Christmas is just a few days away. We hear and read news stories about acts of kindness – police stopping motorists and giving them cash; benefactors who go into a big box store and pay off everyone’s layaways; even a big lottery ticket win dropped off in a Salvation Army bucket. We give items to a toy drive, pat ourselves on the back for doing good, and then return to the stressful tasks ahead of us – the shopping, the cooking, the wrapping, the traveling.
Here’s a thought. How about getting yourself a book about Christmas – one that takes you away from everything; one that you can curl up with at night before you go to sleep. It may take you beyond Christmas to read it, but so what? The idea is to escape – escape into a world of fantasy, of belief in miracles, and more.
Here are ten great reads for the Christmas season and beyond. The reviews summarize, paraphrase, and quote from the books, so that you can decide if one might just be a perfect read for you.
This is really a children’s book, but it is filled with fantasy and is just a great fantasy story about a boy names Nikolas who lived in poverty in Finland. His mother had died and all he had as a remembrance was a toy doll she had carved out of a turnip. Of course, the turnip eventually rotted. His father leaves the family home to find the “land of the elves” and Nikolas soon follows, leaving his mean aunt. When he arrives at the land of the elves, he faces lots of challenges, one of which is to bring joy back to the place. The rest is, as they say “history,” and Santa Claus is “born.”
While this is a children’s book, it is hilarious, and adults will find it a great read – whether to their children or just for themselves.
Here is a bit of a tear-jerker, heart-warmer of a book. Joanne Smith has just lost her husband and is facing the Christmas season with her three young boys. She is torn between her very raw grief and trying to plan Christmas for her kids who have become surly, unhappy and sad. Twelve days before Christmas, packages begin to arrive on their doorstep from people who simply sign “True Friends.” Much of the book is their “trek” to unravel the mystery of the giver(s), but in doing so, they once more become that family they used to be. This is a really “feel good” Christmas story based on an actual event.
Another children’s book but one that all ages will love. Read it with your kids, nieces and nephews, or just the neighbors’ children. This is one to be read over time, because it is a bit long
The year is 1878. Christopher writes a letter to Santa saying he really just wants for Santa’s wish to come true. It does. Santa and wife have a baby, naming her Holly. An evil one, named Harriken hatches a plan to escape his imprisonment and freezes Holly’s heart as his first step. The child must now stay in a cold environment – if her heart melts, she will die. She’s a risk-taker, though, and once grown, insists upon going to New York. There she witnesses the suffering of the poor and vows to do something about it. She also meets Christopher. The adventures begin while she fights off Harriken, finally defeating him, and brings her magical powers to the slums of New York. It’s a great read for older elementary children, does not focus on Christmas much, and is a general all-around good fantasy novel.
A big Christmas message in this one which could start a family tradition that might go year-round. The novel revolves around Hope Jensen, a newspaper reporter who has one of the worst Christmas Eves ever. But, insider her apartment, trashed by burglars, she finds a jar stuffed with money. Being a journalist, she sets out to discover who left the jar and why her? She discovers a “pay it forward” scheme that has been going for a long time in her town. This is a quick read, but it may inspire those who do to start such a tradition of their own – whether for Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, or more. It’s all about anonymous acts of kindness which we could all stand a bit more of.
A great read for middle-aged kids but also for adults who love fantasy, ghosts, zombies, and time travel. It’s the story of a modern-day young kid, a mean bully who cares nothing about who he hurts – he thinks it’s all funny. That is, until he is confronted by ghosts of past, present, and future, along with zombies as he travels through time to learn his lessons. Anyone who likes fantasy, at any age, will find this a good read.
Here’s a book for romantics. The main character, Jen Barker, is pretty certain an engagement ring is coming from her boyfriend. Instead, she gets dumped. Having lost all of her Christmas spirit, she decides to go with her sister to the Swiss Alps and have a working holiday. There she does meet someone – a ski instructor and they spend a lot of time at the Cake Café. There are some challenges to this new relationship, however, and they may not be fixable.
While certainly a romantic tale, there is some amazing humor – you will laugh out loud in spots.
This is a tale of long-held secrets, some of them very sinister. It is not a Christmas story per se, but it takes place at Christmas in a snowed in hotel in the mountains, overlooking a town that has a reputation for being a haven for smugglers. The inn owners and their son, Milo, expect not guests, but they just keep coming. The owners even have to hire people from the town to help out.
Each guest has a story to tell that is connected to the inn, one of them being quite deadly. All of the stories are cues to the big mystery, and Milo, along with a girl from the tow, set out to solve the puzzle.
It’s a great book to read to kids, but all ages will enjoy it – twists and turns, amazing characters, and role-playing fun. Not a feel-good” heart jerker, but a good, fun read.
This is the story of Lauren, an orphan who grew up in a series of foster homes. Now, as an adult, she has outlived the foster system and is out on her own, working as a store clerk. She hates Christmas because she is alone. One night she takes a drive, witnesses an accident and stops in the town of Grandon to report it. From there, the story takes on a life of its own. The other characters are amazing, especially Ben, the disabled grocery store bagger who puts personal notes into every bag of groceries. Two women best friends are hilarious. The entire town is a “family,” and through a series of events and situations, the reader will laugh, cry and be inspired by the season.
This is actually the second book in a series but is a stand-alone book for Christmas. It is set in a tiny part of England where Will lives. He is looking forward to his 11th birthday and to Christmas with his large family. Suddenly he is “transported” to an ancient scene, where “The Dark” is rising. Will has a part to play in its defeat. The book is filled with time travel, pretty gripping scenes and events, and Will must fulfill his “mission” to defeat the dark side and get back home. Anyone who likes fantasy, suspense, and mystery will enjoy this book, even though, like Harry Potter, it was written for kids.
Finally, a Christmas book for dog lovers.
Todd McCray, a mentally handicapped young adult, lives with his parents on a farm in Kansas. The town’s animal shelter has put out a call for families to adopt a dog just for the holidays. Of course, Todd wants to participate, but his father, who lost two dogs in the past, has vowed never to go through that pain again. He is obviously opposed.
Eventually, dad gives in and a great dog comes to stay with them, whom Todd names Christmas. At a large holiday party, Todd goes through the guests, convincing other families to do the same, and the shelter is soon emptied out.
What follows are a number of incidents, not the least of which is cougars in the woods, and, ultimately, the Christmas miracles happen, not just for Todd but for the adopted” dogs. This is a short one evening read, but is well worth it.
We all need to escape every once in a while. For many, that escape is in front of a screen. But for all adults who work hard and must squeeze in preparation for Christmas; for all college student paper writers who are home for holiday break; and for all kids who might get a kick out of an adult taking a little time to read to them, this list of books will be a better gift of escape.