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I love to read books that feel like the season. One of my favorite things to do on Black Friday is to go to my local bookstore, which for me is a Barnes & Noble, and buy a new Christmas novel (or three) to enjoy in December.
The Christmas novel genre is deep and wide. There are lots of classic Christmas books, contemporary Christmas novels, Christmas romance novels (who doesn’t want to fall in love during the Christmas season?), Christmas mystery novels, and a new micro-genre I’ve discovered, Christmas historical fiction.
My point is, there really is something for everyone. Let’s find the right Christmas novel for you to read this holiday season.
Classic Christmas Novels
First up are the Classic Christmas novels.
This might be the most familiar Christmas story of them all. Even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve likely seen a movie or a play based on this book. Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserable soul who despises Christmas and the jolly-spirit that comes with it. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner Jacob Marley who died seven years ago and who warns Scrooge to change his ways or he is headed for a horrible fate.
If you’ve never read this book because you think you already know the story from the various movies and plays, I highly recommend reading this book. You will very quickly see why this book is a classic.
I also highly recommend this audio version by Tim Curry from Audible that is free with your Audible subscription, meaning that you don’t have to use an Audible credit to listen to it. It is soooo good!
This beautiful story of love and sacrifice will bring you to tears. A young couple who doesn’t have much money want to buy meaningful gifts for each other, which they figure out how to do by sacrificing something meaningful of their own. If you want to know what real sacrificial love looks like, I think this is such a beautiful picture of that.
The famed author J.R.R. Tolkien wrote letters to his children for years that were responses to the letters they wrote to Father Christmas. Father Christmas tells them stories of the adventurous life he lived in the North Pole with reindeer and polar bears.
You probably know of L. Frank Baum as the author of The Wonderful World of Oz. In this volume, we get to know Santa Claus as a child, who lived in an enchanted forest and how he became the generous gift giver that we know and love. Baum’s Santa is reportedly inspired by Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
While Little Women is more than just a Christmas novel, the setting in which it opens in a winter during the American Civil War. One of the most humbling episodes in the book is when March sisters decide to give up the Christmas breakfast that they’ve been looking forward to and bring it to a local family who is nearly starving. That is just one of the tales that will make you fall in love with this family and warm your heart this Christmas.
Contemporary Christmas Novels
If you’re looking for something a bit more contemporary than the Classics, these are some good options. Some of these do include a romance (or two), but I wouldn’t say those are the main storylines, so I wouldn’t categorize them as romance novels.
This is one of my favorite books I read all year. I love found-family stories, and Winter Solstice is a great example of that literary trope. The book focuses on different characters that I couldn’t imagine how they could end up being connected, but then they come together in just the right way. But let me warn you that this book will break your heart before it gets put back together again. There is an important content warning I feel is important to mention because it does include the sudden death of a child.
There’s something about celebrating Christmas in Edinburgh, Scotland that seems just magical. If that’s a city you’d love to take a literary trip to this Christmas, then this sweet book is for you. Jenny Colgan books always have such an endearing quality to them, and this one is no exception. I love stories about women who seem a bit lost (and are maybe a bit of a hot-mess) who find their way. The Christmas Bookshop is one of those stories. There is also a sweet romance to enjoy and more. I enjoyed this one so much last December, I might reread it this year.
While Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year, it can also be one of the most stressful. So I can’t blame the Kranks for wanting to take a year off from the craziness of it all and go on a Caribbean cruise instead. Will they be glad they decided to skip Christmas or will they live to regret it? The only way to find out is to read this book, which comes with a surprising side of humor.
The Christmas Box is considered “the most popular holiday take since Tiny Tim,” according to Newsweek. While Richard Paul Evans has gone on to write many other books, this was his debut. The Christmas Box is the story of a young family who moves in with a widows to be her caretakers. While they are taking care of her, it’s the widow who has an important message to share. You’ll have to read The Christmas Box to find out.
