Home for the Holidays…Blogger Wishes and Season’s Greetings!

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m enjoying my first full day of vacation! It’s also the very last day of my special Home for the Holidays feature here on the blog. I had such an amazing time these past two and a half weeks, and want to thank each and every one of you for following along with my very first special feature on What Sarah Read.

As a way to celebrate the season and end Home for the Holidays on the perfect note, I thought I would ask all of the bloggers who took part to share their biggest holiday wish! There’s a lot of fabulous wishes listed here and I hope that every single one of them comes true!

WISHES HEADERWISHES1Wishes2WISHES3I want to give a big hug and endless amounts of thanks to the all of the amazing bloggers who took part in this event. All of their posts were so much fun and filled with all sorts of holiday goodness…thank you from the bottom of my heart to Ginger @ GReads!Lindsey @ Bring My BooksSajda @ Across the WordsRachel @ Beauty and the Bookshelf,  Morgan @ Gone with the Words, Andi @ Andi’s ABCs, Katie @ Spirit of Children’s Literature, Daphne @ Gone PecanEmma @ Miss Print, Lindsey @ A Bookish Sinister Kid, Jess @ Gone with the Words and Amanda & HollyGun in Act One!

Happy holidays to all of my readers! Thank you so much for all of your kindness and support this year! It’s the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. Here’s hoping all of YOUR wishes come true this holiday season.

If you missed out on any of the holiday goodness, then just
click here to get all caught up!

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Home for the Holidays with Amanda and Holly from Gun in Act One

Today’s Home for the Holidays post comes from sisters Holly and Amanda who blog about books over at Gun in Act One. I’ve always wondered what it’s like for people who have to celebrate their birthdays on or around Christmas, so we have Holly to tell you all about how to spend your holiday-birthday.

Holidays header

In the spirit of the holiday season, my dear sister signed us up to write a holiday-book-blog post. And then, in order to do something different, she said, “oh, ‘’let’s write about holiday-birthdays!” Only one of us has a birthday that falls halfway between Christmas and New Year’s. Only one of us has been told for  years that if she was born a boy, she would be stuck with the name Rudolph. Guess who?

So, I asked her (about five minutes after this post was supposed to be written), dude, what is this supposed to be about? Holidays and books makes sense. Birthday holidays makes sense. Birthdays and books, even. But, holiday birthdays and books? #whatdidyousignmeupforsister

Then of course, I turned to the internet for inspiration,
and found some things like this:

shhh

and this…

peek

Which made me realize [insert sweeping generalization here] that there are two kinds of people with birthdays that fall on or around Christmas or the holiday season: those who feel cheated because they share the birthday spotlight with 8 lb, 6 oz baby Jesus…

baby jesus

…and those who don’t.

I’m quite sure that my family made an appropriately big deal of my birthday when I was just a young Jolly Holly, but as an adult, I’m sort of over birthdays (yeah, your’s too).

bday card

My new favorite image ever / Source

So with that I offer you, oh readers, a list of ways to spend your holiday-birthday if you’re in the “I don’t really need a 10 piece orchestra and someone jumping out of a cake to celebrate my 29+ birthday” camp (aka Camp Birthday Grinch).

How To Spend Your (or your loved one’s) Holiday Birthday

  • Movie Marathons: If you want a quiet, non-holiday-related way to spend your holiday birthday, why not relax with some good movies – maybe The Hunger Games (watch the first two at home, and then go see #3 in the theater – that would be a happy item on my holiday/birthday list this year!), The Godfather Trilogy, or The Bourne movies. I’m not saying you have to watch them all on one day, but the holidays are a good time for movie-watching when you’re partied-out. [Bonus points for me for working books – or at least book-related-movies – into this post!]
  • Find your birthday deals: Starbucks will give you a free drink during your birthday month! Stores will give you special deals (Anthropologie just sent me 15% off and I’m sure there are more to be found). I may be pro-understated birthday celebrations, but I also like free coffee as much (maybe more) than the next guy.
  • Game Night: If you want a slightly more social activity than #1, invite a few friends over for a game night. I know, that’s a bit cheesy for some, but there is no better time to embrace a little bit of cheesy than the month of December! (And if you need a ridiculous game, my newest fave is Telestrations. Google it. It’s a thing.
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights: If you’re the friend/family of a holiday-birthdayer, please do not suggest this activity for someone who hates to share the holiday/birthday limelight. For me, there is somehow never enough time to go on one of those driving routes with all the best decorations before Christmas, so I’d be a-okay to include this in my birthday evening.
  • Order Takeout: During December, it seems like more days than not include holiday-related-food-functions, between work, friends, and family. I love Christmas cookies and I love traditional Christmas Prime Rib (is that just us?), and growing up I really loved when my Dad would make barbecued ribs for my birthday dinner – on a cold December night in Chicago. These days (unless I’m within my Dad’s grilling range), I am all for ordering pizza. Zero effort, no dishes, extra cheese. Happy Birthday to Me.

