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A modern take on traditional Yuletide storytelling, this lighthearted fable introduces an all-American husband and wife who decide to beat the high cost of giving. Luther and Nora Krank agree to forego the tiresome parties, meaningless presents, and inedible fruitcakes that have become such an aggravating part of their lives each December. They're not sending any cards (who believes those sappy greetings, anyway?). They're not going to install a rooftop Frosty, though every other house on their street has one. They're not even putting up a tree. Instead, the weary Kranks are trading in snowmen for suntans by setting sail for the carefree Caribbean on Christmas Day. It sounds like bliss, but Luther and Nora soon find out that skipping Christmas is no paradise. Besieged by outraged neighbors and marauding carolers, who refuse to see Frosty put on ice, the Kranks unwittingly usher in a hilarious controversy, brimming with Grisham's signature plot twists.
Offering readers a relief from holiday frenzy, "Skipping Christmas" in its first year on sale, quickly became the must-have book of the season. It's the perfect little gift that's sure to appear on wish lists -- and bestseller lists -- for years to come.
Well-known authors join the Christmas chorus
Some readers might think John Grisham started the latest publishing trendthe growing number of best-selling authors penning Christmas books. Bah, humbug! Let's not forget the granddaddy of Christmas stories: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which became an immediate bestseller when it was first published in 1843.
John Grisham didn't try his hand at writing a Christmas story until the 21st century arrived, but his winning example appears to have prompted a chorus of prominent authors to follow suit. Skipping Christmas, Grisham's story of a suburban couple fed up with the holiday rush, jumped to the top of the bestseller lists when it was released last year. Publisher Doubleday is hoping to boost sales by issuing a redesigned, lower-priced edition for the 2002 holiday season ($14.95, 192 pages, ISBN 0385508417).
Here's a selection of other noted authors who are hoping to hitch a ride on Santa's sleigh:
* Jan Karon, who struck holiday gold last year with The Mitford Snowman, returns with another pint-sized stocking stuffer, Esther's Gift (Viking, $10.95, 48 pages, ISBN 0670031216). Mitford resident Esther Bolick is chagrined to discover just how much it's costing her to bake orange marmalade cakes for her friends around town. Should she economize and cut back on her holiday baking? As fans of Karon's Mitford novels have come to expect, this story is as sweet as Esther's marmalade cake (recipe included).
* Red-hot mystery writer Janet Evanovich is promising to "shake up your holidays" with her first Christmas novel, Visions of Sugar Plums (St. Martin's, $19.95, 160 pages, ISBN 0312306326). Saucy bounty hunter Stephanie Plum awakes one morning to find the Spirit of Christmas in her apartment. But this is no ethereal Spirit; he's a grungy-looking guy in jeans and a leather jacket. And when he joins Stephanie in the hunt for bail-jumper Sandy Claws, the holiday fun is just beginning.
* David Baldacci, known for political thrillers like Last Man Standing and The Simple Truth, shifts gears dramatically with his new novel, The Christmas Train. Journalist Tom Langdon is forced to take a cross-country train to reach Los Angeles in time for Christmas and the 3,000-mile trip turns out to be a life-changing experience. With elements of romance, suspense and humor, and a first printing of 650,000, The Christmas Train is on a fast track to becoming one of the season's top titles.
* Quaker minister Philip Gulley has won a growing readership for his novels chronicling the small-town charms of fictional Harmony, Indiana. In the spirit of the season, he offers a stocking-stuffer-sized book, Christmas in Harmony (HarperSanFrancisco, $12.95, 96 pages, ISBN 0060520124). When an ornery member of the town's Quaker church insists that the church sponsor a live nativity scene, Pastor Sam Gardner has trouble on his handsnot to mention a cow, a sheep and a goose. With his usual quirky characters and heart-warming style, Gulley has created a memorable glimpse of an old-fashioned holiday.