It’s the time of the year when family and friends gather near and busy schedules finally give way to some time to relax. In other words, it’s the perfect time to cozy up and read — perhaps even aloud to loved ones — a classic Christmas story. Check out our nostalgic selection below, complete with their publishers’ descriptions.
Books about the true spirit of Christmas
These books focus on the same truth the Grinch ends up asserting about Christmas: “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.”
The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
For almost 70 years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a dream one night.
Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
“Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot… but the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT!” Not since “’Twas the night before Christmas” has the beginning of a Christmas tale been so instantly recognizable. No holiday season is complete without the Grinch, Max, Cindy-Lou, and all the residents of Who-ville, in this heartwarming story about the effects of the Christmas spirit on even the smallest and coldest of hearts. Like mistletoe, candy canes, and caroling, the Grinch is a mainstay of the holidays, and his story is the perfect gift for young and old.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
The Gift of the Magi is a short story, about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation during the Christmas season.
Books about Christmas magic
Everything seems to be magic-laden around this time of year.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish.
The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman
Adults as well as children look forward to attending an annual performance of The Nutcracker. To sweeten the anticipation and prolong the joy — or just to establish a lovely tradition–settle in with this charming retelling of a young girl’s dreamy visit to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy. The story is enhanced with magnificent color illustrations created especially for this edition by the late award-winning artist Don Daily.
Books about Santa Claus
Stories about the man, the myth, the legend.
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in a strange, spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or painting. The letters were from Father Christmas.
They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place; how the accident-prone North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining room; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house, and many more.
No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by Tolkien’s inventiveness in this classic holiday treat.
Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
This best selling novella is based on the story he wrote for the film of the same name. The story deals with a disillusioned woman, her skeptical daughter, and a mysterious man who believes in the real Santa Claus.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus was first published in 1902, two years after his Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Drawing on the attributes of Santa Claus from Clement Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (“The Night Before Christmas”), Baum chronicles Santa’s life from his childhood in an enchanted forest — the same forest that is the source of all magic in the land of Oz — to his destiny of sharing gifts and spreading love to his fellow man.
Along the way we witness him making his first toys, learn the origins of the Christmas tree and Christmas stockings, and discover the stories behind many Christmas secrets, like why Santa slides down chimneys, how he picks his reindeer, and how he delivers all his toys in one night.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
Since it was first published anonymously in 1823, “The Night Before Christmas” has enchanted children with the story of St. Nicholas climbing down the chimney and filling all the stockings before springing back to his sleigh.
Books about life at Christmastime
Stories of everyday life during the Christmas season.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Christmas won’t be the same this year for Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, as their father is away fighting in the Civil War, and the family has fallen on hard times. But though they may be poor, life for the four March sisters is rich with colour, as they play games, put on wild theatricals, make new friends, argue, grapple with their vices, learn from their mistakes, nurse each other through sickness and disappointments, and get into all sorts of trouble.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
In October 1843, Charles Dickens ― heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher ― began work on a book to help supplement his family’s meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol, has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favorite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill.
With its characters exhibiting many qualities ― as well as failures ― often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge’s eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England’s greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Long ago, a little girl named Laura Ingalls lived in a little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters, Mary and Carrie, and their good old bulldog Jack. Winter was just around the corner, and Laura worked hard to help make the little house ready for the cold days ahead. Soon there was frost on the windows and snow on the ground, but Laura and her folks were warm and cozy in their snug little house in the Big Woods.
A Christmas Story by Jean Shephard
The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in 1983, has become a bona fide Christmas perennial, gaining in stature and fame with each succeeding year. Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana has entered our imagination and our hearts with a force equal to It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.
This edition of A Christmas Story gathers together in one hilarious volume the gems of autobiographical humor that Jean Shepherd drew upon to create this enduring film. Here is young Ralphie Parker’s shocking discovery that his decoder ring is really a device to promote Ovaltine; his mother and father’s pitched battle over the fate of a lascivious leg lamp; the unleashed and unnerving savagery of Ralphie’s duel in the show with the odious bullies Scut Farkas and Grover Dill; and, most crucially, Ralphie’s unstoppable campaign to get Santa — or anyone else — to give him a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Who cares that the whole adult world is telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”?
Books about the beauty, joy, and occasional heartbreak that comes with the winter season.
Frosty the Snowman by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins
When Frosty the Snowman was introduced in 1950 in a recording by Gene Autry, it became an instant hit. Since then, its popularity has increased every year, making Frosty one of the most recognized and beloved characters ever created. This updated edition recounts the beloved tale of Frosty — how he was brought to life one magical day and the adventures he had with the children of the town. Based on the iconic TV special, this delightfully illustrated board book will practically leap off of the shelves.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Raymond Briggs’s award-winning, classic story about the friendship between a boy and a snowman is now available in a generously-sized board book. This wordless tale is told entirely in dream-like pictures, making it perfect for young not-quite-yet readers. The Snowman perfectly captures the wonder and innocence of childhood and has enchanted children for over 30 years.
The Mitten by Jan Brett
When Nicki drops his new white mitten in the snow, some curious woodland animals find it and crawl in for warmth. First comes a mole, then a rabbit, a badger and others, each one larger than the last.
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
The story of a poor little girl wandering the streets on New Year’s Eve. In an attempt to keep warm, she strikes the matches she’s supposed to be selling and each time she does so, beautiful visions of warmth and love appear before her. And ultimately, the visions lead her to a place with no more cold, fear, or hunger.
The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
The Tailor of Gloucester was first published in 1903 and tells the story of a poor tailor trying to survive in his freezing workshop over a hard winter. He has a terribly important commission to complete for the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding on Christmas Day but is ill and tired, and before long is running out of food and thread, as well as time! How will he possibly complete the beautiful coat and embroidered waistcoat? Luckily, there lives in the dresser, some very kind and very resourceful mice who set about helping the poor tailor with his work. Not only are they exceedingly helpful, but they are also, luckily, far far too clever for the tailor’s sly cat, Simpkin.
What Christmas tales are a tradition for you and your family?
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