This year I am joining in the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod, or the Christmas Book Flood. In Iceland it is common to gift books on Christmas Eve and then spend the evening reading; you can read more about the concept here. Naturally, this idea appeals greatly to me! I give and receive books as Christmas presents every year.
One of my friends arranged a Secret Santa-type system where we all entered our information, including some titles and genres we are interested in, and then we were all assigned someone to send a book, to be opened and read on Christmas Eve. I allowed my gifter to surprise me; the person I was buying for requested a specific few books for me to pick from.
I also tucked in some chocolate to enjoy with the book, and a little card saying I hoped she would enjoy it as much as I did.
I can’t wait to see what book I received and enjoy my evening in peaceful reading…at least until I have to wrap and set up presents for my kid! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season with lots of family and books!
1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”: Favorite bookish couple.
I have a lot of favorite book couples, including Lizzy and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and Eowyn and Faramir from LOTR. But this said “bookish,” which makes me think nerdy, so I’m going to go with Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. Among other things, their relationship is built on academic rivalry. This image is from the marvelous 1980s Canadian TV adaptation starring Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie. One of my favorite scenes is where Gilbert gives Anne a standing ovation after she recites “The Highwayman.” He’s always so proud of Anne’s intelligence and her hard work.
2. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: Name a book where a character is away from home (school, vacation, etc.).
Jane, Unlimited is a unique speculative fiction story that relies on a classic premise: an orphan travels to a strange mansion. Very gothic! Jane is visiting Tu Reviens, the large and intriguing island home of her friend Kiran, where everything from art theft to alternate dimensions may be happening. The premise is reminiscent of Jane Eyre as well as Rebecca, but spins off into an interesting type of choose-your-own-adventure story.
3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Name your favorite “little” book (children’s book, short story, novella, etc.).
Ella Enchanted, a classic middle grade Cinderella tale, is one of the books that inspired my love of fairy tale retellings. It is on the bookshelf next to my bed, along with 101 Great American Poems, which I think was a gift from my mother about fifteen years ago when I was in high school. I have read both countless times, and they are great for when I want a quick, satisfying read before bed.
4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: What book(s) do you hope Santa brings you this year?
I have a lot of books on my wishlist, and my family always gets me lots of books for Christmas. One I’m really looking forward to is Daemon Voices, a collection of essays by the author of His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman.
5. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Which book turned your nose red (made you cry)?
I scared my husband when I was reading The Book Thiefbecause he looked over to see me silently sobbing with huge tears rolling down my face. “What’s wrong?!” he said. Oh nothing, just this book broke my heart into pieces. What a beautiful, powerful book. Narrated by Death, it’s the story of a young girl in Nazi Germany who steals books.
6. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Your favorite book/kind of book to read during the holidays.
In my Seasonal Reads blog series, I mentioned that I frequently read The Dark is Rising during December. It’s full of both warm and cozy Christmas cheer as well as ominous Yuletide magic. I love the whole series, but this one in particular is my favorite. I also love Christmas cozy mysteries and Regency romances.
7. “We Three Kings”: Your favorite trilogy.
I’m going classic for this one: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I first read in high school, right when the movies were coming out. It’s still one of my favorite series. Trilogies are very standard nowadays, especially for YA fantasy, and I think that can be traced back in part to LOTR.
8. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: A character you would love to be snowed in with.
If I were snowed in, I would want Hercule Poirot of Agatha Christie’s mystery series to be one of the party. Because inevitably there would be a murder, and then we could rely on Poirot to solve it! I’m imagining something like the premise to Christie’s play The Mousetrap, which places a bunch of guests trapped in a manor inn together. But luckily Poirot would be there to solve the crime before any further murders take place. Plus Poirot is just a genial guy.
9. “Last Christmas”: A book that seriously let you down.
Sometimes I hear about YA books that are getting a lot of hype and figure I should check them out. Spoiler alert: they don’t always live up to the hype. That’s how I felt about Snow like Ashes and An Ember in the Ashes (maybe I should just avoid books about ashes?). The first books in the series were fine, but nothing spectacular, and the follow-ups got less interesting so that I didn’t continue on with either series.
10. “White Christmas”: An upcoming release you’re dreaming about.
One of our local papers had a fun poll this Christmas season: a bracket of holiday movies, competing for the title of champion. In their poll, the winner turned out to be (no surprise) It’s a Wonderful Life. As a huge fan of Christmas movies (even bad, made-for-TV ones), I decided to go ahead and fill in my own picks.
The 4 regions:
It’s a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
A Christmas Story
The Santa Clause
The Bishop’s Wife
Semi-finalist: #7 Home Alone
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The Preacher’s Wife
A Madea Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Semi-finalist: #3 Love Actually
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Frosty the Snowman
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Hallmark movies (multiple)
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
The Year Without a Santa Claus
The Christmas Shoes
Semi-finalist: #1 How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A Christmas Carol (1951, Alastair Sim)
Scrooged (1988, Bill Murray)
A Christmas Carol (1984, George C. Scott)
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)
A Christmas Carol (1999, Patrick Stewart)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Scrooge (1970, Albert Finney)
A Christmas Carol (2009, Jim Carrey animated)
Semi-finalist: #6 The Muppet Christmas Carol
So here’s my full bracket:
There are two films in this list of 32 that some people might question. Die Hard is typically thought of as a mere action movie, but I definitely think it is a Christmas movie because the holiday is key to the plot and themes. Plus, I’ve always liked that Hans Gruber sounds like Franz Gruber, who wrote “Silent Night.” The Nightmare Before Christmas, on the other hand, is not a Christmas movie, and I wouldn’t have included it here. Despite the fact that it has “Christmas” in the title, it’s more of a Halloween movie. But I’m sure many people feel the exact opposite about these two. You can fight me in the comments.
There are also a bunch of these movies that I haven’t ever seen (including half of the Christmas Carol versions), so I just didn’t vote for any of those.
The hardest head-to-head match up in the first round was White Christmas vs. Die Hard in the Old School category. I love them both, but they are so different it is hard to compare. I went with White Christmas because I love the music, and also I saw it more recently haha.
In the semi-finals, I also had trouble with How the Grinch Stole Christmas vs. The Muppet Christmas Carol. The Grinch was a Christmas tradition in my house growing up, and I can probably quote most of the movie (not to mention singing the song). But how can you beat the Muppets and Michael Caine singing in the Dickens classic? I gave the edge to the Grinch because the nostalgia factor was stronger there.
No one that knows me will be surprised that I picked Home Alone for my number one Christmas movie. Growing up, it was a tradition to watch this movie on Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season. I recently even went to see the Cleveland Orchestra perform the movie score live. It really is such a good movie: great writing and acting, plenty of comedy of all kinds, 90s nostalgia, and a killer score by John Williams that manages to be festive yet sinister. It also really captures the spirit of Christmas in childhood.
So that’s why Home Alone is my #1 Christmas movie. What’s yours? How would you fill out your bracket?