2013 Christmas Reading List

The Christmas holidays are fast approaching and it is a special time to be with family as well as the perfect time to settle into some good reading.  I’ve put together a reading list of 12 books which I think will be perfect for the festive season.  Most are from this year but there are one or two classics which you may or may not have read.  I’ve also tried to include books from multiple genres so there should be something for everyone or if you like all genres then you’ll get a bit of everything.  If you have an suggestions please feel free to share them with us.

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice (Wolf Gift Chronicles #2)

The Wolves of Midwinter (The Wolf Gift Chronicles, #2)The novel opens on a cold, gray landscape. It is the beginning of December. Oak fires are burning in the stately flickering hearths of Nideck Point. It is Yuletide. For Reuben Golding, now infused with the wolf gift and under the loving tutelage of the Morphenkinder, this Christmas promises to be like no other . . . as he soon becomes aware that the Morphenkinder, steeped in their own rituals, are also celebrating the Midwinter Yuletide festival deep within Nideck forest.  From out of the shadows of the exquisite mansion comes a ghost—tormented, imploring, unable to speak yet able to embrace and desire with desperate affection . . . As Reuben finds himself caught up with the passions and yearnings of this spectral presence and the preparations for the Nideck town Christmas reach a fever pitch, astonishing secrets are revealed, secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits—centuries old—who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers… (read more on GoodReads)

Silent Night by Robert B Parker (Spenser Holiday #42.5)

Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday NovelIt’s December in Boston, and Spenser is busy planning the menu for Christmas dinner when he’s confronted in his office by a young boy named Slide.  Homeless and alone, Slide has found refuge with an organization named Street Business, which gives shelter and seeks job opportunities for the homeless and lost.  Slide’s mentor, Jackie Alvarez, is being threatened, and Street Business is in danger of losing its tenuous foothold in the community, turning Slide and many others like him back on the street.  But it’s not a simple case of intimidation.  Spenser, aided by Hawk, finds a trail that leads to a dangerous drug kingpin, whose hold on the at-risk community Street Business serves threatens not just the boys’ safety and security, but their lives as well. (read more on GoodReads)

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones #3)

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)What do you do when your girlfriend’s sixtieth birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend’s thirtieth?  Is sleeping with someone after two dates and six weeks of texting the same as getting married after two meetings and six months of letter writing in Jane Austen’s day? Pondering these and other modern dilemmas, Bridget Jones stumbles through the challenges of loss, single motherhood, tweeting, texting, technology, and rediscovering her sexuality in—Warning! Bad, outdated phrase approaching!—middle age.  In a triumphant return after fourteen years of silence, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is timely, tender, touching, page-turning, witty, wise, outrageous, and bloody hilarious. (read more on GoodReads)

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Starry Night: A Christmas NovelCarrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.   Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega-bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.  Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart. (read more on GoodReads)

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of DecemberInstantly astounding and enduringly haunting, one of America’s greatest writers gives us his most dazzling short story collection yet.  His most wryly hilarious work to date, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations. A family member recollects a backyard pole dressed for all occasions; Divisional Director Todd Birnie sends round a memo to employees he thinks need some inspiration; Jeff faces horrifying ultimatums and the prospect of Darkenfloxx’ in some unusual drug trials; and in an auction of local celebrities Al Roosten hides his own internal monologue behind a winning smile that he hopes will make him popular. Although, as a young boy discovers, sometimes the voices fade and all you are left with is a frozen hill on a cold day in December…With dark visions of the future riffing against ghosts of the past and the ever-settling present, Tenth of December sings with astonishing charm and intensity, and re-affirms Saunders as one of our greatest living storytellers. (read more on GoodReads)

