What’s For Christmas


reviews: Anita Paddock

Books for Everyone on Your List

As soon as I place my Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers on the top shelf of my kitchen cabinet, I’m thinking about Christmas, and my passion, which is books. I pore over the book review sections in magazines, check out Amazon’s new titles, listen to NPR’s interviews with authors. It’s so much fun deciding who’s going to get what and offering gift suggestions to my friends. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Wishin’ and Hopin’
by Wally Lamb

A new Christmas book is always a gift to myself, and this season I chose Wally Lamb’s book, Wishin’ and Hopin’. Two of his earlier books, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much is True were Oprah Picks. In this fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, Felix is in the fifth grade and attends St. Aloysius Gonzago Parochial School. He is the shortest boy in his class, but he’s smart and his third cousin is Annette Funicello. He is just learning to question what “the birds and the bees” and “French kissing” really mean. When their teacher leaves because of a nervous breakdown (Felix fears he is the cause), she is replaced by a French woman who attempts to immerse her students in the French language and customs. While the fifth graders begrudgingly comply, a girl from Russia joins their class, and they become more aware of cultural differences. The girls are all afraid of her, and the boys admire her because of her blossoming bosom, her athletic ability, and her faulty English that sometimes comes out naughty. Christmas is coming, and plans are made for the annual Christmas program. The preparations and the resulting near disasters make for a delightful glimpse into life in the 60s, and the realization that we’ve come a long way in embracing cultures different from our own.

David and Goliath
by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers) has a new book out by publisher Little Brown. Its title is David and Goliath, and Gladwell uses this well-known story from the Bible to illustrate that “the powerful are not as powerful as they seem, nor the weak as weak.” Gladwell says David had the advantage of a sling with a far reaching range versus a spear with a short range. He also uses personal stories combined with scientific data to illustrate what is beautiful and important in the world often arises from what looks like suffering and adversity. In another example he points out that losing a parent at an early age may make the child more intellectual growing up because he or she didn’t have the advantage of the comfort of a two-parent childhood. This is a book for any of your friends or relatives you’d classify as “intellectually curious.”

One Summer
by Bill Bryson

For fans of history and fine prose, One Summer by Bill Bryson should be at the top of their wish list. His other books, A Walk in the Woods, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, were immensely successful and introduced many traditional readers of fiction to non-fiction and the art of telling a good story. In his new book, he focuses on the summer of 1927 when Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic non-stop in a plane and how he became the most popular man on the planet. It was also the summer of Babe Ruth and his sixtieth home run; the gangster Al Capone; the filming of The Jazz Singer, which was the first talking picture with Al Jolson; and America was experiencing a booming economy with zero percent inflation and a budget surplus of 630 million dollars. This is a history lesson told the way all history lessons should be told: with excitement, delicious humor, and a keen eye for detail.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai

For the teenage girls in your life, buy them a copy of I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. It is an inspiring story of a brave young woman who faced death rather than give up on an education. It may become this generation’s The Diary of Anne Frank, and it will shame any of us who ever took an education for granted.

Christmas Day in the Morning
by Pearl Buck

A Christmas book for all age groups is one originally published in 1955 by Pearl Buck, winner of both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, and the author of almost 100 books for adults and children. Christmas Day in the Morning has been issued for the first time ever as a picture book with beautiful art work by Mark Buehner. It is the story of Rob, who wants to get his father something special for Christmas. The story and the art complement each other in such a warm and heartfelt way that this will be a gift cherished for a long time. Be sure to personalize the book with the date and a “to and from” so that the recipients will always remember that it came from you.

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A Christmas Memory
by Truman Capote
One Christmas
by Truman Capote

Of course, no Christmas would be complete without a visit from Truman Capote and his novellas, A Christmas Memory and One Christmas. It’s obligatory reading for my family and friends. If you aren’t familiar with these delightfully poignant novellas, you can attend A Christmas with Capote at the Miller Branch Library, 8701 South 28th Street in Fort Smith, on December 5 at 7:00 pm. The staff there has been bringing in Christmas with this celebration for over ten years now, a tradition that rivals the serving of fruitcake for Christmas dinner.

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