Christmas by the Book has been described as a “Christmas tale for book lovers.” Two booksellers in a small English town decide to cheer up the locals by making anonymous book deliveries. (Ummm . . . sign me up for that!) Can they succeed in spreading some joy through books and save their bookstore at the same time? I love heart-warming stories like this for the holiday season.
Christmas Romance Books
Looking for a little holiday romance? Add one of these heartwarming holiday books to your TBR.
Maelyn Jones is miserable this Christmas season. Miserable living with her parents, miserable in her job, and currently failing romantically. But the universe has heard her plea for happiness, but she has to figure it out in a ground-hog day style journey in this hilarious fun read as Mae finds love.
If you’re tired of the thirty-something romance novel, take a trip across the pond for a fun romance between this sweet older couple. She’s from California and he works for the Queen. How will they make it work? I loved the royal setting in Royal Holiday of this book set in the English countryside. (And I really wish the book included that scone recipe.)
Want a little magical realism this Christmas? The last place Meg Julliard wants to be spending her Christmas is in Chicago acting as property manager to the apartment building that her father owned before he died. Meg is a struggling fashion designer, but now she must tend to all the urgent requests of her tenants. She forms a surprising friendship with one of the older residents, Ellie. Ellie gifts her a special dress that she wears to the building’s annual Christmas party. And, yes, there’s a cute handyman part of it all.
One is a local pastor and the other is a bartender, but they happen to be best friends. When the pastor, Peter Armstrong, tells the bartender, Hank Colfax, that he thinks bartending has to be a lot easier than being a pastor, they end up switching jobs until Christmas Eve. The first surprise is that the two jobs have a lot of similarities. The second surprise is that they both find love.
Author Jacob Churcher heads home for Christmas — not to spend time with family but to clean out his estranged mother’s house, who recently died. It is no small feat as she became a bit of a hoarder. In the process, he stumbles upon a diary that was owned by someone named Noel. At the same time, a woman shows up at the door believing there’s a connection between Jacob’s mother and the mother who gave her up for adoption. Unexpectedly, a connection forms between the two. Netflix released a movie based on this book in 2022.
Christmas Mystery Novels
Who knew that Christmas and mysteries could go together, but apparently they can. Given that not all families are
At a family reunion on Christmas Eve, there’s a scream, a crash of furniture, and the tyrant of the family is found dead. Detective Hercule Poirot, who happens to be staying in the area, gets pulled into the investigation, and he’s surprised when he doesn’t find typical mourners but a group of family members who are all looking at each other with suspicion because no one in the family really liked the dead father.
Detective Hercule Poirot is asked to quietly investigate the disappearance of a missing ruby that belonged to a Far Eastern prince that is supposed to be given to the prince’s bride, but he’s trying to keep the investigation on the down-low – because the ruby was likely stolen by a woman he had a final fling with before the wedding. If you’re looking for a quick Christmas mystery, this one is only 63 pages or 1 hour and 24 minutes on audio.
Apparently Christmas is a popular time to steal gems because in this story we have another story of a missing gem, this time a blue carbuncle that belonged to a countess. A former thief, who had apparently changed his ways is initially accused of the theft, but then the gem is found inside a Christmas goose! Surely, only Sherlock Holmes can figure out who the real thief is.
On Christmas morning at the annual curling match, a woman is electrocuted to death in broad daylight in front of the whole town of Three Pines. Initially, the death is deemed an accident, but upon closer look, it appears that there might have been foul play involved. Have no fear. The prudent and wise Inspector Gamache will get to the bottom of what really happened. A murder at a curling match? Of course! (One of my personal favorites.)
Plans for the annual Christmas play are underway in this small English town. From the outside, The Fairway Players seem like a happy welcoming community group, but from the inside, there is some serious tension and a mysterious secret they are trying to hide. How do you know? As a reader, you get the inside scoop in The Christmas Appeal through every email, text message, and instant message that is exchanged between its members. You seriously feel like you are eavesdropping on a conversation you didn’t mean to hear. This epistolary novel really sucked me in. (Expected release date: Oct. 24, 2023.)
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for sharing this advanced readers copy in exchange for my honest review.
