Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Reading List 2011

Last year I put out a Christmas themed reading list that a number of you enjoyed, so I thought I'd put together another list this year. This year's Christmas themed reading list focuses on short story collections. Feel free to leave your favorite Christmas reads in the comments section!

Christmas Stories (Everyman's Library)
About the book: Christmas stories by great writers of the past two centuries. Dickens, Tolstoy, Checkhov, Cather, Nabokov, Cheever, and Munro are some of the luminaries. There is a little something for everyone in this collection of Christmas stories. From bits of fantasy, to heartbreaking tales of woe, to the comedic. What they have in common is Christmas spirit.

The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories (Alberto Manguel)
About the book: Stories by writers from across the globe, some well known (like John Cheever and Alice Munro) and others seldom or never before translated into English, such as "A Risk for Father Christmas" by Siegfried Lenz and "The Night Before Christmas" by Theodore Odrach. I haven't read this collection yet, but I have heard that there is not much Christmas cheer found here.

A Rumpole Christmas: Stories by John Mortimer
About the book: If you don't know him as an author, you might be familiar with the British TV adaptation of Mortimer's beloved and memorable Rumpole character called Rumpole of the Bailey.

In this collection of short stories, Rumpole finds himself involved in five holiday mysteries. He encounters a suspicious Father Christmas, endures a health spa, visits a church, entertains children, and defends a suspected terrorist.

All of the stories in A Rumpole Christmas have previously appeared in magazines; this is the first time they have been collected in book format. Sadly, Mortimer passed away in January 2009 and this collection is likely to be the last of "new" Rumpole stories ... so enjoy this holiday treat.

Murder for Christmas: 26 Tales of Seasonal Malice
About the book: Do you like a little murder and mayhem with your Christmas? Murder for Christmas features famous sleuths like Nero Wolfe, Lord Peter Wimsey, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Albert Campion, Father Brown and Bombay's inspector Ganesh Ghote. Stories of cheating, lying, kidnapping, and killing written by such authors as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Charles Dickens and Woody Allen -- all delivered in the Christmas spirit, of course! The introduction by Thomas Godfrey is delightful.

Christmas Stars: Fantastic Tales of Yuletide Wonder
Maybe you like your Christmas stories with an other-worldly twist. This Science Fiction/Fantasy collection includes some (now) classic stories like Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star" (a must read), "Miracle" by Connie Willis (see entry below), and "A Proper Santa Claus" by Anne McCaffrey (who sadly passed away November 21, 2011). Visions of the future of Christmas that perhaps redefine the word "miracle."

A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales
About the book: From fantasy to science fiction to horror, contributors to this Christmas anthology include well-known writers such as L. Frank Baum, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Connie Willis, Anne McCaffrey and others. The tales are broken into four major categories: Santa Shorts, Santa Substitutes, Variations on Holiday Theme, and Classic Tales of Christmas Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Whimsy.

And one of my all time favorites (yes, it was also on last year's list):

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis
About the Book: "Connie Willis loves Christmas. 'I even like the parts most people hate--shopping in crowded malls and reading Christmas newsletters and seeing relatives and standing in baggage check-in lines at the airport. Okay, I lied. Nobody likes standing in baggage check-in lines,' she writes. Willis knows it's hard to write good Christmas stories: the subject matter is limited, the writer has to balance between sentiment and skepticism, and too many fall into the Victorian habit of killing off saintly children and poor people. Here she presents eight marvelous Christmas tales, two of which appear for the first time.

The stories range from 'The Pony,' about a psychotherapist who doesn't believe that Christmas gifts can answer our deepest longings, and 'Inn,' in which a choir member rehearsing for the Christmas pageant becomes part of the original Christmas story, to 'Newsletter,' where an invasion of parasitic creatures causes unusually good behavior in their hosts, and 'Epiphany,' a story of three unlikely Magi following signs through a North American winter toward the returned Jesus Christ. 'Miracle' is a comic romance echoing Willis' favorite Yuletide movie, Miracle on 34th Street, and 'Catspaw' is an homage to the traditional Christmas murder mystery with a sly, science-fictional twist. The collection also includes 'In Coppelius' Toyshop,' in which a bad guy is trapped in Toyland, and 'Adaptation,' a Dickensian story about what it means to keep Christmas in your heart.

Those who want only SF stories may find this collection lacking, but anyone who enjoys complex tales with true Christmas spirit will treasure it."
-Amazon.com review by Nona Vero

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