Holiday Gems

One of the joys of the holiday is settling down

after all the energetic activities

to read inspired holiday fiction.


You are no doubt familiar with some of the well-known holiday books and short stories…

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…     The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson…

Eugene Field’s The First Christmas Tree…          O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi…

A Visit from St. Nicholas   (‘Twas the night before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore…

And, of course, the sacred Bible accounts of the first Christmas.


Well, here are some gems that I’ve recently discovered.

They are not as well known, perhaps, but are some of the most beautiful holiday stories I’ve read!

Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck

A farm boy works so hard, only to see disappointment in his father’s eyes, until one Christmas he overhears his parents’ conversation and learns what Dad really thinks of him.


My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell

A true story of the lowest point of her life


A Christmas Inspiration” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fun-loving young women living together in a boarding house take notice of one of their quirky, quiet neighbors.


A Gift from the Heart” by Norman Vincent Peale

The true story of a young Swiss girl employed by a wealthy American family and her Christmas surprise.


The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)

A collection of letters the author wrote from 1920 to 1943 to his children “from Father Christmas”.


and, my VERY favorite,

The Man at the Gate of the World by W.E. Cule

The Magi Caspar’s quest to find the Saviour of the World, and his obedience to the call to stand at the Gate of the World—in the city of Damascus—and wash the feet of weary travelers.

Most of these I found during the past few weeks of reading these two books:

A Classic Christmas, and The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories.


For more selections

Here is American Literature’s beautiful collection of Christmas Stories, and

(I can’t resist!) Linus’s version of the first Christmas.


Wishing you many peaceful, happy hours of reading, and



Book review of The Bedside Book of the Art of Living

How could anyone resist this little book with such an intriguing and comforting title?  This is one of those gems that I looked forward to reading each day, and it was responsible for much sleep deprivation, since I couldn’t stop reading the narratives until I found out what would happen at the end.

 Book cvrs 014 title page

This is a collection of inspirational articles that originally appeared in Reader’s Digest magazine, and were compiled and published as a book in 1959.  Most of these are short vignettes or biographies about ordinary people who—through their tenacity, hard work, creative solutions, compassion—became extraordinary.  I can’t resist hearing about people’s lives, and I find hearing others’ stories to be the gentlest way possible to change my own character for the better.  How fortunate that books like this still circulate fifty years later!

The authors of the articles include Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Dorothy Kilgallen (remember the TV show “What’s My Line?”), Helen Keller, Norman Vincent Peale, Pearl S. Buck and five articles by Fulton Oursler.  They are filled with a variety of people, places, hardships, misery, joys, sadness and transformation.  Some of the lifestyles and perspectives are so different from today, and so refreshingly simple and helpful.

The titles show the broad range of topics: “I Owe My Career to Losing a Leg”, “The Child who Never Grew”, “A Formula for Presence of Mind”, “Rebirth of an American Farm”, “Forget It!”, “What the Sioux Taught Me”, “Billie Miskie’s Last Fight”.

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Here are some notes from my favorites:

From “Your Second Job”: “No matter how busy one is, any human being can assert his personality by seizing every opportunity for spiritual activity.  How?  By his second job, by means of personal action, on however small a scale, for the good of his fellow men.  He will not have to look very far for opportunities.”  The author, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, relates two examples, the first about an elderly man traveling by train to an unfamiliar city to visit his dying son; the second about a WW I cab driver declared too old for military service but wanting to serve somehow.  Through the compassion of a stranger, and through ingenuity and will, both men were successful.

Helen Keller, blind from birth, tells what she would do if she was granted three days to see.  Five articles are taken from the regular Reader’s Digest magazine column, “The Most Unforgettable Character I’ve Met”, and tell of men and women who are unusually determined, courageous and generous.

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One long narrative, “When Are You Going to Turn Respectable?”, relates the experience of a man who had studied for several years at Harvard University.  But he ran out of money and had to get a job in a hurry, so in order to eat, he left behind his white collar lifestyle and took a job as a sweeper in a steel company.  By the end of the article he is explaining why he recommends that sort of work, as dirty and dangerous as it is, and says, “I’m more respectable now than I ever was.”

You can find The Bedside Book of the Art of Living at online booksellers.

Although I have little room on my bookshelves, and usually get rid of the books I’ve read to make room for more, I am squeezing this one back onto the shelf.  It’s a keeper, and a reference book I can return to as an antidote to change any kind of gloomy attitude to one of gratitude.

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