Tuesday, Dec 29

5 Books To Read During Christmas and New Year Season In The Midst of A Pandemic

By Joel Teh

““Noms noms…”

Alex stuffed the roast drumstick into his mouth while holding a chicken thigh on the other hand. I stared at him, slobbered. It’s beyond wonderful. There is so much on the grand table.

From scrumptious cuisines such as lamb shanks, beef meats, jumbo sausages, turkeys, and steaks to desserts (ice-cream, chocolate moist cakes, cheese tarts, pineapple pies, strawberries donuts, and mango puddings), this Christmas Fest is nothing but heaven for an epicure like me. The food could serve many guests, but there’s only Alex and me to devour them. This is too good to be true.

Abruptly, the clock struck at 12am. I heard people cheering outside of the food hall and the explosive noise of fireworks went on incessantly. Wasn’t it dinner time?

The next moment happened too fast as I felt my body shaking terribly while trying to grab a black-pepper chicken wing. My view became cloudy, the smell of food slowly faded away, and I found myself back in my bedroom. It was just a dream.

“Come on, wake up, you silly head. Look outside!” snapped Alex.

I leaped off my bed and pushed aside the curtains. There I saw a blaze of lights with different colours displaying from a distance away. The firecrackers were real. We have officially entered a new year.

It’s scary to see how time flies. We just had fun with the Christmas celebrations a week ago, and I was still exhilarated by the joy of it, but everyone’s excited about the new-year-new-me thing all of a sudden.

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This story appeared in my mind a few years back, but I was neither given a chance to narrate them out nor publish them anywhere. Today, I’m more than elated to see some of them being written here while having a chance to share one of my favourite hobbies with all of you. Growing up in a family that doesn’t only nurture my singing talent, I have developed a deep interest in reading after getting influenced by my mom since childhood.

As someone who is fixated with fiction, I struggled with having a need to read stories of all sorts and juggling busy schedules at the same time. This concern, however, became less severe ever since the pandemic lockdown this year where everyone’s practicing social distancing and staying at home. With the occurrence of this new norm, I was able to complete a few series that I never got to begin a long time ago and even found myself expanding my creative thinking to a great length.

After adventuring into different genres, I’ve compiled a list of books of all ages that would make your free time during the Christmas and New Year season in this unprecedented time more exciting than before. By rolling them out, I hope that they would allow you to pick up new reading interests and probably bring joy to you and your family. With that, here are five of my favourites, in no particular order.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

If you are a huge fan of the fantasy genre, this old children’s book of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ series by C.S.Lewis would be a good choice for you. The story begins with the four Pevensie children who were sent out of London to the mansion of Professor Kirke during World War II.

As they explored the big house, Lucy found a wardrobe in one of the remote rooms and stumbled across Narnia, a magical land where animals talk, mythical creatures exist, and most significantly, it was created by Aslan the Lion. That’s where she met Tumnus the Faun under a lamp-post and began her first adventure in this world.

Despite the disbelief from her siblings, soon the magic brought all four of them back to Narnia through the same wardrobe. Subsequently, they bumped into Mr.Beaver and that marked the starting point of their mission from rescuing Mr.Tumnus to the entire Narnia as well. They had to meet Aslan, defeat the White Witch, and become the kings and queens of Narnia for many years.

The involvement of Christmas appears in the part where the children came across Father Christmas during their journey to the Stone Table. Christmas wasn’t allowed when the White Witch ruled over Narnia and turned the whole land into winter for over a hundred years. The unexpected encroachment of these children has weakened the curse and brought hope to Narnians. They were each given presents, except Edmund, who was under the evil influence of the White Witch at that time.

This story becomes one of my top favourites as they were written with deep messages between the lines. Unlike other medieval-style storybooks, The Chronicles of Narnia, especially ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’ speaks a lot more than just battling evils and the difference between two worlds, but a few educational teachings such as leadership, bravery, kindness, redemption, self-trust and other inspirations from The Holy Bible of Christianity as well. That said, it has won my utmost interest of all time.

With only 17 chapters and short pages, this book wouldn’t take you longer than 2 days even for a slow reader. I remember reading it for the first time when I was little and could binge it within a day, and I have been returning the same series until now for three times. I can promise that you will not regret reading this book because the story is simply extraordinary.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Next on the list would be a great deal for fellow Potterheads. Being enlisted as one of the most successful children’s classics in the world, Harry Potter is a renowned fantasy novel series (written by the author J.K.Rowling) that was turned into movies with overwhelming popularity. Most people, especially millennials, grew up reading them and watching the films, otherwise, heard about the name through their peers or media commercials almost everywhere. With such high popularity and recommendations all over the place, that speaks a lot about the writing quality and why you shouldn’t miss out on reading Harry Potter too.

In this post, I would highly recommend you to begin reading ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’, a story where a boy named Harry Potter who survived the Killing Curse and lived with his muggle (non-magical community) relative, The Dursleys without life purpose for eleven years until he later discovered his identity as a wizard. He was then offered a placement in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and got sorted into Gryffindor, thus beginning his seven-year journey of quests and trials to learn magic and destroy the Dark Lord simultaneously.

The reason this story holds a remarkable place in my list is that the book serves as the opening story of the series where it introduces many wonderful things to the readers. For instance, the background of Harry himself, his best friends Ron and Hermione, the Diagon Alley, Hogwarts school, Hogwarts express, the sorting hat with four houses, the quidditch game, the invisibility cloak that Harry received from Professor Dumbledore during Christmas, mirror of erised, the troll, and others that have made their first appearance in Harry’s first year in school.

