Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

A Lot Like Christmas

Connie Willis (Doomsday Book, Blackout) absolutely loves the holidays, as she explains in the introduction to A Lot Like Christmas: "I even like the parts most people hate--shopping in crowded malls and reading Christmas newsletters and seeing relatives." This love led her to write the eight short stories collected in 2009's Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. Seven of them, plus five new ones, are gathered in A Lot Like Christmas.

These varied and fantastic stories cover a lot of subjects. There are alien invaders in "All Seated on the Ground" and future Christmases where people hire decorators to come create themed decor, meals and parties for the season in "deck.halls@boughs/holly." In "All About Emily," a young "artificial" experiences some surprisingly human dreams; in "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know," a dangerously white Christmas brings snow to places as unlikely as Honolulu and Beirut; and in "Inn," the biblical Joseph and Mary time-travel to a modern church's Nativity production.

Funny, wry and sometimes downright cheery, A Lot Like Christmas does an excellent job of bringing holiday spirit without falling into the traps of "cynicism or mawkish sappiness" (as Willis explains she's tried to avoid). The epilogue includes an extra little gift to her readers--lists of her favorite Christmas movies, books and television episodes. Even the grinchiest of readers is sure to enjoy this charming collection, with its excellent stories and extra attention from a talented author. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans