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Published: Sunday, 12/19/2010

Fun Christmas books for grown-ups

The holiday season is the time of year when publishers deluge the marketplace with seasonal children's books. And why not? They make fine stocking stuffers.

And what about holiday-themed books for adults? They're on bookshelves, too, as this sampling shows.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig (Dutton, $19.95, 352 pages): The charming Regency-era Pink Carnation series continues, with Christmas shenanigans involving international intrigue and romance set in Regency-era England. Bonus: Jane Austen makes an appearance.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas (St. Martin's, $16.99, 224 pages): When the guardian of a traumatized 6-year-old orphan meets a woman who is recently widowed, the magic of Christmas takes over.

Busy Body by M.G. Beaton (Minotaur, $24.99, 288 pages): In PI Agatha Raisin's 21st outing, the small-town sleuth is hired by a murder suspect to clear her name. Meanwhile, will Christmas festivities in the village where she lives be canceled? Will Raisin find romance? Will the killer be caught?

A Piggly Wiggly Christmas by Robert Dalby (Putnam, $24.95, 272 pages): It's said that miracles are a way of life in Second Creek, Miss., and the town needs one after a fire devastates the site of the upcoming Christmas celebration.

The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir by Ken Harmon (Dutton, $19.95, 288 pages): A 1,300-year-old elf is fired by Santa after being framed for a crime. His path to redemption takes him on a trip that mixes noir fiction and pop culture.

The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry (Vanguard, $15.95, 240 pages): When musician Jimmy Sullivan falls in love, he writes a smash-hit love song and dedicates it to his new soul mate. Fame follows, but finding himself alone on Christmas Eve he must make a choice.

In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough (Shadow Mountain, $19.99, 56 pages): Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McCullough offers a triple whammy: a recollection of the "messages of hope" delivered on Christmas Eve of 1941 at the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (with photos); a DVD of McCullough presenting the story at a Christmas concert featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the histories of the songs "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs (Picador, $14, 206 pages): As the author proved in two previous mordant memoirs, Running with Scissors and Dry, dark humor and frank admission are his trademarks. That also goes for this recollection of Christmases past.

The Christmas Spirit by Joel Osteen (Free Press, $15.99, 160 pages): The Texas-based pastor and author of the best-selling Become a Better You shares "inspiring stories of family and friends celebrating Christmas traditions."

The Christmas Chronicles by Jeff Guinn (Tarcher, $14.95, 752 pages): This history-laden yet fanciful tri-story confection explains the origin of Santa Claus, how Mrs. Claus "saved Christmas," and Santa's guided tour of Christmas in the United States.

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas by Lewis Black (Riverhead, $19.95, 192 pages): The grumpy comedian goes Scrooge on the holidays in a funny rant that confronts holiday meals, Christmas cards, shopping ("Why don't you folks wait until Dec. 26, when things are the cheapest?"), Christmas trees and carols, and gift-giving. No wonder he spends Christmas alone.

Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas by Jonathan Green (Skyhorse, $14.95, 184 pages): Christmas-centric myths and traditions are unwrapped, revealing a gift of fascination. Did you know the first artificial Christmas tree was made from goose feathers dyed green?

Stupid Christmas by Leland Gregory (Andrews McMeel, $9.99, 240 pages): Christmas gets out of hand sometimes, as this compilation of bizarre behavior shows. For instance, there were the two guys arrested for stealing Christmas trees, but they denied it with this excuse: "He told police he wanted to see how long it would take him to run around the building, carrying the tree, while [his friend] timed him."

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