Christmas is coming! If you’re decorated, shopped, and all ready for Santa—heck, even if you’re not—Bas Bleu’s advice to you is simple: Cue up a little Bing Crosby, pour yourself a cup of cheer, and kick back with a good book. Today we’ve compiled a short list of holiday reading that (we hope!) will help you shake off the anxiety of mall traffic and invading in-laws so that you can enjoy the spirit of season.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
We begin our reading list with the iconic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his Christmas ghosts, which coincidentally celebrates its 171st birthday today! In 1843, Charles Dickens planned to write a political pamphlet airing his concerns about the plight of the poor in Victorian England. Instead he decided a fictional story would deliver “twenty thousand times the force.” In just six weeks Dickens wrote this novella about a miser who repents of his past sins and opens his heart (and his wallet) to those less fortunate than himself.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
While we’re on the subject of hard-hearted Christmas-party poopers (known today as “grinches”), our next entry is Dr. Seuss’s incorrigible Grinch, who gleefully sets out to ruin Christmas for the inhabitants of Whoville…only to learn what they knew all along: Christmas “doesn’t come from a store/Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke
Of Henry van Dyke’s classic tale, Bas Bleu founder Eleanor Edmondson wrote, “I have loved this book for as long as I can remember; for years my big sister read it to me every Christmas.” The Story of the Other Wise Man chronicles the journey of Artaban, the fourth wise man, whose quest to find the Christ child “is delayed and misdirected, sabotaged by his own acts of generosity, humanity, and love” for thirty-three years. It’s a beauty!
“The Dead” by James Joyce
So James Joyce’s Christmas tale isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. It isn’t even set on Christmas, likely instead set during the Feast of Epiphany (January 6). But that’s particularly fitting considering the “epiphany” Joyce’s protagonist, Gabriel Conroy, has about himself and his relationship with his wife while at a holiday dinner. It’s a powerful commentary on memory and human significance…without the page count of Ulysses.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s old broken-down toolhouse.” So begins this side-splitting modern classic about the horrible Herdman kids and the chaos that ensues (and the miracle that occurs) when they take over the church Christmas pageant. Bas Bleu’s social media director recalls her father attempting to read this story to her and her sister every year—but laughing so hard he couldn’t finish it!
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
Is there a better literary example of the lesson, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”? In this poignant story, a young husband sacrifices his most prized possession to buy a gift for his beloved wife—not knowing the sacrifice she has made to purchase the perfect Christmas present for him. Joke all you want about marital miscommunication, but this wonderful tale offers up a timely reminder that a generous spirit always trumps a store-bought trinket.
Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder immortalized her frontier childhood in the popular Little House series, and this children’s book (adapted from the original tales) highlights one special Christmas season she enjoyed with her family in their “little house in the big woods” of Wisconsin. As she bakes cookies with Ma, plays in the snow, and delights in her Christmas gift, Laura enjoys the simple pleasures of the season—and reminds us why our own favorite holiday memories have so little to do with wrapped presents.
Christmas on Jane Street by Billy Romp with Wanda Urbanska
Every Thanksgiving, the Romp family travels from their peaceful Vermont farm to the corner of Jane Street and Eighth Avenue in New York’s Greenwich Village, where they sell Christmas trees. Known as the “tree people” by the Village’s year-round residents, the Romps are warmly welcomed and looked after by their (temporary) neighbors, who open their hearts and homes to Billy, Patti, and their three children. That’s what we call Christmas spirit!
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
Christmas carols, church services, tree-trimming and feasting…for a guy notorious for heavy drinking and writing about death, Dylan Thomas’s prose poem idealizing a child’s happy Christmas seems a tad out of character. But the poet’s turbulent life doesn’t detract from the beauty of the work, which has its roots in a recording he did for BBC London’s “Children’s Hour” in 1945. Yes, many of us remember our childhood Christmases as more perfect than perhaps they really were. But is that such a bad thing?
A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
Known to most of us as “The Night Before Christmas,” Clement Moore’s wildly popular poem will be read to millions of not-at-all-sleepy children next Wednesday night! Popular opinion (and the Library of Congress) suggest that Moore wrote the poem for his own children on December 24, 1822, while running errands in a sleigh driven by a portly Dutchman. Norwegian, Dutch, and German folklore all came into play to create the “right jolly old elf” whose rooftop-surfing escapades still dominate American Christmas tradition today. Whether you’re young or just young at heart, we suspect you still smile every time you read this classic!