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Download Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present Audiobook, by Hank Stuever Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (286 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Hank Stuever Narrator: Ray Porter Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2010 ISBN: 9781455195640
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In Tinsel, Hank Stuever searches out the most outlandish cultural excesses as well as the secret beauties of modern America’s half-trillion-dollar Christmas holiday.

When Stuever’s narrative begins, he’s standing in line with the people waiting to purchase flat-screen TVs at Best Buy on Black Friday. From there he follows Tammy Parnell, the proprietor of “Two Elves with a Twist,” a company that decorates other people’s houses for Christmas; Jeff and Bridgett Trykoski, owners of that one house every town has with Christmas decorations visible from space; and single mother Caroll Cavazos, who hopes that the life-affirming moments of Christmas might overcome the struggles of the rest of the year. Steuver’s portraits are at once humane, heartfelt, revealing—and very, very funny.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Laugh-out-loud funny…Stuever’s keen eye misses very little.”

    USA Today

  • “Cultural anthropology at its most exuberant.”

    New Yorker

  • “Wry, compelling, and telling commentary on the state of giving, getting, and celebrating in the holiday season.”

    Huffington Post

  • “Fascinating…Stuever unwraps both appalling consumerism and genuine holiday spirit—sometimes in the same package—and treats the people he writes about with respect and affection, even when they’re doing things he can’t quite believe.”

    Tampa Bay Times

  • “What stands out most in Tinsel is Stuever’s genuine interest in his subjects…[His] fascination with and empathy for the human experience are abundant.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “A nice antidote to the blizzard of obligations, expectations, and traditions that bury us at the end of each year.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “Marvelously written and sharply observed.”

    Austin American-Statesman

  • “[Stuever’s] spot-on observations about how modern America celebrates the holiday—in all its retail madness—are satisfying and illuminating…He has a knack for keeping you engaged. His gift for ending chapters and segments with startling visual images, pithy summations, a fabulous quote or his thought of the moment creates a glide effect that makes the book difficult to put down.”

    Palm Beach Post

  • “I knew Christmas in today’s America was out of control, but had no idea just how much before reading this book…Tinsel is crammed full of data and insights that illuminate how far we’ve strayed from a family holiday to the commercial and economic abyss we have created for ourselves as a country…A snapshot of contemporary America in search of meaning.”

    San Jose Mercury News

  • “Scrupulously observed, deeply revealing, and very, very funny.”

    San Antonio Express-News

  • “With impeccable research and solid reporting, Stuever has written the gift book that keeps on giving—Christmas consumerism wrapped together with traditional family values.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • Tinsel is a humane, revealing, and very funny portrait of one community’s quest to discover a more perfect holiday amidst the frenzied, mega-churchy, shoparific world of Christmas.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “Stuever also offers up a fascinating history of how Christmas has evolved across cultures…A sometimes hilarious, sometimes cynical, but always heartfelt look at the meaning of Christmas to Americans. Completely wonderful.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “An utterly charming yet sobering profile of the music, traditions, money, pressure, and sheer nuttiness of the city’s seasonal celebration…Stuever is part sociologist, part psychologist and always a perceptive observer, placing American holiday rituals in a new light. ‘Our sense of Christmas is nothing without the narrative of heartbreaking need,’ he writes. ‘Mary needed a place to give birth and nobody would give her one. This need for need exists so that our children can distinguish it from the concept of want.’”

    BookPage

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rebecca | 2/13/2014

    " 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 excellent read. One family are just a couple, but they love Christmas so much the husband puts on one of those crazy light shows that people drive for miles to see. I loved those as a kid, so I liked their story a lot. The other was a "typical" family and the mother loves Christmas and for most of the year she is just pretty much a housewife, during the hols, she charges people to decorate their houses. NUTS! The third family is a single mother raising her 2 kids and she is very religious and participates in a "mega" church of sorts. All these people were interesting and I like reading about other cultures that I have been too and essentially live with, but I don't know much about. One thing that was interesting is how much money people spend on gifts. I guess I am out of the loop and it's my culture and everything and we actually talked about this over the hols, is that my parents never felt joy in giving us gifts. It was always a "chore" for them. But it's interesting to read about it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cynthia | 2/9/2014

    " The author spent three Christmas seasons in Frisco, Texas with three different families. He does tell what a Christmas in middle-class Texas is like Iand upper middle class.) Reminded me so much of home with the fake snow, lots and lots of lights and shopping. Bonus: a friend of mine is mentioned in the book, she didn't even know she was in it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Reese | 2/2/2014

