In Iceland, the tradition of Jólabókaflóðið/jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” is a wonderful ritual of cuddling up to read books gifted to one another on Christmas Eve. It is prominent enough that the publishing cycle revs up in the months preceding the holiday season, so plenty of new reads will be on the shelves ready for gifting and to recommend to family and friends.
Thursday, December 21 is Winter Solstice, which marks the longest night of the year. There is something about the long dark hours marking the beginning of winter that compels us, even in “sunny Southern California,” to snuggle in and spend some time with the easy comfort of a good book to crack open, some music to satisfy the soul, or perhaps a movie classic on the smaller screen.
What better way to celebrate the onset of winter and the coming holidays than to curl up with your fuzziest slippers, coziest blanket, a cuppa to warm your soul, and something to read, watch or listen to for passing the dark evening hours?
When I want a cozy night in, I’ve got a sure fire plan to get those warm, fuzzy feelings going.
I make sure to put on my fuzziest socks, bring a comfy blanket over to the couch, and light a candle (right now it’s pecan praline scented!). Next I make a cup of cocoa, which I like to spice up by using a mug of brewed tea for the liquid to give it different flavor accents. To go with my cocoa, I make some toast, with lots of salty melted butter. If I want to be REALLY decadent, I drizzle some honey on top of the buttered toast. Treats in hand, I settle in, blanket wrapped around me as my cats battle to declare themselves “king of the hill” of my lap. The lights get turned off, and I put on the 2005 Pride & Prejudice movie. Though I’ve seen it plenty of times, and read the book even more than that, I still get so giddy and happy to see such sweet moments between family, and of course the budding love between the two main characters Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. The movie also has beautiful art direction, and great acting, and lets you fully immerse yourself in another world, if only for a couple of hours. There’s just something about the combo of a sweet warm drink in your hands and watching something that warms your heart, while a cat warms your lap.
I can’t share my cats with you, but I can share my “recipe” for my hot cocoas:
- Instant cocoa
- A bag of tea (I suggest mint, vanilla, cherry, or orange)
- First, boil some water, and when hot, pour it into your mug over your bag of tea. Wait a couple of minutes for the tea to brew.
- Once the tea is made, take out your tea bag, and empty a packet of instant cocoa into the mug with the tea. Stir until it’s fully incorporated.
That’s it! Easy as that. Mint tea will give you a mint chocolate combo; cherry will taste a bit like cordial cherries; orange will be like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Play around with your combinations, and even try adding things like cinnamon to your concoction.
84 Charing Cross Road [DVD]
A New York writer (Anne Bancroft) with a passion for literature writes to a London bookstore in search of rare classics. A good-natured, reserved Englishman (Anthony Hopkins) answers her request, beginning a relationship that spans two continents and two decades. Adapted from Helene Hanff’s memoir of the same title (84, Charing Cross Road). A lovely story, told mostly in letters back and forth, about books, and life, and love.
Cassandra in Reverse by Holly Smale
(Also available in audiobook form from hoopla with your PPL library card)
If you had the power to change the past…where would you start?
Cassandra Penelope Dankworth is a creature of habit. She likes what she likes (museums, jumpsuits, her boyfriend, Will) and strongly dislikes what she doesn’t (mess, change, her boss drinking out of her mug). Her life runs in a pleasing, predictable order…until now.
She’s just been dumped. She’s just been fired. Her local café has run out of banana muffins.
Then, something truly unexpected happens: Cassie discovers she can go back and change the past. One small rewind at a time, Cassie attempts to fix the life she accidentally obliterated, but soon she’ll discover she’s trying to fix all the wrong things.
(Streaming music available from hoopla with your library card)
The bright warmth of “Linus and Lucy,” or the cool melancholy of “O Tannenbaum” and “Christmastime is Here” are some well-known pieces by Guaraldi, along with much more of his wonderful music…if tunes are part of your settling in, this is a great choice to listen to. Fantasy Records salutes the famed pianist, who, despite gold records and global acclaim as a renowned jazz artist, will always be best known for his cheerful, uplifting work with Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Although he passed away at the young age of 47 in 1976, Vince Guaraldi will always live on in the minds and hearts of jazz and music fans of all ages; and this is the ideal salute to this very deserving artist.
The Echo of Old Books by Barbara Davis
Rare-book dealer Ashlyn Greer’s affinity for books extends beyond the intoxicating scent of old paper, ink, and leather. She can feel the echoes of the books’ previous owners–an emotional fingerprint only she can read. When Ashlyn discovers a pair of beautifully bound volumes that appear to have never been published, her gift quickly becomes an obsession. Not only is each inscribed with a startling incrimination, but the authors, Hemi and Belle, tell conflicting sides of a tragic romance.
With no trace of how these mysterious books came into the world, Ashlyn is caught up in a decades-old literary mystery, beckoned by two hearts in ruins, whoever they were, wherever they are. Determined to learn the truth behind the doomed lovers’ tale, she reads on, following a trail of broken promises and seemingly unforgivable betrayals. The more Ashlyn learns about Hemi and Belle, the nearer she comes to bringing closure to their love story–and to the unfinished chapters of her own life.
Fateful Words (Scottish Bookshop Mystery #8) by Paige Shelton
How about a cozy mystery? In the eighth Scottish Bookshop Mystery from beloved author Paige Shelton, bookseller Delaney Nichols stakes her reputation–and her life–when a literary tour turns deadly… When Edwin, Delaney’s boss at the Cracked Spine bookstore, leaves town on secret business, Delaney is called upon to guide his yearly literary tour around Edinburgh. But on the first night of the tour, at the inn where the tour group is staying, the inn manager falls–or is pushed–off the roof of the inn, and killed. Then, one of the tour members disappears, leaving a trail of puzzles in her wake. In a race against the clock, Delaney sets out on the expedition of her life, following clues around Edinburgh to get to the bottom of this mystery. Exploring sights from Greyfriars Bobby to the Royal Mile to the Sir Walter Scott Monument, she’ll have to put the pieces together quickly, or the bookstore’s survival could be on the line… as well as her own.
The Good Part by Sophie Cousens
Lucy Young is twenty-six and tired. Tired of fetching coffees for senior TV producers, sick of going on disastrous dates, and done with living in a damp flat with roommates who never buy toilet roll. After another disappointing date, Lucy stumbles upon a wishing machine. Pushing a coin into the slot, Lucy closes her eyes and wishes with all her might: Please, let me skip to the good part of my life. When she wakes the next morning to a handsome man, a ring on her finger, a high-powered job, and two storybook-perfect children, Lucy can’t believe this is real –especially when she looks in the mirror, and staring back is her own forty-something face. Has she really skipped ahead like she’s always wanted, or has she simply forgotten a huge chunk of her life? As Lucy begins to embrace new relationships and the perks of maturity, she’ll have to ask herself: Can she go back, and if so, does she want to?
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.
The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession–a rare edition of Poe poems–has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, instead of offering solace, are yet another reminder of a world that is changing too rapidly. Until a most unexpected occurrence gives him the chance to make his life over and see things anew.
Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books–an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.
However you spend the longest night and the days to come, we thank you for your support and wish you a healthy, happy holiday and a bright 2024. Thank you for reading with us. Cheers!