Something to Read – Christmas Favorites From Washington Irving to David Sedaris

The Four Gift Rule for kids this season has hit social media and these are my picks for the fourth gift, Something to Read.

Four Gift Rule For Children
Something they want
Something they need
Something they wear
Something they read

I’m the Imelda Marcos of Christmas books, my collection makes up the holiday décor in multiple rooms, on coffee tables, hearths, and nightstands. We can agree that there’s a lot of fluff out there, but we need it because we can’t live on beef alone. There’s also a place for lighter fare, a full course of Christmas fun, palatable for small bites of time during a busy season.

In all your hunting and hustling and getting, take stock of the staid and true tradition which comes from story. Find a quiet nook and make time to lose yourself, savoring each word from an old carol or tale.

Here are short works, essays, stories, and folktales for such a feast.

Appetizers: For Fun, For Family, For Reading Aloud

A Family Christmas by Caroline Kennedy

The perfect anthology of familiar and lasting lore, this book should be read aloud to children, to parents by children, with hot chocolate by the fire. Classics like Yes, Virginia, the most reprinted column, and The Gift of the Magi, to lesser known but no less important George Washington’s Letter to John Hancock about crossing the Delaware 12/27/1776, and Pearl Buck’s Christmas Day in the Morning. This is a 328 page volume we return to often, discovering something each time. It has a place on the shelf year round.

Xmas book

Christmas Treasury by Jan Brett

Here are seven of her best -selling books in one, the wintry scenes inspired by Scandinavia include Ukrainian Folktale The Mitten, Wild Christmas Reindeer, Trouble With Trolls, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Hat, Christmas Trolls, and The Night Before Christmas. Her illustrations are richly detailed and often framed with alternate storylines or a glimpse of what’s to come. Children who can’t read, find stories within stories, drawn into the book by the exquisite pictures.

Xmas Brett

Here’s the Beef: For Literary Lovers and Serious Reading

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote.

A collection of three holiday tales, the title story will play on your heartstrings, with its vivid depiction of his Alabama childhood, growing up in the care of a distant cousin Miss Sook, Capote’s best friend in life, and just what Christmas means and should mean.

One Christmas may rattle your expectations about family and the holidays when Capote makes his first holiday visit to his father.

A Thanksgiving Visitor is my favorite this year and it reminds me of Harper Lee and Truman Capote’s childhood together in Alabama with some of the meanest characters. And that’s what this story is about: Miss Sook invites Odd Henderson to dinner, the bully who’s the source of Capote’s personal misery and sleepless nights. You’re in for a treat because the writing lingers, the best kind of gift, the story that stays with you.

Xmas Capote

Christmas Sketches by Washington Irving

Christmas, The Stage Coach, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Christmas Dinner are five tales from The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, a collection whose most notable stories are part of American folklore, Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The first sketch Christmas is often acknowledged as the inspiration for Charles Dicken’s character Ebenezer Scrooge. Irving set out to investigate Christmas customs in England where he shares his observations about the games, traditions, and characters with wit and precision. I learned that Christmas was “driven out of the land” and that peacocks were in great demand for stately meals and that the Lord of Misrule was the leader of revelry. Irving provides substance in every sentence, no matter how much you read.

Xmas Irving

Something Sweet: For Laughs and Looks

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

If you haven’t read Sedaris, you’re in for a treat. During a dreary stage in my life, when the children were in diapers, I began a search for humor books in earnest. So I read Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry, revisited old comic strips, looking and finding new meaning as a young parent. One bookseller gave me Sedaris, and that was the antidote for trying times. This collection of twelve stories is irreverent and deadpan, classic Sedaris delivery and maybe just the cure you need, or crave.

People who traditionally open gifts on Christmas Eve seem a bit more pious and family oriented than those who wait until Christmas morning. They go to Mass, open presents, eat a late meal, return to church the following morning, and devote the rest of the day to eating another meal. Gifts are generally reserved for children, and the parents tend not to go overboard. It’s nothing I’d want for myself, but I suppose it’s fine for those who prefer food and family to things of real value (Holidays on Ice, p. 147).

Xmas Sedaris

The Joy of a Peanuts Christmas, 50 Years of Holiday Comics by Charles Schulz

Visit Charlie Brown and Snoopy and Linus and Lucy over five decades of holidays. It’s out of print but you can find it online for pennies. PEANUTS was not the original name, it was L’il Folks. And people have identified with these four characters ever since; my daughter’s favorite shirt has snoopy and cookies. And that’s sweet. (Book Link)

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** Click on book image for links

Dec 4, 2015

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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