Merry Christmas Eve, readers! Now is the time to fully indulge in Christmas themed everything before the big day passes, forcing you to pack up your Santa sweaters and tinsel for another year. Popular novelist Debbie Macomber admits she tends to overdo it a bit with her love of all things Christmas, but her latest book, Starry Night, gets it just right with a blend of romance, adventure and a little touch of Christmas magic. Carrie Slayton, a successful gossip columnist wants more out of her newspaper career, but when she comes upon the scoop of a lifetime in small-town Alaska, she must decide between her career or her heart. Watch Macomber excitedly introduce Starry Night in the trailer below. What are you reading this Christmas?
When Sal Lizard's hair and beard turned white while he was still in his 20s, he decided to embrace the look.
Being Santa Claus is Lizard's funny and touching account of his 30 years of playing Santa in malls, homes and hospitals. The book includes heart-warming stories of Christmas cheer as Lizard shares how being Santa Claus taught him what the holiday is really all about.
Read our review of the book here, and watch this trailer put out by Penguin Group:
Did you interact with Santa this year? Did he seem as realistic as Santa as Sal Lizard does?
At my house, it's just not Christmas time without watching It's a Wonderful Life. Now Bob Welch has written 52 Little Lesson from It's a Wonderful Life, putting the heart-warming experience of the film into a meditation of its lessons. Says our reviewer:
These lessons are cut from the same life-affirming cloth as the film itself, and stitched lovingly together by an author who is clearly an affectionate fan.
The fourth novel in Bradley's series finds plucky, 11-year-old sleuth Flavia in the middle of a holiday mystery. A film company is shooting a movie at her family’s estate, and the star shows up strangled.
Now that the season of Christmastime murder-mysteries is upon us, you can get to know Alan Bradley a little better through our Meet the Author interview:
Merry Christmas to Flavia -- and happy hunting! Check out the book trailer from Random House:
Is pint-sized Flavia one of your favorite literary detectives?
That means the December issue of BookPage is officially available (although I spied it at the library as early as November 26)—and you can start dog-earring our gift guide for readers. We've put together 10 roundups of gift books.
Click the headlines to read more.
Gift books for art lovers
The Louvre: All the Paintings and The Art Museum
Gift books for bibliophiles
The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, Why Read Moby-Dick?, John Updike's Higher Gossip, MetaMaus, The Iliad, The Annotated Peter Pan and Harlem Renaissance Novels
Gift books for guys
Monsters in the Movies, Listomania, The Batman Files, Mountaineers, Steam: An Enduring Legacy and A Soldier's Sketchbook
Gift books for sports junkies
The Big Show, 100 Yards of Glory, When the Garden Was Eden, Shaq Uncut and Room for Improvement
Gift books for style mavens
Katie Ridder Rooms, Southern Living Style, Big, Easy Style and Books Make a Home
Gift books for foodies
The Table Comes First, Balzac's Omelette, The Great American Ale Trail and See Mix Drink
Gift books for history buffs
A History of the World in 100 Objects, Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History, The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War and Life Upon These Shores
Gift books for music fans
Pearl Jam Twenty, George Harrison, Harry Belafonte's My Song and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes
Gift books for children
My First Farm Friends, The Family Storybook Treasury, Knick-Knack Paddywhack, All Around the World, Doodle Cook, The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Pop-Up Book, Treasured Classics, Legendary Journeys: Ships, My Fabulous Look Book, and The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Cunundrums
Gift books for everyone else!
The White House, Comic-Con Episode IV, The RecordSetter Book of World Records, Social Q's and Norman Rockwell's Spirit of America
Browse the December issue of BookPage on our website. What gift books are you giving this year? Any more recommendations?
Earlier this week we asked you to complete a silly holiday survey, and more than 500 people responded! Without further ado, here are the revealing results. (Here's a hint—BookPage readers do not give away self-help books for Christmas . . . maybe that'd be presumptuous? And Dr. Seuss beats Jonathan Franzen on Christmas Day.)
What percentage of your gift list will be receiving books this year?
* The "Other" responses for this question ranged from funny to practical to envy—inducing. Here are a few examples:
Cleaning up since the family has just. Getting ready to unwind with a mug of hot chocolate and a book.
Strolling the beach. Why stay home on Christmas with so many places in the world to explore?
Impatiently waiting to escape my loved ones so I can read a book on the couch because I had too much ___.
I'm Jewish. I'll be eating leftover Chinese food from Christmas Eve and reading a great book I bought myself.
