Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Christmas Books for Grown-ups

There are a LOT of Christmas books out there! They aren’t like the classics, which are separate stories from the author’s usual works, usually with a reverent attitude. Nowadays, they are just as likely to be adjunct to already existing characters and contain as much comedy and suspense as tree ornaments. Here is a selection from those I’ve read this past year.
The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
Absolutely delightful! Arabella Dempsey, a friend of Jane Austen, begins a new job at a school for young ladies, where she quite literally bumps into ‘Turnip’ Fitzhugh, who is visiting his sister. They become caught up in a mystery featuring secret messages and Christmas puddings. Witty, romantic and amusing, this was my favorite of the bunch. Part of The Pink Carnation series, it also stands on its own.
Dutton 2010 339 pp. ISBN 978-0-525-95187-2

Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews
In this quirky mystery, Meg, a blacksmith and her drama teacher husband live in Caerphilly, a small town inhabited completely by eccentrics. On the day of the local holiday parade, the curmudgeon playing Santa is found dead, a complication Meg doesn’t need as she organizes a live “12 Days of Christmas” theme complete with real animals and Morris dancers.
Thomas Dunne 2008 279 pp. ISBN 978-0-312-53610-7

The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read
An old-fashioned holiday novel, with mores of the times, such as the importance of daughters marrying ASAP and producing sons. But the pragmatism of the characters prevents it from getting cloying. The story of a grandmother and her small family in a little English village in the days leading up to Christmas. A touch of Dickens and the title character provides a moral as well.
Houghton Mifflin Co. 1973 173 pp. ISBN 0-395-17703-0

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
For something vastly non-traditional, this small collection of short stories will make your family look normal. A mix of fiction and memoir, they range from bizarre family incidents to a bitter parody of a “Christmas card letter”. Some of them were too over the top for me, but the farm animal story was touchingly sad and funny. “SantaLand Diaries”, an account of the author’s job as a elf at Macy’s Department Store, was hilarious.
Little, Brown & Co. 2008 166 pp. ISBN 978-0-316-03590-3

The Mitford Snowmen by Jan Karon
One of several seasonal offshoots from Karon’s popular novels set in Mitford, an American small town and featuring some of the regular character in a snowman building contest. It’s less a short story than a viginette and is padded with some nice watercolor illustrations.
Viking 2001 23 pp. ISBN 0-670-03019-8

The Great Santa Search as told to Jeff Guinn
Guinn has written two other books on the subject which reveals that Mrs. Claus’s first name is Layla and that Da Vinci designed and manages the North Pole workshop. Other historical characters such as Teddy Roosevelt and Ben Franklin also appear. It was a bit too far-fetched for me, but those who appreciate fantastical plots would enjoy it. This third installment has Santa becoming involved with a TV reality show.
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin 2006 321 pp. ISBN 1-58542-513-3

Jackie wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas!

4 comments on “Christmas Books for Grown-ups

  1. annebrooke
    December 13, 2010

    Sounds like a lot of fun was had, Jackie, and certainly gets us all in the mood! :)

  2. lisa dempster
    December 13, 2010

    What a great blog topic! And fantastic recs, thanks.

  3. Nikki
    December 13, 2010

    I want to read all of these with a big mug of hot chocolate! No time to finish my library books and look for these before Christmas though, so I’ll look next year. I’d particularly like to read Six Geese A-Slaying, the title made me giggle!

  4. cherylmahoney
    December 14, 2010

    I just read Holidays on Ice for a book club, and there was universal agreement that “Santaland Diaries” was the best story in the collection, followed by “Six to Eight Black Men.” Both hilarious, although a few of the others made me want to run in search of a Frank Capra film, or maybe a good Dickens book to recover some more traditional holiday cheer!

    Thanks for these other suggestions–I’ll have to try to fit a few in before the holiday passes. The Mischief of the Mistletoe especially sounds like fun!

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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