There’s a lot to love about the holidays; the lights that make even the most monotonous trip to the store seem magical, the gift of a snowfall any time during the month of December (because it so rarely happens on Christmas Day here in Colorado) and our daily rush to check our advent calendar. More than anything, I love the small rituals that weave their way through the season giving us something to look forward to each day in a constant flurry of friends, family and activities. As fun as it can be, the older my kids get the more I notice that there is just less time - less time to savor the small moments of quiet each day and it seems more difficult to ease into the spirit of the season. I’ve tried to come up with little things I can do on my own to solidify the feelings I try to encourage with my kids and having my own personal rituals somehow makes the time, no matter how quickly it passes, more meaningful.
One of my favorite things to do each season while running errands, working, going for a long walk, cooking or tidying up before bed is to have a rotation of audiobooks that I only listen to during the holidays. Since curling up with a book is a rare gift and the kids have their own favorite movies they like to watch, audiobooks keep me in the mood to celebrate while knocking things off my list. Having an Audible account is a monthly investment that has always proven to be worth the cost and their generous return policy (don’t like the reader? not the book you thought? too scary for your child? audible will happily refund credits) ensures that you can fill your audio library with books that you love. Libraries are also a great resource with CD, downloadable audio and Play Away options.
I had to throw in some children’s literature because, well, it’s comforting!
One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Dodie Smith - I think this story became so ubiquitous through its Disney fame that many of us forgot it was ever a book. I’m not sure my kids (or I) could make it through the print version, but the audiobook is fun and keeps you interested by finding the turns it takes from the film.
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri - If Jhumpa Lahiri published her grocery lists, I think I would preorder them. I can’t choose a favorite but I’ve noticed this one finds its way to the top of my pile every year around this time.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott - The March Sisters. Enough said.
Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter - I’m not as in love with Jess Walter’s other books but this one is executed so beautifully that you’ll be pulling off your mittens to google “Cinque Terre” before you know it.
The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin - This book is far more readable than most books that find their homes in the “self help” section. It comes to you in the spirit of self awareness, compassionate reflection and optimism. If you’re contemplating changes big or small in the new year, this is a great way to get a jump without feeling deflated before you start.
Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers - In a similar vein as 101 Dalmatians, relive the joy of Mary Poppins while also being reminded to throw a little magic into your holiday itinerary.
The Martian, Andy Weir - The best thing you can do before starting this audiobook is force yourself to forget that it was ever a movie. Suspenseful, interesting and with an excellent narrator, you’ll find yourself walking those extra few blocks to keep listening.
Not Becoming My Mother, Ruth Reichl - I’m a big fan of Ruth Reichl and if you struggle at all with family dynamics you’ll take a lot from this quick listen.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe - Rob Lowe? Say what? I listened to this book last Christmas on the drive from La Jolla to Palm Springs and back and I absolutely loved it. As someone who is fascinated by Hollywood inside stories I found this full of little gems. Plus, it’s Rob Lowe. Endearing, witty and self deprecating he wrote a good book that he reads wonderfully.
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I fell in love with this book when it came out but didn’t ever reread it. On a whim I played the ‘sample’ on the audio version and immediately downloaded it. This narrator is perfection. Any frequent audiobook listener will tell you that a wrong choice in narration can totally kill a book you love (The Goldfinch being a tragic example) but this one makes the experience even richer than it already is.
Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann - There’s the book (great), the movie (also great) and now there’s the audiobook read by Laverne Cox. A late night writing Christmas cards just got a whole lot more tolerable.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis - My kids always start playing this one around the holidays and I find that I often keep listening when I’m alone. A double dose of winter magic and childhood nostalgia.
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris - It’s impossible to prepare for any kind of family gathering without some advanced preparation and in that realm, David Sedaris is the master. It’s hard to pick a favorite but Me Talk Pretty One Day never fails to lift my spirits and keep me laughing. Lazy eyes…lazy legs…his adventures with Hugh in France.
Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher - Carrie Fisher has been on my mind lately and I keep meaning to watch Bright Lights again because her dynamic with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, is fascinating. December 27th will mark the one year anniversary of her death and as sad as that is, I’m so glad that she left us this book to remember her many opinions and stories. Just hearing her voice will make you smile, guaranteed.