35 Best Christmas Books to Read Around the Holidays
Is there anything more Christmasy than curling up under the tree with a good Christmas book?
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One of the most fun Christmas activities we can think of is getting comfy by the fire with a great read. You can read anything you want, of course, but there are all sorts of holiday-themed Christmas books that’ll make your reading session extra cozy.
From time-treasured classics to ravishing romances to intriguing mysteries to Christmas books for kids, these are the reads that’ll keep you turning the pages all December long. Of course, books are only part of the holiday fun; celebrate the Christmas season with the best Christmas songs and best Christmas movies too.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is a coming-of-age classic that takes place around Christmas, making it a perfect tale to read each year. Follow along as sisters Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy try to carve their own paths in life while keeping their familial bonds strong. Little Women is also a book that was made into a movie (a couple times, actually!), so feel free to stream the 1994 or 2019 film adaptions after reading this timeless novel.
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
That’s right, J.R.R. Tolkien, the famed English author who gave us brilliant fantasy books like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, also gave us one of the best Christmas books to get lost in. Tolkien fans will love Letters from Father Christmas, which features holiday letters the beloved author wrote for his children. Entrench yourself in Tolkien’s North Pole, where Father Christmas knows best and reindeer and polar bears cause merry mischief.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason! It’s spawned countless adaptations, but Dickens’ original 1843 book about Ebenezer Scrooge, his four ghostly encounters and his resulting new lease on life deserves a prominent place on any list of best Christmas books—and one of the best short books to read in general.
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
Technically a short story, Capote’s slice-of-life Christmas tale takes place in the 1930s and was originally published in 1956. Based on his own life, A Christmas Memory chronicles a young boy’s relationship with his family focused on his childhood Christmases. For a lively activity after your reading session, play one of these Christmas games.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
The 1905 story The Gift of the Magi is a classic tale with a poignant ironic twist. Jim and Della, a young, newly married couple without much money, each tries to figure out what to get the other for Christmas. They make sacrifices to be able to afford their gifts—and learn powerful lessons about love and true gifts beyond material things. Sounds like it could be the plot of a romantic Christmas movie!
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
Who doesn’t love a good holiday mystery?! In this 1938 whodunnit by mystery magnate Christie, an old man invites his somewhat estranged family to his estate for Christmas…but he’s dead by Christmas Eve’s end. It’s time for master detective Hercule Poirot to crack this Christmas case in Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. This book makes a great gift for women or for men who love to sit by the fire and read.
The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
Before It’s a Wonderful Life, one of the best Christmas movies of all time, there was The Greatest Gift. This story, originally published in 1943, sets up the premise that would become the hit film. If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love reading the source material.
Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
Mr. Dickens and His Carol is another Christmas book to flip through while snuggled up on the couch. This historical fiction novel, published in 2017 but written in Dickensian, Victorian style, imagines Charles Dickens’ life as a struggling writer coming up with the idea for A Christmas Carol. You’ll be swept away by the old-timey Christmas feel, even though it’s a modern book. If your partner loves to read, this could be a great gift for your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
Here’s another Christmas book that became a film—this one is a favorite funny Christmas movie! If you’re familiar with Christmas with the Kranks, this book provided the inspiration for the raucous holiday tale. After their grown daughter leaves for the Peace Corps, Luther and Nora Krank decide to eschew all the holiday hubbub this year in favor of a Caribbean cruise. But a surprise changes all their plans and hilarious hijinks ensue. Skipping Christmas hit shelves in 2001.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
In 2019’s Royal Holiday, Vivian joins her daughter on a Christmastime work trip to England—and finds herself falling for the Queen’s handsome secretary. Despite both of them knowing she has to return to the States, abandoning their romance is going to be easier said than done. Get your hands on this romance novel and read it by the light of your Christmas tree.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Brilliant humorist Sedaris will grace your holiday bookshelf with his 1997 Christmas collection Holidays on Ice. He offers hilarious perspectives on school Christmas pageants, working in a department store during the holidays, overly generous neighbors and more themes of the season.
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Here’s another Christmas book for historical fiction buffs. Spanning the four Christmases of World War I and jumping forward to 1968 as well, Last Christmas in Paris tells the story of Evie and Thomas experiencing the tumult of the war—and their growing love for each other—against the backdrop of the holidays. It was released in 2017, making it a more recent addition to the Christmas book scene.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
Whether you practically know this tale by heart or are new to it, this is a must on any list of Christmas books (yes, for all ages). The grumpy Grinch learns that “Christmas doesn’t come from a store”—a lesson that’s as relevant now as it was in 1957, maybe even more. Once you’re done reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, check out the other best children’s books.
The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
A kid wants nothing more than a new bike, but instead for Christmas he gets a sweater. Sounds simple, right? In this 2008 tale, the now-grown Eddie ponders the lessons he learned as a child from that Christmas and wonders if he’d choose to go back and change it given the opportunity. Read The Christmas Sweater for some serious Christmas reflection.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
In this 2012 Pulitzer Prize-nominated tale, a childless older couple in Alaska discovers a young girl emerging from the woods alone. They grow to love her as a daughter—but is she really what she seems? Grab The Snow Child, based on a Russian fairy tale, “Snegurochka” (“The Snow Maiden”), to find out. This Christmas book makes a great gift for book lovers too.
My What If Christmas Wish by Daria White
My What If Christmas Wish centers around Patrice, a psychologist who’s great at helping others with their problems, sometimes at the expense of her own happiness. When her college boyfriend comes back into her life around the holidays, she ponders the directions her life could’ve taken—and could still take—in this 2013 romantic Christmas tale. Read it after browsing through Christmas tree ideas to try this year.
