Whether you're seeking new ideas for Christmas decorating or stories that will delight the whole family, this Christmas season offers a sleighful of books to get you in the holiday spirit.
Ah, Christmas. Cozy nights by the fire, gift giving and . . . mistletoe poisoning? For those who like to be prepared for the unexpected, look no further than The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays. This tongue-in-cheek guide to Christmas survival offers advice some helpful, some just hilarious on a startlingly large array of holiday predicaments. A section on surviving the great outdoors includes practical advice on how to deal with a cancelled flight. Turn the page, however, and find a three-page guide to fending off a charging reindeer (stand your ground and watch for antler display, if you really want to know). Advice on how to deflect meddling parents is thoughtful and handy, as are a primer on treating food poisoning and a pre-written "There is No Santa Claus" speech. The New Year's Resolution-O-Matic is perfect for the wishy-washy: a chart to mix and match resolutions to suit your mood. Giggle-inducing sketches of erstwhile champagne corks and unwanted carolers are sprinkled throughout this perfect stocking stuffer.
Those who perhaps are looking for a more traditional holiday guidebook should check out Christmas Comfort and Joy. This combination cookbook and crafts guide offers modern decorating ideas that even the least crafty among us might be inspired to try. The craft projects range from crocheting to decoupage. The recipes combine easy directions and basic ingredients, but the end results particularly the cookies are anything but ordinary. Martha Stewart herself would be impressed with the deceptively easy lime tartlets and cappuccino caramels, and recipes include optional tips on preparation and packaging. The gorgeous photos throughout will get anyone in a holiday frame of mind.
As will A Child's Christmas in Brooklyn, a magical short story by Frank Crocitto. A Child's Christmas is Crocitto's ode to his Italian-American family, particularly his grandmother, whose holiday traditions he recalls with clear joy. "Grandma's cooking and baking could bring the wolves out of the woods, make barbarians civil, and turn proud, adventurous men away from all high endeavor," he writes, detailing the pastries, the broiled eel, the pasta, the onion pie piled high onto the family's Christmas table. Crocitto offers a sweetly perfect portrait of what it's like to be young at Christmastime how it feels to be dragged away from new toys to the overheated church, the overlong sermon and the women in fancy hats blocking the view. His charming book is a glimpse back to Christmas in 1940s Brooklyn, inside the home of a family with Italian traditions and uniquely American values.
Author Bill Duncliffe offers another meditation on Christmas and youth in Christmas Past. Duncliffe replaces 1940s Brooklyn with 1960s Boston and a rowdy Irish-American family whose Christmas is under the cloudy threat of unemployment. While his father worries about losing his job at the local newspaper, Dave guiltily fixates on the special baseball glove that he knows is out of the question this Christmas. When Christmas finally arrives, the whole family is in for some surprises. Duncliffe writes a sweet, memorable tale of siblings and secret childhood yearnings that will ring true for anyone who remembers his or her own Christmases past.
For a thorough and fascinating account of the most popular Christmas song of all time, read White Christmas: The Story of an American Song. First-time author Jody Rosen has written for The New York Times and other publications, and his journalistic training is evident as he meticulously traces the roots of Irving Berlin's famous song, which the confident Berlin once called "the best song anybody ever wrote." Rosen could have simply recounted the genesis of "White Christmas," but he also delves into what we find so appealing about the genre of yearning ballads and explores the impact of the song. The commercial success of "White Christmas" spurred the creation of several other classics, including "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." More than just the history of one song, White Christmas investigates the inestimable importance of popular music in American culture.
Home for Christmas: Stories for Young and Old is a timely tool for parents hoping to teach young children the true meaning of the Christmas season. This beautifully illustrated collection, compiled by Miriam LeBlanc, includes spiritual stories for families to read together, some by noted authors such as Madeleine L'Engle, Elizabeth Goudge and Pearl Buck, and some that are adapted from classic Christmas tales. "No Room at the Inn" is a modern twist on the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter. "The Vexation of Barney Hatch" features an Ebenezer Scrooge-like character who learns an important message about how to find happiness. Many of the stories are set in ancient times and exotic locations from Siberia to Persia that are sure to spark a child's imagination. Home for Christmas offers messages of love and acceptance that are the perfect antidote to the commercialization of the season.
Amy Scribner writes from Washington, D.C.