One of the best ways to get into the Christmas spirit is to read some Christmas books. Whether you plan to put them under the Christmas tree as gifts this holiday season or read them beforehand and finish on Christmas Eve, a good Christmas story can help get anyone in the mood to celebrate the season.
Christmas books have been a longstanding tradition among families. In fact, many favorite Christmas movies, such as A Christmas Carol, are based on the classic book by Charles Dickens. And whether it is the middle of July or Christmas Eve, it is always a great time to read Christmas books. This list of the 21 best Christmas books will help you choose your next read for the holiday season.
The 21 Best Christmas Books To Read
1. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
Perhaps one of the best known and familiar stories for the holiday season, this is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a humbug businessman who has treated others with coldness and cruelty, especially the few people who care about him. He is awakened on Christmas Eve with the arrival of three different ghosts who intend to show him how dreadful they have been: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghosts of Christmas Yet to Come.
When he is presented with a chance to change his ways by reliving Christmas memories and seeing the error of his ways, he must decide whether he wants to continue putting profit and business above those he cares about or change his ways and return the love and affection of humankind that he has pushed away for so long.
The ghosts that haunt him are unsettling in that they are representations of what each of us could improve in ourselves, and this book packs a moral punch to nearly any reader. One of those Victorian Christmas ghost stories is frightening because it forces us to look within our hearts.
A Christmas Carol has been adapted into many movies, from the fun ones made for children (The Muppets) to the almost scary film geared more towards adults starring George C. Scott.
2. Letters From Father Christmas (J.R.R. Tolkien)
This charming book is one that many do not know exists. Known for his fantasy sagas such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Tolkien is a master of fantasy novels. Therefore, it should be no surprise that he got pretty creative with Santa Claus for his children each holiday season.
This book is a collection of letters he sent his children over the years, as none other than Father Christmas himself. This is a great Christmas book because of children’s beautiful and silly stories. There is a story about a polar bear who interrupts Santa Claus when he falls through the roof of his home, and many other adventurous, beautiful stories.
There are even photos of the envelopes complete with North Pole stamps Tolkien created. This one is sure to become a favorite Christmas story for your family.
3. The Christmas Shoes (Donna VanLiere)
This Christmas book should come with a warning that you may need tissues before you reach the end. A tearjerker but a beautiful story of hope, family, generosity, and love, this debut novel by VanLiere is a fantastic read and makes a lovely gift. Any adult who finds this read under the Christmas tree is in for a treat.
This is the story of a hardworking attorney who rarely goes home. His marriage is failing, his family is falling apart, and his children are strangers to him. Out for some late-night Christmas shopping, he encounters Nathan, a small child who is out trying to buy his dying mother Christmas shoes, the only gift he can think of for her. Nathan does not have enough money, and Robert, the attorney, does.
This chance meeting turns into a tale that gives you hope, makes you sad, makes you smile, and makes you thankful for what you have. The young boy in this story embodies the spirit that all of us wish we had.
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
The Grinch Stole Christmas has become a fast-favorite Christmas book of several generations. This is the story of an outcast who lives in a mountain cave just outside the joyous town of Whoville. He hates both the cheerful holiday and the lively city of Whoville.
The Grinch is not about to let this Christmas go unpunished, as he especially hates this holiday. Dressing as Santa Claus and enlisting the help of his dog, he hatches a plan to go down to the city of Whoville and steal all of the Christmas gifts, decorations, and every last Christmas tree. He plans to do all of this on Christmas Eve so that people wake up to nothing on Christmas morning. He did not bet on getting caught, though. When big-hearted Cindy Lou sees him and wants to make him a part of the Christmas celebration, the Grinch is torn and feels he could have a change of heart.
This is another classic Christmas book that has been adapted into a film, both a cartoon version and a live-action version starring Jim Carrey, is one story that is not going anywhere.