Amanda: You’re welcome Holly for this opportunity to really reflect on your birthday before the actual day of celebration.  Does that count for my gift to you?  I’ll take your list of suggestions into account the next time we’re together on the big day! XOXO

holly1

 

This post totally cracks me up….ahhhh the struggles of holiday-birthday! I’m loving all of the celebration ideas, they’d be a blast even if it’s NOT your birthday! Make sure you stop by the blog tomorrow, as it’s the very last day of Home for the Holidays (sad face) and I’ll be sharing mine, as well as all of the other guest bloggers bookish wishes this holiday season.  See you all tomorrow!

Home for the Holidays with Jess from Gone with the Words

Happy Monday everyone! We’re coming into the home stretch of my Home for the Holidays feature here on the blog, and it’s been such a blast that I don’t want it to end!! Today I’m welcoming Jess from Gone with the Words to the blog, and she’s sharing an EPIC holiday play list with us! So put on your dancing shoes…this playlist is going to want to make you shimmy!

Holidays header

Hello!! First, I just want to say thank you to Sarah for hosting me on What Sarah Read. Believe it or not, in almost four years of blogging, this is the first time I’ve written a guest post. I can’t think of a better topic or host. 🙂

So! Are you guys all set for Christmas? Do you still have some shopping left to do? Maybe you need to do some wrapping?

giphy

Or, like me, all you have left to do is relax?

giphy

With only three days left until Christmas I’m sure you’ve had your fill of Christmas music… NOT! Now’s the most perfect time to crank up that holiday playlist! Especially if you need motivation while doing last-minute shopping, or while you’re wrapping those presents, or even just relaxing at home…

I’VE GOT YOU COVERED!

 

giphy

I thought I’d start out the playlist with a song that gets me dancing. Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You is my go-to. I love to sing and dance this song, even though I don’t know all the words, lol. The second song is my most favorite cover ever: Jimmy Eat World’s Last Christmas. And the third song, Christmas Treat, is my go-to song any time of year when I’m wishing it would be Christmas.

I tried to build this playlist to go from dancy, upbeat songs, to the slower, more relaxing ones. I would like to point out two must-listen tunes for you though: Text Me Merry Christmas by Kristen Bell and Straight No Chaser AND I’ll Be Home by Meghan Trainor! Those are the new favorites from this year.

I hope you enjoy this musical journey I’ve put together for you. Are some of your favorites in here? Did you discover new favorites? Tell me your thoughts!

Thanks again, Sarah! This was so much fun. 🙂

holly1

Epic gif usage Jess, and that playlist is absolutely perfect for this time of year. Thanks so much for stopping by! Make sure you tune in tomorrow for a visit from Amanda & Holly at Gun in Act One! They’ve got a hilarious post about the struggle and joys of having a Christmas birthday!

Home for the Holidays with Lindsey from A Bookish Sinister Kid

I feel like I need to prepare all of you for today’s Home for the Holidays post from Lindsey at A Bookish Sinister Kid! You may very well go into sugar shock from all of the sweets and goodies she’s sharing with us. After reading this post you’re going to want to hitch a ride home with Lindsey this holiday season so you can stuff your faces with all of the amazing baking her mom has been doing! Epic levels of holiday baking ahead…don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Holidays header

