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22.12.2017

Book X’mas trees: not the most original idea, but better, if you ask me, than the annual travesties of tinselly plastic that the Chinese call Christmas trees. It stuffs your stocking with Instagram likes — the best holiday gift! — and gives people something to marvel at other than your wit. Also, it gives you a place to make tasteful political statements. Thinking of you, Salman Rushdie novel that is still banned in India 29 years after it was published.

This year, I myself threw in Mein Kampf — emphatically do not recommend — and one book banned by the Indian government that cannot be named, an academic treatise on this country’s majority religion that nobody read until it was banned. (Kind of recommend.) As something of a book-tree expert, here’s my guide to making one of your own this weekend.

To start, pour yourself a large vodka with vodka. Then, you must tell the staff to collect all the coffee-table tomes that you would never actually place on your coffee table. They're usually hardbound, and big and heavy, usually in inverse proportion to their seriousness. And since I know some bpb readers will need the clarification: the books, darling, not the staff. They are perfectly suited to make a sturdy base for your edifice of erudition (still talking about the books).

I usually make my Christmas tree on a side table: it's small, round, and has a stemlike leg, but really, any small base will do. The idea is to give the illusion of a slender trunk and the books sort of proliferating from it like what happens in a real tree with leaves.

Now, place the coffee-table books together to form a wide, even platform. It's a bit like laying bricks, if bricks were unevenly sized, of varying thickness, and came with Raghu Rai photos. I once tried to sort out my books by thickness before building the tree, but it doesn't work since no two authors have the same page count. I had to give up and reverted to good old grunt work, as usual. That a nearby bottle of Old Monk was not completely empty helped.

Anyway. Start laying your books in rough circles, one upon the other, reducing in diameter as your Tree grows upwards, to give it a sort of conical shape. It's quite easy, as long as the books don't keep collapsing. Here, I am afraid I have no quick fixes. It’s simply something you must achieve through trial and error. Unless you have one of those orange traffic cones handy. Those help. Some models are also quite good to drink out of.

Towards the end, I tend to take about three or four steps back and cock my head to one side, usually the left, and critically examine my handiwork. One year, I discovered that the tree was listing to one side, rather like the tower in Pisa, Italy, that leans. I straightened my head, and it became fine. It was a sobering experience, so I quickly reached for the mulled wine again. So my top tip for you is: if you find your Tree leaning, first ensure that you yourself are not.

As a final flourish, I top my #BookwormChristmasTree with a copy of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I don’t have any additional wisdom to offer you here. The Little Prince is the most beloved book of all time. “You, only you, will have stars that can laugh” beats a five-pointed bulb on every count.

Now, then: decorations. An unconventional Christmas tree calls for unconventional touches. My own household, which consists of three gentleman-bachelors of means, is, as you might imagine, simply full of manly bric-a-brac. We have a miniature porcelain house from KLM airlines, a crystal swan from Swarovski, a garish Mexican jaguar mask that looks like the animal went to carnival and never left, and much more. We balance these on books jutting out of the tree. To do so is to add sparkle to the whole affair, and another layer of things to converse about with visitors that aren’t one’s career or love life.

Finally, and yes, this will be my final instruction, install the lights. Wait, you have found the gin bottle. Empty it over some ice and add a sprig of elderflower. Now: install the lights. These are extremely important because without them, nobody will be able to read the spines of all the books you've worked so hard to balance into this exquisite creature. Switch on the lights and take a picture. You cannot post it on Instagram without adding #Blessed to the caption. Leave it till the New Year, and take it down carefully on 2nd January. Cheers!

This story was contributed by Varun Rana (A fashion-journalist who likes to drink, cook, and read.)

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