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PAINFUL TRUTH: Christmas means books

Reporter Matthew Claxton writes a weekly opinion column
Books on the shelves of the Fraser Valley Regional Library branch in Langley City. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Some kids want a bike under the tree on Christmas morning, or some kind of doll or action figure, maybe a game.

I did covet toys as a kid. I had my share of weird little guys made out of injection-molded plastic, with hands that would allegedly grip swords or rayguns, and with surprisingly fragile joints.

But the presents that I remember best were simple heavy rectangles.

I’m sure you’re shocked to find out I was a bookish kid from way back. And my parents and grandparents were happy to indulge that at Christmas.

I remember in particular the big hardcovers I got. Collections of Sherlock Holmes stories, Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, and Jack London’s The Call of the Wild.

I still have a number of those books, since hardcovers like that were made to last.

And since I usually got a little bit of money around Christmas, as well, I would go hog-wild later at the bookstore, or the scholastic book fair the next time it came through.

The cheap paperbacks and comics I picked up – I didn’t get that much money, hardcovers were out of my price range – have not generally survived as well.

The books fed into the other great thing about Christmas – there was so much time to read.

The two weeks off around Christmas, especially as a kid, was an oasis.

I always read a lot as a kid, but now there was a real quiet time, with nothing much else to do.

Once you’ve got your pile of books (serious hardcovers, cheap paperbacks, library books, school library books, comics featuring turtles who are also ninjas, etc.) you could just settle down by the fireplace.

You could just read.

For hours.

If it was snowing, sure, we’d go out and play (or be banished to the outdoors temporarily; my mom had to put up with two boys with a lot of energy and needed a break now and then) and come back when we needed dry socks.

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But more often than not, it was just raining and grey outside. West Coast Christmases bring the squish of mud under rubber boots more often than the crunch of soft dry snow, after all.

This made for perfect reading weather.

You had more time during the summer vacations (also prime reading time) but there were also a lot more things to do outside.

Very few adults get a full two weeks off around the holidays.

I will, however, have some time off in February. Which is almost as grey, and twice as dreary as December.

I’m planning to make a nice stack of books – maybe the last John LeCarré novel, possibly some John M. Ford, and Vancouver author Siliva Moreno Garcia’s latest – and just spend a good chunk of an overcast afternoon seeing how much progress I can make through the stack.

Happy holidays, and I hope you have time for some reading too this year.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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