Although the holiday season can be a time of high-stress and activity, it’s also an ideal time to get lost in a great read. Sure, you can’t go wrong with reading or rereading A Christmas Carol, but what if you’re wanting something with more contemporary humor or romance? What if a Christmas murder mystery is more your style, or if you want to share a Christmas story with a young child (or read a sweet children’s Christmas story for yourself? As someone who regularly rereads one or two children’s Christmas books every year, I’m all for adults reading children’s books!)? Each year brings an explosion of new Christmas books including basic board books, romance novels, mysteries and more. Consider these titles when you’re ready to slow down and savor the season:
If your idea of a great Christmas read involves a warm blanket, your hot beverage of choice, and an endearing read, then you have an embarrassment of riches from which to choose.
‘”Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ ” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug” is one of the most famous opening lines in American literature. With 2018 being the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women, why not rediscover Louisa May Alcott’s classic?
Although Ramona and Her Father isn’t the first children’s book people think of when they think “Christmas classic,” this heartwarming and witty 1978 Newbery Honor book by Beverly Cleary remains a relevant look at a family dealing with a parent’s unemployment during the holidays.
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto is a gorgeous reminder to not forgo picture books once a child can read independently, as he/she might miss out on some outstanding picture book stories for the elementary school set. Maria must face the consequences of wearing her mother’s ring without permission when it gets lost while making tamales; will it ruin the family’s Christmas dinner? This is a joyous and very relatable story that imparts a message without being overly obvious about it.
The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve is one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories. Based on the author’s childhood recollections growing up as the daughter of an Episcopal priest and never being able to pick first from the donation boxes sent to the Rosebud Reservation, this is a meaningful and memorable tale about community, selflessness and unexpected rewards. Although the community is obviously impoverished, it is not a focal point; rather, the emphasis is on family/tribal pride and togetherness.
Do you love to cry over a good story? Have the tissue box handy when you read these titles:
If you want a dash of realism in your Christmas stories, don’t miss Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini. Alternating between a grieving Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as he writes a Christmas poem and a music teacher preparing her students for a Christmas concert while facing budget cuts, this is an engaging story of faith, hope and the power of community.
Silver Packages is another outstanding picture book to share with elementary school students, as long as you can read the last scene without choking up! (It’s a happy scene, don’t worry.) A young boy fervently hopes to catch a doctor’s kit when the Christmas train runs through his Appalachian community, but each year brings a different gift. Based on author Cynthia Rylant’s childhood experiences, this is an emotional and eye-opening story with a joyful “circle of life” feel that will give you goosebumps.
Have you ever ugly cried over a children’s picture book? You just might if you read Susan Wojciechowki’s The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. No one can match Jonathan Toomey’s woodcarvings, but his gruff mannerisms are off-putting to the other villagers. When a widow and her young son ask him to carve figurines of the Holy Family for their crèche, they unexpectedly assist him in his devastating grief. Not only are the illustrations breathtaking, but the story is sensitively told without becoming maudlin.
Want some escapism and happy endings in your Christmas reading? These stories will set your heart a-fluttering:
Bruce W. Cameron continues his line of wildly popular dog stories (A Dog’s Purpose) with Dogs of Christmas. Josh is not prepared when a dog and her puppies shows up in his life, much less when he falls for the adoption coordinator helping him to get the dogs ready for their new home. Will Josh be able to part with the dogs when it’s time for adoption? This sweet story is perfect for dog lovers and romance readers alike.
How about some binge reading (and time traveling) this Christmas? Check out The Christmas Brides Collection and The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection, both published by Barbour Books, one of the leading Christian fiction publishers. Perfect for those who prefer sweetness over sensuality in their romances.
If you’d prefer to stay in this century, pick up Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler. Haley Hanson is rising fast in her advertising career, and is ready to snatch a prestigious Christmas toy company’s account to further her aspirations. Although she’s not keen on her boss sending her to a Christmas Camp, she learns the benefit of rediscovering Christmas, as well as meeting the dashing son of the camp’s owner.
If you want to dive into a slew of Christmas novels, you can’t go wrong with the ruler of Christmas romance, Debbie Macomber. Her latest, Alaskan Holiday, is already a New York Times bestseller.
Craving a whodunit this holiday season? These stories bring murder, mayhem, and even some merriness:
Joanne Fluke’s Christmas Cake Murder is the latest in her long-running Hannah Swensen series; Hannah’s dream of becoming the top baker in town is complicated when she becomes entangled in a customer’s murder mystery story that suddenly becomes all too real.
Vicki Delany’s Year-Round Christmas series features Merry Wilkinson, the owner of a sweet little Christmas shop. When her best friend is suspected of a murder (by poisoned gingerbread cookie), she must spring into action before it’s too late.
Why not relax with a fat book of Christmas crime stories, penned by some of the genre’s greats? The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler, is crammed with mysteries that will meet with the approval of even the most discerning mystery reader.
Isis Crawford’s Mystery With Recipes series is delicious reading for armchair sleuths any time of the year, but fans will definitely devour A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange, which features a very competitive Christmas cookie competition that unexpectedly turns deadly.
Finally, don’t miss the monarch of Christmas mysteries, Anne Perry; her latest Christmas murder, A Christmas Revelation, is eagerly awaited by fans.
Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Development Librarian