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December 16, 2020

A Book Box for Christmas

Sharon Virts is a successful entrepreneur and visionary who, after more than 25 years in business, followed her passion for storytelling into the world of historical fiction. Her debut novel, MASQUE OF HONOR, releases on February 9th. In this coming-of-age tale set in early 19th-century America, two sons of the Virginia aristocracy risk it all to defend their dreams and determine their own destinies. Sharon was a voracious reader from a very young age, so the Christmas present that meant the most to her growing up was a box of used books that she would find under the family tree each year. This treasure trove was lovingly assembled by her mother, whose visits to their local Goodwill store would yield an embarrassment of literary riches. But there was one book from that first box that turned out to be her favorite story of all.


From my earliest days, my world has been filled with writing and reading. When I was growing up, my parents had little money to spend on non-essentials, and Christmastime was no exception. New toys were few, with most of Santa’s gifts having been loved before by some other child.

Every Christmas, my biggest gift under our tree was a box of used books. For months preceding the holiday season, my mother scoured the local Goodwill store in search of books to feed her daughter’s voracious reading appetite. And each Christmas, I was delighted by what my mother had found. From mystery and crime fiction writers like Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner to classic authors like Mark Twain and William Shakespeare, I never knew what I would find in that box. I remember one year there was a racy Mickey Spillane novel that caused quite the ruckus in my seventh grade English class (but that’s another story!). The books of the Christmas box were better than any I could check out at the library because I could bend the corners and underline my favorite parts in pencil.

The first book box that Santa brought was just after my brother was born. I was three at the time and don’t quite remember opening the gift, but I remember the books it contained: LAZY FOX AND RED HEN, CHICKEN LITTLE, PETER RABBIT --- dozens of Little Golden Books. These would become some of the favorite stories of my childhood. There was a particular book in that first box that was my favorite story of all: THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. To this day, I remember how lush the illustrations were! I made my mother read it to me over and over. And every year following, my brother and I would crawl up onto the feather ticking of my parents’ bed in the days leading up to Christmas, and night after night she would read it to us.

When I had children of my own, the tradition continued. There are still boxes of books under the tree (although now they are new). And we still read THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. My mother has the old version, so I bought a similar one for my own children. Every Christmas Eve, I pull it off the shelf and read it in the same manner that my mother read it to me, with all of the emotion one might feel if, in the middle of the night, one found a man dressed all in red with a herd of reindeer on her roof. And every year I get that lump in my throat and that mist of water in my eyes when I remember the joy of opening those big boxes of books and the anticipation of the wonderful stories waiting inside.