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Tinsel: A Search for America's Christmas Present

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  389 ratings  ·  96 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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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-
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
This is not your typical feel good Christmas fiction. Rather, it's a journalist's examination of Christmas in America, from the vantage point of Frisco, TX in 2006.

If you ae easily depressed by shallow rich (ahem, upper middle class) people don't read this. I found myself fascinated by the book because I watched from afar the transformation of Frisco, TX from rural farm land to shopping Mecca. I am close enough to visit (and gawk at) Stonebrier Center from time to time. I had lunch there last m
OMG nothing quite captures life in suburban Dallas quite like this book. Love it! Lived 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

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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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
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
There's a few oft-remarked-upon parts of Christmas; our own irrepressible nostalgia, the religiously crazed and their antics, and - the most frequently mentioned with chagrin - our over-commercialization of a holiday which we all feel should actually be about someone who purportedly started life in a barn with next to nothing. This book is simultaneously about none of all that and about nothing but all that.

Hank Steuver moved to Frisco, Texas for the Christmas of 2006, and the three families he
This is a very interesting book. I found it fascinating because I live in the DFW area and it's rather strange to see "ourselves" portrayed in a book. The author is a transplanted Oklahoman that now lives in Washington so the smug superiority attitude he exhibits gets a little old. Oklahoma is just a stone's throw from Texas so I don't get the idea that we are somehow unique for overdoing the Christmas spending and decorating everything that doesn't move in the name of religion. Texas is certain ...more
I expected to like this. I agree with the author about the hyper commercialism of Christmas and I'm not a christian, though I do very much enjoy a lot of things about the holiday. But I am also from the American south, and I was really turned off by his treatment of the people he is following through this book. Yes, many people there like to celebrate and decorate big, yes, they stand in line on Black Friday, but there are many people all over the country that do both of those things. Yes, they ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Well-researched, interesting subjects. Even though it was apparent the author did not agree with the ideas and beliefs of his "subjects," he was thoughtful and respectful of them, irreverent and funny. How perfect for him that the economic recession occurred during his research. It made reading about Christmas of 2006 all the more intriguing because I knew what was just around the corner.
Dec 06, 2013 Lynne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults, young adults
Stuever could not have found a better place to observe people and Christmas in America than in the northern suburbs of Dallas, Texas. Frisco and Plano are towns with plenty of above average incomes, bigger than average houses, and no end to pretension. So why, he asks, is there is still a kernel of longing for something more that stubbornly eludes most people, especially during the holidays.

It's ironic that each holiday season seems more commercialized than the year before. This is in spite of,
M.E. Kinkade
An interesting journalistic voyage into Christmas Before The Crash. Stuever follows three families in upscale Frisco (a suburb of Dallas) to chronicle the ways they celebrate Christmas, which, thanks to Stuever's cynical eye and keen sense of numbers, becomes a tale of hypocracy and commercialistic meaninglessness. It's a bit depressing, but that doesn't mean it isn't accurate.

Sadly, though, Stuever's complaints about Christmas--cost, the emphasis on more, how no amount of spending is ever enou
Dec 29, 2009 Katie marked it as to-read
New Yorker Review:

In 2006, Stuever set out to characterize the experience of Christmas—its aesthetics, economics, and metaphysics—in an average Texas town. The resulting dissection of the holiday is cultural anthropology at its most exuberant. According to Stuever, fakery, not excess, is the signature of the modern American Christmas. More than twice as many synthetic Christmas trees are trimmed each year as real ones. Santa figurines at a Christmas bazaar purported to be handmade and local are
From braving Black Friday to trying to outdo the neighbor’s light display, Christmas is a hilarious and expensive racket of a holiday. Stuever turns an investigative eye on America’s excessive seasonal cheer, and we like that he does so with a wink.
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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
More about Hank Stuever...
Off Ramp: Adventures and Heartache in the American Elsewhere All You Can Lose is Your Heart

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