If you are a movie fan, reading the original book series would bring you a deeper insight into the wizarding world. I have personally read the book series twice and still find myself being in love with them.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

Have you ever wondered if Gods and humans would be intimate together and bear their offsprings in the mortal world? If so, do you feel enthralled to find out how it is like to be a demigod? The famous author Rick Riordan has a brilliant idea of coalescing Greek mythology and modern American culture into fantasy novels. Winning numerous interests among the millennial and Gen-Z generations, ‘Percy Jackson & The Olympians’ is a set of series with five books that recites the adventures of Percy Jackson in fighting mythological enemies in his universe.

Likewise Narnia and Harry Potter series, the first book- ‘The Lightning Thief’ came off appealing than the rest of the series as it brought much new information to the readers such as Percy’s biography, his best friends Grover and Annabeth, various mythological creatures, the Camp Half-Blood Hill, the Oracle, the Olympus, and more.

The story began with Percy Jackson, who got thrown out of different schools, was brought to Camp Half-Blood by Grover, a satyr after the attack of a Minotaur. That’s where he started learning about himself and his identity as the son of Poseidon in one of the flag capturing matches. It’s also when he was instantly sent on a quest to find the missing lightning bolt and return it to Zeus before the summer solstice.

Many incidents were happening throughout his journey to retrieve the lightning bolt that provoked the excitement and stimulation of readers along the lines. Some of them include their encounter with Medusa and the unexpected delay at Lotus Hotel and Casino which make it hard for us to leave the book as we are always determined to find out what happens in the next chapter.

On top of that, the story was written for the author’s son, Haley, who, similar to Percy Jackson, was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, and wanted Greek mythology as his bedtime stories. This outcome doesn’t just make the entire series unique, but it also brought up the awareness of these disorders to the public which benefits many people with the same conditions. Therefore, this gave Percy Jackson’s books a more substantial reason to become one of the must-read fictions among the bookish community.

Goosebumps: The 12 Screams of Christmas

Ever wanted to spend a scary Christmas with your friends and family? ‘The 12 Screams of Christmas’, one of the special editions of ‘Goosebumps Most Wanted’ that was also written by the original author- R.L.Stine himself would be another suitable choice to help you get through your holiday season.

As someone who finds pleasure in browsing through horror genres, Goosebumps has always been one of my childhood favourites until today. One advantage of being a 90’s kid is that you would get to enjoy many cool things that are hardly accessible for the groups of other generations, and reading all Goosebumps series was like a short getaway in my primary school time. With the continuous publications, this children’s horror-fiction has now released a few more series such as ‘Goosebumps Horrorland’, ‘Goosebumps Most Wanted’ and ‘Goosebumps Hall of Horrors’.

The story centers around Kate Welles, who was determined to take the main role in her school’s Christmas play. However, her friend, Courtney Smith, made fun of her ability to see ghosts and went to the audition for the same role as well. Despite being unsuccessful after the fight between the two of them, Kate and Courtney were still given a chance to play in the chorus. Claimed to be the descendant of the original Marcus Family, Mr.Piccolo, their school teacher took the students to an old house for the rehearsal. The following tale described Kate’s paranormal experience with the spiritual entities in that house and her challenges in saving Flora, the girl who initially fell down the well many years ago, in order to get her reunited with her family again.

If you are interested in reading the book with a cross-cutting approach that combines the prequel and the sequel into a particular story, this would be the next reason why you should read ‘The 12 Scream of Christmas’. The novel was disintegrated into three parts- ‘Prologue’ with the timeline that took place in 1882 where the girl, Flora fell into the well in the backyard; ‘December’ with the occasion where Kate was fighting for her role in the school play; and ‘Twelve Screams’ with the event that happened in the same old house as 1882’s.

If you started having the urge to read this fiction, grab the book and finish it now. It’s the thinnest book on this list with only 174 pages. You would be able to complete it within a few hours before going into other books listed here.

Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories

Celebrating holidays such as Christmas in a simpler manner would be delightful. Contrary to modern fictions, the old literature by L.M.Montgomery- ‘Anne of Green Gables’, has been passing down from generations to generations, ever fresh and ever marvelous, with the sentimental story of Anne Shirley, an orphan who was sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, the unmarried siblings in Prince Edward Island by accident.

Red-haired and being unconventional, Anne was having trouble getting approval from Marilla in the beginning but eventually turned out better after she lightened up the farm- Green Gables with her high-spirited characteristics. The series depicts her life in Green Gables with interesting affairs such as her friendships with the locals, several adventures in Avonlea, her giving up the scholarship to stay home with Marilla, and her reconciliation with Gilbert Blythe.

Certainly, those are the stories within the original package that shouldn’t be missed by any book lovers, and Dreamscape, an award-winning publisher even came out with a collection of her holiday stories and turned them into a storybook entitled ‘Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories’ at a later date. The stories include ‘Christmas at Red Butte’, ‘The Christmas Surprise at Enderly Road’, ‘The Unforgotten One’ and more fun Christmas tales that are congenial for your reading experience in this season.

If indulging in old school vibes is a fancy interest for you, this is definitely a pure classic with strong ethnological values that would immensely benefit your philosophical view on life.

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In summary, these are the five fictions I would encourage you to browse through this holiday season. You may not find them perfectly match your needs at the moment, but they are the popular epitomes of quality reading materials that will, in no doubt, make your rest time more eventful than you could ever imagine.

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