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews

Christmas BlissChristmas is coming, but Savannah antique dealer Weezie Foley is doubly distractedboth by her upcoming wedding to her longtime love, chef Daniel Stipanek and also by the fact that her best friend and maid-of-honor BeBe Loudermilk is due to give birth any dayand is still adamantly refusing to marry her live-in-love Harry. Listeners have come to love these characters in Mary Kay Andrews three previous Savannah novels: Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze, and Blue Christmas.Christmas Bliss offers Andrewss legions of fans the best of many things: familiar characters, a new novella for Christmas, and a celebration of Mary Key Andrewss own favorite pastime-antiquing. Blue Christmas was a fan favorite, and now Christmas Bliss is sure to fly off store shelves and into the hands of Andrewss fans in bestselling numbers. (read more on GoodReads)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas CarolThe story of Ebenezer Scrooge opens on a Christmas Eve as cold as Scrooge’s own heart. That night, he receives three ghostly visitors: the terrifying spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Each takes him on a heart-stopping journey, yielding glimpses of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, the horrifying spectres of Want and Ignorance, even Scrooge’s painfully hopeful younger self. Will Scrooge’s heart be opened? Can he reverse the miserable future he is forced to see? Now in an unabridged edition gloriously illustrated by the award-winning P.J. Lynch, this story’s message of love and goodwill, mercy and self-redemption resonates as keenly as ever.  (read more on GoodReads)

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #20)

Hogfather (Discworld, #20)Its the night before hogswatch.  And its too quiet.  Where is the big jolly fat man? Why is Death creeping down chimneys and trying to say Ho Ho Ho? The darkest night of the year is getting a lot darker… Susan the gothic governess has got to sort it out by morning, otherwise there won’t be a morning. Ever again… The 20th Discworld novel is a festive feast of darkness and Death (but with jolly robins and tinsel too). As they say: You’d better watch out… (read more on GoodReads)

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson (Alex Cross #19)

Merry Christmas, Alex CrossIt’s Christmas Eve, and Detective Alex Cross has been called out to catch someone who’s robbing his church’s poor box. That mission behind him, Alex returns home to celebrate with Bree, Nana, and the children. The tree-decorating is barely under way before his phone rings again–a horrific hostage situation is quickly spiraling out of control. Away from his own family on the most precious of days, Alex calls upon every ounce of his training, creativity, and daring to save another family. He risks everything–and he may not make it back alive for Christmas dinner. (read more on GoodReads)

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #20)

Hercule Poirot's Christmas (Hercule Poirot, #20)

On the night before Christmas, cruel, tyrannical, filthy rich Simeon Lee is found in his locked bedroom with his throat cut. Now Hercule Poirot must put his detective powers to the test to solve one of his most chilling cases – and to prevent a clever killer from spilling more blood. (read more on GoodReads)

Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub

Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914

It was one of history’s most powerful,yet forgotten,Christmas stories. It took place in the improbable setting of the mud, cold rain and senseless killing of the trenches of World War I. It happened in spite of orders to the contrary by superiors; it happened in spite of language barriers. And it still stands as the only time in history that peace spontaneously arose from the lower ranks in a major conflict, bubbling up to the officers and temporarily turning sworn enemies into friends. (read more on GoodReads)

CLAUS, A Christmas Incarnation by C J Coombes (In 3 Volumes)

CLAUS: A Christmas Incarnation, Volume One, The Child1854. Elizabeth Dennison, a now elderly woman, awaits the arrival of a long lost acquaintance. The meeting, initially dreaded as much as desired, fortunately rekindles an old friendship. It is in this reunion, a passing of memories and knowledge, that the guest requests specific details of Elizabeth’s life. So begins a story during the early 1800’s, days after Elizabeth Dennison is removed from her home and sickly mother to be cared for by the wealthy Claussen Family. A favor for which, in return, she is to provide service as a maiden servant. At a young age, Elizabeth faces a wary relationship with the Claussens and her new surroundings. Most of all, she is both frightened and mesmerized by Christopher Claussen, a powerful man and husband to Lady Rebecca. It is this relationship that ends up sweeping Elizabeth away from her home in Scandinavia to battle the perils of a voyage across an ocean, and a life on the American frontier. Elizabeth comes to believe that Christopher holds sway not only over her life, but the world as a whole in something more than a natural way. He is god-like in her eyes and becomes very much the focus of her fragile childhood years. Volume one is a fulfilling read unto itself without the need for further reading. It is a saga rich with ambiance, details of the era, and characters that are as real as life. If you desire to be swept away with Elizabeth on a journey through time and emotion then you will not regret purchasing this story. (read more on GoodReads)

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A Guide to Reading Terry Brooks’ Shannara Series

Terry Brooks is most famous for his Shannara Series of fantasy fiction.  For those of you interested in embarking on the Shannara journey, here is a guide to reading the series in chronological order.

