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Tinsel: A Search for America's Christmas Present

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  438 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
A heartfelt, hilarious look at the evolution of a half-trillion-dollar American holiday

Hank Stuever turns his unerring eye for the idiosyncrasies of modern life to Frisco, Texas, a suburb at once all-American and completely itself, to tell the story of the nation’s most over-the-top celebration: Christmas. Stuever starts the narrative as so many start the Christmas season:
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 12th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2009)
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This was available on Overdrive’s Happy Holidays collection. I grabbed it on a whim. I'm glad I did.
4.5 stars and an excellent narrator.

In 2006, Stuever decided he was going to find the magic of Christmas by doing some research in Texas where everything is bigger and God is holier and lights are brighter and shopping is an honest-to-goodness pasttime. He meets some interesting people - like the Trykoskis whose light display is famous across the country. Theirs was the only story to which I could
Mar 08, 2010 Shannon rated it liked it
I'd like to give this 3.5 stars, but I just don't have it in me to bump it up to 4. Not that the book was bad; quite the contrary, actually. Stuever is an entertaining, if slightly hipster and derivative, writer, and the book was fairly enjoyable (thus the 3.5 stars). But it was...unsurprising. Were there any great insights we were supposed to gain as we read about three Frisco, TX, families and their observation of the Christmas season? With one single exception - a 30-something husband who cov ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
What do you think would happen if a liberal D.C.-based journalist decided to chronicle Christmas as celebrated by a group of Texans? If you think this sounds like it would result in some hilarious observations, you've got the basic idea of Tinsel.

Hank Stuever gets his liberal views in, subtly and not-so (one angst-filled monologue wonders about the choices of Americans: Why Crocs? ... Why Carrie Underwood? Why George Bush? (Why Hillary Clinton?). (Gotta love the oh-darn-if-I-mention-Bush-I-must-
Nov 03, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a nonfiction nerd, I thought perhaps this one might be interesting, so got the audio from the library, with the possibility that I might have to abandon it: indeed not!

In a nutshell: D. C. journalist Hank Stuever "embeds" himself with three Frisco, TX (Dallas suburb) families for the 2006 Christmas season, last one before the Big Mortgage Crash, where that area was hard hit by foreclosures. The stories follow Tammy, a professional Christmas home decorator, and her family (author works as h
Jan 13, 2013 Torieqwq rated it really liked it
The author took his time to concentrate on several families in Frisco, Texas. I like this approach since it makes me feels like I know more about a community and its residents.
Dec 30, 2013 Tracey rated it liked it
I didn't get around to reading this book (courtesy of the local library) until after the holiday, and perhaps it's just as well; the hyper-consumerism of the subjects of the book combined with the author's snark might have made it harder to get into the spirit of season. The book comes off much better post-Christmas, IMHO.

Serendipitously set during the holiday seasons of 2006-2008, Hank Stuever visits with three families of Frisco, Texas - an up-and-coming exurb of Dallas - to examine their hol
Book Concierge

Stuever is a reporter and this non-fiction work chronicles his time spent in a suburb of Dallas Texas as the city and its families prepared for Christmas 2006. Porter’s reading of this work is quite good. He gets the cadence and rhythm of speech of his subjects, which brings a certain life to the work.

This is Christmas before the economy took a tumble, before mass foreclosures and lay-offs. When consumerism was still king, and especially so in the wealthier made-for-commerce suburban “co
Sheri C
Dec 27, 2012 Sheri C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review of the audiobook from Audible. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially as it was a refreshing change from the usual current holiday glurge. The author seems to give an honest picture of the families he followed, treating them with respect, affection, and humor. No, I don't think those attitudes are mutually exclusive. I think he did a pretty good job of capturing, from an outsider's perspective, what we all want Christmas to be, how we try to go about making it happen, and how it can s ...more
Dec 07, 2012 Derek rated it really liked it
Hank Stuever took off 15 months as a culture writer for the Washington Post Style section to find people in “drought-prone Sunbelt states dreaming of white Christmases they know will probably never come” (11). He lands in Plano and Frisco, Texas, stalking four people: Tammie, who decorates houses for women who don’t have time to “figure out the mantel” (22); Caroll, who every year on Black Friday gets a free snowglobe at JC Penney; and Jeff and Bridgette, who stage a visible-from-space lightshow ...more
Jan 01, 2014 Holly rated it it was amazing
My brother gave this book to me as a Christmas gift and I could not put it down. It was horrific and funny and mesmerizing. Stuever reveals a world of crazy Christmasphiles for whom the season is the reason for obsessive rituals, spending, and excess. But Stuever is not heavy handed. He captures the subtle hopes and motivations of people looking to these rituals for meaning in a world where Christmas is something you do up big. He is at the same time incredulous and sympathetic to the people who ...more
Dec 30, 2012 Evan rated it really liked it
This is how Christmas began, after all, way before the time of Christ (and for centuries after his death), when it was a pagan celebration of the winter solstice. People gathered and danced by fires. The harvests were in and everyone gorged.

