With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, it’s the time of year for joy and merriment. For bibliophiles, that means dusting off the classic Christmas books and hunkering down with a good read. If you’re looking for a few more books to add to your holiday collection, then look no further. We’ve compiled a list of classic Christmas books that are sure to delight and add that little something extra special to your holidays. Publisher’s descriptions included below.
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.
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”?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May
Rudolph, a youthful reindeer buck who possesses an unusual luminous red nose, is harassed mercilessly and excluded by his peers because of this trait. One particularly stormy Christmas Eve, Rudolph manages to prove himself after Santa Claus catches sight of his nose and asks him to lead his sleigh for the evening. Rudolph agrees, saving Christmas, and is finally treated the way he deserves by his fellow reindeer!
Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou
Angelou’s beautiful, moving, and beloved poem, which she first read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony, now comes alive as a fully illustrated children’s book, celebrating the promise of peace in the holiday season. In this simple story, a family joins with their community—rich and poor, black and white, Christian, Muslim, and Jew—to celebrate the holidays.
Peace on Earth, Good-Will to Dogs by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
Peace on Earth, Good-Will to Dogs is a charming Christmas tale that will warm the hearts of canine lovers. The stubborn, dreamy teenage protagonist, Flame, stumbles on a house full of upper-class dogs and winds up volunteering to spend the holidays with them so their caretaker can visit his family. Hilarious hijinks ensue in short order, but a happy ending is had by all.
Papa Panov’s Special Christmas by Leo Tolstoy
Papa Panov’s Christmas wish is to worship the Christ Child and give Him the finest pair of shoes he’s ever made. In a dream on Christmas Eve, he’s promised that his wish will come true, but he must watch carefully. What follows is Papa Panov’s most joyful Christmas as he learns that the best way to celebrate the Savior’s birth is by following His example.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson and Cynthia Rylant
With her signature warmth and lyricism, Newbery winner Cynthia Rylant has crafted a new version of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a tin soldier who falls in love with a ballerina. As in the original story, the tin soldier’s love for the beautiful ballerina is thwarted by a goblin. The tin soldier is separated from the other toys and washed down a sewer, where he encounters a rat and gets swallowed by a fish, but somehow, against all odds, he manages to end up back home only to be cast into the nursery fire. Rylant adds her own twist to the end of the tale, however, for in this version, the tin soldier and the ballerina are melded to each other, rather than melted, in the heat of the fire, so they’ll never be parted again. Rylant’s expert storytelling paired with Corace’s stunning illustrations create a beautiful, unforgettable tale of everlasting love.
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.
A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories by Bettye Collier-Thomas
A second treasury of African-American holiday tales presents a rich variety of works, originally written from the late nineteenth century to the end of the Depression, featuring the works of such notables as Langston Hughes and John Henrik Clarke.
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.
A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz
Celebrate Christmas with Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang in this gorgeous retelling of the beloved Christmas special!
Christmas is almost here, which means ice-skating, Christmas carols, and sparkly lights everywhere—even on Snoopy’s doghouse! Everyone is enjoying the holiday celebrations except Charlie Brown. Can the Peanuts gang help Charlie Brown discover the true meaning of Christmas?
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
Rob wants to get his father something special for Christmas this year—something that shows how much he really loves him. But it’s Christmas Eve, and he doesn’t have much money to spend. What could he possibly get? Suddenly, Rob thinks of the best gift of all…
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
Christmas Eve started out so perfectly for Maria. Snow had fallen and the streets glittered. Maria’s favorite cousins were coming over and she got to help make the tamales for Christmas dinner. It was almost too good to be true when her mother left the kitchen for a moment and Maria got to try on her beautiful diamond ring . . .
This is the story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales; of a desperate adn funny attempt by Maria and her cousins to eat their way out of trouble; and the warm way a family pulls together to make it a perfect Christmas after all.
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 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.
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
A Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas. His glorious paintings capture not only the brilliant colors of Mexico and its art, but also the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas and the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful.
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.
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.
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
In celebration of A Christmas Memory‘s enduring appeal, this repackaged edition retains Beth Peck’s evocative watercolors and Capote’s original text. First published in 1956, this is the story from Capote’s childhood of lovingly making fruitcakes from scratch at Christmas-time with his elderly cousin, and has stood the test of time to become known as an American holiday classic.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Laughs abound in this bestselling Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The siblings take over the annual Christmas pageant in a hilarious yet heartwarming tale involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kids.
Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start! When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked. It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.
This year’s pageant is definitely like no other, but maybe that’s exactly what makes it so special.
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.
A Merry Christmas by Louisa May Alcott
A Merry Christmas collects the treasured holiday tales of Louisa May Alcott, from the dearly familiar Yuletide benevolence of Marmee and her “little women” to the timeless “What Love Can Do,” wherein the residents of a boarding house come together to make a lovely Christmas for two poor girls. Wildly popular at the time of their publication—readers deluged Alcott with letters demanding sequels—and drawing on Alcott’s family and experiences in the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements, these stories have the authentic texture and detail of Christmas in nineteenth-century America, while their emphasis on generosity and charity make them timeless embodiments of the Christmas spirit.
Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans
Something is not right with the famous “twelve little girls in two straight lines.” All are sick in bed except brave Madeline, who must run the school, for even Miss Clavel is not feeling very well. But when Madeline finds help from a magical merchant, the girls embark on a Christmas journey that will surely make them forget their sniffles and sneezes.
The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol
Written in 1831 by the father of Russian literature, this uproarious tale tells of the blacksmith Vakula’s battle with the devil, who has stolen the moon and hidden it in his pocket, allowing him to wreak havoc on the village of Dikanka. Both the devil and Vakula are in love with Oksana, the most beautiful girl in Dikanka. Vakula is determined to win her over; the devil, equally determined, unleashes a snowstorm to thwart Vakula’s efforts. Zany and mischievous, and drawing inspiration from the folk tales of Gogol’s far-flung village in Ukraine, The Night Before Christmas is the basis for many movie and opera adaptations, and is still read aloud to children on Christmas Eve in Ukraine and Russia.
The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton
In this beloved picture book that could only come from the visionary mind of author and illustrator TIM BURTON, we meet Jack Skellington– a well-intentioned inhabitant of Halloweenland. Jack is bored of ‘the scaring, the terror, the fright….tired of being something that goes bump in the night’. And so, in an effort to bring to joy to his town, Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly old elf. But instead of bringing joy to the world Jack, who is a little more than a grinning skeleton, brings fear by delivering creepy toys and riding a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong does Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas.
The Elves and the Shoemaker by Paul Galdone
Late one night, a very poor shoemaker cuts his last two pieces of leather and goes to bed, worried about how he will support his family. He wakes to find two exquisitely made shoes in place of the leather. They are so beautiful that a customer pays more than the asking price, and the cobbler is able to buy enough leather for another pair of shoes. The next morning, the cut leather has been turned into shoes again! Who could be giving the shoemaker this gift?
Which of these classic Christmas books have you read? Let us know in the comments!