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Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas: Unabridged [Kindle Edition]

Ace Collins
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing

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Book Description

Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you’ve never met, stories you’ve never heard, and meanings you’d never have imagined.

The next time you and your family sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," you’ll have a new understanding of its message and popular roots. You’ll discover how "Angels from the Realms of Glory," with its sublime lyrics and profound theology, helped usher in a quiet revolution in worship. You’ll learn the strange history of the haunting and powerful "O Holy Night," including the song’s surprising place in the history of modern communications. And you’ll step inside the life of Mark Lowry and find out how he came to pen the words to the contemporary classic "Mary, Did You Know?"

Still other songs such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" trace back to mysterious origins--to ninth-century monks, nameless clergy, and unknown commoners of ages past. Joining hands with such modern favorites as "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song," they are part of the legacy of inspiration, faith, tears, love, and spiritual joy that is Christmas.

From the rollicking appeal of "Jingle Bells" to the tranquil beauty of "Silent Night," the great songs of Christmas contain messages of peace, hope, and truth. Each in its own way expresses a facet of God’s heart and celebrates the birth of his greatest gift to the world--Jesus, the most wonderful Christmas Song of all.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This year, at least three different titles explore the origins of well-known Christmas carols. Ace Collins's Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas takes on more than 30 popular songs and hymns, from classics such as "O Holy Night" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" to the contemporary Christian hit "Mary, Did You Know?" Secular numbers such as "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" also get their due in this attractively designed gift book.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Collins is an ace at song history, dispensing compendiums of song backstories that are nothing if not tasty--quite a feat, given the saccharinity of popular-music commentators in general. His custom is to tell how a song came to be written and popularized, capping the resultant article with a snippet about its commercial track record, if appropriate; quite often in this book, it isn't. Many a Christmas song peaked in popularity long before Bing Crosby or Judy Garland could have had a first-time chart-topper with them. Of course, Bing did make "Silver Bells" a hit, Judy scored with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and Collins is fully in his element with those and other twentieth-century entrants into the Christmas canon. Not that he doesn't tell a good tale about each of the 31 entries in this book. It's just that, with the old songs, he can't impart facts such as the one he drops about "Silver Bells"--to wit, as Der Bingle moaned about many other things, Hope did it first. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
123 of 129 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy research March 1, 2006
Format:Hardcover
For someone with 50 books to his credit--as per the dust jacket--Collins is highly sloppy in the research of this book. As has been previously noted, he just presented a common story about the origins of "Silent Night" without necessarily having done any deep research. And the comments about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" come straight from a silly internet piece, with no basis in fact.

This is common throughout this book. It seems more often than not, Collins has just done some cursory internet research and then slapped it all together and called it good.

Some other screw-ups: Irving Berlin was worried that "White Christmas" wasn't really a good song. Actually Berlin, upon introducing it to his office staff and musical secretary, refered to it as "not only the greatest song I've ever written, but the greatest song ever written." Berlin at one point had plans to make White Christmas the main production number in a major Broadway revue. In performing it for Crosby and studio execs, Berlin got nervous with himself and choked in performing it. You can read about this in Jody Rosen's excellent book on White Christmas, called "White Christmas."

As for his assertions about the meaning and origin of the term Merry in merry Christmas, he gets it wrong again. Ten minutes in the Oxford English Dictionary, available at any decent public library, would have given him the answers.

Better Books on this subject are Rosen's afforementioned book and "The Penguin Book of Christmas Carols" ed. Ian Bradbury.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Another reviewer points out the this author seems to weave fairy tales into his narrative. That's exactly the problem. There is often a core of fact in what he's describing - but he weaves about half a page of fact into a fanciful two and half pages which he crams with spiritual extrapolation. He adds a subtext to almost every story that is his own agenda...putting thoughts into the composers head and words into their mouth which are obviously fabricated. It's frustrating - because if he had gone with "Just the facts, Maam" it would have been one of the most useful books out there on the subject. Instead, when i'm researching a carol, I have to cross check it with several other sources to make sure he hasn't completely invented part of a story.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dashed hopes instead of snow December 1, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had high hopes for this selection. I love Christmas carols and thought that having the stories behind them would be fun. However, of the first three "chapters" that I read (I'll be Home for Christmas, White Christmas, and the Twelve Days of Christmas), the research is sloppy, incorrect, and incomplete. Other reviewers have detailed the problems with White Christmas. A simple search on the Urban Legend dubunking site of snopes.com will show problems with the Twelve Days of Christmas writeup. And then there's my favorite, I'll be Home for Christmas. While the story is nice, adding yet one more error (assuming that lyricist "Kim Gannon" is female) to the list already detailed causes one to question the validity of anything in the entire book. The lyrics for this song were written by James "Kim" Gannon (male). This book would have benefited from better research AND better proofreading. Luckily I picked it up for free for the Kindle. If it's still available for free, it's maybe worth the download for some of the stories, but before passing on any information to others, it's best to do a quick google search to validate that you are not just perpetuating a legend.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fascinating book! December 21, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I heard about this book by listening to WMBI in Chicago the week before Christmas. They had the author on, telling one Christmas carol song per day. Immediately I purchased the book, and am thoroughly enjoying it!
Ace tells the stories of 31 favorite Christmas songs. They aren't all traditional carols, but include "Mary Did You Know", and a couple of secular-based Christmas songs such as "Silver Bells" and "Rudolph". I would love to know where Mr. Collins got all his information - there is no Bibliography.
The book itself is very attractive - you can see what the cover is like above, but inside, the print is a deep blue, and there are simple drawings and borders using the same blue. This makes it very visually appealing.
The best way to read "Stories Behind the Best-Love Songs of Christmas" would probably be to read one chapter per day for the 31 days before Christmas. But you can also read it straight through, or dip into the chapter that talks about YOUR favorite Christmas song.
As a perfect companion to Ace Collins' book, I recommend "Christ in the Carols" by Christopher and Melodie Lane. In this book, the emphasis is on finding Christ in the carols and how these carols express so beautifully the glorious and mysterious incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Take the time out this Christmas to enjoy the history and meaning of these beloved songs of Christmas! This book would make a wonderful gift!
You might be interested in checking out my other reviews of Christian books adn music.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful book! November 23, 2001
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. It was so interesting to hear the stories behind all the Christmas songs. The only reason I rated it a four is that not all the song lyrics are included. Even when it is a song I know by heart, I liked reading through the words, especially songs that have several verses that we don't always sing. Very sweet, easy to read, and interesting.
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More About the Author

Ace Collins is the writer of more than sixty books, including several bestsellers: Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Stories behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, The Cathedrals, and Lassie: A Dog's Life. Based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, He continues to publish several new titles each year, including a series of novels, the first of which is Farraday Road. Ace has appeared on scores of television shows, including CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and Entertainment Tonight.

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