5. Christmas at Midnight: A Modern Christmas Fairy Tale (Lexi Ostrow)
A modern-day fairy tale, this is the story of Cinderella, with a modern-day twist. Harper is bogged down with medical school, work, and fights with her stepmother. Wanting more than anything to shrug responsibility for just one night and go to the Christmas dance that her late father organized every year, she is given an ultimatum by her stepmom: clean houses or lose college money.
The Christmas season is not at all what Harper was hoping for, and she is depressed and angry when her father’s best friend steps in and saves the day, allowing her a chance to go to the dance to see her crush. This is a fun read that will fill anyone with the holiday spirit, this modern twist on a fairy tale we all know so well is a fun read for any time of year.
6. A Christmas Memory (Truman Capote)
That is right. Capote did not just write Breakfast at Tiffany’s and that book about two murderers. A little-known fact is that he also wrote a beautiful Christmas book. This book is so sweet that you might have trouble believing it is Capote. This is the story of a young boy named Buddy who is tasked with making over two dozen fruitcakes with the help of his aging family member. Set in the Depression, they have no money or ingredients and must get creative to complete their task.
This is a story of making something from nothing, being thankful for what you have and those you have in your life, and focusing on what is important.
7. A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories (Bettye Collier-Thomas)
This is a collection of Christmas stories that center around African American culture and families around the holiday season. Christmas tales that feature minorities are not often mainstream or very readily available, and this beautiful collection of African American stories covers nearly two hundred years of rich and wonderful cultural tales.
8. The Christmas Train (David Baldacci)
When you see David Baldacci on the by-line of a book, you probably think you are in for a thrilling suspense story full of espionage, double-crossing, and danger. This, however, is not the sort of book Baldacci is known for, as it derails itself (pun intended) from his norm in the genre.
The Christmas Train is a story about a guy who works as a journalist and tries to make it home to see his girlfriend for the holidays. An entertaining and light-hearted tale, the protagonist must make it cross country on a train and, along the way, meets many people on board that he would otherwise never interact with. In 2017, this book became an adaption, and it joined the Hallmark Christmas movies library of films that so many of us love to watch each year.
9. The Greatest Gift (Philip Van Doren Stern)
By title alone, you may not recognize it, but this story is the inspiration behind the movie It is a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart. This is the story of a man who is deeply depressed and is considering ending his own life when his guardian angel interferes and saves him, showing him what life would have been like without him in his small town. It is a beautiful but dark story, it comes illustrated, and if you have seen and loved the movie based on this tale, you should read the story itself.
10. The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg)
The Polar Express has become a Christmas movie classic that families watch together every year. Starring Tom Hanks and showcasing the best CGI work available at the time, it is truly a wonderful watch. This book, however, is the story that made the film possible.
Written with children in mind, the whole family can enjoy this book. It’s become one of those classic Christmas books that many families now read traditionally. This is all about belief in Christmas magic, and this is the story of a young boy who is not sure that he believes in things like Santa or magic anymore.
The night before Christmas morning, he wakes up to find a train waiting outside his house. Boarding this train, he finds out that the destination is the North Pole, and other children in the same predicament as himself are on board. This is a wonderful book to read to your children on the night before Christmas each year before bed.
11. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Agatha Christie)
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is the perfect read for you if you are looking for a little more murder and mayhem from your Christmas books. Written in the 1930s and still considered a fantastic murder mystery novel, it tells the story of Hercule (the Belgian detective Christie wrote several books about) trying to solve a murder that occurs at a family reunion during the holidays.
Not satisfied with an excellent book featuring a Christmas party or a Christmas dinner, the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, kills someone so that the mystery can begin, and Poirot can get to doing what he does best: solving crime. If this book is not on your Christmas wish list, it should be.
12. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
As it turns out, Sherlock Holmes celebrates Christmas, too. In this mystery novel, a rare and valuable gemstone (a blue carbuncle) is found inside a Christmas goose. Holmes has to figure out how it got there and why it is there, and he has nothing but a hat and tag on the goose to use as clues to solve this mystery—a fun and quick read for the holidays to enjoy in front of the fire with some hot cocoa as you try to solve the mystery with Sherlock.
