The Ninth Day of Christmas Books

I grew up with what a Christmas Annual on the coffee table in our living room. There would be on at my grandmother’s house as well, and in the homes of Norwegian Americans throughout North America. They were first published at the beginning of the 20th century in Norwegian: Jul i Westerheimen (Christmas in Western Homes).  The North American immigrants were often referred as in the “Western Homes.” (The Norwegian-American museum in Decorah, Iowa is called “Westerheim.”) The annuals were  a way to share the riches of the season and to remember the celebrations of Norway. The books had music, poetry, art, and literature. I remember how much fun it was to look through them and see so many beautiful things. They were marvelously done large (12 x 16 inches) books.   It was a good tradition that might be worth resurrecting to show the diversity of today’s world. The one on the left is 1917, the other 1946,

The Eighth Day of Christmas Books

On April 9, 1945, the young German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazis for his part in a plot against Hitler’s life. It was just a few days before the end of the war. He had been imprisoned since 1943. Even before his imprisonment Bonhoeffer had already made a significant difference in the life of German Christians in the anti-Nazi Confessing Church. Far from silencing him, his time in prison deepened and enriched his faith and relationships, and so gave us all a gift of understanding who God might be for the modern world. The book The Mystery of Holy Night is a Christmas sermon about the incarnation that draws us into that gift. Bonhoeffer writes: “With God dwells joy, and down from God it comes, seizing mind, soul, and body; and where this joy has grasped a human being, it spreads, it carries away, it bursts through closed doors.”

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The Seventh Day of Christmas Books

And even more mystery! The British Library has been publishing crime and mystery novels from the 20th century that had gone out of print. They are all quite wonderful and I commend the whole series to you. One is titled Mystery in WhiteA Christmas Crime Story by J. Jefferon Farjeon. It’s a story not unlike Murder on the Orient Express. (If you have not seen the excellent new Kenneth Branagh movie on Agatha Christie’s great novel, be sure and do so soon!) In Mystery in White, a heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near a small village, and the passengers all find shelter in a deserted country house, and it all plays out from there.

Although not well known today, Jefferson Farjeon’s work was highly regarded in his day. Dorothy L. Sayers wrote that he was “quite unsurpassed for creepy skill in mysterious adventures.” A lovely Advent/Christmas connection here is that he was the brother of Eleanor Farjeon who wrote the text for the Advent hymn People Look East. She also wrote the much more famous Morning Has Broken. You can learn more about the Farjeons on Eleanor’s Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_Farjeon

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The Sixth Day of Christmas Books

It seems that every reader – and perhaps every author – likes to read about and write about Christmas. Besides P.D. James (see above),  the French writer Georges Simenon has written short stories about Christmas featuring his Inspector Maigret. In a volume of nine stories, Maigret makes his way through Paris in the midst of the Christmas season and discovers crime, passion, and murder along the way. Add this one to your Christmas mystery list! Maigret’s Christmas by Georges Simenon.

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The Fifth Day of Christmas Books

Christmas is often referred to as the mystery of the Incarnation, so it seems appropriate to keep up the mystery theme. A wonderful Advent book is The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. The Norwegian author is most famous for his 1994 book, Sophie’s World, a fantasy adventure that teaches the history of Western philosophy. In The Christmas Mystery a child named Joachim disovers a magical Advent Calendar in his attic and meets Elisabet who is the guide for each day of Advent. Gaarder does a wonderful job of weaving contemporary thinking and history with the whole Advent/Christmas narrative. I especially enjoy the way Joachim’s parents slowly become hooked into the whole thing.

The Christmas Mystery

The Fourth Day of Christmas Books

The superb mystery author P. D. James was often asked to write a short story or novella that was published at Christmas and other times in various magazines and collections. The Mistletor Murder and Other Stories, published after her death in 2014, was the first collection of four of these stories to appear in book form. It is a delightful grouping, with all the plotting skill, humor, and exceptional writing that marked her career. There is nothing like a good murder mystery at Christmas time, and here are four great ones!


                            THE MISTLETOE MURDER by P.D. James