1. Word and Void Series
1 – Running with the Demon (1997)
2 – A Knight of the Word (1998)
3 – Angel Fire East (1999)

2. Genesis of Shannara Series
1 – Armageddon’s Children (2006)
2 – The Elves of Cintra (2007)
3 – The Gypsy Morph (2008)

3. Legends of Shannara Series
1 – Bearers of the Black Staff (2010)
2 – The Measure of the Magic (2011)

4. Paladins of Shannara Series
1 – Allanon’s Quest (2012)
2 – The Weapons Master’s Choice (2013)
3 – The Black Irix (2013)

5. Original Shannara Series
1 – The Sword of Shannara (1977)
2 – The Elfstones of Shannara (1982)
3 – The Wishsong of Shannara (1985)

6. Heritage of Shannara Series
1 – The Scions of Shannara (1990)
2 – The Druid of Shannara (1991)
3 – The Elf Queen of Shannara (1992)
4 – The Talismans of Shannara (1993)

7. Voyage of the Jerle Shannara Series
1 – Ilse Witch (2000)
2 – Antrax (2001)
3 – Morgawr (2002)

8. High Druid of Shannara Series
1 – Jarka Ruus (2003)
2 – Tanequil (2004)
3 – Straken (2005)

9. The Dark Legacy of Shannara Series
1 – Wards of Faerie (2012)
2 – Bloodfire Quest (2013)
3 – Witch Wraith (2013)

10. Defenders of Shannara Series
1 – The High Druid’s Blade (2014)
2 – The Darkling Child (2015)
3 – The Sorcerer’s Daughter (2016)

11. The Fall of Shannara Series
1 – The Black Elfstone (2017)

 

I’ve shared with you the chronological order of the Shannara books but if you are interested you can also follow Brooks’ suggested order for new readers to the series.

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Super Scholar’s 50 Most Influential Books of the Last 50 Years

The editors at Super Scholar have put together an impressive list of the 50 most influential books of the last 50 years.  50 books people have been impacted by from the last 5 decades – a wonderful reading list for those who want to discover the ideas people raved over.

In compiling the books on this list, the editors at SuperScholar have tried to provide a window into the culture of the last 50 years. Ideally, if you read every book on this list, you will know how we got to where we are today. Not all the books on this list are “great.” The criterion for inclusion was not greatness but INFLUENCE. All the books on this list have been enormously influential.

 

In no particular order from Super Scholar:

1. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), as the most widely read book in contemporary African literature, focuses on the clash of colonialism, Christianity, and native African culture.

2. Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) reinvented the science fiction genre, making it at once sociologically incisive as well as funny.

3. Robert Atkins’ Dr Atkins’s New Diet Revolution (1992, last edition 2002) launched the low-carbohydrate diet revolution, variants of which continue to be seen in numerous other diet programs.

4. Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (2006), drawing on his background as an evolutionary theorist to elevate science at the expense of religion, propelled the neo-atheist movement.

5. Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) set the tone for the questioning of political correctness and the reassertion of a “canon” of Western civilization.

6. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), an entertaining thriller, has been enormously influential in getting people to think that Jesus is not who Christians say he is and that Christianity is all a conspiracy.

7. Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970) transformed the way we view native Americans as they lost their land, lives, and dignity to expanding white social and military pressures.

8. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) more than any other book helped launch the environmental movement.

9. Noam Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures (1957), laying out his ideas of transformational grammar, revolutionized the field of linguistics and at the same time dethroned behaviorism in psychology.

10. Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People (1989) set the standard for books on leadership and effectiveness in business.

11. Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box (1996), though roundly rejected by the scientific community, epitomizes the challenge of so-called intelligent design to evolutionary theory and has spawned an enormous literature, both pro and con.

12. Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997), in employing evolutionary determinism as a lens for understanding human history, reignited grand history making in the spirit Spengler and Toynbee.

13. Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1980) examines, in the context of a mystery at a medieval monastery, the key themes of premodernity, modernity and postmodernity.

14. Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (1962) provides a particularly effective answer to totalitarian attempts to crush the human spirit, showing how humanity can overcome horror and futility through finding meaning and purpose.

15. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), in giving expression to the discontent women felt in being confined to the role of homemaker, helped galvanize the women’s movement.

16. Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (1962) argued that capitalism constitutes a necessary condition for political liberties and thus paved the way for the conservative economics of the Reagan years.

17. Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (1995) showed clearly how skills in dealing with and reading emotions can be even more important than the cognitive skills that are usually cited as the official reason for career advancement.

18. Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man (1971), in relating her experiences with chimpanzees in the wild, underscored the deep connection between humans and the rest of the animal world.

19. John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992), in highlighting and elevating the differences between men and women in their relationships, challenged the contention that gender differences are socially constructed.

20. Alex Haley’s Roots (1976), by personalizing the tragic history of American slavery through the story of Kunta Kinte, provided a poignant challenge to racism in America.

21. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988, updated and expanded 1998), by one of the age’s great physicists, attempts to answer the big questions of existence, not least how the universe got here.

22. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961) etched into public consciousness a deep skepticism of bureaucracies, which in the book are portrayed as self-serving and soul-destroying.

23. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, last edition 1978) changed our view of science from a fully rational enterprise to one fraught with bias and irrational elements.

24. Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981) transformed people’s view of God, exonerating God of evil by making him less than all-powerful.

25. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) served as prelude to the civil rights advances of the 1960s by portraying race relations from a fresh vantage—the vantage of an innocent child untainted by surrounding racism and bigotry.

26. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), as an example magical realism, epitomizes the renaissance in Latin American literature.

27. Alasdair McIntyre’s After Virtue (1981, last edition 2007) is one of the 20th century’s most important works of moral philosophy, critiquing the rationalism and irrationalism that pervade modern moral discourse.

28. Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved (1987) provides a profound and moving reflection on the impact of American slavery.

29. Abdul Rahman Munif’s Cities of Salt (1984-89) is a quintet of novels in Arabic focusing on the psychological, sociological, and economic impact on the Middle East of oil.

30. Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed> (1965), attacking car industry’s lax safety standards, not only improved the safety of cars but also mainstreamed consumer protection (we take such protections for granted now).

31. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks’ The 9/11 Commission Report (2004), though not the final statement on the 9/11 disaster, encapsulated the broader threat of terrorism in the new millennium.

32. Roger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind (1988) provides a sweeping view of 20thcentury’s scientific advances while at the same time challenging the reductionism prevalent among many scientists.

33Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957) has become a key inspiration for conservative economics in challenging entitlements and promoting unimpeded markets.

34. John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971, last edition 1999) is the most significant effort to date to resolve the problem of distributive justice and has formed the backdrop for public policy debates.

35. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series (seven volumes, 1997-2007), loved by children, panned by many literary critics, has nonetheless set the standard for contemporary children’s literature.

36. Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (1988), which led Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a death edict (fatwa) against Rushdie, underscored the clash between Islamic fundamentalism and Western civilization.

37. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (1980), based on his wildly popular PBS series by the same name, inspired widespread interest in science while promoting the idea that nothing beyond the cosmos exists.

38. Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation (2001) details the massive impact that the U.S. fast food industry has had on people’s diets not just in the U.S. but also across the globe.

39. Amartya Sen’s Resources, Values and Development (1984, last edition 1997) develops an approach to economics that, instead of focusing on utility maximization, attempts to alleviate human suffering by redressing the poverty that results from economic mismanagement.

