Sunday 1 December 2019

Christmas Around the Fire - Edited by Ryan N.S. Topping - Stories, Essays, Poems for the Season of Christ’s Birth

Christmas Around the Fire:
Stories, Essays, Poems for the Season of Christ’s Birth
Ryan N.S. Topping
TAN Books
ISBN 9781505111156
eSIBN 9781505111163

First, I must state that the physical edition of this book is wonderfully made. I really am an eBooks guy, and I enjoyed this enough that I have picked up the eBook edition as well. But the physical book is one I will keep on my favorites shelf. The physical book sis cloth bound and lettered in gold. Heavy weight cream colored pages with black print and read titles and embellishments. It is what some would call a coffee table book or display book. In my family it might have become a bathroom reader. The volume is edited by Ryan N.S. Topping, whom I had not heard of before, but in researching this review have already added three of his other works to my Wishlist.

This volume contains 13 stories and 23 essays and poems. The pieces are:

Part I: Stories
Leo Tolstoy, Papa Panov’s Special Christmas
G. K. Chesterton, The Modern Scrooge
Charles Dickens, The Spirit of Christmas Past
Henry Van Dyke, The First Christmas Tree
Stephen Leacock, Merry Christmas
The Hegge Cycle, The Annunciation
Willa Cather, The Burglar’s Christmas
Harrison S. Morris, A Christmas Miracle
Oscar Wilde, The Selfish Giant
Ruth Sawyer, This Was the Christmas
Catherine Doherty, The Christmas Gift
Henry Van Dycke, The Other Wise Man
Ryan N. S. Topping, A Canadian Christmas
Part II: Essays & Poems
Pope Benedict XVI, Advent Calls Us to Silence
George MacDonald, That Holy Thing
Pope St. John Paul II, Rejoice, The Lord Is Near
G. M. Hopkins, Moonless Darkness Stands Between
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Great Is the Lord’s Love for Us
Ben Jonson, A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour
Joseph Pearce, Keeping Christmas Local
Robert Southwell, The Burning Babe
G. K. Chesterton, The Rituals of Christmas
Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit From St. Nicholas
Hillaire Belloc, A Remaining Christmas
G. K. Chesterton, The House of Christmas
St. Augustine, A Christmas Sermon
Christina Rossetti, The Shepherds Had an Angel
Charles Lamb, A Few Words on Christmas
Thomas Hardy, The Oxen
Charles Dickens, What Christmas Is as We Grow Older
John Neale, Good King Wenceslas
Charles Dudley Warner, The Burden of Christmas
Sara Teasdale, A Christmas Carol
Cardinal Newman, Why Do We Need Epiphany?
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Three Kings
Pope Benedict XVI, Epiphany in a Secular Age

This is one of those books that can be consumed from beginning to end. Or from end to beginning. Or randomly flipping open and reading one of the sections in any order you want. The first time I read it I read it through in order. I have already started reading it a second time through. Some of the pieces I was familiar with, others were new to me. It is a wonderful collection to read during the advent or Christmas season. Either alone, or out loud to the family.

We are told that the selections in this volume grew from a list the Toppings would use for reading once the children were down. The adults would enjoy the quiet time, and take turns reading to one another. Topping states:

“In looking through this volume, you’ll find stories, essays, and poems. Some tales are short, others long, some from America, Canada, or England, others from faraway countries and times; some reflections, like the ones by St Augustine and Benedict XVI, provoke deep thought, while others, like those by Tolstoy and G. K. Chesterton, are more whimsical. What unites these selections is that each, in its own way, points us back to the miracle of the Babe in Bethlehem. Just as his birth needed Mary, Joseph, Angels, and also an ox, an ass, and lowly shepherds, so also does the Holy Child’s message need our voices—the voices of poets, priests, parents, philosophers, and storytellers to carry his love into our hearts.”

And that is what I love about the collection. It points the way but does so in many different ways in forms. It is one of those book I will revisit yearly, and as my children get older have them join in for both reading and listening to the stories collected. I am sure this book will bless all who read it. And I encourage you to pick it up and make it part of your Christmas traditions.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Ryan N.S. Topping:
Christmas Around the Fire: Stories, Essays, Poems for the Season of Christ’s Birth
Happiness and Wisdom: Augustine’s Early Theology of Education
Rebuilding Catholic Culture: How the Catechism Can Shape our Common Life
Renewing the Mind: A Reader in the Philosophy of Catholic Education
St. Augustine
The Case for Catholic Education: Why Parents, Teachers, and Politicians Should Reclaim the Principles of Catholic Pedagogy
The Elements of Rhetoric
The Gift of the Church: Volume 1 - How the Catholic Church Transformed the History and Soul of the West
Two Concepts of the Soul in Plato’s Phaedo


Carolyn Astfalk said...

This looks like a lovely book to build traditions around! Thanks for sharing it - I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Steven R. McEvoy said...

It just came out this year.