Read, Drink and Be Merry 


Holiday Memoirs: A Survival Guide

"How to Spell Chanukah … and Other Holiday Dilemmas: 18 Writers Celebrate 8 Nights of Light"

Edited by Emily Franklin (Algonquin, $18.95)

From outrageous to pensive, this Chanukah/Hanukkah book will make any latke eater feel right at home, no matter how far they've strayed from their menorah-laden table. Eighteen tales of modern Jewry include a graphic comic short story, references to Ross from "Friends" and pornographic vegan cupcakes eaten after lighting the Shabbat candles.

"A Little Fruitcake: A Childhood in Holidays"

by David Valdes Greenwood ($14.95, Da Capo Press)

All happy families are alike, except when it comes to dysfunctional gaffes around the Christmas tree. Follow Tufts professor David Valdes Greenwood into his 1970s childhood as the fat kid called "porker" who listens to Sonny and Cher beneath the mistletoe, parades around in white leather ice skates and is jealous of the baby Jesus.


"The Holiday Season"

by Michael Knight (Grove Press, $18)

New Yorker contributor Michael Knight's two novellas, "The Holiday Season" and "Love at the End of the Year," are good enough reads to hold water long after St. Nick's decorations are back in the attic. Quirky, humorous, smart and sad, Knight gets to the heart of loneliness, family and the hope of love without crying a river of false sentiment or cheer that fades with the season.

For Tiny Elves and Miniature Dreidel Players:

"The Nutcracker"

by Susan Jeffers (HarperCollins, $16.99)

Yes, "The Nutcracker" has been done many times before, both onstage and on the page. But Jeffers' water-based paint (gouache) illustrations are so magical and effervescent, neophyte or even seasoned "Nutcracker" fans will be happy to lay hands on this new version. The simple, short text and lively drawings are perfect for children ages 3 to 8.

"The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story"

by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Lisa Brown (McSweeney's Irregulars, $9.95)

"Nearly everything in the world is born screaming, and the latke was no exception."

In typical Snicket style, this children's book highlights the darker side of the winter holidays. As a certain potato latke runs screaming from the frying pan of hot oil, it encounters every haunt of Christmas present before landing in the proverbial fire. Slightly disturbing but also funny, Snicket manages to incorporate a surprising amount of Jewish history into his short, starchy tale.

December Eats

"The Healthy Hedonist Holiday: A Year of Multi-Cultural, Vegetarian-Friendly Holiday Feasts"

Myra Kornfeld (Simon & Schuster, $19.95)

With recipes for Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo and many more from the American smorgasbord, Kornfeld's dishes are laden with spice, flavor and diversity. Try swiss chard with rosemary and lemon pierogis for Christmas Eve or five-spice chicken with Chinese black beans for the Chinese New Year.

"Christmas With Paula Deen: Recipes and Stories from My Favorite Holiday"

by Paula Deen (Simon & Schuster, $23)

The Food Network diva bares all in this down-home, fat-and-flavor-packed, stocking-stuffer cookbook. From "The Best Damn Blueberry Muffin You'll Ever Eat" on Christmas morning to crab mousse and soy rubbed tenderloin for Christmas dinner, you practically gain weight just reading the recipes, but you're in hog heaven the whole time. S

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