The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
Thought-provoking fiction master Backman is back (sorry, we had to) in The Deal of a Lifetime, a 2017 Christmastime tale. On Christmas Eve, a father tells his estranged son a stirring story about his conflict over helping another child who desperately needs it when his relationship with his own son is so strained.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
A fun situational romantic tale ensues in this 2018 bestseller. In One Day in December, Laurie locks eyes with a stranger on a street and feels an instant spark. But it’s too much to hope she’ll see him again, right? Wrong. She sees him at a Christmas party…dating her best friend. You’ll have to pick this one up to see what happens!
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
A young couple becomes caretakers for an elderly widow, moving into her home. With their four-year-old daughter, they begin to learn more about her and their relationship develops over the holiday time. Her (and Evans’) important wisdom has been guiding holiday readers since 1993 in The Christmas Box.
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
A journalist must take a cross-country train ride from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles in time for Christmas to snag a story opportunity. He’s less than thrilled about it…but the eclectic people he meets along the way and the lessons they teach him make this a Christmas story for the ages. Fun fact: The Christmas Train, a 2002 book, was actually made into a Hallmark Christmas movie!
Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou and illustrated by
More a Christmas poem by one of the greats, Amazing Peace is a powerful work that invites all readers and listeners to consider the hope and spirit of Christmas. Maya Angelou read this work at the 2005 lighting of the White House Christmas tree.
Starry Night by Debbie Macomber
In another “journalist’s-Christmas-adventures” tale (who knew that was a subset of Christmas books?!), the eager Carrie is given an assignment to get an interview with a reclusive author and wildlife enthusiast—as in, roughs it for days at a time alone in the Alaska outdoors enthusiast. She’s able to track him down…and sure enough, sparks fly. Get your hot cocoa ready for Starry Night, published in 2013.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss
Nope, this isn’t the Christmas movie on Disney Plus—but the title’s just too good! In 2020’s The Twelve Dates of Christmas, Kate is well into her 30s and insists she’s not interested in romance. But then her friend convinces her to join a dating service where she’ll go on 12 dates in the month before Christmas. Bring on the hilarity and heartthrobs!
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
OK, time for another of the best children’s books to read at Christmastime. In this endlessly readable rhyming tale released in 1963, the wealthy Mr. Willowby has a Christmas tree delivered to his home…but it’s a tad too big, so he has the top cut off and tossed away. That treetop makes its way through the forest as several non-human Christmas celebrants come across it and think it’ll make the perfect addition to their own homes. As for where it finally ends up…well, you’ll have to read Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree and see.
Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah
Hannah, the best-selling author of The Nightingale, pens this emotional roller coaster of a tale from 2020. After surviving a plane crash, Joy finds herself in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, where she meets a grieving family that might just be her second chance. Billed a “modern-day fairy tale,” Comfort & Joy will sweep you off your feet as much as any Lifetime Christmas movie.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Beverly Jenkins
Morgan and Dina were an “it” celeb couple…three years ago. Now, they’re reunited in Detroit during Christmas and Morgan is determined to win her back. Is it too late for the pair? Find out in 2019’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, a short read that pulls at the holiday heartstrings.
The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
Robert, a wealthy lawyer, has no time for Christmas frivolity—or his family. But on Christmas Eve, he bumps into Nathan, a young boy who’s trying to scrape together enough money for a pair of shoes for his sick mother. If that sounds familiar, it’s because 2001’s The Christmas Shoes is based on the tearjerking Christmas song by NewSong.
A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd
You’ve seen the movie (possibly a gajillion-plus times.) Now read the collection of semi-autographical stories that Shepherd used as the basis for the film. Compiled and released in 2003 after his death, Shepherd’s tales in A Christmas Story make a delightful, vignette-style fireside read.
Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
Hope, a journalist, wants to cover the touching story of people who leave cash-filled glass jars for strangers in need. But that would mean risking the trust of the original family behind the tradition. Will she do it? A movie version of 2005’s Christmas Jars was released in 2019, and thanks to the book, Christmas jars have become a real-life Christmas tradition.
The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan
A Christmas book about Christmas books?! After Carmen loses her job, she has to move in with her “perfect” sister and work at the local bookstore. Sure enough, the bookshop is quirky and magical enough to imbue everyone who enters with Christmas spirit—including an alluring well-known author. Oh, and it’s set in Edinburgh! Grab The Christmas Bookshop and get lost in a whimsical winter tale.
The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith
In The 13th Gift, a recent widow and her kids are still grieving as Christmas approaches when anonymous gifts start to appear on their doorstep: one a day, representing the 12 days of Christmas. They try to figure out who sent them in this true tale of Christmas kindness, released in 2014. Grab the tissues—you may tear up!
The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin
The Wish Book is sure to become a holiday favorite. Shortly after World War II, two friends are looking forward to raising their young sons in peacetime. But when the Sears Christmas Wish Book comes out, both boys are glued to it, leaving the mothers to find ways to teach them that the holidays are about more than getting presents. They put their heads together to find good deeds for their sons to do—and learn a thing or two themselves in the process in a historical tale that’s just as relevant today.
Christmas at Holly Berry Inn by Emily C. Childs
This 2020 romance begins with what sounds like a holiday nightmare. In Christmas at Holly Berry Inn, pesky (or fateful?) snowy weather forces Sloan to stay at an old inn—where the innkeeper is her ex. But as the evening goes on, old feelings resurface and Sloan has to decide what she really wants with her life.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A bona fide classic for kids and grown-ups alike, this stunningly illustrated 1985 book journeys to the North Pole with a young boy on a fantastical train. The Polar Express is much simpler than the rollicking one in the film adaptation but just as magical. Check out these other Christmas cartoons to watch this year.