Debbie Jacob writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
When it comes to Christmas, most people think of Christmas food — ponche a creme, ham and pastelles served at Christmas limes — but I define the holiday season by the beloved Christmas books I have discovered over the years. Each year, I try to read a book that captures the Christmas spirit of giving.
Here are my favourite Christmas books for all ages.
1. Mr Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos: My perennial, favourite Christmas novel by the late Cuban-American writer Oscar Hijuelos always tops my list because it highlights a value we don’t often associate with the holiday: forgiveness.
In this moving novel, Mr Ives, a kind, loving, hard-working father and husband, learns to deal with the grief of losing his son, who was shot dead during a convenience store robbery. After years of trying to understand this senseless murder, Mr Ives decides to visit the man who killed his son in prison.
Mr Ives’ Christmas is a beautiful story of love and redemption; forgiveness and hope. I cannot fathom celebrating Christmas without this book.
2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Everyone knows the Christmas classic about mean Mr Scrooge who is visited by three ghosts one Christmas. This story is timeless and it deserves a reread every Christmas. There are audio versions of the story as well — including one by Tim Curry.
3. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Laura Miracle: Teenagers and adults alike will relish these three interlocking tales by popular young adult writers. These light stories highlight how Christmas affects relationships. Each story features some characters or some aspects of the other writers’ stories.
There’s no other Christmas read like this one because of the way each author created an individual story that complements the other authors’ stories. I am sure teenagers who read Let It Snow will end up making this book a holiday tradition.
4. The Gift of the Magi by O Henry: A collection of O Henry short stories would be a delightful Christmas read as long as the collection contains this holiday short story. This Christmas classic about a poor husband and wife determined to buy the perfect gift for one another — even though they have no money — gives readers much to think about when it comes to buying that “perfect” gift.
This is one of those stories that really makes readers think about the meaning of Christmas. Reading this short story might make some people stop to consider their position on Christmas gifts.
5. Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien: In this digital age when most people don’t write letters or send Christmas cards, Tolkien’s book sparks some nostalgic memories about Christmas holidays. Tolkien wrote to his children every Christmas telling them the story of life at the North Pole. Readers see pictures of the original letters from Santa.
6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss: This is any parent’s chance to ease children into the routine of having a book read to them. No child can resist this self-explanatory story about how all the children in Whoville had their Christmas stolen by the mean Grinch. This story reinforces the value of giving. No child should grow up without hearing this story.
7. The Top 40 Traditions of Christmas by David McLaughlan: It’s amazing how mindlessly we celebrate Christmas traditions. McLaughlan’s book tells the story of where Christmas trees and candy canes; Santa Claus and Christmas lights came from.
8. Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins: Every Christmas song has a story waiting to be discovered. Knowing where Christmas songs came from makes them more meaningful.
9. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie: There’s nothing like a good mystery for Christmas. Agatha Christie delivers one in this Christmas novel that takes place during a family reunion.
10. The Angel Tree by Daphne Benedis-Grab: Although this is a children’s novel, teenagers and adults will enjoy this Christmas mystery about an anonymous person who secretly sets up a wish tree in the middle of town and then makes people’s wishes come true. When some teenagers decide to investigate who is responsible for the tree, readers must consider the value of altruistic giving. My wish this Christmas season is for everyone to discover the joys of winding down with a good book during the bustling Christmas season. Christmas stories really should be a part of every family’s Christmas traditions.