40. B. F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) attacked free will and moral autonomy in an effort to justify the use of scientific (behavioral) methods in improving society.

41. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (in three volumes, 1974-78) relentlessly exposed the totalitarian oppression of the former Soviet Union and, more than any other book, was responsible for its government’s subsequent dissolution.

42. Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capitalism (2000) argues that the absence of legal infrastructure, especially as it relates to property, is the key reason that capitalism fails when it does fail.

43. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946, last edition 2004) sold 50 million copies and revolutionized how Americans raise their children.

44. Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan (2007, last edition 2010) provides the most trenchant critique to date of the financial and monetary backdrop to the current economic crisis.

45. Mao Tse-tung’s The Little Red Book, aka Quotations From Chairman Mao (1966) was required reading throughout China and epitomized his political and social philosophy.

46. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life (2002), though addressed to the American evangelical culture, has crossed boundaries and even led to Warren giving the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration.

47. James D. Watson’s The Double Helix (1969), in presenting a personal account of his discovery, with Francis Crick, of the structure of DNA, not only recounted one of the 20th century’s greatest scientific discoveries but also showed how science, as a human enterprise, really works.

48. E. O. Wilson’s Sociobiology (1975) challenged the idea that cultural evolution can be decoupled from biological evolution, thus engendering the fields of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics.

49. Malcolm X’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), written posthumously by Alex Haley from interviews, portrays a complex activist for human rights at a complex time in American history.

50. Muhammad Yunus’ Banker to the Poor (1999, last edition 2007) lays out how “micro-lending” made it possible to provide credit to the poor, thereby offering a viable way to significantly diminish world poverty.

http://www.superscholar.org/features/50-most-influential-books-last-50-years/

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Appreciating Irish Literature Reading List

In celebration of St Patrick’s Day I’ve put together this list of famous writers who you may or may not have known hail from Ireland.  The list includes both classic and contemporary works of notable fiction.  Today, wear something green and pick up a book by an Irish author!  Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Gulliver’s Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde

Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker

Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce

The Chronicles of Narnia (1949) by C S Lewis

Under the Net (1954) by Iris Murdock

Amongst Women (1990) by John McGahern

Circle of Friends (1990) by Maeve Binchy

Every Dead Thing (1999) by John Connelly

Artemis Fowl (2001) by Eoin Colfer

The Sea (2005) by John Banville

The Gathering (2007) by Anne Enright

Brooklyn (2009) by Colm Toibin

Room (2010) by Emma Donoghue

The Brightest Star in the Sky (2011) by Marian Keyes

2010 Christmas Reading List

Christmas is upon us and with it holidays and downtime.  For the readers out there, this is a time for reading.  We don’t often get this much time to sit down and relax with a good book so I’ve put together a list of 20 books to read over the festive season.  In no particular order, you’ll find books of all genres; some thrillers, crime novels, romance, spiritual stories, classics and some funny stuff.  Oh, and two non fiction novels too.  This list is for adult readers so take a look and enjoy.  If you manage to read any of these or have read them already, leave us a comment with your thoughts.  You’ll notice I’ve included 4 offerings from Richard Paul Evans on this list and the reason is because they are said to be beautiful novels with powerful messages –  I plan to read those 4 this Christmas.

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

London 1843 few know any leisure, and Christmas has all but been forgotten…Enter Charles Dickens and his “Ghostly little book,” in which he invents the modern concept of Christmas Spirit and offers one of the world s most adapted and imitated stories. We know Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, not only as fictional characters, but also as icons of the true meaning of Christmas in a world still plagued with avarice and cynicism. (GoodReads)

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Helen Fielding’s devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud account of a year in  the life of a thirty-something Singleton launched a genre and transcended the pages of fiction to become a cultural icon. (GoodReads)

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington D.C. to L.A 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. The Christmas Train is filled with memorable characters who have packed their bags with as much wisdom as mischief…and shows how we doget second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during this season of miracles. (GoodReads)