Christmas Cookies For All and To All a Goodnight!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….
Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…
I could go on but you get the point…ITS THE HOLIDAY SEASONNNNN, AND HOOP-DEE-DOO, AND DICKERY DOCK! Lol sorry, Christmas music just flows right through me! SO…besides the music being epic, the movies making you believe in Christmas miracles, writing down your gift wish lists, what’s the other best thing about the holidays?
COOKING.
BAKING.
ALL OF IT! OH MY!
I come from a family that’s half Italian and the other half is an equal mix of German and Irish. Sadly, my dad’s mom had a rough upbringing so she never had much of a tradition except for when my sister and I grew up she would bring over a garbage bag, A LEGIT GARBAGE BAG, full of gifts for each of us! As a child, Gram hit the jackpot in being the best gift giver lol! #toysforeveryoneSo that leaves my mom’s side. which brought the food tradition together. Interestingly enough, my mom’s parents didn’t do anything spectacular but my grandmother’s sister…so that’s my mom’s aunt— Auntie Millie, is who I believe had the food gene. She taught my mom all the recipes that my mom has bestowed on our family for years now and she never disappoints! (sorry it’s creepy her obituary is randomly in this book haha…meanwhile re-discovering this recipe book, turns out she was like 78 when she died, NOT 48 like the newspaper reads LOL!)Processed with VSCOcam with a2 presetAnd with that Italian gene we have, this means my mom goes all out. There’s not even a hint of exaggeration. Ask Book Rock Betty. She came to my house last year with Katie from our book club and while my mom didn’t make all the food, she added a few dishes,  had a decent amount of her cookies out and they saw how all out my mom goes.Each Christmas my mom always SAYS she’ll keep her baking to a minimum but she never does. Right around Thanksgiving or a little before she stocks up on supplies: pounds of butter, flour, sugars of all kind—powdered, dark brown, light brown, granular, she buys pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pignoli nuts (which are pine nuts that have such a stench that when arranging the cookies you make sure these cookies don’t corrupt the rest with its smell). Cocoa is bought, peanut butter is purchased, coconut is stacked high along with mini chocolate chips and Hershey’s kisses. See where I’m going with this? It’s insanity in my house. My mom comes up with a baking strategy where she bakes 3-4 cookies per day and makes an epic amount. (sadly I don’t have a picture of all the tins and containers she stacks up altogether but you can see with the following how intense…that’s 5 sugars and flours DEEP that are all 5lbs…so she’s got 25 pounds of each ALREADY and this was taken before Thanksgiving this year!)ingredientsThe baked goods my mom usually rolls out for the holiday season are, get ready…
  • Aginetti (these are an Italian cookie that’s like a lemon drop cookie just without the lemon flavor, we call them Aginetts)
  • Cream Cheese cookies
  • Ricotta cookies
  • Biscotti (chocolate & hazelnut)
  • Peanut Butter cookies
  • Treasure cookies
  • Seven layer bars
  • Star sugar cookies
  • Butter cookies
  • Butter balls
  • Pignoli cookies
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Thumbprints
  • Chocolate crinkles
  • Spiced pecans
  • Almond cookies
  • Santa’s Whiskers

…I’m drawing a blank but I know there’s a few more she’ll try to make. I mean, right there that’s at least fifteen cookies she will regularly bake. And that’s not including any cooking she’ll do as well!

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetThe nice and sad thing about this is that my sister and I don’t have much interest in doing the baking, though we’re definitely okay with doing all of the taste testing–a very important part of the baking process!My mom is attempting to type out all her baking recipes in an online cookbook thing where she can get them printed out as a book and my sister and I can keep them for our families–keep the traditions going. But for now, my mom-as much as she says she’s tired and it’s a lot of work-she really does love doing it. And she’s all semi-psycho about us helping out so we can have clean-up duty jobs: washing, drying, dirtying again.With carols playing in the background, our fireplace going, or maybe even a Christmas classic film or two, the holiday baking process is one that is epic in The Kid’s family. It’s something I’m proud and happy to have as a memory because I’m lucky enough my mom wanted to instill a tradition on us. Whether we embrace in one way now and maybe another in the future, we still have it which is more than most individuals can say.And for fun, I’m attaching the recipes for anyone who wants to try them and add to their baking fun this holiday season! A classic is the Ricotta cookies and then my mom wanted me to include one of her favorites, Almond cookies! Hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season, safe and healthy–a joyous one all round!

