Back in August of this year, I compiled some of the different types of book readers we all represent—or know of—in our daily reading lives, as inspired by a post over at The New Yorker in which writer Mark O'Connell called himself "a promiscuous reader." He meant that he found himself all too easily beginning one book, only to become distracted by another, and so on, and so on. But that's clearly not the only way to confront a book or books, and so we named others: The Book-Buster, the Chronological Reader, the Hate Reader, the Multi-Tasker, and others. And still others from that: Are you a Book Snob? A Book Swagger? An Audiophile?
The holidays change the ways we read books, and therefore, present still more types of readers. Suddenly, you're home with the family, or just in celebratory spirits, or on vacation, and things are different. Do you find yourself reading aloud, suddenly, to youthful kin? Do you hide away in your room with a book when confronted by the reality of just a wee bit too much family time? Do you choose warm and fuzzy holiday reads? Or do you prefer stories of family dysfunction that seem to make you feel a little bit better about your own scenario?
We've compiled a festive list of various holiday reading styles for your seasonal enjoyment, with book suggestions for each. If we missed you, please tell us what brand of holiday reading you ascribe to ... and happy reading, of course.
The Comfort Reader/The Nostalgia Reader. Often these are one and the same, but not always. The Comfort Reader enjoys comforting tales about comforting things. No thrillers, no suspense novels, not even the faintest hint of a mystery, unless it's a good old cozy English one with plenty of tea and a tidy resolution. Of course, what brings comfort on a page is a matter of opinion, but in the strictest definition of the type, the Comfort Reader reads pleasant things, and feels good about doing exactly that. Now, these comfort reads may be things the reader read as a child, which adds an additional dose of comfort—and that person, then, is the Nostalgia Reader. If you read harrowing things, like Goosebumps books or Christopher Pike novels, in your childhood, those are not comfort reads, even if you're returning to them now with great nostalgia in your childhood bedroom at the age of 30, no judgment! They are simply nostalgia reads. Some Comfort/Nostalgia Reads that are both: The Betsy-Tacy books (never was a family more lovely and comforting!); The Princess Bride (a sick kid being read to by his grandfather as a frame story is the ultimate in comfort, plus, even when things get tense, the magic and humor in the plot keep things from being TOO uncomfortable); Betty Smith's Joy in the Morning; Jim Herriot's Dog Stories (my personal favorite that I re-read every time I go home; a vet in Yorkshire does good deeds for animals!). For Comfort sans Nostalgia, get yourself a nice British mystery (or any of the previous, presuming you haven't read them yet) and settle in by the fire.
The Y.A. Reader. You're focused on a category, and a category alone. This means you're going to want to read either brand-new Y.A., the Y.A. that we talked about this year and you haven't gotten to yet, or perhaps old Y.A. that you used to love and still do (this means you're also a Nostalgic Reader). May we suggest these? For pure nostalgia with some holiday scenes (at least in parts), try The Adrian Mole Diaries, Harry Potter (those early ones are nostalgia-inducing by now, right?), and how about The Baby-Sitters Club: Secret Santa? Any of the Little House on the Prairie books, especially The Long Winter. Oh, and Little Women! Definitely Little Women. Little Men is great too, and oft-overlooked. And more recently, John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle's Let It Snow.
The Technophile. You only read on your e-reader, so the digital world is your oyster. You probably fall into one of the other categories, however, so choose in alignment with that.
The Schadenfreude Reader. Look, we all love our families, of course we do, but sometimes we can't help thinking that the way we behave when we all get together is a little bit ... unruly. The arguments, the "intense conversations," the bickering, the jokes. It can be a bit much, sometimes, and start one wondering if perhaps his or her family is not more annoying than anyone else's. If you feel that way, and turn to books to remind you otherwise, you're a Schadenfreude Reader. Suggestions for you include Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Michael Chabon's The Wonder Boys (the dysfunctional friends we choose over family), writing from David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, and Jami Attenberg's The Middlesteins, to name a few. For proven good times, read about those families who are more dysfunctional than your own!
The Literalist. During the rest of the year your tastes are varied and wide as the oceans, or perhaps extremely specific, but at holiday time you read holiday books. (You probably also listen to holiday music, but that's not what this post is about). So, choose stories new and old about the holidays, whichever holiday it is that you celebrate: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore, is of course a classic. Dream Snow, by the author of The Hungry Caterpillar, is perfect if you're also an Entertainer Reader (reading to your nieces and nephews, maybe?). Also, for kids and adults, The Grinch; The Nightmare Before Christmas; Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy; The Polar Express; Eloise; A Christmas Carol; Rudolph ... the list goes on and on. And on. Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory?
Conversational Reads. You need to read something you can talk about with the family members around your holiday dinner table. Suggestions: Nothing too controversial. Biographies. Newsy books, like Paula Broadwell's All In, so you can say what you really think of it. Books about the Kennedys, to appeal to a range of generations. Some of the best nonfiction books of the year, maybe? Or Zooborns, the Next Generation, perhaps: A book the whole family can enjoy!
The Sleepy Reader. You are so very tired after a huge turkey dinner (curses, tryptophan!) and you don't really want to talk, there is so much talking, so you just put a book in front of your face and that keeps anyone from interrupting you, if they are not my family. Related: The "Only Pretending to Read" Reader, who doesn't actually fall asleep while doing this but instead hides a phone or iPad in one's book so one can read the latest headlines, tweet, text, or email. Suggestions: Choose based on size and heft. You don't want something that's going to hurt your face when you fall asleep; you want something large enough to hide an iPhone or other tech device. The paperback edition of Anna Karenina is both too heavy and too small, as an example.
The Book Stockpiler. You haven't had a moment to read all year, really, but you've bought books the whole time nonetheless, and you're going to bring them with you to wherever you'll be celebrating the holidays. Depending on your reading needs, you may have as many as a suitcase-full, as few as one. When you arrive at your destination take them out and set them next to your bed and carry at least one in your totebag and read as much as you can! Time is brief, maybe, but you'll make the most of it. Suggestions: What did you buy early in the year that you still haven't read yet? For me that's Amor Towles' The Rules of Civility and All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren, to name just a couple.
The Gifted Reader. This doesn't mean that you're "gifted" per se, but only that you got books for holiday gifts (maybe you gave them too, in hopes of inspiring "conversations"). And you're going to take advantage of the season to read those books while you have time to do so. Whatever you read will be dependent on what you got, so in this case, make a list ahead of time or hope for the best. Need a list of books to ask for? Check here!
The Lucky One on a Beach Vacation. You know who you are and you should avoid rubbing it in, for it's that time of the year when we're all supposed to be nice to one another. But if you're going to Fiji or Bora Bora or Hawaii or Florida, you're probably going to be able to sit outside in the sun, perhaps even on the sand, and watch the blue ocean waves ebb and flow, and you'll be ever so relaxed with your lovely daiquiri and your book. What will you be reading? The latest in most popular literature, of course! Gone Girl, or Beautiful Ruins, or Behind the Beautiful Forevers, or perhaps Bring Up the Bodies. You're going to read whatever the talked-about book of the year is, because finally you have time to concentrate on them in peace and, boy, are we jealous. If you want these books to be beach reads, too, confer with our guide here.
The Book Industry Professional. You're reading advance copies of books to be published anytime between next month and the end of next year, so you don't need any suggestions from us. Keep calm and carry on, friends.