I’ve been meaning for a time to note down the list of books that I tend to reread at Christmas, a list that is probably illustrative of something deeply weird in my personality, or at least of the types of books I like. Undoubtedly I’ll forget a few, so consider this a partial list.
Let’s start with Dr. Seuss, shall we? Not to diss Dickens, and I grew up with A Christmas Carol and the tale that my maternal grandfather used to read it aloud to his family on Christmas Eve – maybe not the whole thing, but still, attention spans are shorter in recent generations, so our own tradition while the kids were growing up centered around How the Grinch Stole Christmas. At one point I had the whole book memorized; I think that’s lost now, but considering the vagaries of memory, Who knows.
If you do want someone reading part of A Christmas Carol aloud, though, I recommend Michael Emerson.
Moving on to young adult literature, I am fond of the swirling mystery and supernatural weather in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. That may be this year’s reread, especially since we’re not going to have a white Christmas (though at least it won’t be 60 degrees F. anymore by then).
In a more grown-up vein, I keep coming back to Robertson Davies’ A Mixture of Frailties, the third book in the Salterton trilogy. It’s not billed as a Christmas novel, but it wraps itself around several Christmases experienced by Monica Gall, the main character, and I am forever in love with its uncertain ending and a particularly ironic organ performance of “For Unto Us a Child Is Born.”
More recently, I’ve discovered the Dalziel/Pascoe mystery novels of Reginald Hill. I wouldn’t recommend reading Death’s Jest-Book first of his books (at the very least, read its predecessor, Dialogues of the Dead, or you won’t understand part of the background story), nor would I call it a feel-good-happy-Christmas story, but it’s a stunning achievement in the melding of police procedural, character-driven angst, and literary-intellectural cleverness (as are all his books, really, but this is the pinnacle of delight).
Speaking of high points in a series, I can’t call Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance a Christmas book at all, but after all the horror and self-discovery and pain and thanksgiving there’s a lovely moment at the end where the Vorkosigan family is getting ready to go to the Winterfair ball, which I might be able to reread without going back for the rest of the book. “Like a small, cheerful bomb,” oh, Mark.
In a SF and in fact a time travel vein, there’s Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, which also manages to balance loss and luminosity in a spectacular manner. Not light reading, okay, but oh so good.
And I admit there is a Christmas Eve scene between George and his mother near the end of Time and Fevers that I glance at again at this time of year. Next year, you all can read it too. 🙂
Please feel free to comment with your own selections!