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Tinsel: A Search for America's Christmas Present

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  594 ratings  ·  132 reviews
In Tinsel, 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’s tale begins on the blissful easy-credit dawn of Black Friday, as he jostles for bargains among the crowds at the big-box store
Hardcover, 331 pages
Published November 12th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2009)
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  594 ratings  ·  132 reviews

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Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

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Christmas is one of those polarizing things, like the Kardashians and pumpkin spice, that people are either obsessed with or can't stand. There. Is. Literally. No. In-between. With this in mind, in 2006, Hank Stuever decided to go to Frisco, Texas to observe the locals for several months as the holiday season rapidly approached, and recorded everything that he observed while also primarily following 3-4 different families who would tell you

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
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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-
Feb 18, 2010 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
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars
Oct 23, 2015 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
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
Nancy Kennedy
Dec 20, 2013 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!
Paula Lyle
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
God bless us, Every one! And God bless America.

Christmas brings out the best in most people. Of course, there's a great variance in that "best", but I believe people try. This is a charming look at what people do to keep Christmas in their hearts and in their families. There is a great affection for these families and their hopes, dreams, and fears. A lovely read for the holiday season.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christmas
very good
Jan 09, 2013 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.
Jan 30, 2011 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
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
Dec 29, 2013 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
SheriC (PM)
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
Jan 01, 2014 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 03, 2012 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
Jan 04, 2010 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.
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
OMG nothing quite captures life in suburban Dallas quite like this book. Love it! Lived it!
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was hilarious. Spot on. Best read AFTER Christmas.
Glad I found it.
Sarah Coller
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Goodness! I didn't realize I'd had this for almost a year! I saved it for Christmas time on purpose, thinking it would be a good, festive holiday read. Once I pulled it out, mid-month, to put it in the Christmas reading pile, I realized it might be a little too pessimistic and might squelch my holiday spirit. So, I read a couple chapters and put it away for later. A couple days after Christmas, I decided to finish it up since it was still "in season". I spent the last afternoon of 2018 finishing ...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
Dec 09, 2009 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
Aug 09, 2012 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
Dec 08, 2010 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
Jul 30, 2011 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
Apr 15, 2010 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
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, humor
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
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I can relate with a lot of the author's cynicism and found myself shaking my head at the opulance of the Christmases described. It was very difficult for me to relate to any of the families profiled in this book, but it was interesting to hear about. I didn't love or hate this book but it did keep me engaged.
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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