xo – Lindsey aka The Kid

Italian Ricotta Cookie

Processed with VSCOcam with a2 preset

  • 2 sticks butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs

Beat the above ingredients well. Add 4 cups sifted flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder. Mix well and drop onto engrossed cookie sheet.Bake at 350º for 15 mins. For icing, mix 2 cups confectionary sugar, 3 tbsp milk, 1 tsp vanilla – lemon extract or vanilla to taste.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Almond Cookie

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cups almonds – grate with skin
  • 1 and 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter, sugar, almond, flour, salt. Roll long shape. Bake. Roll in cinnamon and confectionary sugar.

holly1Ummm…I think I gained 10 pounds just reading this post. I would love to see all of this baking in action, as I’m sure Lindsey’s mom has it down to a science! I cannot imagine how much WORK this requires and all I can say is…GO MOM! Thankfully, we’ll all have an opportunity to burn off all the calories we gained from today’s post when Jess at Gone with the Words shares her holiday playlist! Get your dancing shoes ready!

Home for the Holidays with Emma from Miss Print

I hope you guys are hungry, because  Emma over Miss Print has a delicious cookie/treat recipe for us all to bring to our next cookie swap! She also has some fabulous tips on hosting said cookie swap and by the end of this post you’re going to be cookie experts! Is there anything in life that’s better than that?

Holidays header

When Sarah asked if any bloggers would want to take part in a series of holiday posts this year, my immediate response was “Of course!” I love the holiday season and even go so far as to have a Tour de Xmas every year to see all of the wonderful holiday windows in New York City.

Being a book blogger, my first instinct was to talk about a holiday book for this post. But seasonal books are few and far between. Especially since I’ve already talked about Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares at length on my own blog. (And have a Dash and Lily Day adventure every year inspired by the book.)

The other thing that I’ve started doing on a semi-regular basis is hosting a cookie swap. I don’t like entertaining to large crowds (particularly late into the night) because it’s a huge imposition to my mom and it’s just not my bag. But I do like seeing friends at the holidays and showing off my Christmas decorating efforts. And I love cookies. So I host a cookie swap.

cookie

Although I am taking this year off, I do have some tricks and a recipe to get you started if you want to host your own cookie swap in the future.

Here’s what you should remember:

  • Any time is a good time for cookies: While I host mine near the holidays, you can really host a cookie swap any time of year (except perhaps in the summer because no one wants to do serious making in the heat).
  • Give your guests notice: I usually give everyone a month notice for the swap if not more so that people can work around busy holiday schedules and also so that people have time to get the baking done.
  • Let guests know what to expect: I always explain that a cookie swap involves everyone leaving with different kinds of cookies and that this means a lot of baking. If I invite five people that means everyone is making five to six dozen cookies so that there are cookies to taste and for people to take home. I also give wiggle room saying people will leave with as many cookies as they bring to keep things fair and orderly.
  • Ask for RSVPs: I also try to keep people posted on how many people will be coming–particularly if it will dramatically change how many cookies need to be baked! (This also helps me because I pre-package any cookies I’m giving to guests since they’re all traveling.) I tried once to ask people what they were making but it was really hard to pin down and people like having the freedom to bake as they like whether that means making one kind of cookie or three.
  • Request recipes: I try to remind people to bring print outs of their recipes to the swap as well so that everyone leaves with a lot of new baking ideas.
  • Serve food: Sometimes I order pizza or put out bagels and various condiments. To promote that party feel though I make sure there is some stuff to munch on that is not actually cookie-based. I do not, under any circumstances, cook for the swap because I’m already baking a ton of cookie and have my hands full getting the party ready.
  • Have fun and keep it simple: The nice thing about a cookie swap is that it can be as simple or fancy as you want it to be. Yes, there will always be baking involved but beyond that it’s up to you.

cookie

To get you started with your cookie swap planning I will also give you one of the simplest and tastiest cookie recipes I’ve found: Easy Oreo Truffles (as seen on AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
  • 1 (8 ounce) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted

Directions

Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.

Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

If you want more recipe ideas you can also always check out other recipe sites. Or Pinterest which is where I store a lot of recipes
including two different boards just for cookies!

