The Reading Holidays

goodnight-moonI hope some books lurk among the gifts you’re giving this holiday season, and not just because authors need to eat and stay warm. Books are like superfood for the mind and heart, and we have the science to prove it.

Is there a young person among the folks you’re buying for? Children’s books will expose that lucky child to 50 percent more vocabulary words than prime time television will, and even more vocabulary than eavesdropping on a conversation between college gradates would. There’s some indication that reading early also increases academic intelligence later in life, so pass out those books like candy canes.

bundleReading improves memory, because you have to keep a lot of story details straight from one session with a book to another, and across hundreds of pages. If you exercise your memory, it holds up longer, and who wouldn’t want to recall a handsome duke?

Reading fiction makes us more empathetic. A skilled author will explain why people do what they do, and present character decisions and emotions in a light that can make even a dastardly antagonist somewhat sympathetic. The empathy muscle we flex when we enjoy fiction carries over to real life, and results in less judgment and more tolerance. What a gift to be able to give for just a few bucks!

cat_reading_bookReading an engrossing tale reduces stress. For most of us, that’s a “Duh!” but stress reduction includes lower cortisol (flight or fight) output and lower blood pressure. These findings make me wonder if part of the reason women tend to live longer than men is because women are far more likely to be in the habit of reading fiction. Just a thought.

Reading helps us sleep better, especially if we read physical books, or cut the blue light on our screens.

trouble_450x2If you thought that book you got for your sister-in-law was just a good story, think again. If you chose well, you gave her a means of improving brain function, increasing her vocabulary, sleeping better, being more tolerant and empathetic, and more relaxed. That was pretty nice of you!

So, of course, to one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of The Trouble With Dukes! Do you have a go-to Christmas present? Mine was Maggie’s organic wool socks this year–I love them–though I rarely go to a bookstore without picking up a book for somebody else, just because.

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14 comments on “The Reading Holidays

  1. Thank goodness for my reading! The weather here has been so awful lately. I’m in day two of what I estimate to be a three day (self imposed) house bound period. I just don’t want to go out in this stuff. I would go crazy without my books.

    I’m reading some Barbara Metzger Christmas novellas right now. Her books make me laugh and laughter is like medicine to me. Next up though, is LADY SOPHIE’S CHRISTMAS WISH by one of my favorite authors. Matter of fact, I think I’ll renew my acquaintance with all the Windhams since we have some new Windham books comimg out soon.

    Marry Christmas Grace.

  2. The cover of Goodnight Moon made me smile. I attended a baby shower for a friend at work. I gave her several books– Goodnight Moon was among them. Sometimes, I think reading to children is something in the past. Kids seem caught up in videos not stories.

    My daughter and I exchange books and I always give her some fun socks in her stocking. Last month at adog show, I picked her up a new pair of corgi socks and a cute pair of cat socks.

    Gift cards have been my go to this year. My daughter is in law school and works on the weekends. She doesn’t have a lot of spending money. So, she will get a Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks giftcard and a couple of gift cards to local restaurants.

    I have been home for the past few days recovering from dental surgery. Have re read Lady Sophie’s story. It’s one of my favorites. I enjoy reading every word.

    Merry Christmas Grace!
    Enjoy your holidays.

  3. My ‘go to’ gift of choice: a cook book. Why? Because there are so many with such vibrant pictures of not only the delicious foods they are providing recipes for, but often of the chef’s home and possibly their home town. Or there will be vast landscapes depicting sunrises over meadows, highlighting rolling hills, softly whispering grasses, and a château or two nestled in a copse of trees shading the windows from the approaching onslaught of light with text offering insightful tidbits about the regions from which these foods originated. What other gift offers prose, beauty, and the means to create memories through a meal?

  4. As a reading addict I am just nodding my head as I read through your encouraging and edifying comments. The bookstore is my favorite store and I am saddened by how few there are. I think that books enrich our lives and give us keys to explore and journey to places we may never otherwise experience or see. I am giving out some books, but less this year. Until last year when I taught Sunday School I gave out hundreds of books every year. Books are definitely my favorite things. Thank you so much for your books. I have reread all of the Windham daughters to get in the spirit of Christmas. Have a blessed week!

