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Omaha Public Library: Our favorite classic and nontraditional holiday reads

December 16, 2018

Omaha Public Library wants to help readers find new books — or at least books new to them. Every month in this space, library employees will recommend reading based on different writing genres, themes or styles. Just in time for the holidays, Omaha Public Library staff has suggested some of their favorite seasonal reads, and they are not necessarily your traditional yuletide tales. Find these books and more at your local branch or omahalibrary.org.

Danielle Dyer, library aide at W. Clarke Swanson Branch

“Spinning Silver,” by Naomi Novik. This is a well-written fantasy set primarily during winter, with pivotal moments happening during a Hanukkah celebration. It’s a fun addition to a holiday reading list.

Evonne Edgington, manager at Millard Branch

“An Irish Country Christmas,” by Patrick Taylor. This is part of heartwarming series about doctors in the small village of Ballybucklebo, Ireland, in the 1960s. The characters are lovable and funny.

Russ Harper, library specialist at W. Clarke Swanson Branch

“A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, audiobook read by Jonathan Winters. Sometimes familiar stories, well told, are favorites for many during the holidays. This particular audio version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a bravura performance by actor and comedian Jonathan Winters. Winters’ talent at impressions, as well as his vocal agility, allow him to voice every one of the large cast of characters convincingly, and his Ebenezer Scrooge should be a standard by which others are compared.

Lois Imig, manager at Florence Branch

“The Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I,” by Hazel Gaynor. This is a thought-provoking story written in letters, using World War I as a backdrop. As her brother Will and his best friend Thomas leave to serve on the front, Evie is left at home writing letters to them and her best friend Alice, who serves as a nurse and ambulance driver. In the letters, they discuss meeting in Paris at Christmas after this “short” war is over. As the war lingers for years, their letters continue through hardships, heartbreak and love. If you enjoyed reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” you may want to read this book during the holiday season.

Theresa Jehlik, Omaha Public Library strategy and business intelligence manager

“Midcentury Christmas: Holiday Fads, Fancies, and Fun from 1945 to 1970,” by Sarah Archer. This book is a trip down memory lane for the baby-boomer generation. Was your family up-to-date with an aluminum Christmas tree and a color wheel light? Were your Christmas cards and gifts influenced by space-age technology? Did you and your siblings fight over an Etch-a-Sketch, Easy-Bake Oven, Barbie Dream House or Silly Putty? This book is a great resource for those wanting to capture memories and oral history from parents or grandparents.

“The Christmas Turkey Disaster,” by John R. Erickson. Hank (it isn’t my fault) the Cowdog and Head of Ranch Security is dreaming of holiday food other than Coop Dog Food. Hank finds himself in very hot water when the grocery store turkey disappears from the back seat of Sally May’s car and the wild turkey hunt isn’t a success. Only when fate intervenes does Hank get a true Christmas present. The audio version has lots of sound effects, which only add to the fun.

“A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic,” by Caseen Gaines. This lavishly illustrated book is a nice gift for the “A Christmas Story” fan in your life. Although the house featured in the movie is in Cleveland, Ohio, most of the movie was shot in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada. The author, a self-described super fan, has made the pilgrimage to various locations in the film and sought out locals who still remember the movie shoot in the early 1980s. The book also describes the rise of the movie’s merchandising that still continues today.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, Omaha Public Library senior manager of operations

“Seven Days of Us,” by Francesca Hornak. The Birch family leads very separate lives, but that changes one snowy Christmas when they are quarantined for one week in their aging country home in rural England. As secrets come out and tensions rise to the surface, they have an opportunity to rediscover each other and what makes them a family.

Katy Lofgren, youth services librarian at Saddlebrook Branch

“The Polar Express,” by Chris Van Allsburg. This is one of my family’s absolute favorite holiday books. The illustrations are beautiful, and it can be discussed on many levels with children of all ages. At its core is whether or not you believe in Santa, but it also addresses why some kids believe without seeing, while other kids need to see to believe; how to deal with disappointment; and that, above all else, believing in what you know to be true.

Deirdre Routt, Omaha Public Library collection development manager

“A Lot Like Christmas,” by Connie Willis. We are often rushed at this time of year, so it may be hard to read a novel, and a short story collection is welcome. These stories embody the spirit of the season, from the religious to secular, usually with humor and often with a twist. Willis loves Christmas and includes lists of recommended holiday books and movies (she is not a fan of “It’s A Wonderful Life”). If you are feeling a bit jaded about the season, a story or two may help get you in the holiday mood.

Lynn Sullivan, library specialist at W. Dale Clark Main Library

“Journey into Christmas and Other Stories,” by Bess Streeter Aldrich. The author somehow captures the poignant beauty of Midwest winter weather and the joy of the holidays. The short stories are a great read-aloud activity for families.

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