As a newspaper entertainment journalist, I have stood on red carpets. I have talked to Meryl Streep and Jude Law and Kate Winslet on Oscar night. At parties, I've made small talk with Beyoncé and Helen Mirren and Jake Gyllenhaal. I have thought of something t
Jun 26, 2015 LINCCReviews rated it it was amazing
During the Christmases of 2006, 2007, and 2008, the author investigated the culture of Christmas in America by spending the Christmas season with families in Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He met Tammie Parnell, who charges $700-$1000 per client to decorate the inside of their house for Christmas. He met Jeff Trykoski, an electronics geek who stages an elaborate Christmas light display on his house that creates nightly neighborhood traffic jams every December. On Black Friday he stood in lin ...more
Jan 04, 2010 Lorrie rated it really liked it
This book was released late in '09, and that's unfortunate. I wish there had been more pre-Christmas time for readers to find the book and get into it. Hank Stuever did some great participant observation about over-the-top decorating in Frisco, TX. I never dreamed that so many people (Griswalds) are into lighting. Stuever delivered an interesting
facet of this affluent suburb, but he managed to keep it funny and non-critical. He even developed warm friendships with the people he studied.
Nancy Kennedy
Jan 08, 2014 Nancy Kennedy rated it really liked it
Maybe if I didn't live in Frisco, I wouldn't rate this book so highly, but I was thoroughly entertained! We lived through and inside the covers of this book. It was fun to turn a page and have the author tell a story about someone we actually know. It was also entertaining to figure out who he was talking about when he changed the names "to protect the guilty." This book transported me to 2006 Frisco, Texas. Not a bad place to be. No, it really wasn't!
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 30, 2011 Kari rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2011
A detailed look at the holiday season - and the gross commercialization - in Frisco, TX in 2006. I'm always amazed to see how, as a country, we add to the extravagance of Christmas.
Anca Lumei
A book I listened to with horrified fascination as the author described in great detail the Christmas customs of middle class Texans in 2006.

A few choice bits:
- middle class people spending thousands of dollars paying someone to decorate their house for Chrismas
- upper middle class people living in huge houses, keeping one or more already decorated fake Christmas trees in an unused room, ready to be taken out for Christmas
- people spending thousands of dollars on small decorative houses so the
Jamee Zielke
Jan 12, 2016 Jamee Zielke rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-book
The author set out to study how Americans do Christmas by following several families in Frisco, TX. The author comes across, especially early in the book, as pretty judgy of the people who are hosting him and inviting him into their lives, but as the book goes on its clear that his personality is cynical by nature. In the end, he seems wistful about his time with the families he met.

It was a good listen for me during the holiday season back and forth to work and I enjoyed hearing about the ways
Jan 08, 2016 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
I am the perfect audience for this book, since I am probably the biggest grinch I know. But then I've always hated the holiday. Don't get me wrong, I like what always endears me to certain celebrations -- the cultural aspects. I like to learn how Germans or Mexicans or Italians observe a holiday. I like to know the traditions and the history, and there is some of that included in this expose' as well. But what it's a lot about is American consumerism, fakery, and patriarchy, and how a few Texans ...more
Jan 24, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
OMG nothing quite captures life in suburban Dallas quite like this book. Love it! Lived it!
Oct 16, 2015 Danielle rated it really liked it
Hank Stuever goes to Frisco, Texas, a city that is continually growing as a city for the rich, to find out how some Americans in the 21st Century are celebrating Christmas. Most of the book happens in 2006 but Hank revisits Frisco in 2007 and 2008. But in 2006, the economy is still in a happier place and the citizens of Frisco are able to spend until their heart is content without many worries.

