‘It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas’ as the song goes. I have a few extra days off over Christmas and whenever I have a few extra days I like to spare a little extra thought to the extra reading I can do. Which is extra-good. Extra.
If, like me, you like to read something a bit Christmassy too, and you don’t really want to plough your way through the Bible, it’s good to have a few ideas for great Christmas reads up your sleeve. Here are my recommendations.
The Christmas Books by Charles DickensWell it would be impossible to talk about great Christmas reads and not start here: the basis for many of our modern Christmas traditions. The most well known of Dickens’s Christmas stories is, of course, A Christmas Carol and if you don’t know the story, you must have been living in an alternate universe (and if so, can I swop and, hey, how are you reading this at all?). The Christmas Books, however, is much more than just A Christmas Carol. Why not read one of the other, less famous stories? The Chimes, sweetly paraphrased as ‘a Goblin story of some bells that rang an old year out and a new year in’ or The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Story, for what is Christmas without a good ghost story?
The Dark is Rising by Susan CooperI should admit, at this point, that this is the entire reason for this entry. EVERYONE should read The Dark is Rising, though I should point out that The Dark is Rising is for life, not just for Christmas. Spanning the twelve days of Christmas, The Dark is Rising is the story of a boy, Will, coming of age and discovering his powers. For Will is one of the ‘Old Ones’, a group of people charged with maintaining the ‘light’. But over Christmas, these twelve dark days the dark is rising and the world is in peril and Will must find the six signs that will forge a circle of light before the twelve days are over, or the dark will prevail. It is a story in which the snow is menacing, which is filled with darkness and light, drawing on ancient myths and legends and the long-standing traditions of the darkest time of year (in Western Europe, anyway). It is a truly magical, philosophical and thought provoking read. Go buy it now.
The Christmas Mystery by Jostein GaarderThis is a great advent calendar of a book which is based around the idea of...an advent calendar. Each day a small boy opens his advent calendar and each day he is given a small piece of a story, the story of Elizabet who is chasing a lamb. Alongside Elizabet are a group of people all heading towards the birth of the Christ-child. It is a story of mystery, and one good to read over the advent period, a piece of the puzzle per day.
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose SaramagoNot entirely Christmassy, but it makes its way here as it is an interesting story about Christ. In this tale, Saramago presents to us Christ the man. A controversial book of its time, if you are a staunch Christian I cannot promise it will not offend. In this story, Saramago imagines for us the idea of Christ the man struggling with his godhood, wanting to be just a man and not a symbol. It is an interesting read. Saramago himself is a bit of an acquired taste, he doesn’t believe in speech marks or making it easy to follow who is speaking or breaking up blocks of text or paragraphs. So it can be a little daunting, but definitely worth the effort.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. LewisPerhaps it is the ever-presence of snow, or the fact that it is always winter and never Christmas, or perhaps it is the clear parallel between the sacrifice of Aslan and the sacrifice of Jesus, but there is a definite Christmassy feel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And there is magic, and a lamppost, and fauns and talking badgers. And a wicked witch who will turn you to stone if you don’t do what she wants. As will I mwah-ha-ha!
What are your favourite Christmas reads? Share, please share (‘tis the season, as they say).