The Christmas season is full of touchstones: Santa with the Rockettes at Radio City, small kindnesses from strangers and boisterous shouts of, “God bless us, every one!” These new books pair nicely with a crackling fire on a frosty night.
THE MAGIC OF HUMAN KINDNESS
Author Joanne Huist Smith was struggling. As a newly widowed single mother, she wanted to forget Christmas altogether, a resistance that was making the season harder on her kids. When a poinsettia turned up on their porch with a personalized verse from “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” she wanted to chuck it, but the children were intrigued. Then more gifts showed up, and the family had a mystery on their hands. The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle shows how an anonymous kindness can bring a family back together, first when they attempt to catch the givers in the act, and later when they welcome the holiday spirit back into their altered landscape. The gifts they receive are small but make a lasting impact, and this warmhearted story is sure to inspire others to help those in need.
GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST
It doesn’t matter where you live; for many of us, Christmas belongs to Charles Dickens’ London. Inventing Scrooge: The Incredible True Story Behind Dickens’ Legendary ‘A Christmas Carol’ explores the author’s life and times and finds the real inspirations behind the characters and places in Dickens’ novella. The book is a gold mine for Dickens fans, worth it for the thumbnail biography of Ebenezer Scroggie (Scrooge’s namesake) alone. Author Carlo DeVito also notes Dickens’ gift for reading his work aloud on stage, a practice that earned him more money than the sales of his books. Inventing Scrooge is a beautiful history of a holiday classic and a brilliant peek behind the curtains at the creative process.
HOME BY CHRISTMAS
A Christmas Far from Home: An Epic Tale of Courage and Survival During the Korean War is not typical holiday fare. Stanley Weintraub’s gritty look at the early months of the war, and General MacArthur’s declaration that it would be over by Christmas despite deadly advances by Chinese forces, is a tragedy suffused with stories of triumph. Caught in battle but losing more men to frostbite than combat, American soldiers repaired broken equipment with pocket-melted Tootsie Rolls and tried to eat holiday meals that froze solid when uncovered. The battle scenes are gripping, the losses grave, but the last troop ships weighed anchor on Christmas Eve, making good on MacArthur’s boast. Give this book to the history buffs in your life, along with some Tootsie Rolls, and they’ll be occupied until New Year’s.
WALKING IN SANTA’S BOOTS
For 27 years, Charles Edward Hall embodied the Christmas spirit by ho-ho-hoing as Santa Claus in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. In Santa Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing, he describes getting the job and being a bit of a Scrooge about it. Still hurting from abuse in his past and determined to be a “serious” actor, he made life for everyone around him harder until the job, and the holiday spirit, softened his heart. Hall also had a lifelong relationship with the jolly old elf himself that better enabled him to step into those big black boots. Enemies became friends, then family, as he warmed to the role. Santa Claus Is for Real is a short, sweet redemption tale.