13. Skipping Christmas (John Grisham)
Known for his legal thrillers and courtroom dramas, this is another Christmas-time novel that breaks the genre mold for which a well-known and bestselling author is known. The movie Christmas with the Kranks, starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, is based on this fun and funny book. Skipping Christmas is the story of a married couple who decides that this is one Christmas they want to stray from tradition with. Their daughter has left for the Peace Corps, and the pair of empty nesters decide to forgo Christmas and take a Caribbean cruise instead. This holiday book is full of laughs, hijinks, misadventures, and hearts.
14. The Christmas Bookshop (Jenny Colgan)
This is a story about holiday cheer, family, and new opportunities. When Carmen loses her job, she has no options and has to live with her sister, with whom she has tension, and work at a local bookstore. This is no ordinary bookstore, however. Everyone who comes in is infused with the Christmas spirit. There is some sort of magic that puts the bookstore customers in the mood for the holidays. This is a great read to go along with a mug of hot chocolate.
15. Royal Holiday (Jasmine Guillory)
This is one of those beautiful stories that feature Christmas, is a love story, and is also just dramatic enough to keep your attention the whole way through. A mother joins her daughter to celebrate Christmas in England, where the daughter has been sent to work. While there, she ends up falling in love with the secretary of the Queen. This fun and sweet romance are sad because she knows she cannot stay in England and may have to say goodbye.
16. The Santa Suit (Mary Kay Andrews)
This newer novel by Andrews is full of hope. In this novel, Ivy is in the middle of a very rough patch in her life. Recently divorced, she is looking for anything to take her mind off things and give her some distraction. She acquires an old farmhouse sight unseen, and while going through things in this old home, she finds an old Santa outfit with a note in the pocket. This note, written by a young girl, is pleading with Santa that the greatest gift she could receive would be her father, home from war.
With a new mission to keep her distracted, Ivy decides she must find the girl who wrote the letter, or at the very least, someone connected to her. Taking it upon herself to investigate the house’s origins, the story of the child who wrote the letter, and the family who lived in the home she now owns, Ivy is soon deep into the case.
17. A Christmas Story (Jean Shepherd)
The film based on this book is a holiday staple for many families, but many do not know that movie came from a book. This hilarious story was based loosely on Shepherd’s own funny family stories that center on anything but ordinary and the silly Christmas adventures of a child.
18. The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey)
This story was based on a Russian folk tale set in 1920s Alaska. When a couple tries to have a baby, but the pregnancy results in stillbirth, they decide that the best thing to do is throw themselves into a new life and do hard work to cope with the loss of their child.
Moving to Alaska and being homesteaders, the couple builds a snow child out of snow one afternoon. However, the snow sculpture is gone the following day, but they soon see glimpses of a blonde girl running around in the forest near their home. This is a sad story, but a warm one, about coping, loss, love, and working towards healing together.
19. The Tale of Gloucester (Beatrix Potter)
This is a fun story of mice set on helping a fallen ill tailor complete a commissioned project. These mice work hard to be helpful and even enlist the help of a grumpy cat. This is a fun and delightful read, a favorite Christmas story for many book lovers.
20. A Magical New York Christmas (Anita Hughes)
A romance at Christmas in New York. Does it get better? In this fun novel, Sabrina is a young writer offered a fantastic job. Given an amazing suite at a New York hotel and a large salary, she was commissioned to ghostwrite for a famous art dealer. Just when Sabrina thinks it could not get any better, she meets someone at the hotel, and sparks fly. A fun and funny read with moments of sweetness and Christmas cheer, this novel checks all of the boxes to become an annual holiday read.
21. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
This is an absolute classic story that is a favorite during any season. Four sisters, who are also best friends, are forced to get creative and provide for their family when their father goes away to war, and their mother is left alone with little help and little money.
This book is one of love, family, hope, and dreams, from anonymous gifts left as Christmas presents to making up fun games and singing and cooking together to keep their spirits up. Be warned, it is no short story and is quite a heavy read, albeit well worth it.