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Island Bookshelf: A cozy (reading) Christmas

Have a winter cough keeping you up at night? Vicks VapoRub ­— on your feet — will settle it down.

New Year’s Eve champagne lost its bubbles? Drop in a raisin and they’ll magically return.


Are you looking for a new holiday tradition to adopt?

In Iceland, folks exchange their favorite books on Christmas Eve and spend the rest of the night reading and eating chocolate in bed. I think I need to have my ancestry checked, because that’s definitely in my DNA! The book of “Holiday Hacks,” by Keith Bradford, offers these clever solutions to the pressures, hangovers and health issues that go with the season.

We all enjoy bingeing on Christmas movies like “The Polar Express,” but there are few pleasures more deeply satisfying than stretching out with a good book in front of a fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace, light a candle or call up the Yule Log on your TV or computer and lose yourself in one of these books.

Pour yourself a cup of Christmas tea or hot cider and you’re on your way.

Speaking of “The Polar Express,” the movie is wonderful, but so is Chris Van Allsberg’s beautiful book that inspired it. I recommend it for any child’s bookshelf.

Another delightful children’s book is Caralyn Buehner’s “Snowmen at Christmas,” about what a boy dreams that snowmen do to celebrate Christmas while we’re sleeping. Beautiful illustrations by her husband, Mark, make it a favorite for children and the adults lucky enough to read it to them.

Harking back to some classics for adults, I believe O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” perfectly captures the true Christmas spirit. Picture if you will, a world without credit cards, a young couple barely getting by, each desperately trying to give their loved one the single gift that will make them most happy, although it seems impossibly beyond reach.

“Little Women,” while not a Christmas book, also stands out for its heartwarming Christmas scene. Louisa May Alcott tells of the sisters, Amy, Beth, Meg and Jo, struggling through lean times with their mother, while their father is away in the Civil War. The young girls give up their Christmas breakfast to help an impoverished family nearby who have a new baby in the house. Their generosity, offered with good cheer, is rewarded by a surprise treat that evening sent by a kind neighbor of their own.

For a light escape, “Winter Street” is the first in Elin Hildebrand’s winter series, set at Christmas time in Nantucket. Her novels are perennial favorites, often spotted on Shelter Island beaches in the summer. This winter series focuses on a family living in Nantucket, where they run an inn. The winter season is quiet; the Quinn family gatherings are anything but. The series includes “Winter Solstice” and “Winter Storms,” each with a new Christmas tale.

If you need something more salty than sweet, there are lots of other choices. David Sedaris has special appeal to those with an offbeat sense of humor. “Holidays on Ice” is a collection of stories that includes the diaries of a Macy’s elf and other unexpected treats drawing on his famously sardonic wit.

Do murder mysteries top your wish list? You might thumb through “Murder for Christmas: 26 Tales of Seasonal Malice” by Thomas Godfrey (Editor) and Gahan Wilson (Illustrator). This mystery anthology features the works of Agatha Christie, Woody Allen, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, Damon Runyon, O. Henry, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and other authors.

I’m grateful to my family and friends who have shared their favorite Christmas book suggestions for this column, and now I gladly re-gift them to you, along with my warmest wishes for a merry Christmas!