'Tis the time of year when the marketplace is overrun with seasonal children's books. There are so many choices for stocking stuffers that it's hard to know where to begin. One strategy is to close your eyes and point.
But what about holiday-themed books for adults? They're on bookshelves and online too, as this sampling makes clear. Just don't close your eyes.
"Jacob T. Marley" by William Bennett (Shadow Mountain, $17.99, 192 pages): In Charles Dickens' immortal "A Christmas Carol" (1843), the regretful ghost of Jacob T. Marley Ebenezer Scrooge's late business partner shows up with warnings, then disappears. Here, the story is reimagined from Marley's point of view.
"A Christmas Dinner" by Charles Dickens, with a forward by Peter Ackroyd, recipes by Alice Ross and illustrations by Sharon Stein (Red Rock, $24.95, 88 pages): Dickens wrote this more cheerful holiday tale eight years before he invented Scrooge. It includes feasting, which is where Ross comes in, tweaking traditional 19th century dishes to make them accessible today. A real treat.
"Twelve Drummers Drumming" by C.C. Benison (Delacorte, $24, 384 pages): Father Tom Christmas is the embodiment of the season, the vicar newly arrived to a small English village. But what's this? A murder mystery to solve!
"The Book of Holiday Awesome" by Neil Pasricha (Amy Einhorn, $19.95, 192 pages): This time of year, the simplest things are sometimes the most smile-inducing. Such as plugging in your Christmas lights and having them all work. Or finding no line waiting to visit the shopping mall Santa. Or the sound of a popping cork.
"A Plain and Fancy Christmas" by Cynthia Keller (Ballantine, $16, 336 pages): Two women who discover they were switched at birth explore each other's culture and lifestyle. For Manhattan executive Ellie Lawrence, that means getting to know her long-lost Amish family.
"A Christmas Homecoming" by Anne Perry (Ballantine, $18, 224 pages): This is Scottish best-seller Perry's ninth Christmas novel. This time, readers will find a murder mystery linked to "a brooding figure," as the residents of a fishing village stage the play version of "Dracula."
"The Gift" by Cecelia Ahern (Harper, $11.99, 302 pages): Sentiment meets magic when a preoccupied executive offers a job to a homeless man. The twist is, the new employee works a holiday spell on his new boss one that could be too late in coming.
"Christmas Exposed" by the editors of The Onion (Quirk, $12.95, 176 pages): The online news satirists are at it again with another irreverent look at a reverent subject, which is their specialty. It's kind of rough, but very timely and very funny. Such as the headlines on these fake stories: "World inspired by first snowman to win luge" and "Ghost of Christmas Future taunts children with visions of PlayStation 5."
Consider this trio from recognizable names:
"The Talk Show Murders" by Al Roker (Delacorte, $26, 304 pages): Nine-time Emmy-winner Roker of the "Today" show follows two previous Billy Blessing mysteries with this fun outing. Blessing is a Manhattan restaurateur who hosts a cooking segment on the fictitious "Wake Up, America" TV show. In an interview last year, Roker told me, "The books are more about being entertaining, with no grisly murders. It's like my theory of going to the movies: After I give you my money, I don't want to come out feeling worse than when I went in."
"A Dark and Lonely Place" by Edna Buchanan (Simon & Schuster, $26, 432 pages): The former Miami Herald police reporter tells the true story of two outlaws from Florida history in order to set the stage for a fictitious (and star-crossed) couple on the run in modern times. Key question: Does the past repeat itself?
"Lunatics" by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel (Putnam, $25.05, 320 pages; Jan. 10): The title is fitting, given humor columnist Barry's body of zany forays into the absurd. This is another one, mostly for his fans. Here's Chapter 56: "The mere thought of what he did still horrifies me."
Mark Twain slept here?
Mark Twain, the riverboat pilot-turned-journalist, wandered the West between 1861 and 1866, spending time in Sacramento, Angels Camp, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. His 1872 book, "Roughing It," recalled those years.
The extent of his forays around Lake Tahoe is in some question. In May, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names refused a proposal to name an inlet on the Nevada shore of Lake Tahoe after him. Essentially, the idea was based on speculation that Twain had made camp on the inlet's beach in 1861, but it was ruled there wasn't enough proof of that. Some loudly disagreed.
For new details on the Twain-Tahoe connection, enthusiasts can turn to "Fairest Picture" by David C. Antonucci (CreateSpace, $17.99, 302 pages).
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