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11 December 2015

The most wonderful time of the year?

I have mixed feelings about Christmas. I don't want to get into it.

I do, however, want to talk about a few of my favorite Christmas books. Except that they aren't all necessarily "Christmas" books, just books that I tend to get a hankerin' for around the holidays.

You know how it is... the chilly* weather, the cozy decorations and soothing music, the veritable flood of hot chocolate. Just makes you want to curl up with a good comfort book, right?

(* By "chilly" I mean in the mid-60's-70's. I live on the Texas Gulf Coast, sorry-not-sorry.)

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Anyway, here are a few of the books I'm mostly likely to pick up for some cozy reading around this time of year . . . .

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
"In all this world there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child," says L. Frank Baum's delightful Santa Claus. These words also expressed the credo of the wonderfully imaginative creator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Taking the beloved symbol of a merry Christmas out of his conventional trappings and into the world of imaginative folklore. Baum gave Santa Claus an exciting life that evokes all the charm, warmth, and fantasy that made his Oz stories American classic. 
Here's a real classic that I wish more people were familiar with. I think a lot of people are familiar with the 1985 stop-motion TV special by Rankin/Bass, the same studio that brought us the stop-motion versions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus is Comin' To Town (another Santa origin story, which confused the heck out of me as a little kid). It is, as you would expect from the author of The Wizard of Oz, a fun and beautiful children's book that has stood the test of time.

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Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
There are those who believe and those who don't. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it's helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl - even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions....
There are a great many Pratchett books that I love -- and none that I haven't at least liked a bit -- but this one in particular is a staple for me around Christmastime. Everything about it is damn near perfect. The characters, the plot, the humor, and the meaning behind it all... I don't think I've ever read a better "Christmas" (but not really Christmas) book.

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Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 
I grew up with Harry. I was 11 when the first book came out and Harry was 11, too. I actually remember buying the first book -- we were in an airport somewhere (I don't actually remember the trip at all) and my mother let me get something from the bookshop near our terminal. I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone because my best friend had recommended it to me. This series will always be a part of my life.

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The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis
When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy took their first steps into the world behind the magic wardrobe, little do they realise what adventures are about to unfold. And as the story of Narnia begins to unfold, so to does a classic tale that has enchanted readers of all ages for over half a century.
I must have read this series at least once a year when I was in elementary and middle school. I can probably tell you all the stories by heart. But my feelings about some aspects of these books have changed as I've aged and gone through some personal philosophical revolutions. I still have a special place in my heart for this series and will read it again probably multiple times in the future, but I'm not quite ready to completely hash out my thoughts on these books at this point.

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My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...." This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.
This book only came out last year -- see my review here. I'll be reading it again this holiday season, of course. Apparently a "companion" story collection called Summer Days and Summer Nights is due to be released in June 2016!

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So, how about you? Do you have any favorite holiday season books that you like to cozy up with?

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