Hank Stuever

Book cover image

Narrated By: Ray Porter

Duration: 10 hours and 19 minutes

What to expect

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.


Religious Festivals, Humour, Popular culture

Listen to a sample

“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.’”