Every year at Christmas time I have trouble finding good seasonal fiction to read. I have a good collection of Christmas books, which I’m certainly willing to re-read, but each year I’d like to read something I haven’t read before.
I’ve had so much trouble finding fresh Christmas reading that I watch throughout the year for Christmas fiction, noting promising titles on a reading list in my planner, waiting to check them out come next Christmas. Unfortunately, only writers of inspirational (I don’t care to be preached at) romance (please!) and mystery (it’s Christmas—could we all stop killing each other for a few weeks?) seem interested in writing stories set in the Christmas season. None of these genres interests me particularly. A few others take a stab now and then, but the results make it obvious to the reader that the author knocked it off for a quick, easy holiday buck. David Baldacci’s The Christmas Train leaps to mind: this book had almost everything I could have wanted in Christmas fiction until the climax, when it all got to be just too ridiculous.
On the other hand, Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror was delightfully ridiculous, and I enjoyed it very much, although it fell somewhat short on Christmas spirit.
I’ve ended up reading a fair amount of books that didn’t do anything for me. It’s even made me dip into the genres I dismissed above. Last year I read Fannie Flagg’s A Redbird Christmas, which is classified as inspirational, but told with great humor, humanity, and a very light touch on the inspirational aspects.
One enduring favorite, Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice, could be considered a romance. Certainly, it’s a romantic story in its way. It is undoubtedly “chick lit.” It appealed to me for its Scottish setting, its engaging story, and its theme of family ties that go beyond blood, a favorite of mine. I recommend it!
Few other examples of Christmas fiction that I’ve enjoyed leap immediately to mind, other than one bright jewel of a book: Susan Hill’s Lanterns Across the Snow. We found a copy, illustrated with exquisite woodcuts by Kathleen Lindsley, for a few bucks at an outlet mall bookstore. We picked it up on a whim one summer, and that Christmas it took us by storm. We now read it aloud almost every year, along with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It’s not an easy task for me, as the very first lines of the preface invariably bring me to tears!
The classics are always reliable, but I’ve pretty much covered them, many times over, by now. I need something new!
I’m getting by so far. I’m re-reading a favorite author’s book, Robertson Davies’ High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories, which he used to tell at Christmas time. I’m looking for a new one by Wally Lamb, Wishin’ and Hopin’, which looks promising. Garrison Keillor has a new one out, The Christmas Blizzard, and the library has it. I might get to it if I can beat the hold list. I’ve got electronic copies of some classic story collections, but I’m very reluctant to curl up with a warm laptop under the tree.
As in past year’s, I’ll make it through the season all right. Usually there’s not much time for personal reading anyway—which is why I can afford to be so picky—but I need to be ready, just in case!
If you’ve found a good piece of Christmas fiction that you’d like to recommend, please use the comments section. I’m open to suggestions! Remember that the books listed here are all available through your local bookstore.