I’m sure that many of you haven’t experienced cold temperatures and snow yet, or that some of you may not even experience them at all. However, in Alberta, we’ve already had -30C and a few inches of snow due to the dreaded “Polar Vortex”. Although I don’t appreciate the cold when it’s that bad, I can’t deny that the snow does something to me. When it’s tumbling gently through the night sky outside of our windows I get an undeniable urge to curl up on the couch and submit myself to the written word.
I do have favorites that I read each year, that just seem to be even more pleasurable during inclement weather than any other time of year. Just as roses smell sweeter when you’re in love, and jokes are funnier when you have someone to laugh with. That being said, I’ve got a list that I’ve come up with to help you add to your own holiday reading list, or perhaps add to your shopping list as gifts.
1) James Herriot. These are non-fiction books about the joys and heartbreaks of being a veterinarian during the days when it was common for vets to specialize in everything. Herriot intertwines the stories of dogs and cats and sheep and other animals that he has cared for with his own life. There’s almost nothing I like better than putting my feet up and diving into one of his stories while my cat purrs behind my head and my dogs doze at my feet. These books are good for any age and any walk of life. My first experience with them was when my grandfather gave them to me as a kid, and I have loved them since. They will make you smile and they will make you cry, so be prepared.
2) Pillars of the Earth. If you’re looking for a lengthy stand-alone historical fiction with light fantasy, stop here. Follett is a known master of historical fiction, and this book is no exception. It follows the lives of a number of different characters all at ones, weaving their stories together in a complicated web of drama and history. The history in them is impeccable, though not necessarily true. The book moves through a long time frame, and as you read, you learn that everything touches everything. The best part is that it isn’t a piece of a huge series, it’s a story of its own. This book even does surprisingly well with people who aren’t generally fans of these types of books because it includes so many different aspects of interests, such as history, fantasy, drama, and so on.
3) His Dark Materials. This is a series of three books, which are a mix (I would say) of both science fiction and fantasy, though much heavier on the fantasy side. They tell the tale of Lyra, a young and quite outspoken girl, in an alternate world. And while we travel with her, she grows into a rather well-rounded and mature individual. These books are quietly political, with religious and sociological overtones whispered quietly within. They are far too quiet to be heard by anyone who isn’t paying attention, but for those who do, it makes for a read that not only picks at your emotions, but forces you to think and analyze. Traditionally these are, I’d say, pre-teen books, but don’t let that stop you from reading them.
4) Little Women. It’s highly likely that you have heard of this book before. It’s a classic, and many grandmothers have read it to their granddaughters. This book follows the lives of a group of sisters who are mostly just trying to make their way through life, back before you were supposed to stay in school until you graduated, and when becoming a teenager generally meant finding a job and helping to support your family. This is a warm book, a simple read, and an absolute wonder for sparking the holiday spirit.
5) To Kill a Mockingbird. This is another book that most people have heard of. If you haven’t read it yet, or know someone who hasn’t, I recommend it heartily. Another classic, this book takes you through a dramatic and political story, all through the eyes of a young girl. This seems to soften the story, as it just wouldn’t be the same if it were told from an adult’s perspective. This girl is endearing, smart, and thoughtful, although she doesn’t always seem it. I read this book about once a year because it’s so fulfilling and it doesn’t take forever to get though.
As a bonus, if you have read To Kill a Mockingbird and enjoyed it, pick up Of Mice and Men instead.
What books will you be reading or giving this holiday season? Have you read all of the books on this list?