Happy Holidays!

holly1

All I have to say is…YUMMY! I’m a huge fan of Oreos, so these truffles are calling my name. I’m actually going to make a batch of my very own to bring over to my in-laws for Christmas day, that is if I don’t eat them all before we get there. I mean, it IS a two-hour drive! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s guest blogger Lindsey from A Bookish Sinister Kid! She’s sharing even more holiday recipes that are perfect for all of your parties and gatherings! Wait until you see how hard-core her mom is when it comes to holiday baking! I’ve honestly never seen anything like it…and it’s awesome!

Home for the Holidays with Daphne from Gone Pecan

Happy Wednesday friends, and Happy (first full day of) Hanukkah! We’re deep into the holiday season these days and just as we’re kicking off Hanukkah, there’s only eight days left until Christmas. I hope everyone is finding themselves in the holiday spirit, but if you still need a little festive jump-start, Daphne from Gone Pecan has a great list of Adult and Young Adult books themed around Christmas and the winter season!

Holidays header

Hi, this is Daphne from Gone Pecan. Christmas is by far my favorite time of the year. I love the decorations, the food, the feeling of people coming together, spending time with family, seeing the awe and wonder on kids faces, snowmen…I could go on, but I won’t. Today I’m here to talk about my favorite Christmas and Winter themed YA and adult books. Christmas time always brings with it a sense that anything can be done, no matter how outrageous. For this reason, I love reading Christmas and Winter themed books because they always have a happy ending and I am all about a happy ending. I like seeing things work out and the feeling that miracles can happen. I like ending a book with an unintentional smile on my face and these books have done just that.

Adult Christmas/Winter Themed Books

source: goodreads

source: goodreads

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas, Wallflowers #3

This is a series set in Regency England about a group of girls who become friends when they are thrown together at various Ton events because they happen to be sitting together, near the wall…hence, they are Wallflowers. This book, in particular, is a favorite among myself and a lot of other bloggers that I know because it has the best redemption story. But before you read this, you need to read the other two books to get the back story and why this redemption is necessary.

A Lady Most Willing by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway, The Lady Most… #2

This is another Regency era book, this time taking place in Scotland. A group of ladies are kidnapped from a ball during winter in Scotland in order for the heirs of a Scottish landowner to find suitable wives and claim their inheritance. It was a quite fun and fast-paced book that had me laughing quite a bit. Each author writes about a different couple and it all pulls together quite nicely. And you cannot go wrong with Julia Quinn for historical romance.

Holly Lane by Toni Blake, Destiny #4

Loved the characters in this one. Divorced mom falls for ex-husband’s best friend. Throw in Christmas and a little girl who just wants a reindeer or for her parents to get back together. Scrooge-ish storyline, too (my favorite Christmas trope).

The Christmas He Loved Her by Juliana Stone, Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #2

Gah, this book. After returning from Afghanistan, Jake feels guilt for what he did there as well as for what he felt was his part in his twin’s death there. Add to that, he’s in love with his brother’s widow, Raine, and has been since they were kids. These are two people who are very attracted to each other and plagued by guilt and obligations, in more than just the most obvious areas. Another redemption story, what can I say. Also, I am a sucker for an unrequited love story. Keep tissues on hand, though.

Young Adult Christmas/Winter Themed Books

source: goodreads

source: goodreads

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Such a cute book about strangers who get to know each other through a red notebook over the course of a Christmas vacation. It’s kind of an outrageous concept, but it’s adorable, sweet, and fun.

Let it Snow: A Holiday Romance by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle

I have to preface this by saying that I read this YEARS ago & don’t really remember everything, but I do remember that it was sweet & funny. My favorite story was by John Green. It was the first thing I ever read by him and I think it may have been the first book I ever read with a boy protagonist. It is definitely season-appropriate.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins (written by a bunch of popular YA authors)

I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it. All of my favorite YA authors writing about my favorite time of year?! Yes, please! There are contemporary and fantasy stories here, but they all work very well together. I think my favorite are Rainbow Rowell’s Midnights (which I read twice), Stephanie Perkins’ It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown, and Laini Taylor’s The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer. I’m giving this book as a gift to a bookish friend this year & I know she’ll love it.

My 2014 Christmas/Winter Book TBR

source: goodreads

source: goodreads

It’s a Wonderful Fireman by Jennifer Bernard, San Gabriel Bachelor Firemen #6.5

Obviously, it’s a take on It’s a Wonderful Life, but centers around firefighter Dean Mulligan, who doesn’t think he’s good enough for the girl of his dreams.

