My December books might have a bit of a theme going on . . . .
I love Christmas books, and I will read them any time of year because I have found they tend to be comfort reads. And when I need a good comfort read, a Christmas book typically fills the need.
But given that it’s December, this month has been all about Christmas and Advent books. (as you will see below).
There have been a few I have truly loved (and hope you will pick up if they sound appealing to you), and a few that have been a bit disappointing (and one I DNFd).
Keep reading to find out more!
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What I Read in December 2023
I decided to read A Christmas Carol after realizing that while I was familiar with the story from various movies and plays, I had never actually read the book. This book will not only go down as one of my favorite Christmas books, but also one of my favorite books of all time. Ebenezer Scrooge not only hates Christmas, he thinks it’s a complete waste of a day. He has no love for anything except making money. That all changes when he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley who is now living the afterlife in heavy chains because of how poorly he treated people. As Scrooge is shown his past, present, and future, he has an unlikely transformation.
If you’ve never read this book, this is the year. It’s a reminder why some classic books are classics.
I had to read Richard Paul Evans’ debut novel. Evans is known as “the King of Christmas Fiction,” and it all started with this book that was published 30 years ago in 1993. I think at 123 pages, you can safely call this one a novella. I thought it was very well written and an engaging and sweet story, but I think this is one that may suffer from being too short because there really isn’t time to get to know the characters on as deep a level as I would like. That being said, Evans said that when he first wrote the story that it was never intended to be published, but that he wrote it for his daughters as a way for them to understand how much he loved them. Given that context, I think it makes sense why the characters weren’t more developed.
As a Christian, I also had some theological issues, which shouldn’t be surprising given that Evans is Mormon, but I may leave that for a longer review.
With all that being said, I am definitely interested in reading more of his books because I would like to see how it compares when he’s writing a book he does intend to publish.
It’s worth noting that this book is the first in a trilogy.
I love books that include a transformation, and this one has several of them. I especially love transformations that are the result of grace and honesty. Pete and Hank have been best friends since childhood, but they both have very different careers as adults. Hank owns and runs a bar, and Pete is a pastor. They meet regularly for lunch at a diner that’s about halfway between them. And they are both convinced that the other person’s job is way easier than theirs. So they decide to do a job swap for a week. The both quickly learn about the challenges they both face, and they both start to develop relationships with each other patrons and parishioners. Oh, and they both fall in love. This was a sweet book with some thought provoking issues. This book did not disappoint. This book contains Christian themes of grace and love. I think it does a good job of showing how destructive self-righteousness can be. This would be a good book for Christians to read because I think we need that reminder.
I went into this book expecting it to be a book about a couple who were desperately trying to save their small independent bookstore from going under, but it’s really about so much more. Nora and Simon are empty nesters who own a bookstore that is on the brink of going out of business because they are seriously behind on their business taxes. BUT Simon doesn’t know that because Nora has been keeping it from him because he recently had some minor heart problems, and she doesn’t want to stress him out. In the middle of all of this, they are inspired to send six books to six people that are nominated through the bookstore’s instagram account. (One of my favorite parts is where they are discussing the different books to include. I felt like I was among friends.) They wrap the books, but forget which one is which, so they end up getting delivered randomly. As the books get delivered, you start to learn about the people who are receiving them. I love books with lots of interesting layers, and this one definitely delivers. This is a great book for book lovers with several interesting characters. Do they manage to save the bookstore? You’ll have to read to find out!
I know we tend to say that the book is always better than the movie, but when it comes to this one, you may just want to watch the movie. This book is less about a couple Skipping Christmas and more about everyone’s reaction to the couple deciding to skip Christmas. I mostly found this one annoying because it was all just so unrealistic and not believable. For example, if a couple decided to take a cruise because they are new empty nesters and their only daughter is out of the country for the first time with the peace corp, I’m pretty sure everyone understand. BUT given the fact that they aren’t leaving until Christmas Day for their cruise, why can’t they put up the stupid Christmas lights and snowman? The one thing I’ll say for this book is that it’s short and moves pretty quickly.
I DNF’d this one. I may try another Mary Kay Andrews book at some point, but I did not enjoy this one. I listened to it on audio, and this one may suffer from having a bad narrator. For example, the main character is from the South, and the way she does her southern accent just made her sound dumb — like the Valley Girl version of a Southern Belle. The romantic interest of the main character also felt forced. And the main character’s relationship with her brother, who she runs the Christmas tree lot with, was awkward. After I started to feel like I was forcing myself to finish it, I knew I needed to just let it go.
Chloe is a single mom living in the UK, but this year, her son Ruben is spending the whole month of December with his dad in New York. Chloe wants to ignore the Christmas season because she is missing her son when she finds out there is some property in Quebec, Canada. After some prodding, she decides to go check it out. She finds herself in a small, quirky town in the middle of a forest. I had never heard of Jo Thomas until about a month ago, but I was intrigued when I read that she writes romance books about food. I’m about halfway through this one, but so far it seems really cute. I will report back how it ends.
I have a tradition with a couple of friends where every year we read an Advent devotional together, and this year’s pick is Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp. This might be my favorite so far of the devotionals we’ve read. As one of my friend’s pointed out: “he keeps pointing us back to Christ.” I find that one of the other points that Tripp keeps trying to drive home is that at Christmas we’re focused on the baby, but that baby came for a purpose. Tripp has a way of saying so much in so little space. He really gives you a lot to ponder. While this book is not intended to be read to children, he includes discussion points that can be done with the whole family that I think would lead to some interesting conversations.
Some favorite quotes so far:
“But in one of the gorgeous mysteries of God’s sovereign grace, he looked down on his broken, rebellious world with eyes of mercy.”
“The King would die as a criminal, so that criminals against his rule would be welcome into his throne room and live with all the rights and privileges of being members of his royal family.”
I saw this one for free on the Audible Plus catalog and thought it would make an interesting listen. Bonhoeffer reportedly wrote a lot of these when he was in the Nazi concentration camp in the years leading up to his death. Bonhoeffer did not think he was going to die there, but it’s interesting to read these in light of the war. I always find Bonhoeffer’s writings to be interesting and though provoking, and this one is no different. Each entry only takes about five minutes to listen to.
What did you read this month? I would love to hear about it.