When I was a kid, this time of year usually meant a slew of Christmas specials on TV. Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the Grinch to name just a few folks who stared out from the family television all through the month of December. Nowadays, you can’t go a single day of the month without running into some channel airing something holiday related, and that’s without considering streaming/on-demand options or the really hard core folks who break out a Blu-ray, DVD, VHS or Beta tape, or LaserDisc.
(If you’ve got How the Grinch Stole Christmas! on LaserDisc, you are a holiday binge watching beast.)
Know what else is good to do this time of year? Curl up with a good book. Make it a holiday-themed book if you really want to be so sweet you break out with spontaneous diabetes. Would I ever write such a book? Sure, if I was able to conjure an idea. I thought I had the makings of a pretty decent one several years ago, but it turns out I wasn’t the only one with that same notion, and they beat me to the punch. Take a guess.
Until then, there are several books, old and new, I consider favorites for this time of year, each of them written by an author more capable than myself.
Granted, most of the options on this list are aimed at children, but so what? Unless you’re just utterly dead inside, you’ve still got a bit of kid hunkering down within you, so why not feed that little tyke with some smooth, seasonal words of joy and celebration….well, most of the time, anyway (see below). For example:
A Charlie Brown Christmas – An adaptation of the classic special shown every year since 1965. There are actually several different adaptations running around out there, so finding one is pretty easy. You could do worse than to add a copy to your bookshelf. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”
The Polar Express – The movie might’ve been disappointing for some folks, but Chris Van Allsburg’s original storybook – for which he provided the gorgeous cover and interior art – remains an annual tradition for children and adults alike.
Home Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook – Adapted by Jason Rekulak and illustrated by Kim Smith, the heartwarming tale of 8-year old maniacal killer-in-training Kevin McCallister and his epic Christmas Eve battle against robbers Harry and Marv attempting to break into his family’s home makes for a charming kid’s story. Come on. It practically sells itself. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we can all behold Love Actually: The Illustrated Holiday Classic.
The Magic of Friendship Snow – One of the more recent entries into a rather packed category, I found this one by accident one day while looking for something else. The cover caught my eye and after reading the description — a young girl struggling with making new friends during the holiday season — I realized this was the kind of book I wish had been around when my daughters were younger. Andi Cann is an accomplished author of children’s books and it shows here on every page, and the interior art is simply wonderful.
A Very Klingon Khristmas – Written by Paul Ruditis and lavishly illustrated by Patrick Faricy, the text is fun and the artwork is absolutely amazing, making this a keeper right out of the gate. How this wonderful tome isn’t offered in stores every year alongside other perennial favorites remains a mystery to me.
Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 – Author/illustrator John Hendrix takes his cue from real stories from the first Christmas celebrated on the Western Front during the First World War. I discovered this book at the gift shop while volunteering at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and decided to add it to my ever-growing collection of WWI titles.
The Nightmare Before Christmas as written and illustrated by director Tim Burton is pretty much exactly what you might think it is: A book inspired by the film which in turn was inspired by a poem he wrote while working for Disney. Containing Burton’s poem with accompanying cover and interior illustrations he created for this retro-adaptation, the book was originally released in 2006. A few years ago I picked up a newer hardcover edition released to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary.
Though not actually a “Christmas” book due to the (apparent) fact that Christmas doesn’t exist in the Star Wars universe, Life Day Treasury: Holiday Stories from A Galaxy Far, Far Away is still a welcome addition to the reading list. Written by veteran Star Was novelist Cavan Scott, this is the third in a series of “myths and fables” purporting to be actual stories and legends characters inside the universe would know or have read, this collection focuses on heartwarming tales appropriate for the holiday season in any universe.
A Wish for Wings That Work – I’ve been a fan of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County (and, later, Outland) since the jump, including the more recent “reboot.” I still have a stuffed Opus and Bill the Cat in my home office, and I breathlessly await word of a reunion tour for Billy and the Boingers. Since I was already buying the collections of Bloom County strips at the time, it was a foregone conclusion I’d add this to my library, too. Opus just wants to fly. Is that so much to ask? But, it is Christmas…the season of miracles….
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – It’s just not Christmas without Dr. Seuss’ classic tale. A version of this story first appeared in an issue of Redbook Magazine in October 1957, and most of us have seen the animated special that’s aired every year since 1966. The story’s been adapted for film, the stage, and audio dramatization, but how many of you have a copy of the original story on your shelf?
Trek the Halls – One of several tomes hitting stands for the first time this year. Written by friend and fellow wordsmith Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Luke Flowers, this is a fun storybook for the younger Trekkie in your clan. It’s a Trekkish twist on the classic holiday jingle “Deck the Halls” adapted for prose (though you can’t read it without the little sing-song bit taking over in your head. Go on, try it. I dare you.), and with a Gorn reading holiday stories to their….gornling? Luke Flowers also gives us fun illustrations of the crews from the original Star Trek series, The Next Generation, Voyager, Enterprise, and Discovery.
A Die Hard Christmas – History will prove me right, as I believe this one is destined to become a classic worthy of its place on the bookshelf alongside other iconic favorite yuletide tales. You already know how I feel about Die Hard being regarded as a Christmas movie, so you have to know that I had a copy of this bad boy the day it dropped just like Hans Gruber taking a dive off Nakatomi Tower. Yippee Kai Yay, Mr. Kringle!
And there you have it: A short list to get you started. This obviously isn’t meant to be anything definitive, or a “best of” list, and neither did I “forget” anything. Feel free to chime in with your own suggestions in the comments. Go on. You know you wanna.
However you choose to observe or celebrate the season, I hope it’s a safe and happy occasion!