Yours for Christmas by Susan Mallery, Fool’s Gold #15.5

This is the story of a single mother and a former professional football player who’s been seriously burned in the past. I loved Kenny in the previous 3 books in the series because he was very enigmatic and the glimpses into his past were a little heartbreaking. Bailey’s back story is more heartbreaking, though, and I’m looking forward to them getting a happy ending. I preordered this one and I cannot wait to get to it.

Merry Christmas, Baby by Jill Shalvis, Lucky Harbor #12.5

This is the last book in the Lucky Harbor series, which I LOVE and will sorely miss.   It’s a novella about my favorite couple in the series, Sawyer and Chloe, the stoic sheriff of Lucky Harbor and his adorable wild-child wife, Chloe. I think I know where this one is going, but it’s gonna be so fun to get there and I’m certain it will put a smile on my face.

That’s it for me. I really think there’s something for everyone here. I hope you guys have a fantastic Christmas season and all your wishes come true.

holly1

Thank you so much Daphne for such a wonderful line-up of holiday and winter themed books. Some of them look downright steamy! LOL! We continue the Home for the Holidays special feature tomorrow with Emma at Miss Print. She’s sharing a delicious treat that is sure to be a HUGE hit for all those people on your holiday goodies gift list!

Home for the Holidays with Katie at Spirit of Children’s Literature

Welcome back to Day Seven of my special Home for the Holidays feature here on the blog. It’s been a wonderful daily treat for me to share so many holiday-themed posts and I really hope you’re enjoying them as well. Today we have a lovely post from Katie at Spirit of Children’s Literature, in which she shares some of her favorite holiday stories that infuse some spirituality in its pages. There’s nothing better than a beautiful book that helps us dig a little deeper and the three she suggests today are bound to do just that.

Holidays header

The Holidays: Time for Family, Friends, (Reading!!), and for many, nurturing their spirituality. Whether you consider yourself spiritual or not, there are SO MANY books for Children and Young Adults that reflect spiritual dimensions—and I’m not just talking religion—I’m thinking about spirituality in a broader sense.

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Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Paris, France

One way I think of spirituality in literature is the way some books speak to our hearts. I love what Gladys Hunt says about looking for books with spiritual depth: “A sense of permanent worthwhileness surrounds really great literature. Laughter, pain, hunger, satisfaction, love, joy—the ingredients of human life are found in depth and leave a residue of mental and spiritual richness in the reader.” I love this—“the ingredients of human life are found in depth”!

So for this fabulous feature from What Sarah Read for the holidays, I thought of highlighting three different holiday-ish books:
One Classic, One Middle Grade, and One YA.

They are all perfect for reading during this Christmas season and they all reflect thought-provoking spiritual dimensions—even if those aspects are related to a broader conception of the spiritual.

The Classic: Little Women (1868) by Louisa May Alcott

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source: goodreads

Yes, it’s a classic set in 19th century New England, published in 1868, and though it may be a slower read than what many of us reading contemporary novels are used to, it’s not one to pass up! And Christmas time is the perfect season to read it—it opens with a quote by Jo who is grumbling about not having any presents at Christmas. Following the Christmas joys and trials of the four sisters is entertaining—trust me.

Though your father might not be away at war this year, and you might have plenty to eat as well as presents under the tree, the book reflects valuable themes of sacrifice, love, and not settling on being anyone else but yourself. We have a heroine who must write at all costs, and a family who goes through difficult circumstances, but refuses to give up hope and faith in the good. Yes, there are some religious undertones in the story, but even if you don’t like that kind of thing, it’s not off-putting. Consider it a window into a time when religion and spirituality were pretty important in the lives of families. Little Women is chock full of history, laugh aloud moments, (“ ‘That boy is a perfect Cyclops, isn’t he?’ said Amy.”) and spirituality. Each of the girls—Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy have their own hopes, joys, and struggles. These can be relevant for readers today, even though the book was written over a hundred years ago.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

 “Love is a great beautifier.”

 “I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

If you haven’t read Little Women, and you feel the inkling for a classic to read by the fire with a cup of apple cider, consider picking up this gem. In fact, this is the book for the December read-along happening over at The Midnight Garden on December 19th.

