As I write this December greeting to you, our beloved customers, I want to take just a minute to acknowledge the spirit of the season. By now we have all been inundated with alerts of discounts and free shipping and promises of the latest and greatest necessities for gift giving, but I hope to offer a moment of contemplation, which is what books ideally provide us. Bookstores, after all, are not only places of commerce, but also play a crucial role in sustaining human connection and enlightenment.
There was a book published in 2001 called Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub (unfortunately out of print but used copies can still be found) that tells the true story of the unofficial, spontaneous truce that spread along the front lines during the early months of WWI. It has become a fairly well known story by now, but it came to my mind this year.
Reportedly, on Christmas day 1914, French, Belgian and British soldiers defied their superiors, quit fighting, and climbed out of the trenches to meet in the “No Man’s Land” between the opposing trenches to share a Christmas celebration with their sworn enemies. It was said later, in letters and accounts by the soldiers, that it started on Christmas Eve with the singing of carols and that the familiar songs were eventually shared across enemy lines and language barriers.
“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles…”
As I imagine it, the silent night was pierced by the voices of men, far from their loved ones and conscripted into a cruel war, using the familiar carols to comfort themselves and their fellow soldiers. Perhaps it was their voices joining in the dark that brought a sense of humanity that transcended the brutality of their circumstances.
For all of you reading this I don’t have to enumerate the many ways we currently seem to be at war with our neighbors, but it is my hope for all of us, in this companionship of readers, that as the solstice approaches we can find a sense of harmony, a respite in words and music, and in the quietude of the long, clear, starry nights.
As a bookseller and buyer, I read across the gamut of titles, from backlist to present, and am also fortunate to have access to copies of forthcoming books.
Sometimes the publication of a new title merits going back and rereading the author’s previous work, as with Toni Morrison, Banana Yoshimoto, and Jennifer Egan this year.
So here are some highlights of 2022, and before and beyond.