Thursday, December 9, 2010

What to Read for Christmas

Everyone has their favorite Christmas stories.  Many of us have migrated from the page to the screen, taking in our stories through video.  Just remember: many of them started out as stories themselves.

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash was written by Jean Shepherd, known world-wide for creating Ralphie Parker and his love of Ol' Blue.  The stories take place during the Great Depression, and many of the stories take place outside the Christmas season.  However, with the rich language Shepherd uses to amuse and illustrate the movie, how can someone resist such a read?

Take a walk through a different landscape with science fiction writer Connie Willis in Miracle and Other Christmas Stories.  I just met the author during her East Coast book-signing stop in Maryland, and had I realized I would fall in love with this book a week later, I'd have discovered it earlier. This collection pays tribute to other stories that already had shaped the season, but allow us to fit in a few more favorites.  The title story is a delight, and her story regarding a young couple who get lost on Christmas Eve re-introduced the wonder of the season yet again.

If you haven't yet read A Christmas Carol, stop what you're doing and purchase a copy now.  No matter how many actors you might have seen putting this story on stage and film, nothing quite beats the original.  (Plus, you will want to read it again and again, hence the suggestion to have your own copy on hand.)  Charles Dickens got straight to the heart of "Christmas" being synonymous with "love" in this archetypal book that has to be read to be appreciated.

Bring poetry into the season with one of the most famous Christmas poems of all time: "A Visit from St. Nicholas," also known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clark Moore.  You can find a copy of it here at The Academy of American Poets.

Another traditional favorite is a short story written by O. Henry: "The Gift of the Magi."  A newlywed couple wants to give each other their hearts' desire: Jim wants to give his wife a set of combs for her beautiful long hair, and Della wants to give her husband a fob for his heirloom pocket watch. What they do to try to achieve these goals defines their love for each other.  Read this touching classic here.

Don't stop at the classics.  Go modern, go new — and tell me what you find.

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