We asked each of the Career Authors contributors for holiday books they were most thankful for. Here are our five distinct takes on the topic.
The book I am most thankful for during the holidays is really a short story, “The Gift of the Magi” O. Henry’s oft-anthologized tale about a couple who each sacrifice their dearest possession (she her hair, and he a pocket watch) to buy gifts for each other, only to wind up with gifts they cannot use (she a hair comb, and he a watch chain) is a lovely reminder that it truly is the thought that counts when it comes to gift-giving. More, the couple’s willingness to sacrifice for each other is a faint echo of Christ’s willingness to give up his very life for us, and Christ is the reason for Christmas, after all.
When I am thrashing through the mall late in the holiday season, trying to find the perfect gift for someone I love, I think of “The Gift of the Magi,” take a deep breath, and sing along with whatever carol is playing through the sound system, even if it’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” O. Henry demonstrates that as long as there’s plenty of love in the gift-giving equation, it’s all good. I give with love, and know the gifts I receive come with love woven into them (whether they are store-bought, home-made, or gifts of time and presence), and I rejoice and give thanks.
Despite delicious food, bonfires and raucous gatherings of family and friends, the Holiday season can still inspire my wistful side. It’s why hearing the beautifully melancholy song, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” on the car radio brings to the fore such seemingly profound feelings. What a sap I am. At Holidays, we note the passing of time, rituals long gone, and with them some of the people we loved best. Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory captures some of this poignancy. Life is full of tenderness and beauty, and this is a Christmas story that can be appreciated year-round.
In December, three years ago, Seth Godin released What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn) with unusual packaging: he sold it in multi-packs of 12, for sharing. The full-color book is 50% motivational speech, 50% service-first gratitude, and 50% delight packaged between paper covers. (The math does not escape me: the book is 50% more than just a book.)
It was my Christmas present to myself, with a format and content that continue to raise my spirit every time I open it. And with 11 holiday books to give, I discovered that his encouragement to be brave enough to put something of yourself into the world was a nudge that every creator I sent it to appreciated. I believe that creating is the most human thing we do, and Seth’s permission to do just that is a welcome message in a world that too often says no.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Thanksgiving reading? Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, maybe, to remind us how grateful we should be. But for me, reading holiday books should be joyful, mysterious, magical and cold cold cold. And that, dear friends, is Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. An old boyfriend gave me my first copy; in it, the inscription says:
I would follow you anywhere, cross the icy river and search for you in the blizzard.
We parted, but I kept that wonderful book. What’s it about? I have no idea—but I think love and loss and passion and magic over two centuries, but at the same time. It’s a fictional mythical New York and an Edwardian New York, fried oysters and scotch and newspapers and gangs and a white horse with wings. I am incredibly thankful that I got to read it (thanks, James) and that I get to read it again, and that I get to tell you about it. Let me know what you think!
My Thanksgiving Reading List
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s all about food and friends and family—like Christmas without all the work. All you have to do is roast a turkey and make the trimmings and buy a pumpkin pie and you’re good to go.
The best part: Football. No, I don’t actually watch it, but everyone else does, which means I can sit in the same room in front of the fire after dinner and drink bourbon and eggnog and read while people cheer on their favorite teams.
It’s my chance to snuggle into the joyful season with books that inspire and enlighten me and put me into the holiday spirit. In the stack to brighten my Thanksgiving this year are:
- Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land
- Mary Oliver’s Upstream
- Marilynne Robinson’s Lila
- Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway, and
- John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.
Here’s hoping that you find some time to spend with your favorite writers, and the luminous works that illuminate the best of the season. Happy Thanksgiving!
Are there holiday books you’re thankful for?
We’d love to hear about your favorite holiday books on Facebook.