Fes­tive reads

Amidst the mad gai­ety of the sea­son, we of­fer refuge within the pages of books that will tug at heart strings and put a quiet smile on your face. Or maybe even draw a tear or two....

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HOW The Grinch Stole Christ­mas by Dr Seuss: A sea­sonal clas­sic – and not just for the kids it was writ­ten for! For those who have some­how missed this heart­warm­ing tale, it tells of the bit­ter and grumpy recluse Grinch, who lives only with his dog in a cave up in the moun­tains. He de­tests and de­spises the mer­ri­ment of the com­mu­nity of Whos that lives at the foot of the moun­tain, and comes up with a plan to steal all their presents and food.

But in­stead of tak­ing re­venge or sit­ting and cry­ing, the Whos con­tinue the sea­son’s cel­e­bra­tions with joy­ful singing, teach­ing the Grinch that Christ­mas isn’t just about toys and tur­keys, that’s it’s about kith and kin and friend­ship and thank­ful­ness. First pub­lished in 1957, the story has been adapted for stage and screen many times with the lat­est be­ing a 2000 film star­ring Jim Car­rey.

An Ir­ish Coun­try Christ­mas by Pa­trick Tay­lor: Here’s another oldie but goodie, a ti­tle from the Ir­ish Coun­try se­ries that be­gan pub­li­ca­tion in 2000; the Christ­mas ti­tle is No.3 in the se­ries and is from 2008 – the warmth of the story, though, is still new and fresh. By this third book, young English doc­tor Barry Laverty is set­tling into the quirky Ir­ish vil­lage of Bally­buck­lebo in the back of be­yond and is look­ing for­ward to spend­ing his first Christ­mas in it – es­pe­cially as his sweet­heart is com­ing to visit.

But then it turns out Pa­tri­cia might not make it, and his is in­un­dated by the sea­son’s coughs and colds. In be­tween at­tend­ing to the pa­tients, though, Dr Laverty and his se­nior part­ner, the iras­ci­ble Dr Fin­gal Fla­her­tie O’Reilly, man­age to have some fun and even make mir­a­cle hap­pen. What tugs at the heart strings is the story’s charm­ing lit­tle set­ting, quirky but lov­able char­ac­ters and the way th­ese ded­i­cated doc­tors do what they can for the vil­lagers.

Skip­ping Christ­mas by John Gr­isham: Since their daugh­ter is off in another coun­try, cou­ple Luther and Nora Krank de­cides to do away with all the cel­e­bra­tory ac­tiv­i­ties that have come to de­fine Christ­mas, just this once. They won’t be throw­ing feasts nor dec­o­rat­ing their home with a tree. On the very day of Christ­mas, they will em­bark on a Car­ribbean cruise filled with fun, food and re­lax­ation.

But their sea­far­ing ad­ven­ture soon turns into a fren­zied one and isn’t quite as they had en­vi­sioned it to be.... This is a hi­lar­i­ous novel that amuses and is a huge de­par­ture from Gr­isham’s other more se­ri­ous works.

Christ­mas Mem­ory by Tru­man Capote: This short story by Tru­man Capote is sup­posed to be mostly au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal and is about the lives of seven-yearold Buddy and his best friend, an el­derly fe­male cousin. Set in 1930, the evoca­tive tale de­scribes coun­try life, the joy of giv­ing, and of friend­ship.

Of course, this be­ing the painfully gritty Capote, there is lots of sad­ness, even bit­ter­ness, as he de­scibes a lonely Buddy who is

some­what of an out­cast and how the boy is sep­a­rated from his beloved cousin when he’s sent to mil­i­tary school and she slips into old age and de­men­tia. But bal­anc­ing the sad­ness is the de­scrip­tion of the Christ­mas that the two share, when they gift each other with kites and spend one per­fect day fly­ing them.

The Great­est Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern: Ev­ery­one who watches English-lan­guage movies prob­a­bly knows about the clas­sic Christ­mas movie, It’s A Won­der­ful Life. But few know that the heart-warm­ing, life-af­firm­ing movie that in­vari­ably brings a tear to the eye was based on The Great­est Gift, a short story writ­ten by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943. The Amer­i­can au­thor and ed­i­tor printed the tale pri­vately as a Christ­mas card for his friends. Since the mega suc­cess of the 1946 movie, the story has been re-is­sued as a book many times in dif­fer­ent edi­tions.

If you’ve never had the plea­sure of watch­ing the movie, the story – in both the movie and the short story – is about Ge­orge Bai­ley, a good but trou­bled man who con­tem­plates sui­cide on a snowy night be­cause he feels he has failed his wife and chil­dren. But an an­gel steps in and shows him that life is a gift and ev­ery per­son is spe­cial. – Com­piled by Malini Dias and Lim Chia Ying

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