While some bemoan the effect of the Internet on reading, I’m among those who celebrate it. Since the advent of the Internet, I’ve discovered many writers and books that I simply never would encounter otherwise, many of which are no longer on the shelves of our libraries.
Premier among those invaluable sources for me is the free audiobook library, LibriVox. That’s where I found Zona Gale’s Christmas: A Story, now second only to A Christmas Carol in my holiday rituals. You can find audio versions on LibriVox and Hoopla, and an ebook on Project Gutenberg, but not, so far as I can find, in any public library in California.
Another writer I discovered on LibriVox is Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835 –1915). Braddon published 80 books, many in the sensation genre that Little Women‘s Jo March published anonymously in the Weekly Volcano. Braddon wrote her own version of Madame Bovary — The Doctor’s Wife — which includes a satire on her own profession of sensation novelist and a much more satisfying plot line than Gustav Flaubert’s.
There’s no sensationalism in Braddon’s The Christmas Hirelings, and you will likely guess the plot in the first few chapters. But it’s a story that’s pleasing to all ages.
Facing the dispiriting prospect of another dull Christmas, Sir John Kenyon and his aging relatives decide to hire some children to enliven the Kenyon hearth for the holidays. Children are hired and lead to the reconciliation of a broken family.
You can find it at Amazon, LibriVox and a Project Gutenberg ebook, but, again, not in any California public library.
There are several versions of the folktale about how spiders brought the gift of tinsel to our Christmas trees.
In The Spider’s Gift, children’s author Eric Kimmel retells the Ukrainian version of the story. A widow and her children are looking at a sad Christmas Day because they’re so poor they can’t afford even to decorate the Christmas tree. The spiders hear the children crying and decide to decorate the Christmas tree themselves with beautifully patterned webs.
Kimmel is also the author of Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins, telling the Jewish folktale of Herschel of Ostrapol who, over the eight nights of Hanukkah, cleverly defeated goblins that haunted the town synagogue. Herschel is a legendary trickster, in the pedigree of Africa’s Anansi the Spider, Scandinavia’s Loki, the Native Americans’ Coyote, the African Americans’ Br’er Rabbit and Germany’s Till Eulenspiegel.
Both books are available at the Santa Clara City Library.
Christmas 1941 came little more than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and while Americans celebrated Christmas as usual, the shadow of war was already over them.
In Pearl Harbor Christmas, historian Stanley Weintraub captures the days between Pearl Harbor and New Year’s 1942 when President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill lit the White House Christmas Tree and mapped out the strategy that would lead to victory in World War II.
You can find it at the Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, San Mateo and San Francisco libraries, as well as an audiobook on Libby.
And now for something entirely different, as Monty Python would say: In 2010, Bay Area biosciences company ATUM published a parody research paper on the Carolome: Functional Imprints of Culture Memes in the Global Genome from the team of Santa Claes, Feliz Navidad2, 10 N. Baum, et. al. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, North Pole.
“We here have made a concerted effort to systematically identify all Christmas carols deposited in the sequence data. We here name this field of research Carolomics. The most abundant entry in the Carolome is ‘Deck the Halls’…The second most prevalent carol in the Carolome is ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ found in 17 genomes including that of the wine grape suggesting a genetic link between mulled wine…and Christmas celebration.”
Note for readers: In the age of ebooks, having multiple public library cards makes a lot of sense because of different digital collections. I have cards for the Santa Clara city, Santa Clara county, San Jose and San Francisco libraries.