BY THE BOOK | The Simplest Christmas Gift of All


Druid priests wore serpent eggs around their necks.

I found this out when I was about to read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to celebrate the season, but the only copy that was available (I wasn't in the store) was a book that was part of his collected works and had A Child's History of England in it as well.  

A history of England for children?  What's that about?  

I decided to just read the first page and see if I fancied it.  WHAM!  Dicken's genius stood up and gave me a pop in the kisser!  100 pages later I was enthralled with this king slaughtering that king, this queen poisoning everybody, Druids and serpent eggs, marauding Danes and Normans!  

New forest, the six boy kings, so much history, but the actual muddle and scrum of history isn't what was interesting—it was Dickens himself that was interesting.

His asides and jokes and wit and the little lessons he is drawing from the larger picture were just wonderful.

His main message here is much as it is in A Christmas Carol: death is coming, look at all these unhappy figures in history and how badly they acted, and for what?  A little power, gold, lust?  All gone.  While the happy man who acts morally towards his fellow man has all the treasure in the world, happiness.  Blah, blah, blah.

But Dickens is really great and you should read him.  

And he's not just a moral scold, he's a genius, way above any description I could give of him.

A Christmas Carol is great too, for its main message of the fleetingness of life, and how good will can extend happiness into the hereafter—but also for its genius little asides like when Scrooge makes hilarious witty remarks to the ghosts, or the description of the fog, or just of Fezziwig's countenance.

Again, Dickens is the best!

But, you know that.

I just asked my employee Christian what his favorite Christmas book was: The Gospel of Luke.

“I think what intrigues me about Luke's writing is how historical they are... It reads like a narrative.  I feel like Linus describing it.”

“I think Advent hymns are some of the best hymns in the church.”

So, there you go.  I am off to read Luke's Gospel and I will pay close attention to the advent hymns.  

It's easy to get a Christmas gift.  You just ask anybody what they like about Christmas and they will give it to you.

Mark Stolle owns Manchester By The Book, a used bookstore in downtown Manchester and he offers biweekly recommendations for our readers on what to read right now.

charles dickens, neo-druidism, mark stolle, a christmas carol