What marks the start of the holiday season for you?
The first good snow that stays around, snow in the boughs of trees, the reflection of window lights in the snow, the deep hush of winter.

Does your family have one very special holiday tradition?
Christmas stockings with a big orange in the toe. On Christmas morning, we peel our oranges and the aroma mixes with pine tree and coffee and chocolate.

What are you most looking forward to during the holiday season?
Being in New York for our annual "Prairie Home Companion" run at Town Hall and walking through Times Square and up to Rockefeller Center and the tree and the rink. Maybe this year I'm going to put on a pair of skates and glide around the ice with my hands behind my back, as gentlemen are supposed to do.

What’s your favorite holiday book or song?
I love any song that people are willing to sing with me and that comes down to "Silent Night" and "Away In a Manger" and a few others. People standing close together singing "Silent Night" in four-part a capella harmony always makes me get teary-eyed.

Why do books make the best gifts?
They're rectangular and easier to wrap than, say, basketballs, and they're a compliment to the recipient. He opens the wrapping and there, instead of the auto repair manual he was hoping for, is Proust's Remembrance of Things Past and what a compliment to a guy who never was known to read fiction at all.

What books are you planning to give to friends and family?
I've already given everyone a thesaurus and the great two-volume Nineteenth-Century American Poetry (Library of America) and of course none of them is particularly interested in getting a copy of my books, so I'll have to think about this.

What was the best book you read this year?
The English Major by Jim Harrison.

What’s your number one resolution for 2010?
To get out my old Underwood typewriter and start writing letters instead of e-mail.

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