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote’s rural Alabama boyhood has become a modern-day classic. We are proud to be reprinting this warm and delicately illustrated edition of A Christmas Memory—”a tiny gem of a holiday story” (School Library Journal, starred review). Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: “It’s fruitcake weather!” Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls—one young and one old—and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals.  (GoodReads)

There’s Something about Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Bestselling author Debbie Macomber (who won a Quill Award for Best Romance with 44 Cranberry Point) delight her many fans with an annual Christmas romantic comedy. This time, she delivers not only love and laughter but also fruitcake.  Macomber’s sweet romance pits Emma Collins, a young reporter, against pilot Oliver Hamilton. Yes, he’s attractive; yes, she’s attracted; but Emma has issues. She is estranged from her father, she doesn’t trust men, and Christmas is just another day to go to the movies alone. A coveted feature assignment takes her by plane to interview the three finalists in a national fruitcake contest. By the time the article is finished, Emma has learned more than a little about life and love from each woman — and, with Oliver’s help, she has rediscovered the joy of Christmas. (Bakers, take note: Recipes for the winning fruitcakes are included — applesauce, chocolate, and a special no-bake version!) (GoodReads)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!/Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.” Dr. Seuss’s small-hearted Grinch ranks with Scrooge when it comes to the crankiest, scowling holiday grumps of all time. For 53 years, the Grinch has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville. Noisy holiday preparations & infernal singing by the happy little citizens below annoy him to no end. He decides the frivolous merriment must stop. His “wonderful, awful” idea is to don a Santa outfit, strap heavy antlers on his poor, quivering dog Max, construct a makeshift sleigh, head down to Whoville & strip the chafingly cheerful Whos of their Yuletide glee forever.  Looking disturbingly out of place in his makeshift get-up, the Grinch slithers down chimneys with empty bags, stealing presents, food, even logs from humble fires. He takes the ramshackle sleigh to Mt. Crumpit to dump it, anticipating the sobs of the Whos when they wake up to discover the Christmas trappings have disappeared. Imagine the their dismay when they discover the evil-doings of Grinch in his anti-Santa guise. But what is that sound? It’s not sobbing, but singing! Children simultaneously adore & fear this triumphant, twisted testimonial to the undaunted cheerfulness of the Whos, the transcendent nature of joy, & of course, the growth potential of a heart that’s two sizes too small. This holiday classic is perfect for reading aloud to your favorite little Whos. (GoodReads)

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.  A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition. (GoodReads)

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.  But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.  But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.  Move over, Charles Dickens — it’s Christopher Moore time. (GoodReads)

The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn

It all started when Jeff Guinn was assigned to write a piece full of little-known facts about Christmas for his paper, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A few months later, he received a call from a gentleman who told him that he showed the story to an important friend who didn’t think much of it. And who might that be? asked Jeff. The next thing he knew, he was whisked off to the North Pole to meet with this “very important friend,” and the rest is, well, as they say, history.  An enchanting holiday treasure, The Autobiography of Santa Claus combines solid historical fact with legend to deliver the definitive story of Santa Claus. And who better to lead us through seventeen centuries of Christmas magic than good ol’ Saint Nick himself? Families will delight in each chapter of this new Christmas classic-one per each cold December night leading up to Christmas! (GoodReads)

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

This year the Auditors, who want people to stop believing in things that aren’t real, have hired an assassin to eliminate the Hogfather. (You know him: red robe, white beard, says, “Ho, ho, ho!”) Their evil plot will destroy the Discworld unless someone covers for him. So someone does. Well, at least Death tries. He wears the costume and rides the sleigh drawn by four jolly pigs: Gouger, Tusker, Rooter, and Snouter. He even comes down chimneys. But as fans of other Pratchett stories about Death (Mort, Reaper Man, and Soul Music) know, he takes things literally. He gives children whatever they wish for and appears in person at Crumley’s in The Maul.  Fans will welcome back Susan, Death of Rats (the Grim Squeaker), Albert, and the wizardly faculty of Unseen University, and revel in new personalities like Bilious, the “oh god of Hangovers.” But you needn’t have read Pratchett before to laugh uproariously and think seriously about the meanings of Christmas. (GoodReads)

