East Hampton Aerial with Snow
Here is our (opinionated) Christmas Reading List.
This is certainly not comprehensive and it is not comprised solely of Hamptons authors and/or settings, but we think you will enjoy it . . . Please let me know if I have missed any or your favorites. I will be happy to add them. I know I missed many of mine!
A Soused Mouse by Marina Dieul @ Pinterest
I will start with a family favorite, written by my father, Lester (Hank) Talkington. My mother made a little illustrated book of it and every year we hang it on the Christmas Tree and ceremoniously read it out loud with the first glass of eggnog. You might want to make a book for your tree while you make the nog! Start your own eggnog tradition! And be sure to leave Santa a glass on the mantle!
OF MICE AND MEN
This is about the mouse
Who was not a stirring creature
On the night before Christmas
Because he had been stirring eggnog
All day long
And sipping the nog
‘Til he was fried as an egg
And Santa called him
‘A Soused Mouse!’
Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
Next, let’s sample some holiday writings by notable Hamptons Authors (some of these have been mentioned in other Reading List Blogs), and some writers only tenuously related to the Hamptons (if at all) but worthy of our attention this time of year. Whether to give as gifts or to read by the fire (with a glass of nog) – these are some book we think worthy:
- A Christmas Carol (1843) – OK,OK . . . After all these years, you have had enough of this classic book. But when was the last time you actually read it? And before you dismiss it once again, please read the essay by John Irving referenced below.
- And check out the 2018 unabridged edition of A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens with classic drawings throughout by Arthur Rackham.
It’s the tale of a miser given a second chance.
From an author needing to get out of debt.
A story of redemption and forgiveness.
The story of Christmas
- America is Like That Second Kind of Christmas – In November of 1959, as a shocked American public were hit with the news that a number of their favourite quiz shows had in fact been rigged for some time, author John Steinbeck wrote the following letter to his friend, politician Adlai Stevenson, and spoke of his concern at such a morally bankrupt turn of events occurring in his increasingly gluttonous country. From Letters of Note
- Almost Like Christmas A masterful short story from the acclaimed author of Catch-22, about one long night of anticipation. Not exactly a traditional Christmas story.
- In Defense of Sentimentality The New York Times Books 1979 . . . ‘Christmas — or any other demonstration of giving — is no time for “a mincing art”; we should learn that there is really no good time for such cramped elitism. “God bless us every one!” cried Tiny Tim. But this Christmas, since we’re so familiar with “A Christmas Carol” — in its several versions — we might well read “Great Expectations”; it is a book many of us read last when we were in school when we were too young to appreciate it. For its Christmas spirit — its open-hearted and forgiving qualities, and its feast of language — it is the best of novels by a writer of no mincing art. And when we writers — in our own work — escape the slur of sentimentality, we should ask ourselves if what we are doing matters.’
James Brady, A Hamptons Christmas
- A Hamptons Christmas (St. Martin’s Press – 2000) – Journalist Beecher Stowe and book editor Alix Dunraven are back in the Hamptons to enjoy that delicious season between Thanksgiving and Christmas complete with corny small town parades, traditional holiday trimming, Steven Spielberg’s children dressed as elves, and a little girl’s plot to spend the Christmas Eve with her heroine, Martha Stewart. But Martha, it seems, is spending her holiday at her other home in Westport, Connecticut. Can Alix and Beecher possibly salvage Christmas for this little girl lost?
- A Salute to James Brady, and My True Hamptons Christmas Tale by T.J. Clements
- A Christmas Memory – First published in Lady’s Home Journal in 1956, and republished in a beautifully illustrated edition (with One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor) by Modern Library in 1996. This much sought-after autobiographical recollection from Truman Capote (In Cold Blood; Breakfast at Tiffany’s) about his rural Alabama boyhood is a perfect gift for Capote’s fans young and old. A holiday classic from “one of the greatest writers and most fascinating society figures in American history” (Vanity Fair)
- Truman Capote Reading his ‘A Christmas Memory’ – Original 1959 Album
- Also made into a TV Movie starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Winkler in 1994.
- Sun Moon Star – Sun Moon Star is the story of the birth of Jesus — as told by Kurt Vonnegut. This children’s book takes the newborn Jesus’ perspective, offering beautiful and insightful descriptions of the world from someone newly born into it. A powerful departure from Vonnegut’s more adult work, Sun Moon Star gives readers a rare glimpse of the writer’s talent in a format that’s unique and unexpected. Originally published in 1980, the book is long out of print, but is available as an E-book.
