BOOKED SOLID: Season's Readings

by Caitlin Kennedy | 11/30/10 11:00pm

As the holidays approach, it's time for students across the country to catch up on relaxation, sleep and drum roll, please pleasure reading. There's nothing more satisfying than curling up by the fireplace with hot cocoa, a plush blanket and a book. The question is, which book?

I suggest trying to fit in at least one piece of reading material with either a holiday theme or a wintry setting. One route to take is picking a cherished Christmas story or novel to read annually. May I also suggest you read it aloud?

It may sound cheesy, but reading the legendary Dickens novella "A Christmas Carol" (1843) with your family can be fun. The cast of eccentric characters means lots of opportunities to use ridiculous voices and accents. The story abounds with great one-liners, from Ebenezer Scrooge's "Bah humbug!" to Tiny Tim's "God bless us, every one." And don't even try to pretend it's not your secret ambition to play Scrooge everyone wants a shot at portraying his miserly angst. When he says things like "If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart," who can really blame us?

For a more brief read, try Truman Capote's cherished short story "A Christmas Memory" (1956), a tale both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The story chronicles a young boy's last Christmas with his best friend an eccentric, elderly woman who soon after the holiday, we are told, collapses into memory loss and dementia. Rendered with poignancy, the story captures the bond between two outcasts in a genuine manner Kleenex required.

Slightly less devastating is O. Henry's short story "The Gift of the Magi" (1906), the classic moral tale of a husband and wife who each give up what they love most the husband, his prized pocket watch; the wife, her long, silken hair to purchase gifts for the other. But the gifts they buy a set of hair combs and a pocket watch chain are rendered useless by their partner's sacrifice. But, the narrator says, it doesn't matter. In fact, "of all who give gifts these two were the wisest."

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (1972), by Barbara Robinson, presents a more modern take on the Christmas tale genre. The book tells the story of the Herdman children, "the worst kids in the history of the world," who decide to go to church when they hear about the free snacks. Together, they take over the church's annual Christmas pageant, commandeering all the choice roles from Mary to the angel Gabriel. Although the tone is lighthearted, the final message of acceptance is no less moral than that of "Magi."

If you don't buy into the Christmas hype, try picking up a wintry-themed book, such as Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" (1845). With an icy, white-clad witch at its center, the story echoes and perhaps helped to inspire the Narnia series.

From Dickens to Capote, these wintry tales are sure to restore your holiday spirit after the epic soul-destroyer, also known as finals period, has passed.