Monday, December 11, 2006

Favorite Reading for Advent and Christmas

I like to read books according to season. In the fall I read “questing” books, like The Hobbit, because to me fall is about new endeavors and adventure. I reserve the summer (when it’s too hot to think) for the pulpier, sillier stuff, like Bridget Jones’s Diary or this book. The spring is a mish-mash—I honestly don’t associate any books with the spring. I automatically classify books as autumn stories, winter stories, or everything else, and I don't know why.

There are several books that I just love reading during Advent and Christmas. Every year during Advent, I read The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien while cuddled up on the couch in front of our tree. They’re the letters that Tolkien wrote to his children from Father Christmas, and they contain his wonderful drawings. The letters record the amusing adventures of the mischievous North Polar Bear, and they become a bit darker near the end of the book as England enters World War II and Father Christmas is attacked by goblins.

Every couple of years I also read The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame at Christmastime. It’s one of my favorite books. My husband argues with me that it is actually a summer book because of all the pastoral scenes along the river. However, my favorite chapter takes place during Christmastime, and it has the best depiction of that familiar, yearning emotion of homecoming—I get choked up every time I read it. The whole book is glorious—funny, tender, and exciting. I love the little creatures dearly: humble Mole, pragmatic Ratty, pompous Toad, crusty old Badger, and Otter with his smile of sharp, gleaming teeth. If you’re going to read this, don’t even bother unless you get a copy with Ernest Shepard’s enchanting, sketchy pen and ink drawings. All other illustrations are garish and crass, detracting from the feel of Grahame’s stories. (Shepard is the same fellow who illustrated the original Winnie the Pooh stories for A.A. Milne.)

One year Chris and I read The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but its chapters are divided up as the 24 days of Advent, so it was enjoyable to read out loud to each other a chapter every night. Currently I’m reading the classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, the first part of which is framed by memorable Christmas scenes. I’m sure most of you know the story basics even if you haven’t read the book, but Alcott’s language is lovely, and I never tire of Jo exclaiming “Christopher Columbus!” in her tomboyish way, or little Amy’s snooty malapropisms.

Oh, and when I was about three years old, my favorite Christmas book was Morris’s Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells. It would be wrong to neglect mention of my original favorite.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I love your idea of reading seasonally.