Carrie / Nonfiction / Reading Lists

Our Holiday Favorites

The holidays are upon us, and in honor of the season, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite holiday-themed books. If you’d like to get in the holiday spirit, try one of these!

NPR Holiday Favorites
David Sedaris contributes his now classic “Santaland Diaries,” his account of his experiences playing Santa’s little helper at Macy’s in New York. Susan Stamberg sneaks her mother-in-law’s recipe for cranberry relish onto the air–again. Storyteller Kevin Kling finds an invitation to participate in a production of The Nutcracker too tempting to resist. Ghanian-born commentator Meri Danquah shares her thoughts on Kwanzaa. Cowboy poet Baxter Black describes a Christmas cookie with “the denseness of an anvil and the half-life of a radial tire.” Robert Siegel goes in search of the correct spelling for December’s Jewish holiday. The Thanksgiving tables are turned on unsuspecting Bostonians in “When Turkeys Attack.”

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined. A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.

Santa’s Twin by Dean Koontz
“Someone has stolen Santa’s bank card!” Combining the tongue-in-cheek charm of a modern classic with the timeless magic of cherished holiday tradition, here is a new Christmas story guaranteed to delight children of all ages–including those who pretend to have not grown up. At the request of his fans, bestselling novelist Dean Koontz has created a contemporary masterpiece that is destined to take place alongside “The Night Before Christmas” and Christmas Carol as a perennial Yuletide favorite. Santa’s Twin is the hilarious and heartwarming story of two little girls, Charlotte and Emily, who set out to save Santa from his mischievous twin–Bob Claus–who has not only stolen Santa’s sleigh, but has stuffed his toy bag with mud pies, cat poop, and broccoli! Plus, he’s threatening to turn Donner, Blitzen and the rest of the reindeer into soup! And look at the mess he’s leaving under the tree! How the brave but foolhardy sisters fly to the North Pole and rescue Santa from his “deeply troubled” twin is an utterly charming and unforgettable story that will add sparkle to your holiday season.

Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb

Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina’s word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone’s business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from Quebec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin’ and Hopin’ barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice is a collection of three previously published stories matched with three newer ones, all, of course, on a Christmas theme. David Sedaris’s darkly playful humor is another common thread through the book, worming its way through “Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!” a chipper suburban Christmas letter that spirals dizzily out of control, and “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol,” a vicious theatrical review of children’s Christmas pageants. As always, Sedaris’s best work is his sharply observed nonfiction, notably in “Dinah, the Christmas Whore,” the tale of a memorable Christmas during which the young Sedaris learns to see his family in a new light. Worth the price of the book alone is the hilarious “SantaLand Diaries,” Sedaris’s chronicle of his time working as an elf at Macy’s, covering everything from the preliminary group lectures (“You are not a dancer. If you were a real dancer you wouldn’t be here. You’re an elf and you’re going to wear panties like an elf.”) to the perils of inter-elf flirtation. Along the way, he paints a funny and sad portrait of the way the countless parents who pass through SantaLand are too busy creating an Experience to really pay attention to their children. In a sly way, it carries a holiday message all its own. Read it aloud to the adults after the kids have gone to bed.

An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor

Barry Laverty, M.B., is looking forward to his first Christmas in the cozy village of Ballybucklebo, at least until he learns that his sweetheart, Patricia, might not be coming home for the holidays. That unhappy prospect dampens his spirits somewhat, but Barry has little time to dwell on his romantic disappointments. Christmas may be drawing nigh, but there is little peace to be found on earth, especially for a young doctor plying his trade in the emerald hills and glens of rural Ireland. Along with his senior partner, Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, Barry has his hands full dealing with seasonal coughs and colds, as well as the occasional medical emergency. To add to the doctors’ worries, competition arrives in the form of a patient-poaching new physician whose quackery threatens the health and well-being of the good people of Ballybucklebo. Can one territory support three hungry doctors? Barry has his doubts. But the wintry days and nights are not without a few tidings of comfort and joy. Between their hectic medical practice, Rugby Club parties, and the kiddies’ Christmas Pageant, the two doctors still find time to play Santa Claus to a struggling single mother with a sick child and not enough money in the bank. Snow is rare in Ulster, and so are miracles, but that doesn’t mean they never happen. . . .

Happy Holidays!

–Carrie

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