- While Mortals Sleep – In this short story, published posthumously in a Collection of Short Stories of the same name, a crusty newspaperman is forced onto a committee to judge Christmas displays —a job that leads him to a suspiciously ostentatious ex-con and then a miracle.
- American Christmas Card 2004 from In These Times
- A Present for Big Saint Nick from The Tale of Sir Bob
- A Note from Nelson DeMille – January 2017
- When You Can’t Come Home for Christmas: Nelson DeMille on The Once and Future King – December 25, 2010
Dan Rattiner, A Christmas Mitt Illustrated by Michael Paraskevas
- A Chat with Santa: He’s Busy Now So I Visited North Pole City
- Guide the Sleigh: A Christmas Fable for Hamptons Kids
- Chimney Stories: Santa Delivers to Indians, Settlers, Whalers, Visitors
- Santa’s Dad: Meeting Up with Kris Kringle at His Home in Sagaponack
- A Christmas Mitt: When the Mitt Didn’t Arrive, Owen took Matters Into His Own Hands
- Christmas Memories with Dan’s Artist Michael Paraskevas
Christmas Stories (1993) by John Cheever, Anne Sexton, E.E. Cummings, Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Thurber, Peter Matthiessen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Bret Harte, Charles Dickens, Willa Cather, and Alex Haley, edited by John Miller.
- James Thurber’s curmudgeonly satire on the American mania for sending Christmas cards, John Cheever’s bittersweet tale of a lonely New York elevator operator, Anne Sexton’s deeply ambivalent lyric poem to her mother and Alex Haley’s dramatic story of a slave rebellion on Christmas Eve are among the offerings in this eclectic Christmas sampler. Along with chestnuts like Dickens’s ”A Christmas Tree” and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ”A Merry Christmas,” this beautifully designed volume includes more unconventional fare, such as Strindberg’s brooding symbolist playlet ”The Respite,” Dostoevsky’s account of drunken holiday cheer in a Siberian labor camp and Clarence Major’s tangy story, ”Ten Pecan Pies,” in which a wheelchair-bound old man’s stored-up resentment of his wife nearly derails Christmas for their grandchildren. Also included are an excerpt from Frank Capra’s screenplay for It’s a Wonderful Life, Peter Matthiessen’s exquisite log of a shipboard Christmas in the tropics. W.H. Auden’s ”The Meditation of Simeon” and Andrei Codrescu’s warm reminiscence of Yuletide in communist Romania where the holiday was celebrated despite an official ban.
- Dear Santa Ray Bradbury’s strange, magical, and unsettling story of a grown boy bent on understanding the man behind the beard, red coat, and hat at his local department store.
- The Christmas Train (2002) – Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington to Los Angeles in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures, and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people’s essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.
- Excellent in the Audible version – especially if you are travelling by train (or car) to your holiday gathering!
- Also made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie (2017) starring Dermot Mulroney, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Danny Glover, & Joan Cusack
An Anthony Bourdain Christmas
- A Chef’s Christmas – Appearing as ‘A Taste of Fiction’ in The Nasty Bits (2008) – Bringing together the best of his previously uncollected nonfiction–and including new, never-before-published material–The Nasty Bits is a rude, funny, brutal and passionate stew for fans and the uninitiated alike. A New York Time Best Seller
- A Chef’s Christmas – Audio Version Narrated by Anthony Bourdain (2002) – Anthony Bourdain once again brings to light the inner workings of the “culinary underbelly” in his bold reinvention of the traditional Christmas story. At once risqué and charming, A Chef’s Christmas is sure to bring holiday cheer to those who make dinner and those who only make reservations.
- I will leave the editorializing to Gary – One of these days I am sure he will write about hanging out in afterhours chef dives with Tony . . . and much more.
And some other lists:
Suggestions from East Hampton’s Bookhampton:
- Bookhampton’s Holiday Catalog: There’s always magic in the gift of a book—and never more so than during the holidays. This is the time that YOU get to do the curating, choosing that special book for everyone on your list.
- Bookhampton’s Children’s Books Picks Christmas 2019
The Mission Daily recommends The 30 Best Christmas Books of All Time
Goodreads 10th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards
- Listopia – Christmas Books Lists
The Federalist’s The Best Christmas Picture Books You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
The Independent – As Neil Gaiman said, “Books make great gifts, because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world.”
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of reading to do!
Have fun giving and reading . . .