Christmas???? Yes!!!!

jessica lipnack said...

I'm taking it a completely different direction: Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. A gift to the spirit, filled with spirit and generosity, never mind funny.

Mandy said...

The Jolly Christmas Postman, definitely. It loved it. It came with all these little letters and gifts from fairy tale characters.

A Paperback Writer said...

Okay, I love the Grinch, and Dickens' Christmas Carol, and Clement C. Moore's "A Visit From St. Nicholas," but let's not forget that great classic:
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER by Barbara Robinson. That one is a scream.
But one of my must-reads each year is THE FATHER CHRISTMAS LETTERS by JRR Tolkien. I LOVE that one!

Chumplet said...

Year after year, a particular passage in Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee reminds me the spirit of Christmas a hundred years ago and two thousand years ago. I know I didn't personally experience Christmas during those periods but I like to think about them.

I put an excerpt in my blog so I won't put it here.

The beginning of Ben Hur by Lew Wallace recreates the birth of Christ in a way that plops readers right in the middle of the era. I can almost smell the desert air.

Anonymous said...

A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote (short story) and The Best Christmas Pagent Ever, Barbara Robinson (sadly, out of print).

We read these w/family every year. We also always watch Christmas Vacation (w/Chevy Chase), Home Alone (first one only), Love Actually and Die Hard (first one only).

It's all about tradition.

Gerb said...

Don't know about favorite, but it hasn't been mentioned yet; The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.

Alison said...

Ooh... I was about to say THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF JONATHAN TOOMEY (which I love, love, love), and then someone mentioned THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER... tough choice!

Kimmie said...

I discovered a new favorite last year..."The Autobiography of Santa Claus" by Jeff Guinn. A sweet and entertaining tale, and it answers all your questions about the "real" story of Santa Claus...

Kate H said...

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
Anyone who loves language for its own sake, as well as loving Christmas and all the associated old-fashioned traditions, will love this book. The film-for-TV version with Denholm Elliott is also fabulous, hilarious and deeply moving.

I also adore Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but it's already gotten lots of votes.

Isak said...

The Grinch is classic.

I don't know how much of a Christmas book it is, but, I remember a book from when I was a kid called 'The Swan Princess' and it was actually something along the lines of the lost Russian princess Anastasia. Weird, yes, but I always think of it around this time of year.

Becky Levine said...

Nobody's mentioned my favorite--Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree, by Robert Barry, published way back when in 1963.

Mr. Willowby's tree is too tall for his ceiling (even in his huge mansion), so the butler cuts off the top and tosses it in the garbage. Along comes a bear and picks it up. Too big for his den; off and out go the top, along comes a fox. And so on...down until the little mouse in the mouse nest, back inside the walls of Mr. Willowby's mansion! The black and white and GREEN! illustrations are wonderful. I loved it as a child, got it for my son, and then, later, for a friend of his who's parents own a Christmas Tree farm!

Nona said...

This sums up Christmas for me.

All the children sing
All the dancers start to sway in time
The orchestra begins to play
Somebody pours the wine
The sun and moon collide
Isn't gravity a funny thing
The universe explodes apart
All the children sing

Just finished reading "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Wasn't the last part about Bali and the funny little medicine man great?! I picture him looking just like the monk in the Comcast commercials.

Crawled across a thousand miles of desert sand
Looking for an answer from a holy man
And this is what he told me with a wave of his hand
He said, a bell in your head will ring

All the Children Sing (Todd Rundgren)

Stephen Griffith said...

I began collecting Christmas books after packaging a couple of anthologies. Hands down my favorite book (now out of print) is THE SECRET LIFE OF SANTA CLAUS by Gregoire Solotareff, published by Chronicle Books in 1996.

cwsherwoodedits said...

Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner. So lovely and the true Christmas message.

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