Nothing like a quick Sunday evening trip to Barnes and Noble to wind me up.
Before I hear from everyone who is ready to accuse me of jealousy and envy, let me stop you right there. I LOVE to read good writing and have nothing but admiration for authors who challenge me or entertain me. How any writer breaks out of the pack of thousands and thousands of titles and finds a following is beyond me (obviously.)
Mostly, I deeply admire and yes, maybe envy, writers who can make me laugh. It’s not that I’m difficult to please. It’s mostly that “writing funny” is pretty difficult and few people do it well.
This post isn’t about any of that. It’s about Christmas. Or more specifically, about Christmas books.
For some reason, this latest trip to the bookstore made it obvious that one of the components of publishing success that has somehow eluded me is using the word “Christmas” in your title, preferably linked with something admirable, lovely, warm, promising or comforting. Amazon.com lists indicates it offers 90,899 books that contain “Christmas” in the title. I offer the following partial list to review:
A Cup of Christmas Tea
The Christmas Box
The Christmas Sweater
The Christmas Shoes (This is of particular note in our house for many reasons. We mock this one relentlessly and without remorse every single year.)
The Christmas Secret
The Christmas Hope
A Christmas Promise
The Christmas Promise
The Christmas Pearl
The Christmas Clock
The Christmas Dog
The Magical Christmas Cat
The Christmas List
The Christmas Cookie Club
A Plain & Simple Christmas
The Christmas Bus
The Christmas Train
Christmas Jars Reunion
Subtitles also matter here:
The Christmas Spirit: Memories of Family, Friends and Faith
The Christmas Box Miracle: My Spiritual Journey of Destiny, Healing and Hope
The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book
Had enough yet? Me, too.
Let me clarify one other point here. I adore Christmas. I do. Ask my kids or my husband.
I start listening to Christmas music without apology in November.
I’m the one who arranges our theater evening every year to attend Civic Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol. Over the years, two of my boys have appeared in the show. I watch the movie on television every year, the George C. Scott version. (Don’t even speak to me about any others, including the Alistair Sim version. Not open to debate as far as I’m concerned.) I read the Dickens story.
I find a performance of The Messiah each year.
I bake. I send cards. I decorate. In fact, Christmas is the one and only time of year my house gets any kind of decorative treatment.
I get sentimental about Christmas. There. I said it. But I don’t “get” the ideas behind these kinds of Christmas books. I haven’t read even one of them but I guarantee they all tell a story of love and sacrifice and compassion and humanity and fellowship. A story of a despairing someone meeting a wise someone – and the source of that wisdom can be older (see The Christmas Box) or younger (see The Christmas Shoes), makes no difference – and then learning the “true meaning” just when they need it. The story of how almost anything you can name is a metaphor for Christmas.
Well, I guess not almost anything. Admittedly, I paged through only ten pages of the Amazon list so I barely cracked the 90,000 +, but I’ll bet I won’t find these:
Wrong. That book exists. And guess what? It’s “a heartwarming story that explores the special love a grandmother has for her grandchildren.”
Maybe choosing an object to symbolize the season isn't a good idea. What about using those moments of life that aren’t so darned happy? I’ll bet I won’t find any of them in Christmas books. Wrong again. Pages of titles described less than golden moments around the tree: Oscar’s Lonely Christmas, The Lonely Snowman, Byron the Lonely Christmas Tree, All Alone at Christmas, Oliver All Alone, A Cold Christmas, and Kitten in the Cold. (Several of these had adorable yellow lab puppies on the cover who looked sad.) Dear God! Who buys these? Are you crying yet?
Or how about this? A Stranger for Christmas. Guess what? It’s a “very special story about love, family, and miracles…the true meaning of Christmas… a story to remind us of the values we cherish, the people we love, and the lessons of the holiday season.”
Ugh. I’m about to get Christmas Nauseous. Or Christmas Cranky. I wonder if anyone would buy Christmas Curmudgeon, the story of a woman of a certain age who discovered ‘the true meaning of Christmas’ after she was inundated with cloying, vacuous Christmas books one night in the bookstore. She discovered ‘the lessons of the holiday season’ by resolving to eat more cookies, drink more eggnog and surround herself with people who celebrated the season by never reading books like these.
My day feels more merry and bright already.