With travel advice and stay-at-home orders cutting out many traditional holiday activities, you can still enjoy your time at home by snuggling up with a good book or joining one of the many virtual book clubs. of Santa Barbara County.
The staff of Santa Barbara’s largest bookstore, Chaucer’s Books, has put together a gift guide to the best books to read and give to loved ones over the holidays.
With over 30 books listed – ranging from non-fiction tales, picture books, historical tales and fantasy – you can find the perfect read to keep them occupied and comforted during this unprecedented time.
“These books are the ones that our staff liked and really appreciated; we support all of our recommendations,” said Greg Feitt, general manager of Chaucer’s, at 3321 State St. in Loreto Plaza.
“Although I could probably add at least 30 books to the list!”
While indoor browsing is limited to 20% of store capacity, Feitt said the community has shown immense support, with business surging just before the holidays.
Over the past few months, Chaucer’s has hosted virtual events to keep the community engaged with the world of books. The store has invited authors such as Jacob Seigel Brielle and Charles Yu to host discussions about their work.
“We’ve pivoted to online events and trying to make it work,” Feitt said. “We’ve had some success with the events we’ve held.”
He said Chaucer plans to continue hosting the events in the new year.
County libraries have also created virtual book clubs and activities to promote reading.
From January 1 through February 13, the Goleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley Libraries — at 500 N. Fairview Ave. in Goleta and 3598 Sagunto St. in Santa Ynez, respectively — will host a six-week winter reading challenge for all ages to start the new year with “the transformative power of reading.”
The theme of the challenge is “Books Like Us” and participants are encouraged to register their books through Beanstack, a website and app that makes it easy to track reading.
“Expanding our annual winter reading program to include readers of all ages this year is an exciting opportunity for all of us to start 2021 with a fun and awesome book,” said Elizabeth Saucedo, Children’s Librarian at the Goleta Valley Library.
During each week, the two libraries will hold raffles for prizes such as themed gift baskets, gift cards for local restaurants, stickers, games, art kits and books. Readers are eligible for these prizes each week they save at least one book.
In addition to local prize drawings, the 10 Santa Barbara County libraries with the highest participation in the challenge will win virtual tours from authors such as Sharon M. Draper and Stuart Gibbs, as well as a collection of 50 books from the Simon & Collection Schuster Books Like Us.
The Santa Maria Main Library at 421 S. McClelland St. also hosts two winter reading programs. Through the youth program, which runs until January 23, participants can register their reading online for a prize and enter a grand draw at the end of the program. Those who complete the program also receive a library award.
The goal is to have 500 books read by the end of the program, according to event organizers.
For the Adult Winter Reading Program, participants who log 600 minutes of reading between December 21 and January 10 are eligible to receive a prize.
Instead of in-person book clubs, there are a wide variety of virtual book clubs hosted by local libraries throughout the county.
Santa Barbara Libraries hosts a Virtual Crime Book Club on the first Wednesday of the month, a Virtual Romance Book Club on the first Tuesday of the month, and a Virtual Fiction Book Club on the second Tuesday of the month. It also offers other virtual clubs such as Memoirs and Biography Club and Teen Anime and Manga Club.
A list of all upcoming library events is available on its website.
The Goleta Valley Library will host live Wiggly Story Hours for children aged 14 months to 3 years old during which a storyteller will share short stories, songs and dance. The library also hosts a live bilingual story hour every Tuesday so readers can hear stories in both English and Spanish.
On Wednesdays, the library offers live PJ Story Hours for youngsters to hear stories while curled up in their blankets.
At the Buellton Library at 140 W. Highway 246, the facility’s Bookworms Club also hosts monthly discussions of various reading material.
The county also offers the Book Club in a Bag program, through which readers can rent a book club kit to host their own book clubs in a coronavirus-free environment. Each adult fiction and non-fiction kit contains 10 copies of the selected book, and the children’s kits contain 12 copies.
Kits can be reserved online through the library catalog, or through staff by phone or email, and are held for collection for seven days. Residents who rent the kits will be able to keep them for a six-week loan period.