On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two obscure Christmas stories, two unexpected Christmas novels, and a New Year’s poem!
The Obscure Christmas Stories
“A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote
If you want to cry, read this short story during the holiday season. The story alludes to the things that are generally reserved for country songs: a dog dies, an old lady slips into dementia, and friends lose touch when they go into the military. But there is such a gorgeous joy in flying kites on Christmas Day and celebrating an imperfect holiday together. Besides, Blake Shelton ain’t got nothing on Capote’s writing skills. His perfect prose will leave you breathless.
Period of Adjustment by Tennessee Williams
In one of his rare happy plays, Williams depicts two couples in strained relationships on Christmas Eve. Through witnessing the dynamic of the other couple and talking through things together, the couples are able to reconcile and be merry. This is a particularly good read before going to any family holiday events that might be fraught with tension and drama. If you really want to be passive aggressive about it, you could also play the 1962 film version in the background of the family party.
The Unexpected Christmas Novels
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Okay, we know what you are thinking: “Why are you including a book about a punk kid with a potty mouth?” Oh, but the book has all the trappings of Christmas! He spends his Christmas break in New York City (the city that does Christmas best) and even goes to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas show. We will just a turn a blind eye to his encounter with Sunny in the hotel and overlook the awkward interaction with Mr. Antolini. Besides, all those traditional, sentimental Christmas stories are phony.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
This book takes place during the Christmas holidays, yet the book was released in the month of July. The novel also has a touch of Christmas magic. No, there are no ghosts that will make you experience the more horrific moments of your youth. It's something more modern that transports the protagonist, Georgie, to the past: a landline phone. When her cell phone dies, she has to use her phone to call her husband, Neal. Instead of talking to the man with whom she is currently in a strained relationship, she chats with the young man with whom she first fell in love. Expect some Scroogesque epiphanies.
The New Year’s Poem
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by the Pearl Poet
We all know what you immediately think of when you think of the New Year: a giant green knight without his head. In this medieval poem, a guy crashes King Arthur's holiday party and wants someone to try to cut off his head, so he can cut off the same knight’s head in a year and a day. Gawain volunteers, which leads to misadventures in a castle and an almost-beheading. Before you think this is a bit too Tarantino, there are themes of forgiveness and friendship to warm your heart on a cold winter’s night.