It’s the time of year when families tell stories around a fire, maybe even gathered around a decorated evergreen.
Sometimes the holiday spirit evades us until we’ve watched our favorite Christmas movie special or listened to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” Bibliophiles jam their December reading list with Christmas classics, nostalgic reads and romances set in a winter wonderland. Books bring you into another world filled with characters with their own flaws and problems. They inspire and unite.
For those of you who waited for Thanksgiving to pass before officially declaring it Christmastime, it’s time to catch up to the rest of us. For those of you who decked the halls and listened to Christmas carols on November 1, these books are for you.
Scroll on for our recommendations for Christmas books for every reader to enjoy this holiday season.
“Letters From Father Christmas” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Brought to you by the author of “The Lord of the Rings,” this epistolary picture book features vibrant colors and magical stories for everyone. It contains J.R.R Tolkien’s letters to his children, which he wrote every year. Told from the point of view of Father Christmas and a polar bear, these stories enchant adults and children with beautiful illustrations.
For all ages and especially for fans of Tolkien’s work
“The Tailor of Gloucester” by Beatrix Potter
Anthropomorphic animals depicted in Beatrix Potter’s whimsical illustrations embark on a plethora of adventures. While “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” follows a mischievous rabbit’s mishaps, “The Tailor of Gloucester” tells the story of a mouse tailor struggling to make a wedding outfit for the human mayor. The wedding happens to fall on Christmas Day. To help the tailor finish his task, a crowd of mice band together.
For all ages and lovers of cute animals with hearts of gold
“The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories” edited by Tara Moore
There are two types of Christmas enthusiasts – those that balk at Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and those who embrace the contradiction. The latter will devour this collection of 13 haunted tales.
The editor precedes each story with a letter to the author. It became a tradition for magazines and newspapers to print ghost stories during Christmastime during the Victorian era. Why? What could capture the chill of winter like reading scary stories by the fire?
For adults and teenagers with a flair for the macabre
“Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker” by Gregory Maguire
Gregory Maguire loves his retelling of classic tales. He first grabbed our attention with his 1995 spinoff of “The Wizard of Oz.” His inventive reimagination of “The Nutcracker” will seduce any fan of this classic. It begins just as we remember, with a one-eyed toymaker, a little girl and the eponymous nutcracker.
“Carols and Chaos” by Cindy Anstey
Anyone enamored by Jane Austen or other romantic period pieces won’t be able to resist this Hallmark-esque book set during the Christmas season of 1817. Kate Darby works as a lady’s maid at the Shackleford Park country estate. Fans of “Downton Abbey” will know that being a lady’s maid is not for the faint of heart. To top it off, Kate must care for her bedridden mother.
Then, Matt Harlow enters the scene as the valet for two of the estate’s Yuletide guests. Of course, Kate and Matt fall for each other. But a scandalous love affair is the least of their troubles when they become involved in a nefarious scheme.
For young adults and adults
“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
Like “The Nutcracker,” Dickens’ novel is simply a holiday classic. Follow Ebenezer Scrooge as he transforms from greedy grouch to gracious member of the community. How does it happen? A visit from a few ghosts who show him just what his behavior costs him and others.
For all ages
“The Nutcracker in Harlem” by T.E. Morrow and illustrated by James Ransome
Another spin on this classic, but for children. Take your kids on an adventure through the Harlem Renaissance, steeped in jazz and a young girl’s self-discovery. The joyful illustrations will capture the attention of any reader.
“Last Christmas in Paris” by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
A wartime epistolary romance set in Paris, 1914. Evie believes that her brother and his best friend Thomas will return for Christmas. She has to. Of course, the horror of war doesn’t adhere to a schedule. And you don’t have to be in the same room to fall in love. Thomas begins to write letters to Evie while away, and the written correspondence brings them closer.
For young adults and adults, especially fans of historical fiction
“The Christmas Bookshop” by Jenny Colgan
The ultimate book for bibliophiles: this is a book about books. More specifically, a Christmas book about Christmas books. This recent release weaves together themes of fractured family and romance.
“The Christmas Bookshop” follows Carmen after she loses her job and moves in with her annoyingly perfect sister in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carmen finds work at the local bookstore. The store happens to charm every customer, including a famous author that takes an interest in the bookstore – and in Carmen.
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