On the beach with the dogs and my grandsons
Putting toys together
Riding home from relatives' house - husband driving, me reading!
Holed up in a corner with my nose in a book I had to buy myself! (how many times can you say, no clothes--books!)
What kinds of books are you giving away during the holidays? Is reading a new book more important that socializing with family on Christmas Day? We want to know all about your holiday habits. Please fill out this important survey now. (We'll post results on December 25.)
If you need a moment to relax amidst holiday festivities, peruse these Christmas books from the BookPage archives.
Also: What are you reading over the long weekend? I’m diving into Chang-rae Lee’s The Surrendered (out in March 2010).
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou
The celebrated poet first read this poem at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony, and now it graces the pages of a picture book. The poem isn't an obvious choice for a children's book - it's philosophical, thought-provoking and full of big words like covenant, rancor and apprehension. Yet it is a powerful message—sermon-like—and a good one for children to hear.
The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket
A Christmas story by Lemony Snicket? For those who know Snicket's best-selling series of books, this sounds like an oxymoron. He's well-known for his funny but often bleak, Edward Gorey-like view of the world. Never fear, The Lump of Coal is a small holiday gem, a follow-up of sorts to last year's Hanukkah tale, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. Yes, it does have its share of grim moments—after all, it's about a lump of coal! But it's also full of humor, and it serves as a nice diversion from all the holiday schmaltz.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
Rarely is a holiday book so lovely in every way as Kate DiCamillo's Great Joy. The story is heartwarming yet wonderfully subdued; the artwork glows. What's more, this short tale has a message that's bound to resonate with readers of all ages.
Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews
The weather outside is decidedly not frightful in balmy Savannah, Georgia, where Weezie Foley is gearing up for what she hopes is her best Christmas ever. She expects her antique shop to grab first prize in the annual historical district window-decorating contest, even if the nasty new owners of the shop across the street seem hell-bent on sabotaging her victory. Even better, Weezie suspects this might be the year that her boyfriend, Daniel, finally pops the question.
Christmas Remembered by Tomie DePaola
Tomie dePaola's new book, Christmas Remembered, is billed as the renowned illustrator's first work for all ages. In 15 short chapters he describes his favorite holiday memories, starting in 1937 when he was three years old and his parents installed a fake, plug-in fireplace in their Connecticut apartment.
The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg
In Elizabeth Berg's lyrical recasting of the story of Mary and Joseph, The Handmaid and the Carpenter, we are reminded that the parents of Jesus were a startlingly young, humble couple. Deeply in love, they are struggling to understand the mystery of what visiting angels have told them: that Mary will bear the Son of God.
"Wrap it up and give it to the guy who knows what funny is." That's what reviewer Martin Brady had to say about Our Front Pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude from America’s Finest News Source, the latest collection from the satirical paper The Onion. Their writers are so good at skating the fine line between reality and satire that it's easy to see why at least one paper thought their "news" stories were the real thing. An earlier Onion collection was a great hit with my funny-guy brother, so this year might find another one under the tree—as long as he's not reading this!
There's no reason why . . . publishers can't be planning for the holiday season. Any best-selling author worth her salt seems to have a holiday-themed book headed to shelves before the Thanksgiving turkey is carved. Many of the usual suspects are appearing—Anne Perry, Donna VanLiere, Debbie Macomber, Richard Paul Evans, Melody Carlson—but this season also brings notable new members of the holiday fiction club:
Kate Jacobs had a smash hit with her debut, The Friday Night Knitting Club -- and its sequel proved equally popular. Now she brings back some of the same characters in Knit the Season (Putnam). We predict: More than a few craft-lovers will find this yarn under their tree.
Gregory Maguire is the modern king of fractured fairy tales, which makes him a natural fit for the Christmas novel. With Matchless (Morrow), he reinvents Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" for the holidays. We predict: This classic story will now inspire more laughter than tears.
In novels like P.S. I Love You, Cecelia Ahern has managed to give a twee-sounding concepts emotional depth without veering into sentimentality. Her holiday novel, The Gift (Hyperion), was published last year in the UK and promises more of the same entertainment with an emotional pull. Plus, it's beautifully packaged. We predict: This won't be her last holiday-themed work.
Garrison Keillor's folksy voice takes on the holiday in A Christmas Blizzard (Viking). When a weathly art collector is stranded in North Dakota for Christmas instead of lounging on a Hawaiian beach as he'd planned, he's changed forever. We predict: An upswing in North Dakota holiday tourism.