Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Cleveland Amory

Five Great Christmas Reads


With the holiday season upon us, we all like to find a comfortable chair (ideally in front of a roaring fireplace,) to curl up in, with a cup of eggnog and a good book.  But which book?  Here are five reads sure to make your days merry and bright!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938)  By Agatha Christie.  The incredibly rich (and unpleasant) Simeon Lee invites all his relatives even the estranged ones to celebrate Christmas with him.  It soon becomes clear that far from seeking familial reconciliation, Simeon is playing a sadistic mind game with his own descendants.  When he’s brutally murdered there’s no lack of suspects for everyone’s favorite dapper little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to investigate. For those of you whose idea of a perfect Yuletide season includes a cozy English murder mystery, you can’t do better than Dame Agatha at the height of her powers here.

The Cat Who Came For Christmas  (1987) By Cleveland Amory.  Cleveland Amory was a popular author, a prominent animal rights activist, and self-proclaimed curmudgeon.  He was not however, especially fond of cats, until one Christmas he ended up fostering a feral stray cat.  Of course Cleveland ended up permanently adopting the cat, (or rather the cat adopted him,) and he named it Polar Bear.  This delightful book was the first of a charming trilogy devoted to Polar Bear sure to bring a smile to the lips of any animal lover.

The Autobiography of Santa Claus (1994) By Jeff Guinn.  This enchanting holiday classic skillfully blends historical facts with legend to tell us the tale of Santa Claus.  The premise has it that Saint Nicholas himself recounts 1700 years of the history of Christmas, the birth of the ‘Santa’ legend, and indeed the worldwide spread of Christianity.  The book’s take on Santa’s “elves” or rather “helpers” is a particularly inventive touch that makes the whole story simply magical.   This is also the first (and best) part of a trilogy as well that is continued with How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas and The Great Santa Search.  

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (2004) By Christopher Moore.  Moore the mad satirical genius behind such works as A Dirty Job and You Suck: A Love Story offers us his own demented take on the Season of Giving.  Angel Raziel is sent down to Earth to grant a child’s wish.  The child in question is traumatized by seeing a man dressed as Santa Claus die.  In a botched attempt to bring ‘Santa’ back to life Raziel unwittingly unleashes a plague of zombies on the little town of Pine Cove.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits  (2011)  By Les Stanford.  We all know A Christmas Carol or one of the countless versions of it. Here though, is the story of how Carol came to be. In 1843, Charles Dickens was depressed and saddled with debts. He wrote a small Christmas themed novella, but his publisher turned it down. He liked the tale so much though, that he used what little cash he had to publish it himself, though he worried it might ruin him. The rest as they say was history, as A Christmas Carol came to be THE definitive word on Christmas, a holiday that had taken a beating in Victorian England in previous years.

Top photo: Bigatock