25 Festive Books to Enjoy This Christmas

by - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

During the run-up to Christmas, I love nothing more than curling up with a good book in the evenings. There's something magical about cosying up indoors during the winter months to enjoy a fantastic story. Stories before the younger children head off to bed help build up their anticipation for our favourite day of the whole year, while I particularly enjoy my own fix of grown-up literature to arouse my festive spirits.

In this post, I've collected 25 festive and winter-themed books for all ages. Some are our personal favourites, while others have been recommended by fellow book-lovers as titles particularly suited for Christmas.

I hope you enjoy this collection, and find a few new titles to add to you Christmas reading list this year!

1. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

A bestselling novella aimed at an adult audience, this is the story of a struggling young family move in with a wealthy old widow in exchange for helping her around the home. Together they discover the first gift of Christmas and learn what Christmas is really all about.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton

This is Burton's original adaptation of Wallace's classic poem, The Night Before Christmas. A poem best suited to slightly older children (or adults!) it follows Jack Skellington as he attempts to make his own version of Christmas, with potentially disastrous consequences!

Including glorious original illustrations, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a book for the whole family to enjoy.

3. The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan

When a young boy writes to Santa Claus with a Christmas wish no-one has ever asked before, Mr. and Mrs Claus are blessed with a beautiful daughter. But the birth of Holly Claus also brings about a terrible curse--from an evil soul named Herrikhan. Holly's heart is frozen, and the gates to Forever are locked, barring exit or entry.

As she grows into a beautiful and selfless young woman, Holly longs to break the spell that holds her people hostage. With four faithful and magical animal friends, she escapes to the wondrous world of Victorian New York, where she will face countless dangers, adventures, and a miracle all her own. 

This delightful novel is beautifully illustrated and will enchant independent young readers and adults alike.

4. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus by Francis Pharcellus Church

In 1897, the young girl of the title wrote to The New York Sun asking whether or not Santa Claus really exists. This book presents the newspaper's response, written by Francis P. Church, with beautiful Victorian-style illustrations. 

This is a lovely book to read with children of a sceptical age who are beginning to wonder whether or not to believe as it really helps to understand the true meaning of what Santa represents.

5. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

This is one of my all-time favourite fairy-tales, upon which Disney's latest feature is loosely based. When shards of a demonic mirror fall to the earth, one pierces the heart of a young man, Kay, and his personality begins to change for the worse. When he is cruelly led astray by the Snow Queen, his friend Gerda sets out to find him and set him free from the spell which has frozen his heart, causing him to forget how much they mean to each other.

6. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

The author best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings crafted handwritten and illustrated letters for his children each year, which they believed were written by Father Christmas. These letters told stories of the events happening at the North Pole, with some written by the polar bear or a mischievous elf in addition to the majestic man in the red suit. 

7. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum

The author of the Wizard of Oz series here invents a wonderful history for Santa Claus which places him in the Pagan world of faeries and woodland creatures. It is a magical tale which will enchant adults and children alike.

8. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

Ivy, Holly, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones all have one Christmas wish. Ivy, an orphan, wishes for a real home and sets out in search of the grandmother she's sure she can find. Holly, a doll, wishes for a child to bring her to life. And the Joneses wish more than anything for a son or daughter to share their holiday. Can all three wishes come true?

Ideal for school-aged children, this is a magical story of hope and the warmth of family at Christmas.

9. The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allen Ahlberg

Now considered a children's classic, this book includes many letters written by fairytale and nursery-rhyme characters which the Jolly Postman delivers on his rounds at Christmas. Letters are tucked into pockets on each page, with many more interactive features for children to explore in addition to the rhyming prose.

10. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

This beautiful picture book requires no words to illustrate the tale of a snowman who comes to life on Christmas Eve, much to the awe and delight of his creator. 

A perfect book for children and adults of all ages to enjoy.

11. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May

The festive song we all know and love was originally published as prose by Robert L. May in 1939. Ideal for younger children, teachers may also find this a useful basis for discussion around the themes of exclusion and belonging around the festive period.

12. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

I must admit that this is not a tale I would like to read to my children at bedtime; rather it is one I enjoy more as an adult to remind me of how blessed we are to have the comforts of warmth and family at Christmas time.

13. A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz

Based on the animated Christmas classic, this book explains how Charlie is disillusioned by the apparent commercialism of Christmas. After asking his friends what the true meaning of the season is, he feels even more saddened, until he discovers the answer for himself...

14. The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman

The infamous ballet of the same name is based on the mesmerising tale written by E.T.A Hoffman in 1816 - almost 200 years ago! At over 100 pages, this is a rather lengthy read, perhaps one which could be enjoyed over several days.

The edition featuring illustrations by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) is one of the best if you can find a copy!

15. The Snow Child by Eowen Ivey

In the brutal winter if 1920 Alaska, a childless couple find themselves drifting apart from one another. One evening they build a snowman in a moment of levity, but wake the next morning to find it has disappeared. Instead, they discover a mysterious young girl running through the trees with a red fox by her side. Is this a child of the woods, or the answer to their prayers?

A chilling, melancholy tale of life and love, this is a haunting title suitable for both adults and teenagers.

16. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Of the magical Narnia series, this is by far my favourite title, and a perfect read for everyone to enjoy over the Christmas season.

17. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

A Christmas Memory" is a short story by Truman Capote. Originally published in Mademoiselle magazine in December 1956, it was reprinted in The Selected Writings of Truman Capote in 1963 and has been published in many editions and anthologies since.

The largely autobiographical story, which takes place in the 1930s, describes the lives of seven-year-old Buddy and his elderly cousin Sook, who is Buddy's best friend. The evocative narrative focuses on country life, friendship, and the joy of giving during the Christmas season, and it also gently yet poignantly touches on loneliness and loss.

18. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure -- her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift.

19. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Hogfather is Discworld's answer to Santa Claus, but as with all of Pratchett's mythology, nothing goes quite as we would expect. Someone has requested a "hit" on the Hogfather, and this year, Death himself must deliver the presents for Hogswatch instead...

20. The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket

This is a story about a lump of coal who can think, talk, move around, and has aspirations of being an artist.

Is there a more charming holiday tale to behold? Probably, but Lemony Snicket has not written one.

21. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

Everyone knows that the Moomins sleep through the winter, but this year Moomintroll has woken up in January. After his initial shock at seeing his familiar haunts under the snow, Moomintroll discovers that winter is worth waking up for after all.

As I child I loved watching the mysterious animated series based on the Moomin books. This illustrated winter-themed edition can bring the Nordic characters to life for your own children.

22. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Admittedly, we first watched (and were mesmerised) the the Tom Hanks animation which is based on this classic children's tale. The original illustrated book presents the same glorious tale, focusing on a boy who is not sure whether he can hear the bells of Santa's sleigh ringing, and goes outside to discover the Polar Express train heading to the North Pole has come to collect him for a visit to the big man himself...

23. How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! / Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason." Dr. Seuss's small-hearted Grinch ranks right up there with Scrooge when it comes to the crankiest, scowling holiday grumps of all time.

24. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The original "Scrooge" learns the true meaning of Christmas when he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. While you may be familiar with the story through the innumerable TV and film adaptations, Dicken's own narrative is - in my opinion - the best.

25. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke-Moore

For me, Christmas wouldn't be complete without either reading or reciting the poem which set the precedent for how we visualise Santa Claus today.

First published anonymously in 1823, Moore is said to have been inspired by a trader whom he saw doing retails one Christmas morning with goods on a sleigh and also, of course, the image of St. Nicholas.

Young and old alike delight in the rhyming prose, in which all of Santa's reindeer are named while toys come to life for one magical night...

Which are your favourite books to read at Christmas?

Have I missed out a favourite festive read you would like to add to this list? Perhaps you would like to comment on your favourites? Please feel free to make your own suggestions by leaving a comment below.

Image credit (post banner): Macinate, via Flickr.

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