My Christmas season – sadness and happiness

Christmas wishes to you all.

I have had a very quiet month online. This, of course means that my life has been overwhelmed by my work, my kids, my husband, my extended family and the world at large. So much so that my thesis has sat untouched for several weeks as has my blog. Amongst all the usual chaos of kids finishing school and Christmas shopping, my husband ended up ill in hospital for 4 days (he’s out now and slowing getting better) on the same day that I found out my favourite student was killed by a(n alleged) drunk driver. Nicole was sweet and gentle and so keen to be a librarian – I have no words other than to say that she should not have died in such a way.

Christmas TreeAll these events have drained me. This year was tinged with sadness to begin with as my favourite uncle died in July. There have been a number of other world and family events that have deeply impacted me and left me with a cumulative sadness that I would never had anticipated at the beginning of this year. I would not call my sadness depression – it is just downheartedness. I’m feeling the losses of this year.

Last night, at 8pm I realised that for the first time since my husband and I have been married, we still didn’t have our Christmas tree set up. So we brought it out of storage, my husband went to bed, my sons helped me decorate it, then they went to bed. I filled the stockings with small token presents (no big presents were bought this year due to spending the past week in hospital with John) and yes – there were socks! The tree sparkled with 20 years of Christmas decorations. Balls, lights, dolls, birds (doesn’t everyone have a faux feathered parrot perched beside their star?), tinsel, Santas, boxes, bells and so many more. This made me smile. Continue reading

Books of Christmas Past

Despite being a book fiend, I am more than happy to not receive books for Christmas. I prefer that most people keep far far away from choosing a book for me. See, I’m funny in my reading tastes – as are most people – and what may resonate with many and hit the bestseller lists rarely interests me.

Let me give you some examples:

Christmas books from previous years that did not hit the mark:

How Late it was, How late – James Kelman

Welcome to the Monkey House – Kurt Vonnegut

The Snapper – Roddy Doyle

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Berniere

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

Full series by Janet Evanovich (this one should have been full of win because she’s a fave author yet 4 years later they still have a ribbon wrapped around them)

A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce (I mean, seriously! I couldn’t get past the title page)

and many many more.

I’m a Libra – let’s aim for some balance in this blog post!

Christmas books from previous years that did hit the mark:

Lake Woebegone Days by Garrison Keillor

Perfect English by Ros Byam Shaw

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris

Twitterature by Aciman and Resin

Neither of these lists are exhaustive as I have received many more books than I can be bothered to remember. The books on the first list must have many wonderful qualities  for them to have inspired many a reader to buy and many a bookseller/librarian to recommend them but sadly they were not able to interest me at all. I cannot pinpoint why some books grab me from the first page yet others with similar elements just leave me cold. And certainly, if I can’t put my finger on this elusive quality it would be near impossible for someone else to guarantee I will like their selection. This year, I have been especially lucky. I only received two books and both books were hits. I received Things Bogans Like and a 4-novels-in-one Mills and Boon Summer Special collection.

Reading choices are very personal and subjective. There are so many aspects to selecting a book starting from aesthetically pleasing elements such as great cover art, beautiful paper stock, well designed layout and a well chosen font. Once we overcome the form over function aspect of book selection we start looking at the content. From well written prose, dialogue intense, character driven, settings, genres, time periods, sex, no sex, gruesome murder, cozy mysteries, steampunk, graphic novels, romances, tragic love stories, epic poetry, adventure, pirate books, fantasy, unicorns, faeries, trolls, travel, war, monarchies, geishas, revolutions, classic literature and the list does go on and on and on and on….. Enter the quagmire of book selection for other at your risk!

I appreciate the sentiment behind the book as a gift but unless it is a surefire win (ie, I have told you that I want a specific title) and you really insist on buying me books, opt for the gift that doubles in giving by purchasing me a bookshop gift card instead. I don’t think that this is impersonal – it is highly practical and more likely to not end up at my kids’ school fete’s book stall next year.

I do wonder though, for all the lovely book gifts, how many givers of books didn’t really stay up all night wrapping gifts (it did come in a gift box, after all) but were up furiously reading, making sure they didn’t break the spine and finishing that wonderful book that they would have loved for someone to have bought them instead.