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie’s seasonal mystery thriller, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man! (GoodReads)

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde Pilcher’s novel, despite its chilly setting, will warm the hearts of her growing army of loyal fans. Winter Solstice has all the familiar trademarks of a Pilcher saga, spun in her inimitable, homey, beguiling style. The story is told, chapter by chapter, from the perspectives of an eclectic array of characters. Former actress Elfrida–not very good by her own admission–leaves London for a geriatric bolthole in the country where she meets retired schoolmaster and organist, Oscar. Meanwhile, Carrie (Elfrida’s second cousin), returns to London from Austria where she had a brilliant career in the tourist industry, only to find her niece, 14-year-old Lucy, sadly neglected by her selfish mother and equally spoiled grandmother. Finally, handsome Sam is recalled from New York by his company chairman to revive an ailing Scottish textile mill.  As one character after another must learn to live with their losses, they find themselves collectively spirited northwards, from Sussex to Scotland, by way of Cornwall. And, as events unfurl, slowly, surely, but inevitably, those in need find solace in unexpected places. While her characterizations are generally carefully crafted and entirely rounded, Pilcher’s greatest strengths lie in her natural, easy narratives of everyday life and her thoroughly researched and captivating descriptions of scenery and surroundings. (GoodReads)

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans

There is no hurt so great that love cannot heal it. Nathan Hurst hated Christmas. For the rest of the world it was a day of joy and celebration; for Nathan it was simply a reminder of the event that destroyed his childhood until a snowstorm, a cancelled flight, and an unexpected meeting with a young mother and her very special son would show him that Christmas is indeed the season of miracles.  From the beloved author of the international bestseller The Christmas Box comes another timeless story of faith, hope, and healing. (GoodReads)

Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans

Finding Noel is about how people come into our lives for a reason. It is a love story about Macy and Mark, two young people from different worlds. (GoodReads)

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

This inspiring holiday tale tells the touching story of a widow and the young  family who moves in with her, and the ways in which they discover together the first gift of Christmas and what the holiday is really all about. Written by the author as a token of affection for his daughters, The Christmas Box has captured the hearts and minds of over a million readers. (GoodReads)

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

Like his 2008 bestseller The Christmas Box, Richard Paul Evans’s novel exudes true holiday spirit. Evans got the idea for the fiction while watching a local theater production of Dickens’s Christmas Carol. Almost instantly, Evans realized that is the story he wanted to write: the transformation of a present-day Scrooge into a caring human being. The list in the title isn’t a conventional reminder for gifts; it’s a roster of the people whom protagonist James Kier has most wronged. Unabashedly heartfelt and sentimental, The Christmas List has all the best elements of a redemptive Yuletide tale. (GoodReads)

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Hijuelos’ novel tells the story of Mr. Ives, who was adopted from a foundling’s home as a child. When we first meet him in the 1950s, Mr. Ives is very much a product of his time. He has a successful career in advertising, a wife and two children, and believes he is on his way to pursuing the typical American dream. But the dream is shattered when his son Robert, who is studying for the priesthood, is killed violently at Christmas. Overwhelmed by grief and threatened by a loss of faith in humankind, Mr. Ives begins to question the very foundations of his life. Part love story—of a man for his wife, for his children, for God—and part meditation on how a person can find spiritual peace in the midst of crisis,Mr. Ives’ Christmas is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective. In the expert hands of Oscar Hijuelos, the novel speaks eloquently to the most basic and fulfilling aspects of life for all of us. (GoodReads)

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

O. Henry’s most famous short story, “The Gift of the Magi” has a universal  appeal that extends beyond the Christmas season. Set in New York at the turn of the century, the story centers on a young couple and the sacrifices each must make in order to buy the other a gift. (GoodReads)

