Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
Sometimes, it seems like Christmas starts to creep into the American psyche right after the fourth of July. Slowly, the stores start to fill up with stockings and wreaths, the malls start to play that over-familiar holiday music, and gigantic cans of pumpkin and cranberry sauce start to take over the shelves at Sam’s Club. If you’re like me, by about November 1, you’ve already got Christmas burnout.
This is where the works of Christopher Moore come in. Moore reminds us that Christmas is not all fruitcakes and Hallmark Channel movies. But rather than reveling in holiday heartburn, Moore makes Christmas—and religion—funny.
Take The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror. A young boy thinks he sees Santa getting brained by a shovel. He is horrified that Santa has just been murdered and is scared that Christmas will be ruined. So he prays for a miracle: that God will bring Santa back from the dead. An angel overhears the boy’s pleas and decides, in the spirit of Christmas, to grant the boy’s wish. Unfortunately, the not-so-bright angel botches the execution.
Moore manages to seamlessly blend two genres: sugar-coated Christmas stories and Halloween-esque horror. He does this all with a dry, witty sense of humor that adds necessary levity to this over-the-top satire. Is it realistic? Absolutely not. But when the story ends, you’ll find that it’s much more satisfying than your average holiday fare.
If you’re seeking something a little more spiritual this Christmas, look no further than Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. This book resurrects Jesus’ childhood best friend to fill in the missing gaps of the Bible: mainly, Jesus’ adolescence and young adulthood. It’s just as funny—if not more—than The Stupidest Angel, yet the heartfelt emotion infused into the story as it rushes toward its inevitable outcome make it a stronger and more substantial book. This is not so much a satire as a tragedy with humorous elements, a book about a best friend fighting against destiny. Philosophically, this book covers much of the same turf as Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ. But unlike Temptation, this book is actually good.
Moore approaches religion with a healthy dose of humor, but never irreverence. Somehow, he manages to walk the fine line of poking fun at religion without ever being disrespectful of it. But be warned: this is not a book for religious purists or Biblical literalists. But for me—an agnostic who hasn’t even set foot in a church since 1993—this was one of the most poignant stories I had read in a long time because it depicted Jesus as a person, rather than just a religious figure.
Moore’s got several other satirical novels in his catalog that are also worth checking out. But as you struggle until December 25 not to stick candy canes into your eyes, these books might just do the trick.
Selected Book Releases, December 22-January 5
It’s New Year’s Resolution time, and—no surprise—self-help books dominate the shelves for the next few weeks. So this week, I’ve decided to keep a tally on the various types of self-help books out, just to see where consumers are sinking their resolution dollars.
Joy's L.I.F.E Diet by Joy Bauer—One notch for the diet books.
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman—Young adult fantasy book about a girl who dresses as a boy in order to become a Dragoneye.
There's No Traffic on the Extra Mile: Lessons on the Road from Dreams to Destiny by Rickey Minor—One notch for motivational platitudes.
Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun—Novel about a twelve-year-old Korean-American runaway in the 1980s.
Fire and Ice by Julie Garwood—“Contemporary romantic suspense” about a reporter investigating the murder of a runner.
Best Life Diet Cookbook by Bob Greene—Second notch for the diet books.
Get Over Yourself: How to Get Real, Get Serious and Get Ready to Find True Love by Patti Novack and Laura Zigman—One notch for the desperately-seeking-love books.
Motley Fool Million Dollar Portfolio by David Gardner and Tom Gardner—One notch for the financial well-being books.
People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It!: The 10 Ways You Are Sabotaging Yourself and How You Can Overcome Them by Larry Winget—A subgenre of the motivational platitudes self-help books, this book is motivational platitudes by way of belittlement. Still, just for simplicity’s sake…second notch for motivational platitudes.
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough—Why authors keep feeling the need to revisit Austen’s universe is beyond me. This time, the author of The Thorn Birds explore Austen’s least-developed Bennet sister, Mary.
The New Codependency by Melody Beattie—One notch for the improving your personal relationships books.
The Messenger by Jan Burke—This romantic paranormal thriller wins the cross-genre book of the week award. Still, it sounds interesting: a dying soldier receives the gift of immortality, but in exchange he must forever comfort the dying. .
Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent—Part immersion reporting, part memoir, this book follows the author through her experiences with voluntary commitment in several mental hospitals.
The Four-Day Diet by Ian K. Smith, M.D.—Third notch for the diet books.
The Big Idea: How to Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True, from the Aha Moment to Your First Million by Donny Deutsch and Catherine Whitney—Second notch for the financial well-being books, combined with a dash of the make-your-dreams-come-true genre. (Seems a little ill-timed, if you ask me.)
Black Ops by W.E.B. Griffin—Thriller about a government operative assigned to track down the terrorist who murdered a US diplomat in Buenos Aires.
Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell—When bones are discovered on the family property of Oren Hobbs, he travels back to his hometown to solve the murder.
How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People (While They Are Still on This Earth) by Henry Alford—Alford interviews several elderly people to compile their rich, compelling stories for this book.
Final verdict: Three diet books, two financial well-being books, and a smattering of other things. The moral of the story? Even as the economy collapses around us, Americans still want to lose weight in the new year.
The Book Nook will be taking a breather next week while I go out of town for the holidays. See you next year!