The Middle Grade: The Silver Donkey (2004) by Sonya Harnett

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source: goodreads

If you haven’t read The Silver Donkey, you’re in for a treat! And you’re in great luck—the holidays are the perfect time to dive into this book. First, here’s the GoodReads summary:

One morning in the woods of World War I France, two young sisters stumble upon an astonishing find — a soldier, temporarily blinded by war, who has walked away from battle longing to see his gravely ill younger brother. Soon the care of the soldier becomes the girls’ preoccupation, but it’s not just the secret they share that emboldens them to steal food and other comforting items for the man. They are fascinated by what he holds in his hand — a tiny silver donkey. As the girls and their brother devise a plan for the soldier’s safe passage home, he repays them by telling four wondrous tales about the humble donkey — from the legend of Bethlehem to a myth of India, from a story of rescue in war to a tale of family close to the soldier’s heart. Sonya Hartnett explores rich new territory in this inspiring tale of kindness, loyalty, and courage.

Those tales the soldier tells the children are priceless. You won’t want to put this gem of a story down until you’re finished. The blind soldier carries a silver donkey, which triggers beautiful (and sometimes sad) tales that are moving and beautifully written. In addition to the obvious allusions to Biblical story (through the telling of the legend of Bethlehem), there are rich spiritual themes of sacrifice, bravery, and love. If you love animals, this is definitely the book for you—you may be moved to tears at some parts, but it’s worth it.

“They thought back on the tales that the soldier had told. They remembered Hazel, the gentle Bethlehem donkey, who used the last of her strength helping those who needed her. They remembered the donkey who stood on the mountain and accepted suffering so that others would not know pain. They remembered the donkey with a hundred names, the sturdy friend of Jack who proved that the most humble being can have the most courageous heart.”

Hartnett is an Australian writer who won the Astrid Lindgren Award in 2008—the world’s most prestigious award for a writer of children’s and youth literature. If you have never read anything of hers before, now might be the time to begin!

The YA: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (2010) by Rachel Cohn & David Leviathan

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source: goodreads

Now for the perfect Holiday YA Novel! In Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, it’s almost Christmas and Lily is looking for love. Dash discovers a red notebook while browsing through books at New York City’s famous Strand bookstore. The notebook belongs to Lily, a teenager who has left a series of dares for a boy who feels up to the challenge. Dash’s completion of the first set of dares sets in motion a relationship via the red notebook that brings the two teenagers closer and closer together. Will they ever meet? Will the idea of one another match up with the real Dash and Lily?

As many of us know, letter writing is not as common as it once was. In this story, a girl and boy’s relationship is largely cultivated through a series of written notes and challenges. Because they haven’t seen each other, they have to go by the tone of those notes, the content, and the challenges. In other words, they are going by the spirit of the messages, and getting to know one another in a way that most of us don’t experience with those closest to us. This is so interesting to me—because I think letters between people can nurture (in some cases) a deeper connection, even a spiritual connection. So, in one way, I see the idea of a significant relational connection at work in this book—and that’s another way to think about the spiritual dimension in a story.

“The important people in our lives leave imprints. They may stay or go in the physical realm, but they are always there in your heart, because they helped form your heart. There’s no getting over that.”

“There are just lots of possibilities in the world…I need to keep my mind open for what could happen and not decide that the world is hopeless if what I want to happen doesn’t happen. Because something else great might happen in between.”

I love this book! It’s a fun, light read that illustrates the beauty of letter writing and appreciating the geography of one’s hometown. It’s also a story that asks questions about finding that “special” someone and how relationships work and don’t work.

This was such a fun post to write! Thank you to Sarah for hosting this fantastic holiday event.
There are so many other books that are fantastic reads for the holidays, but obviously I can’t name them all here. Are there books you love that bring out the Christmas spirit in you or engage your spirituality? I would love to hear about them!
Happy Holidays to All!

holly1Thank you so much Katie for such a wonderfully thought-provoking post. The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect and look inside ourselves, and I think the books you have suggested here are great ways to facilitate that frame of mind. Daphne @ Gone Pecan is stopping by tomorrow to share some of HER favorite holiday reads. I can just hear everyone’s TBR piles growing by the minute!