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Catch the spirit: Make this Christmas season one for the books, starting with these wide-ranging selections

 

Did December sneak up on you? Well, the last month of the calendar year has arrived, and so has the opportunity for holiday gift-giving. Here are some gift suggestions in the form of books.

  • “Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy” is the title of a new coping guide by Beth Kempton (Scribner). In her author’s note, the British author explains that this book doesn’t just apply to two specific winter holidays. Rather, its stories, advice and ideas are based on the notion that there’s no one way to celebrate Christmas and celebration doesn’t have to be the sole activity.

In the chapter “Honoring the Melancholy,” Kempton says we should reach out to offer help to others dealing with sadness, loss and loneliness in their lives. She also urges readers to use the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day “to reflect and plan. … instead of heading into January exhausted and lethargic … you can go forth feeling rested and rejuvenated, with fresh motivation and a hopeful heart.”

Kempton’s recent guidebook, “We Are in This Together: Finding Hope and Opportunity in the Depths of Adversity,” is about dealing with Covid-19.

“The Christmas Table” is the 11th Christmas-themed novel by bestselling author Donna VanLiere (St. Martins). This latest story tells about Lauren who recently refurbished a hand-made table bought at a garage sale. She discovers a drawer under the table filled with recipe cards. Each card has a personal note from a mother to her daughter.

Raised in foster homes, Lauren had never learned to cook. As Christmas nears, she wonders if she can indeed learn, get ready for her new baby and unlock the mystery of the table, and the woman who wrote the recipes.

• If you like classical music, you might know that Thursday, Dec. 17 is the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven and that date this year marks the 250th anniversary of his birth. Several books about the composer are out and can be part of your own literary celebration. One book is “Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary” by John Clubbe (W. W. Norton). Clubbe, a Santa Fe resident, is a scholar who’s written books on 19th century cultural history and essays on Beethoven, Napoleon and Byron. In this readable, engrossing 500-page book Clubbe shows how the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and Napoleon influenced Beethoven’s politics and, in turn, his compositions. He argues that the compositions conveyed a “new approach to the composer’s heroic striving, his equally heroic despair, and his messianic mission to improve through music the world both in his own time and the times to come.” Another title about this compositional giant is “Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces” by Laura Tunbridge. (Yale University Press). The book throws a spotlight on nine particular Beethoven works, explaining why they are as important as concepts as they are of music. Among the nine are (Heroism) Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica,” (1804), (Liberty) “Fidelio,” his only opera (1814), and (Spirit) the Missa solemnis (1823). Other well-known Beethoven pieces, including symphonies Numbers 5 and 9, are discussed.

If you need instant audio gratification, visit the website nytimes.com for the Dec. 2 article “5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Beethoven.” It has audio clips linked to works recommended by musicians, conductors, composers, writers, editors, critics, playwrights and radio hosts.

n “Arenas y trinos: Abecedario del río/Sand and song: The ABCs of the River” by Alma Flor Ada and Rosalma Zubizarreta Ada, illustrations by Gahbor Utomo (Piñata Books/Arte Público Press) is a charming, cheerful and entertaining bilingual book aimed at ages 4-8. It is a series of short poems that talk about rivers, and life on and along them. There are poems about chirping cicadas, the dragonfly, pebbles, and inner tubes.

This is the opening poem: Agua del río/River Water: “El agua quieta es silente,/pero, no sólo baila en las rocas,/también se vuelve canción.”

The English translation: “Still, silent water/starts to run,/dancing over rocks, turning into song.”

The illustrations are an enchanting complement to the text.

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