With all of the COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on our Christmas festivities this year, my family has been all about rocking the Christmas music in our home. Our playlist ranges from classic hymns sung a cappella to the Home Alone soundtrack. My 13-month-old has begun to express some distinct preferences. When she hears a song she likes, she stops whatever she’s doing, opens her eyes wide, claps her little hands and reaches for the speaker. She seems to favor Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin. It’s freaking adorable. It also got me thinking generally about people’s taste in Christmas music…which dovetailed into people’s taste in books. Which led me to think, “Hey, I wonder if I can match Christmas songs with books that have the same vibes?” And then I DID THE THING!
Without further ado…here are five books to match your favorite Christmas song.
“All I Want for Christmas is You”
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Mariah Carey’s iconic Merry Christmas album is 16 years old. Let that sink in for a minute. There’s really nothing not to like about this song. It’s fun, it’s romantic, it’s got tons of atmosphere and it’s sung by a true queen. I can’t think of a better match for this song than Jasmine Guillory’s Royal Holiday. Fun? Check. Romantic? Check. True Queen (of England)? Check. When Vivian Forest tags along on her daughter’s work trip to London, the last thing she expects is to fall for a stodgy private secretary. There are so many things to love about this holiday romance, starting with the fact that the heroine is a smart, hard-working Black MOM! As in a grown woman with a grown daughter. Who is still fierce and sexy and catches the eye of the oh-so-proper Malcolm Hudson. There is banter. There is mistletoe. I think Mariah herself would approve.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is my personal favorite Christmas hymn, though it’s really more of an advent song. The minor tones give it such an echoing sense of longing and always makes me feel a little shivery. In a good way. It’s that sense of longing the song expresses that made me think of The Book of Longings. While this isn’t a Christmas book per se, it is historical fiction about Jesus of Nazareth, so it fits in pretty well thematically. To be more precise, it’s about the fictional wife of Jesus, a woman named Ana. I am not typically drawn to historical fiction, particularly not set in Bible times, but I gave this a try because I adore Sue Monk Kidd. It blew me away. Not only was I engaged by the beautiful writing and storytelling, the character of Jesus the man as he is portrayed through the eyes of Ana was so compelling. Jesus is such a symbol for Christians and non-Christians alike that it was refreshing to see him as a regular man.
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
The holiday season is not a happy time for everyone, especially those experiencing grief. As Elvis reminds us, sometimes it’s just a “Blue Christmas”. If you’re looking for something that represents the less than cheerful side of the season, I would recommend Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. This book tells the story of Elfrida Phipps, who is living a quiet cozy life in a little Hampshire village when her neighbor, Oscar Blundell, experiences the sudden and shattering loss of his family and home. Elfrida and Oscar retreat to a creaky old house in Scotland where they find refuge in companionship and in the stream of wanderers who keep turning up at their door. This is a book that does not shy away from grief, but offers hope as well.
“Joy to the World”
Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer by Maya Angelou
“Joy to the World” is the ultimate proclamation of celebration. It’s literally a song about the whole earth—fields and floods and rocks and hills—rejoicing. If this is what you’re all about, check out Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer by Maya Angelou. This collection of poems by one of our most beloved writers is a celebration of life in both the extraordinary moments and the ordinary ones. Included in this volume is Angelou’s Christmas poem, “Amazing Peace.” We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas / We beckon this good season to wait a while with us. / We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come. / Peace. / Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Originally released in 1960, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is all about nostalgia to me. It’s jolly, it’s fun, but most of all, it evokes that “sentimental feeling” that brings me back to the Christmases of my childhood and memories of my family. Nobody writes about family with more warmth and humor than David Sedaris. This collection includes both personal essays and short fiction and comprise some of Sedaris’s most iconic work. From two families locked in an epic battle to outgive the other and send the best holiday card to hilarious reflections on Christmas traditions around the world, Sedaris uses wit and humor to capture the spirit of the season.