Books for Christmas #3 – The Atheist’s Guide To Christmas

December 5th, 2010

Even though this book was marked ‘buy one get one 50% off’ enabling me to feel less guilt for buying more books AND was clearly marketed to atheists or to people buying presents for atheists, I severely hesitated over purchasing it.  Why?  Let me just list the reasons…

1.  In general, I don’t like collections of short stories.  I just don’t.  I prefer my stories to come in the form of long narratives written under the vision of one mind.  I guess I like to get fully immersed in my books as opposed to taking a series of short showers.  I don’t even like the short stories in my favorite magazines like the New Yorker.  I love the articles and I live for the cartoons, but the short stories?  Meh.

2.  It features Richard Dawkins on the cover.  Don’t get me wrong – I love Richard Dawkins.  I love him with my whole heart, the same way I used to love Jesus, except that I don’t lie awake at night terrified that a glowing white robed Richard is going to show up in my bedroom declaring that I should GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL THE NATIONS!  I especially love to watch videos and films that feature Dawkins.  I find him to be a wonderful speaker and I enjoy listening to him talk to people because he is so dang smart and he is so dang nice and he has that rare ability to laugh at himself even though he is so smart.  These three qualities make me a huge fan of Dawkins in video format, but I am sorry to say that his books utterly confound me.  I have tried to get through two of them now and have had to put them down long before I finished.  Even though my favorite atheist story came out of one of his books (the one where Winston Churchills’ son reads the bible for the first time and keeps saying ‘God – God is such a shit’) I still struggle greatly with the prose of Dawkins.  He tends to write about sciencey stuff and he doesn’t exactly ‘dumb it down’ enough to make it accessible to weak and shaky minds like mine.  So when I saw that Dawkins was a featured writer on the cover, I thought, “Oh No! I will never be able to get through this book!”

3.  It seemed gimmicky.  I mean how much more gimmicky can you get?  I guess you could give this book a black leather cover, gild the pages and put those little thumb tabs on the side with each author’s name abbreviated in a manner that only the faithful atheist would comprehend.  This book is obviously packaged to sell to people like me and I resent that!  I want to stumble upon my books mysteriously!  I want them to call to me from the back of the book store as if we have a telepathic connection!  I want to search, to sort, to seek them like the wise-men sought out the infant Jesus!  I want my books to rise from the ether, to appear out of the mist, I want to be involved in the supremely sexy act of discovery!  I DON’T WANT MY BOOKS TO SHOUT AT ME FROM THE HOLIDAY SALE SHELF IN THE FRONT OF BORDER’S BOOKS AT THE MANHATTAN KANSAS MALL!

And yet, even with all these things stacked against it, I bought the book anyway.  And I enjoyed it very much.  I will say that Dawkins’ essay once again failed to capture my attention and I was not able to finish it.  I feel kind of bad about it though and may sit down and read it this afternoon.  I don’t even think his essay had anything to do with science.  I think it was more of a satirical look at the holiday season, but don’t quote me on that.  However, most of the other essays in this book were highly readable.  Several of them were laugh out loud hilarious and almost every one of them were positive and upbeat about how much the various authors love the Christmas season despite the multitude of reasons that they felt they should despise it.  I think anyone who loves Christmas and good storytelling would enjoy this book and the nice thing about a collection of writings from several authors is – you discover a whole truckload of new people to read!

Oh!  And one other thing – all the authors in this book are giving their advances and their royalties to the Terrence Higgins Trust an organization devoted to fighting HIV and educating the public about the disease.


  • Priss:

    I really liked Dawkin’s contribution, and like you, I’ve struggled with his books and have yet to finish one. But his essay in this book was funny and enjoyable. Give it another try!

    I haven’t finished the book yet. I’m reading it on my iPhone (not my favorite format!) and since I’m new to the Kindle app, I cannot figure out how to find out the authors of the different essays and skip to the ones I want. I should’ve bought a hard copy.

  • jalf:

    Out of curiosity, which of Dawkins’ books did you (try to) read?

    • Rechelle:

      The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion

      • Priss:

        That’s funny, those are the same two I tried. I did listen to the audio book of The God Delusion and nearly finished it, so for me his voice and his wife’s are much easier to deal with than his words on a page. I think I quit listening mostly because I was onto other listening matter. Maybe audio books are the way to go with Dawkins.

        • Rechelle:

          That is a great idea Priss. I will give it a try.

  • km:

    OMG ! Short story collections are everywhere in Ireland. I think it comes from our fireside storytelling history. Now not liking a short story, that is blasphemous:)

  • Nancy:

    My oldest son will LOVE this. Just added it to my Amazon cart. Thanks!