Must-have Reads for the Holidays
article by Michael DeVault
Winter came early, and that means it’s time to snuggle up by the fire with a good book. This season, though, put down the latest James Patterson thriller and, instead, spend some time with a good Christmas book. After all, the holidays are a time about family, fun and making memories. There’s no reason the book in your lap can’t be a part of that.
There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to Christmas books. As even the most cursory look at Amazon’s collection will reveal, no writer is immune from the pull of yuletide nostalgia. Mary Higgins Clark wrote a Christmas book. So did Glenn Beck, Terry Pratchett and Fannie Flagg. And Christmas books are hardly a recent phenomenon, either. Truman Capote got in on the game. So did Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. In fact, Christmas stories predate the “father” of all holiday tales, A Christmas Carol. Still, sifting through all those books to come up with the perfect book is a chore. Here are a few you might consider for your own Christmas collection.
In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash
by Jean Shepherd
If you’ve ever tuned into TNT’s “24 Hours of ‘A Christmas Story’” marathon, then you’ll already know about Ralphie Parker, about Red Rider BB guns and will no doubt sing along with “far ra ra ra ra.” What you may not know is the dewy-eyed nostalgia of the 1983 film barely scratches the surface of its source, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, the 1966 novel by radio personality Jean Shepherd.
Shepherd takes an unapologetic and often unfiltered look back at life in Indiana in the 1940s, a time when “snow days” meant you go to school dressed for snow. After all, as Shepherd writes, “There was no question of staying home. It never entered anyone’s mind.”
If you loved the film, do not miss the chance to get to know Ralphie, Randy, Mom and the Old Man better. In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash is an American classic that’s a must-read for anyone looking for a holiday book.
by John Grisham
Put away thoughts of The Pelican Brief and Runaway Jury. When you pick up Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham, you’ll be surprised. The 2001 novel represents one of Grisham’s earliest and most successful attempts to break out of thriller mode, and Grisham delivers with a natural ear for comedic timing.
When Luther and Nora Krank drop their daughter off the day after Thanksgiving for a year-long trip to Peru, they make a decision: they won’t take part in any holiday celebrations and, instead, will spend everything they spent in previous years on a blowout Caribbean cruise. After angering the entire town with their anti-Christmas antics, their daughter surprises them. She’s coming home for the holiday after all, because she doesn’t want to miss their annual Christmas party. As Luther and Nora struggle to stage a Christmas extravaganza, they’ll need a miracle to rebuild the bridges they’ve inadvertently burned.
When it was released in 2001, Skipping Christmas shot to number one on the New York Times bestsellers list and garnered more than a little critical recognition for Grisham. And over the years it’s grown a cult following of its own, and it even spawned a 2004 film version, “Christmas With the Kranks,” which starred Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. This book is a touching tale about the importance of Christmas spirit.
The Christmas Box
by Richard Paul Evans
When Richard Paul Evans set out to write The Christmas Box, he wasn’t expecting it to become an international phenomenon. In fact, he was writing the story to entertain his children. Only after he self-published The Christmas Box and the book became a best-seller in Utah did he garner national attention–and a seven-figure book deal that cemented his place in Christmas lore.
The Christmas Box begins as Keri and Richard Evans struggle to maintain their young family in the cramped confines of a one-bedroom apartment. When Keri finds an advertisement seeking live-in assistance for an elderly woman, Mary, his wife convinces Richard to inquire. In exchange for care and light housekeeping, the Evans family is given an entire wing of Mary’s spacious home. A mystery of sorts ensues when Richard discovers a box of Christmas letters in the attic. Curious, Richard investigates, only to discover that Mary lost an infant child, and that each of these letters were written to that child. Mary’s health declining, Richard learns the true meaning of gifts at Christmas.
At times sentimental and at others poignant, The Christmas Box is a heart-wrenching story.