First, a quick last-minute recommendation for that english major/college professor type on your list: Srikanth Reddy’s Readings in World Literature. I picked it up while attending a lecture by Reddy in Seattle (in which I learned, among other more intellectual things, that Hermann Rorschach, of the inkblots, was totally hot.)
Readings in World Literature is a fabulous chapbook of short prose pieces delving into questions of the underworld and meaning while satirizing academia with aplomb. It comes in the form of notes written by a professor teaching a course in the humanities described thusly:
RWL 1100. Introduction to the Underworld. [Cross-listed with Comp Lit]. In this course, students will be ferried across the river of sorrow, subsist on a diet of clay, weigh their hearts against a feather on the infernal balance, and ascend a viewing pagoda in order to gaze upon their homelands until emptied of all emotion. Texts will include the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Mayan Book of the Dead, the Ethiopian Book of the Dead, and Muriel Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead. The goals of the course are to acquaint students with the posthumous regimes which entrench the division of humankind in perpetuity, and to help them develop the communication skills that are crucial for success in today’s global marketplace.
All readings in English. Requirements include the death of the student, an oral presentation, and a 20-page final paper.
I wrote a few years back about my all-time favorite Christmas reads, the ever-charming 1904 book Kristy’s Queer Christmas, (well there is the one slightly racist description in one chapter, but for 1904 it is not bad at all), plus some other seasonal favorites, but I missed a few. Some additions to that list:
The Christmas Dolls – Carol Beach York (1967). One of my favorite dolls-who-want-a-girl-for-Christmas tales.
Tatty and Mr. Not So Much, Florabelle and Lily, arrived at the door of The Good Day [orphanage] while Miss Plum was in the parlor explaining the details of Tatty’s disappearance to the policeman. Miss Lavender was standing beside her, listening anxiously.
“She is seven years old,” Miss Plum was saying, “and she is wearing a blue dress and a dark blue coat.”
The children had given up waiting for the program to start. They were clustered around the piano, and Elsie May picked out “Jingle Bells” with one finger to show the other girls how clever she was.
Miss Plum was interrupted by a knock at the door. She excused herself to the policeman and stepped over to the front door. When she opened it and saw that it was Tatty home safe and sound, she took her into her arms at once and called, “Miss Lavender! Miss Lavender! Tatty’s here.”
Miss Lavender came flying out of the parlor. All the girls came clattering along, except one small girl who had been waiting for her chance to have a turn at the piano; she stayed behind to see if she could play “Jingle Bells.”
After a great many exclamations and explanations, and then more explanations and exclamations, Miss Plum remembered the policeman. He had stepped aside to get out of the way of all the commotion and was holding his hat in his hand.
“Oh,” Miss Plum said. “We won’t be needing you after all!”
Also utterly charming, the indefatigable little barking dog in Sandy Turner’s Silent Night keeping up a constant commentary on the presence of Santa in the house, a wordless (except for all the BARK BARK WOOF BARK WOOF WOOF BARK YAP YAP YAPs) picture book that makes me laugh out loud every year. Here’s a sample page.
And let me end by balancing all that sweetness and light with John Updike + Edward Gorey’s The Twelve Terrors of Christmas. An example from the “O Tannenbaum” page:
There is something ghastly about a tree—its look of many-limbed paralysis, its shaggy and conscience-less aplomb—encountered in the open, let alone in the living room. At night, you can hear it rustling and slurping water out of the bucket.
I hope all of you celebrating on the 25th get tons of books!