33 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.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
It’s 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 books everyone should 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
This 1905 story 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. It’s one of the best classic books to read in a day.
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.
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
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.
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 this 2019 read, 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.
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.
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. Here are more of the best Christmas books for kids.
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.
My What If Christmas Wish by Daria White
Patrice is 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.
The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
Thought-provoking fiction master Backman is back (sorry, we had to) in this 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. 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! See if you know your Christmas trivia.
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.
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. This 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 this one, 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 this 2020 tale, 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 it 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,” this one 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 this short read published in 2019.
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, that’s because it’s based on the tearjerking Christmas song by NewSong. The book was released in 2001.
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes himself takes on a Christmastime mystery in this 1892 book. When a rare blue jewel turns up inside a Christmas goose, Holmes and Watson work together to find out who’s responsible.
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 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 this 2005 book was released in 2019! Thanks to this book, Christmas jars have become a real-life Christmas tradition.
The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan
A Christmas book about Christmas books?! Get all warm and cozy for this brand-new 2021 read! 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!
The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith
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.
The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin
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. It came out just this year!
Christmas at Holly Berry Inn by Emily C. Childs
This 2020 romance begins with what sounds like a holiday nightmare. Sloan gets snowed in 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 story 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.