Christmas is behind you. The detritus of wrapping paper, bows, packing material, and boxes has been disposed of. The refrigerator is stuffed with leftovers. You hope to make enough room for party platters and bottles of champagne within a few days. The presents of clothing are washed, folded, and put away.
And now you’re looking forward to utilizing the best of the presents: the bookstore gift cards. What to buy? Relax, dear reader. I’m here to help.
It would, I suppose, be inappropriate to suggest my own novels. Crass, gauche, pushy. It simply isn’t done. Fine, let me move on to some worthy selections by other — ah, to hell with that. Here are links to my books at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Okay, that’s out of the way. Now, what sorts of books am I suggesting? My intent is to point out some books that possess a spark of holiday spirit. Not necessarily Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, or what have you. But a certain quality of homey familiarity. A touch of whimsy. The sort of book you’d want to read beside a fire, with a cup of warm, mulled wine at your elbow, and slippers on your feet. Also, books that you perhaps may not have read already. So, no Tolkien, no Pratchett.
The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs epitomizes the holiday read. It spans celebrations. It possesses more than a touch of whimsy despite some genuinely tense moments. And, most important, it leaves you with a grin, and glow of satisfaction, like a good meal or that first sip of strong ale.
The Elfin Ship by James Blaylock. More of the same, but different. Call it a bookend to The Face in the Frost. Celebrations, journeys, whimsy. And a Bilbo-esque homecoming. Warming and amusing throughout.
The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser. A lark. A book perhaps best read in private, unless you don’t mind strangers looking at you while you burst into laughter every few minutes, or just sustain a sort of constant chuckle for minutes on end.
A Night in Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny. While this is rather holiday specific, it still offers that spark for a winter holiday read. That a book can exude such whimsy throughout, despite the gruesome doings going on beneath the surface is a tribute to Zelazny’s writing skills.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Sure, you’ve seen the movie. But perhaps you haven’t read the book. The Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup, Fezzik, and the rest, with an altogether different framing story and — in my opinion — an even better end, will keep you in the fireside armchair until the last embers wink out and the last of the mulled wine has pretty well mulled you.
I hope I’ve helped. Any suggestions you’d like to add? I didn’t actually get a gift card this year, but there’s always the library.