Reviews of My Christmas Reading List
Well, December is upon us. The year is almost over. So, even though stores started putting up Christmas decorations 2 days before Thanksgiving, I waited until December 1 to really start thinking about Christmas. A few weeks ago I decided to read nothing but Christmas books through the end of the year. I thought it might help “jump start” myself into Kris Kringle mode. I picked my festive list of books first before I started reading because I wanted to be prepared and not caught off guard by finishing a few and then having to scramble to find some more. Many are older classics that I never really got around to reading in the first place and one is one I re-read because it was short and I enjoyed it.
So, I finally finished my Xmas reading list and I thought I’d let you all know what I read and what I thought about them. It’s an eclectic list, and I didn’t enjoy everything I read, which is to be expected, I guess. But enough of my incessant babbling, here’s the list of reviews. Some of this stuff may put you in the Xmas mood, some of it may put you in the mood to punch some random Salvation Army Santa in the gut. Pick your poison, my friend.
A Christmas Tragedy by Agatha Christie – This is one of Agatha’s short stories found in The 13 Problems collection. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. The events of this short story just happen to take place during a Christmas party, that’s pretty much the only tenuous connection to the holiday. The mystery is short and sweet, but not one of her best. I find that Agatha is best at the novel length stories where she can build character and suspense. When she writes short stories, there is no time to build the suspense then have a nice reveal. It’s too quick. So, this was only a so-so entry to my holiday reading list.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (aka A Holiday for Murder) by Agatha Christie – Man, it’s crazy how many of Agatha’s novels have different titles in America. For some reason America keeps wanting to add murder or death to the original British titles. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas was re-named A Holiday for Murder. Hickory, Dickory Dock was re-named Hickory, Dickory Death. Americans are just edgy like that. Anyway, this novel length story is miles better than A Christmas Tragedy. Christie has the room to build character and suspense and the setting of Christmas is used better. This book actually reminds me of two movies; Clue: The Movie and Greedy. A rich, eccentric old man gathers his wayward family back together at his mansion for Christmas and winds up getting murdered on Christmas Eve. Hercule Poirot must figure out which of the family committed the crime despite the fact almost all of them had motive. While not one of her best (And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express), it’s still a good read.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – A classic. I never actually got a chance to read this, so when I decided to read Christmas books this year during December, this was at the top of my reading list. Apparently Dickens wrote four or five “Christmas books”. This book contains three of them; A Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth. Dickens also wrote a story called The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, but that story isn’t included in this book. I’ll read the last three stories next year, this year I just read A Christmas Carol. The story itself is relatively short, less than 100 pages, but it’s everything you think it is. Other than one or two scenes, the story is exactly the same as many of the TV and movie adaptations that you see every year. It’s a good read and, since it’s a classic, I’m glad I finally read the original story.
The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn – Since I didn’t think I would have enough time to finish all of these books in the traditional way, I actually downloaded this audio book to my iPhone to listen to on my drive to work. The book is read by John H. Mayer. It starts off very good, with Santa’s right hand elf, Felix, whisking the author away to the North Pole in order to document the life story of Santa, as told to the author by the Kringle himself. However, as the story drones on (and it does…FOREVER) the character of Santa actually becomes a bit tedious to listen to. I imagine that when actually talking to Santa, he would talk to you as if you were a child because he’s childlike and innocent. However, in this audio book, it felt to me like he was being less childlike, and more condescending. Like I couldn’t possibly understand the circumstances of his growing up or the times in which he lived. Several times I wanted to answer Santa’s monologues with, “So, you think your better than me?” And there was a tinge of passive-aggressive patronizing towards the people he grew up with, too. Several times he’d mention the custom of dowries, or money paid to a young man in order to marry a girl, and how everyone then did it but he thought the practice silly. He would also mention how back when he was growing up women were thought of as only good for cleaning house and having babies and how he thought that was not right and couldn’t wait for men to change their minds. Which, he mentioned, took another several hundred years to happen. Yeah, Santa, I get it, you are better than everyone around you. You called the feminist movement centuries before it happened. You want a medal? Maybe it was just the way it was read, but to me, Santa came across as kind of a douche. Sad, because you’d think the goal of the life story of Santa is to make you feel good, not make you want to punch Santa in the face…a lot. Santa also tries to shoe horn in a lot of history into this book. See how long you can sit and listen to the 30 minute long chapter on how the Aztec and Roman calendar systems were created before wanting to steer your car into oncoming traffic. These “history” chapters are what cause the audio book to go over 9 hours. Yes, NINE hours. It’s in four 2+ hour sections. That’s another problem I have. Unlike Santa, I am not immortal. I can’t listen to this story until I die. I imagine myself sitting in my rusted out car, nothing but a pile of dusty, cob-webbed bones, with the radio still going on about how Santa freed the slaves and invented a cure for Cancer. Sorry Santa-douche, two skeletal thumbs down.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L Frank Baum – Okay, here we go. This is how you write a biography of Santa Claus. Lots of mysticism, fantasy and magic. Written by the author of The Wizard of Oz, it tells the story of how Santa was found, as a baby, by fairies. Defying the laws of the magical forest, one fairy decides to care for the baby and raises him in the land of the immortals. I guess you can expect nothing less from the Oz author. Very, very good fantasy story that doesn’t make me feel like Santa hates me (I’m looking at you Autobiography of Santa Claus).
The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special – This is not a novel, but a comic book that was released in 1991. I bought and read this when it originally was released but haven’t touched it since then. I remembered loving this story and the main character so I thought I’d read it again. The main character, Lobo, was a very popular DC anti-hero from the ’90s. He was a tongue-in-cheek, hyper-violent bounty hunter that was created to make fun of similar hyper-violent, anti-hero characters that were popular at the time, like The Punisher and Wolverine. The story has everything you’d want in a Christmas tale; snow, the North Pole, a megomaniacal slave driving Santa Claus and a bloody, uber-graphic battle ending in much bloodshed and death. The book starts out with the Easter Bunny hiring Lobo to kill Santa because Christmas is stealing all of the other holidays’ thunder. So, Lobo travels to the North Pole to find out that Santa is a ruthless dictator, treating his elves like slaves. What follows is the aforementioned mayhem and rivers of blood. I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a heartwarming tale. Read it to your kids on Christmas Eve. I can imagine the conversation you’d have now:
Kid: “Santa dies?”
You: “Yes, because Santa was a bad, bad man.”
Kid: “So why do I try to be good for a man that is so bad?”
You: “Exactly. Welcome to adulthood. Now get a job.”
Well, that was my reading list this December. It was fun reading mostly Christmas stories. I’m glad to get out of that genre though. If you look to the right under I AM READING, you can see I’m reading a sci-fi book by one of my favorite authors, Peter David. Need to cleanse the palatte, so to speak. After that I start Relic by Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child, recommended to me by my former freakin’ neighbor, Dr Mike.
It’s hit-or-miss whether you are going to get a blog article next week. I’m leaning towards it, but many of you may not be surfing the blogosphere anyway due to the holiday.
Either way, have a very merry Christmas everyone.