Hank follows three sets of very different families- single mother Carroll, Tammie- a woman who puts up
Jun 03, 2010 Vy rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a feel-good Christmas book, this is not it. Stuever gives us a close look at what an exurban Christmas looked like in 2006, before things went bust. The setting is Frisco, TX, but except for references to A&M and mild weather, it really could have been just about any place in the country similarly afflicted with affluenza. He tells us how the season plays out, from the shopping and decorating crescendo that starts in the fall, through to the packing up of ornaments and ...more
Ruth Ferguson
Since I am not normally a non-fiction fan, this is the first time I have read a book that takes a look at the modern day Dallas. I grew up in the heyday of the Dallas TV show of the 70s and the misconceptions of my hometown that grew from the show. However, it is interesting to see the 21st century Dallas through the eyes of a visitor. It is almost as if we have indeed morphed into the Ewing world. Perhaps because we are still a relatively “new” American city, we still have the land to do everyt ...more
Apr 19, 2010 Joemmama rated it really liked it

Hank Stuever has written an amazing look at the American way of Christmas. In 2006, Stuever, a reporter, went to Frisco Texas, to find one of the nations most over the top celebrations. Before the recession, the upscale neighborhood, with its mega churches, mega malls, mc-mansions, and big hair, he follows three families as they each try to find that perfect "mega moment"(you know, when it all comes together and just for a few moments everyone is happy).

From the crowds waiting in the dawn for Be
Dec 23, 2010 Dawn rated it liked it
Shelves: knowledge-nf, 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 06, 2012 Andrea rated it it was amazing
A fantastic look at Christmas culture in America, as seen through a typical mid- to upper-class subdivision-and-mall suburb of Dallas: McMansions, big box retail, megachurches, fake tits and fake trees. In the winter of 2006, Steuver spent the holiday season with three families and experienced the shopping, decorating, consuming, churchgoing, and family stress along with them ~ a poignant time, as it was the last "big" Christmas in America for lots of people. After the economy collapsed and we f ...more
Dec 15, 2013 AmoRead rated it really liked it
Love this book. Following around three typical suburban Texan families at Christmastime in 2006 (pre-financial crash) is an interesting study into American traditions, consumerism, and holiday spirit. What I enjoyed most was the writing. The journalist author really knows how to capture what is going on, both in the scene before him and in the hearts of the people around him just living their everyday lives. His descriptions are vivid and a tiny bit snarky; he admits from the start that he's a k ...more
Dec 22, 2009 Marina rated it really liked it
Journalist Stuever travels to Frisco, Texas for three consecutive Christmas seasons (November to January) to invade the lives of three individuals/couples. Tammie the Christmas decorator guru who single-handedly decorates 30-40 homes in one season from Thanksgiving to December 11 (if they aren't done by then they are way behind in their planning is what she implies), Jeff and Bridgette Trykoski ( whose light and music choreographed home draws hundreds to their n ...more
Jul 30, 2011 Rebecca rated it liked it
Man, I am sort of on a roll with books I enjoyed! This book was a review on Christmas in this country. Like certain social networking sites, just because I am not a part of the fiesta, doesn't mean I am not interested in why other people are. The author picked an excellent town to review, an up and coming rich-ish suburb of DFW in Texas. He ended up reviewing 3 different types of families over 2006, 7 and 8 and while he didn't focus too much on the downturn that was 2008, it was still an excelle ...more
Dec 15, 2010 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Would you be willing to let a stranger spend Christmas with your family? While he takes notes? Even when he asks how much you spent on everything?

These are the questions Hank Stuever asks the reader in the acknowledgments of this book. As he hunkers down in the Texas 'burbs for the holidays, Hank tells the stories of three families as they prepare for their Christmases. All told, he'll spend Xmas '06, '07 and a bit of '08 with these people—a time frame that, for all the craziness that went down
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Hank Stuever was born in 1968 in Oklahoma City and grew up there, and left, and got into journalism. He has worked for newspapers in Albuquerque and Austin and, since 1999, has covered pop culture for The Washington Post's Style section. He is currently the paper's TV critic. OFF RAMP, a collection of his feature stories and essays, was published in 2004. His 2009 book, TINSEL, follows three subur ...more
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