I first discovered David Sedaris's hilarious mini-collection of Christmas-inspired stories, Holidays on Ice, in a charity shop for 50p: it was a worthwhile investment as that year I bought new copies for pretty much everyone I knew. It's still a go-to stocking-filler for any friend with a pulse and a sense of humour.
The blurb should give you an idea of the general style:
"Holidays on Ice collects six of David Sedaris's most profound Christmas stories into one slender volume perfect for use as a last-minute coaster or ice scraper. This drinking man's companion can be enjoyed by the warmth of a raging fire, the glow of a brilliantly decorated tree, or even in the backseat of a van or police car. It should be read with your eyes, felt with your heart, and heard only when spoken to. It should, in short, behave much like a book. And, oh, what a book it is!"
The text of "Santaland Diaries" - the first and best piece in Holidays, being a lightly fictionalised memoir of Sedaris's soul-destroying stint as a Christmas elf in a well-known New York department store - is not available online (buy it, you cheapskates!). Luckily, however, what's almost better is the NPR recording of Sedaris himself reading an extract from it, which has become so popular since its 90s debut that it amounts to a Christmas radio tradition.
This reading essentially launched Sedaris's career, and is worth listening to for his faultless impersonation of Billie Holliday singing "Away in a Manger" alone. It's not often I find things genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, but this is one: and if you like "Santaland", you'll bloody love the rest of the collection, which also contains such gems as a New York theatre critic's archly sneering review of a primary school nativity play, and the pricelessly titled "Dinah the Christmas Whore". Those of you looking for a one-man theatrical vehicle might wish to know that "Santaland Diaries" has also been turned into a one-act play which regularly packs out US fringe theatres.
God bless us, every one.