My Favorite Free Christmas eBooks

A Christmas Carol original book cover illustration

Here’s four of my all-time favorite free holiday stories. (Maybe reading on the Kindle can become a new Christmas tradition!) These stories are all available as a free ebooks, on the Kindle (or on Project Gutenberg). And at least one of them has been around for almost 200 years!
 
Old Christmas by Washington Irving

He was America’s first internationally popular author, and he wrote two timeless stories — Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But he also fathered many of our Christmas traditions. At the age of 29, when he was starting his career in 1812, Irving added five nostalgic Christmas stories to a collection of writing, and for one dream sequence, imagined what would happen if St. Nicholas flew over the forests in a flying sleigh. That’s believed to have inspired many of the subsequent stories about Santa Claus and his flying reindeer!

And the stories had an even greater impact. Irving also researched holiday traditions as far back as 1652, according to Wikipedia, and his popular stories “contributed to the revival and reinterpretation of the Christmas holiday in the United States.” Even Charles Dickens himself said that Irving’s stories influenced his own famous novella, A Christmas Carol.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It’s not just a story about Christmas. It’s partly responsible for the way that way celebrate it. The story by 31-year-old Charles Dickens “was one of the single greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England,” according to Wikipedia, which notes it was published just as new customs were established like tree-decorating and Christmas cards. The book helped to popularize these traditions, though ironically, the story was immediately pirated after Dickens published it, and he realized almost no profits from the story himself!

I’ve always enjoyed the way Charles Dickens writes, with simple yet very moving stories — and I’m not the only one. Every year on Amazon’s list of the best-selling free ebooks, A Christmas Carol always crashes into the top 20. And interestingly, it turns out that Charles Dickens followed this up with even more Christmas stories — including The Cricket on the Hearth, The Chimes, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.

And all three of these stories are also available for free in Amazon’s Kindle store…


A Visit From Saint Nicholas by Clement Clark Moore

Here’s something fun to download: the original text of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” (One historian called it “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American,” according to Wikipedia.) And there’s some interesting trivia about this story. In its first printing in 1823, Santa’s reindeer were named “Dunder” and “Blixem,” which are the Dutch words for “thunder” and “lightning” — but over the years their names changed into the more familiar-sounding “Donner” and “Blitzen”!


Merry Christmas, Mr. Mark by Nelson Algren

There’s one short Christmas story that I absolutely love — by one of my favorite authors. Ernest Hemingway called Nelson Algren “one of the two best authors in America” — and his greatest novel, The Man With the Golden Arm, offered an unforgettable look at Chicago and its lowlifes. (In 1950, it won a National Book Award). But my personal favorite Algren book was always The Last Carousel, another dazzling collection of short works from throughout his career, which he’d published in 1973.

At the age of 64, the author had hand-picked each story himself – though unfortunately The Last Carousel isn’t available on the Kindle. But one lucky December, I discovered that you can still read one of its most touching stories online. On December 4, 1949, the Chicago Sunday Tribune published “Merry Christmas, Mr. Mark,” a story Algren wrote at the height of career, at the same time as his award-winning novel. The 40-year-old novelist remembered being a young newsboy in the 1920s, braving the snows to sell The Saturday Evening Blade at an intersection by the cemetery — and how the newsboys had tried to swindle their customers!

But by the end, they’d all learned a valuable lesson about Christmas…!

Amazon’s Free Christmas Game for the Kindle

Amazon Kindle game Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles menu screenshot

Here’s a special free holiday treat from Amazon. If you own a black-and-white Kindle, Amazon’s already released 18 different free games. And for Christmas a couple years ago, they also released one that was specifically designed for the holiday season…

“We were going to wait to start talking about the holidays, but this new free game for Kindle is getting us in the spirit a little early,” read one announcement on the Kindle’s page on Facebook!

“Check it out for yourself, but don’t blame us if you suddenly get the urge to start stringing lights and singing carols!” That new game was “Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles,” and within four hours of the announcement, it had already earned 208 “Like” votes on Facebook and drawn 35 enthusiastic comments. (Like the woman in Minnesota who posted “OMG! OMG! OMG! This is my all time FAVORITE Kindle game, I’ve been waiting for a Part 2 forever!! YESSSS!!!!!!!”)

It was a “sequel” to a free game Amazon released called simply “Picture Perfect Puzzles”. In both those games, users try to form a picture by darkening all the correct squares in a grid, making logical deductions from clues showing the number of squares that need darkening in each row and column. But for the second “holiday” version, Amazon created 35 more puzzles, each one with a fun holiday theme. (The puzzles were grouped into six categories: Winter Begins, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Continues, Kwanzaa, and New Years.)

Picture Perfect Puzzle - Snowflake

I’ve played this game, and it’s a lot of fun. It can be “challenging” — you have to do some logical thinking in your brain. But that just makes it totally engrossing, like a good game of Sudoku.

And best of all, it’s free…

Happy holidays!

Get a $1 Music Credit from Amazon!

Mystery Science Theatre - Santa Claus

A funny thing happened when I bought Mystery Science Theatre 3000: Santa Claus. Amazon gave me a dollar! “Purchase or Rent a Movie or TV Show from Amazon Instant Video, Get a $1 Digital Music Credit,” reads the special web page at Amazon.com. And the second I’d bought my video, Amazon sent me an e-mail confirming that I’d qualified. “Your recent order [of Mystery Science Theatre 3000: Santa Claus ] entitles you to a promotional credit which we have added to your account… As a customer who has purchased or rented a qualifying product from Amazon Instant Video, you have earned a $1 credit valid towards Amazon Digital Music albums or single songs.”


For a shortcut to Amazon’s page, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/AmazonMusicDollar

The funny thing was, the video only cost me $3.00 to rent — and some videos are even cheaper. (You can buy videos for as little as 99 cents.) Amazon wants to publicize their “Instant Video” store — and giving away free music is guaranteed to bring some attention. They’re going to keep doing this until the end of 2015, so the next time you purchase a video, you’ll probably also receive the same Amazon e-mail.

Of course, they may end this offer, according to the fine print in the give-away’s “Terms and Conditions.” (“Amazon reserves the right to modify or cancel the offer at any time…”) But for now, the $1 credit is automatically applied to your very next music purchase. And if you’re not sure whether you’ve qualified, there’s a special button labeled “Check Your Balance” where you can see when Amazon’s credit is available.

I like how the credit just instantly appears in your Amazon account just as soon as you complete a qualifying video purchase. (Amazon’s e-mail literally arrived within seconds of my video purchase. That’s how much they want you to try their music store…) “Thanks again for shopping with us,” Amazon added cheerfully at the end of the e-mail.

And by the end of the day, I was enjoying both a new song and a new video.


Remember, for a shortcut to Amazon’s page, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/AmazonMusicDollar