  5. I now always give books for baby showers now. My niece told me I was the only one to ever give her kids books as gifts. That actually made me a little sad. 🙁 And I give an actual book, not a Kindle or other device.

    I do have to say I am careful when I give books as gifts. I have to absolutely know someone’s taste in literature to give fiction. This year, I’m giving a lot of cookbooks to people. My girlfriends and my sisters-in-law; I know they like to cook but am not sure what fiction they like to read.

    I do have a friend who gave me “The Heir” when it first came out. Which caused me to get HOOKED on you!

  6. I scolded the first grade teacher because she had not taught me to read by Thanksgiving. Also, told her I only went to school in order to learn to read.
    I carried a library book to school from first grade through college lectures. Quit doing that in college when I realized that professors tested on their lectures and THAT wasn’t in the book for the class.
    I have read newspapers from the time I could handle the vocabulary and am always amazed that I know more about history and the current news in the world than the average person and the average educated PhD.
    Now when I ache I read a book and live in the books world and aches are forgotten.

    The books are always FICTION and no longer library books.

  7. I have found I sleep so much better if I close my computer and my ereader at least a half hour before I go to bed. I curl up in bed and read an actual paper book. Currently reading Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Winter Crown. I love English history and Eleanor/Alienor is one of my favorite queens.

    I was pleased to see Good Night Moon in this post – It’s my go-to baby gift and my sons who are in their early 30s can still recite almost the entire book. The librarian at our local library when the boys were little wanted to know if we were a class because we checked out 20 books every week. Probably why they both still read constantly. Me – I ride the train 45 minutes each way so I have plenty of reading time.

  8. my go to gift is socks, too. But the funny or wacky ones, not wool ones.
    Bonus if I can find wool ones that have bad words on them (sometimes I’m really lucky and find these in biking sock styles)!

  9. I’m notorious for giving homemade food gifts and books, year round. Since I’ve started blending a few of my own teas those are this year’s items to go with the inevitable books. Crabapple spiced brandy too…apple pie in a glass without the crust, fab for making hot toddies.
    My sister prefers audiobooks, so we’re staring to share items in a family kindle library; I read and she listens, then we can have hand waving discussions over tea. I hope it becomes a tradition. Your audiobooks made me think of it. They’re my new boon companions when I’m tired/resting or flat sick, like the paperbacks, then ebooks, have been these past few years. Your writing is that oasis of acceptance, love, and it all working out, often in ways thought impossible at the beginning. Happy Holidays Grace! May there be lots of books, tea, critter cuddles and lasting pleasures in your season!

  10. I always give books to my great-nephews – the 4 year old has been a consumed with being read to since before he was two, and his little brother (currently 2) is following in his footsteps. They now have a brand new baby brother, so I anticipate the older one will eventually be reading to the two littler ones.

    I treat myself to the gift of books all year – just caught up with Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series.

  11. I listen to a third grader read sometimes. I read to her, she reads to me and we both listen to the professionals. I taught her a little dance to Three Blind Mice from my childhood. She had never heard it. Over the course of a few days, she wrote it out and drew mice, the farmer’s wife and a carving knife that was bigger than the lady wielding it.

    One misses a very great deal by not reading. If reading were only aerobic exercise.

    PS. Any idea why mice would run after the farmer’s wife?

  12. Books are a default gift for me – these days I often give out gift certificates for books since it’s hard to know what books someone might have in ebook form but not hard copy and vice versa. As far as family gifts it is tradition that I always give the kids pajamas, socks, and undies. This year, my son will be getting some nice wool socks since he is living in Colorado where it gets and stays cold for much longer than it does here.

  13. I don’t have a single, go-to present, although I am including cashmere scarves this year for several family members. Books make it into many gift bags–for all the grandchildren, Hubby, daughter and others. Thanks for a nice post. I am looking forward to The Trouble With Dukes.

  14. Books, always always books. As I am an English teacher it feels like a no brainer. This year it is a combination of fiction and non fiction and funny with thought provoking .
    Merry Christmas Grace and to all your readers.
    PS I gift chocolate with the books, but I love the idea of warm socks