Some of you may have read Where Words Take Us, which, ironically, came about during the first strict levels of lockdown in 2020. In that column, I’ve refused to allow C19 and its variants any space on my screen. Just my own silent rebellion against something I had no control over, no matter how many times I’d declare myself so over it.
We all wished 2020 into the distant past and yearned passionately for 2021. Now, however, Omicron is stealing the last bit of 2021 and probably a good bit of 2022.
So, what do you do if you can’t do normal Christmas with family and friends? For me, one of the best escapes is still a good read. As Jojen said in A Dance with Dragons: A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.
Yes, I know every bookish site brings out its list of festive reads for the holiday season, but many of them are Christmas stories in the more traditional sense. Let’s see if we can find festive reads to suit more than one taste. Perhaps even snowy and snuggly ones without a tree in sight:
The Night Before Christmas in Africa – Jesse, Hannah, and Carroll Foster
Carroll Foster manages a small music company that promotes South African musicians. Her two daughters, Jesse and Hannah, once asked why no stories combined African culture with the holiday season. Having no answer, they decided to write their own Christmas story:
It never snows at Christmas on the African plain. It is always hot, and the riverbed turns to dust. Families sleep on floor mats waiting for Father Christmas. On Christmas Eve, he arrives in a donkey cart pulled by six kudu and a black rhino to deliver toys, sweets, chickens, and other gifts. But can he also bring the rain they so desperately need?
The Big Bang Symphony – Lucy Jane Bledsoe
Rosie Moore flies in for her third season in Antarctica. She plans to do her work as a galley cook and avoid any and all romantic or other entanglements. But all her plans crash-land with her flight.
Mikala Wilbo’s heart – and music – have been frozen since the death of her partner. She has come to Antarctica as an artist-in-residence, to write music, but also to check out the astrophysicist father she has never met.
Alice Neilson thinks in charts and equations. She is a grad student in geology who is thrilled to leave her dependent mother and begin her career at last. But she is aware that her post-doc advisor expects much more than a working relationship.
As the three women become increasingly involved in each other’s lives, they fall in love, meet challenges they’ve never imagined and find themselves deeply transformed.
How to spell Chanukah – Emily Franklin
Franklin is joined by eighteen Jewish authors who offer their thoughts on the joys of Chanukah. They discuss the jealousy in December when the rest of the world celebrates Christmas; the difficulties parents have to dampen their children’s desire for more presents, and the weight gain associated with eating 432 latkes in eight nights. Other entries delve into personal family memories, poignant at times and hilariously snarky at others.
Franklin’s book is a good read for anyone wanting to deepen their appreciation of these eight days on the Jewish calendar.
Mmm… None of these to your liking?
You will most probably find something in this list of 35 Best Christmas Books to Snuggle Up with This Holiday Season.
We won’t concern ourselves with the fact that it was compiled for last Christmas, because lockdown is lockdown is lockdown, and many of these stories will last for as long as humanity will still read.
And down south, we can easily swap the wintery fires and Glühwein for the lazy chairs by the poolside or the sandy crunch of the towel and whatever chilled drink we prefer on the beach.
With thanks to Katie Konstantine for the feature image.
With thanks to my editor, Gudrun Kaiser, who is always available when I need her.