    " Funny. More of a look at suburban-America than Christmas, but still very enjoyable. I really liked Hank Stuever's style. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 1/22/2014

    " Really fascinating and entertaining. I thought I would feel superior to these people, but he wrote it in such a way that I was just involved in their challenges. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sheri | 1/21/2014

    " 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 sometimes fall short of that dream. He completely nailed Stonebriar Mall, Frisco, a certain type of affluent North Texas demographic, and Canton. I laughed out loud at his description of Canton, remembering my own WTF-moment when I saw the scooter-people last time I was there. My only criticism is his seemingly hurried treatment of the last two years of the book. He really only covers a single Christmas - 2006 - and just checks in and gives us an update of the 2007 and 2008 Christmases. It's unfortunate, because he was in a unique position to thoroughly document how the changing economy impacted our attitudes between those years. I remember 2008 as the year we could no longer pretend that there wasn't something seriously wrong with the economy, and that Christmas as especially black. But I suppose it wasn't *that* kind of a book. Ray Porter's reading was excellent. He lent a dry tone of voice to the text that seemed just right, and he gave a pretty good approximation of the Texas drawl. Most audiobook narrators seem to substitute a southern accent for Texans. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Odoublegood | 1/19/2014

    " a kind and funny book; former Austinite spends portions of three Christmas seasons in Frisco, Texas, accompanying members of three different households as they observe the holiday "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Geralee | 1/18/2014

    " Enjoyable and remarkable look at Christmas celebrated in Frisco, Texas in 2006 before America's economic troubles. Written by a journalist, and you can feel his note-taking presence at the family celebrations and shopping excursions he was generously allowed to attend. Most enjoyable to me were his forays into Pastor Keith's megachurch. The end of the book brings you up to date with trips back in 2007 and 2008. Very touching. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/13/2014

    " OMG nothing quite captures life in suburban Dallas quite like this book. Love it! Lived it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 12/24/2013

    " Very well written enjoyable book about the consumerism of Christmas in America. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 10/28/2013

    " This book is hilarious, heartwarming, creepy, sobering, and generally engrossing. It paints a distressingly familiar picture of the affluent "communities" of North Texas, on every page I wanted to read aloud to someone in the room as a way of saying, "see! It really is like I described." "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 10/22/2013

    " I loved this; perfect Christmas Day read when under the weather. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 10/19/2013

    " Author took a slice of suburban Texas life around the Christmas holidays in 2006 and turned it into a captivating but telling slice of how Americans celebrate Christmas. I listened to the author read it and I thought he hit the voice inflections of Texas women on the nail. LOVED IT!! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lee | 9/28/2013

    " Different kind of book for me. Not bad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kim Lunsford | 1/4/2013

    " I really liked the writing, but didn't actually get thru this whole book. I'll probably pick it up again next Christmas. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Summerfly | 11/23/2011

    " IDK - It's Frisco. What more can you really say. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 South Regional Durham County Libraries | 9/28/2011

    " n "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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Torieqwq | 1/25/2011

    " 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 1/22/2011

    " I loved this; perfect Christmas Day read when under the weather. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 South Regional | 12/22/2010

    " n "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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matthew | 12/3/2010

    " Wonderful, insightful, sometimes even startling book. A full review will happen soon. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura | 12/2/2010

    " n "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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kim | 11/15/2010

    " I really liked the writing, but didn't actually get thru this whole book. I'll probably pick it up again next Christmas. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 lorena | 11/4/2010

    " This is a good book depicting what our society has done to Christmas. Very well presented, the author is a likable guy. We all overdo Christmas or have family dysfunction during the holidays. I felt pangs of guilt... Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Blair | 5/26/2010

    " A little smugger than I expected. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 4/10/2010

    " Author took a slice of suburban Texas life around the Christmas holidays in 2006 and turned it into a captivating but telling slice of how Americans celebrate Christmas. I listened to the author read it and I thought he hit the voice inflections of Texas women on the nail. LOVED IT!! "

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About the Author
Author Hank Stuever

Hank Stuever is an award-winning pop-culture writer for the style section of the Washington Post. He is the author of Off Ramp, an essay collection, and has appeared on The Today Show, The View, The Early Show,and National Public Radio.

About the Narrator

Ray Porter has garnered two Audie nominations and a multitude of enthusiastic reviews for his sparkling narration of audiobooks. He has also appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Frasier, ER, Will & Grace, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Almost Famous. He has most recently received Audible’s Narrator of the Year Award. A fifteen-year veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.