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Discussion > Off TopicDec 26, 2023 8:00 am CT

What have you been reading during the holidays?

After an exhausting change of households earlier in the month — who knew so many boxes of books and board games could exist in a world with so many stairs to carry them up? — I’ve a precious opportunity for a few days of uninterrupted holiday time to recharge and do a little reading.

The Feast of Winter Veil in World of Warcraft is far from the only dose of magic I’ve been finding in the holiday season. Growing up, listening to Andy Williams singing “There’ll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago” in an otherwise glitzy, uptempo 60s holiday standard, I have become enamored of the weird and fantastic elements lurking behind the cheerful facade of the season. Scratch the surface — beneath all the tinsel and commercialized piety and Hallmark movie schmaltz — and you’ll still find time-lost traces of the heady, pagan wildness of the Lords of Misrule in the holidays.

So, this year, I’m taking Williams at his word and am dipping into the ghost stories of M. R. James, whose “Ghost Stories of an Antiquary” grew out of his Christmastime yarns at King’s College, Cambridge. I’m approaching “‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad'” and “The Mezzotint” with a certain amount of anticipation inspired by thoughtful reviews.

Following the breadcrumbs from holiday ghost stories to other marvelous fare has lead me to “The Box of Delights” by John Masefield, a magic-filled, Christmas-time adventure starting at a British rail station, a setting which automatically ticks all the applicable boxes for lovers of a certain strain of the fantastic. I’ve just begun reading it and have high hopes for the experience.

These glimpses of midnight, ghostly worlds will be juxtaposed with a little bit of cozy, ordinary magic with a quick visit to the warmth of “The Complete Brambly Hedge,” which I’ll not even pretend I’m reading for the sake of my niece and nephew. Also on my holiday list is a re-read of “The Lord of the Rings,” which seems appropriate as the cold and dark days slowly begin their incremental turn toward sunlight again. It’s been quite a while since I journeyed to Middle Earth and am looking forward to seeing how the story has changed for me since the last visit.

But, how about you? What are you reading during the holidays? Are you enjoying some spooky fun or tucking into other genres? Let us know in the comments!

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