On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts

At Christmas time, it seems as though a woman’s work is never done. Trimming the tree, mailing the cards, schlepping to the mall, the endless wrapping—bah humbug! So this year, Joy and Laura and the rest of their knitting group decide to go on strike. If their husbands and families want a nice holiday—filled with parties, decorations, and presents—well, they’ll just have to do it themselves. The boycott soon takes on a life of its own when a reporter picks up the story and more women join in. But as Christmas Day approaches, Joy, Laura, and their husbands confront larger issues in their marriages and discover that a little holiday magic is exactly what they need to come together.  Sheila Roberts gives the best gift of all in this funny, heartwarming novel that touches the very core of Christmas spirit. (GoodReads)

Christmas: A Candid History by Bruce David Forbey

Written for everyone who loves and is simultaneously driven crazy by the holiday season, Christmas: A Candid History provides an enlightening, entertaining perspective on how the annual Yuletide celebration got to be what it is today. In a fascinating, concise tour through history, the book tells the story of Christmas–from its pre-Christian roots, through the birth of Jesus, to the holiday’s spread across Europe into the Americas and beyond, and to its mind-boggling transformation through modern consumerism. Packed with intriguing stories, based on research into myriad sources, full of insights, the book explores the historical origins of traditions including Santa, the reindeer, gift giving, the Christmas tree, Christmas songs and movies, and more. The book also offers some provocative ideas for reclaiming the joy and meaning of this beloved, yet often frustrating, season amid the pressures of our fast-paced consumer culture. (GoodReads)

Happy Reading!  If there’s a really good Christmas book missing from the list add your recommendation in the comments.

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3 Personal Book Suggestions to Help Your Writing

These three books on writing and the writing life are the best and most helpful that I have read so far.  Since there are so many books out there that seek to help the budding writer, I thought I would share with you the ones that have most helped me.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is not so much about giving you step by step instructions or tips on how to get your writing done or your career going but more a commentary on what the writer’s life is like, what to expect, and how to tackle it.  Using beautiful examples from her own life, Lamott communicates the joys and difficulties of being writer.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive. If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.”  (GoodReads)

Andrew McAleer’s 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists is a compilation of advice from different published authors on all the areas of writing that are 101HabitsNovelist_250important.  Ranging from your writing routine all the way to your editing process, this book is clear and informative.  I have earmarked multiple pages in this book and found valuable advice on the technicalities of creating publishable writing.

This title focuses on the behaviors necessary to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of fiction writing by asking successful authors how they practice their craft. Readers will learn how to adopt those habits on their quest to become novelists. The book will inspire, nourish, and provide the needed kick in the pants to turn the wannabes into doers! “The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists” is full of “aha” experiences as the reader uncovers the collected wisdom from the cream of today s fiction writers.” (GoodReads)

Stephen King’s On Writing is a treasure.  All my questions that were left unanswered by previous books were addressed by this book.  This book gave me so much more than answers though.  King doesn’t repeat what other writing books have already said about routine and the technicalities of writing, instead he shows you what the rules are, which of them can be broken and how, and how to make your writing a truer reflection of yourself, your intention, and your story.   This book is a must read and it is incredibly enjoyable because you get to enjoy King’s distinctive style while getting advice from the master.

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. (GoodReads)

Happy Writing!

 

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Philosophers & Books that Changed the Way we Perceive the World

This post by Glyn Hughes, which I came across on Squashed Philosophers, is a condensed list of the prominent philosophers and their books which have changed the way we think and value the world today.  I found it very interesting and so let’s revisit the thoughts of the greats and see if we can take new meaning from old words for today’s world – a world vastly different from theirs.

Henry D Thoreau’s “It is never too late to give up our prejudices…” particularly resonated with me given current issues and circumstances.  It’s also never too late to read the classics…

Squashed Philosophers:  The Books which Defined the Way we Think Now by Glyn Hughes

Thanks to Glyn Hughes for this insightful post!

Please visit the Squashed Philosopher’s website in support of this information:

http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/

You can download some of the above mentioned texts at the following website:      www.earlymoderntexts.com