Christmas Historical Fiction
As I was searching around for fun Christmas novels to read, I discovered a genre I didn’t even know existed — Christmas historical fiction. I love the idea of reading about what Christmas might have been like in decades or even centuries in the past. Here are a few interesting finds for your TBR.
Christmas Bells tells the story of how the poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow came to be by taking readers back to1860 Massachusetts when the country was heading toward Civil War. The storyline is told alongside a modern-day teacher who chooses the poem, which was penned on Christmas Day in 1863 as Wordsworth was facing great loos, as the focus of the Christmas Eve concert for children’s choir she directs.
While A Christmas Carol might be one of the most famous Christmas stories of all time, what prompted Dickens to write it? Samantha Silva told The New York Times that this “book is, most of all, a fan letter — a love letter” to the author himself. Part biopic and part historical fiction, readers get a peek into what drove Dickens and the atmosphere in which he lived. If you’re a Dickens fan or a fan of historical fiction, this may be the Christmas book you need this year.
Something we don’t often think about when we think about war is what the holidays were like for both soldiers and their families while the war waged on. We get a glimpse of what Christmas during World War I may have been like in Last Christmas in Paris, which tells the story of how a young English couple navigate the challenges that the way brings. Be prepared because several fans describe this book as “a good cry.”
Similar to Mr. Dickens and His Carol, Once Upon a Wardrobe is also a story behind the story. When Oxford student Megs Devonshire’s brother grows fatally ill, the one place he finds joy and comfort is from the new book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But he wants to know more about where Narnia came from. Given the circumstances, she can’t say no to his requests for more information, which prompts her to seek out the author himself. She ends up benefiting from what she learns as much as her brother. When the book starts, it’s fall and then winter, with the climax happening on Christmas Day, making this a great Christmas read.
Similar to Christmas Bells, A Quilt for Christmas also takes place during the Civil War. Eliza’s husband has joined the army, fighting for the North during the war. To keep herself busy while he’s away at war, she’s decided to start making him a quilt that he can use to stay warm during the winter months. But she is also kept busy when she takes in a homeless mother and child and joins the local quilting group. She is also presented with an opportunity to take care of an escaped slave.
Christian Christmas Novels
Experience the birth of Jesus through this historical fiction novel that retells the Christmas story beginning from when the angel Gabriel first visits Mary to Jesus’ birth. Norah Lofts was a historian, psychologist, and writer, which makes her especially equipped to sensibly incorporate all the emotions that the characters must have been feeling while also keeping the story historically accurate. The book is described as “scholarly, moving and intensely readable.”
This one could also fall under the historical fiction genre, as well. I remember the days when the Sears and JCPenney catalogs would show up in the mail, and my sister and I would pour over it and dog-ear the pages of toys and clothes we wanted. This is what happens when best friends Audrey and Eve’s boys get ahold of the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book. But toys are fleeting and Audrey and Eve want their boys to know that there’s a lot more to Christmas than what shows up under the tree on Christmas morning. This book aims to teach them that lesson while Audrey and Eve are still healing from the loss they suffered during World War II. (This book is the sequel to the World War II historical fiction novel If I Were You.) This book was a five star read for me! It seriously surpassed my expectations.
If you ever wanted to know what Christmas is like in Mitford, this is your chance. The story follows Father Tim, who is faced with a challenge outside of his normal skill set — restoring a broken down nativity scene. He starts it as a surprise for his wife, and it soon becomes a project that has the whole town involved. Some fans say they re-read this one every Christmas and find a new message each time. Others say it’s like comfort food in a book.
From the outside, Robert is the picture of success, but his personal life is falling apart. His marriage is on the rocks and his relationship with his children is also suffering. Robert meets eight-year-old Nathan while trying to figure out what to buy his family for Christmas, while Nathan is trying to figure out how to buy shoes for his mother who is dying of cancer. The encounter has lasting consequences. This book was made into a movie, starring Rob Lowe. There’s a sequel to this book called, The Christmas Blessing, which was made into a movie starring Neil Patrick Harris.
Due to a devastating loss years ago, it’s been some time since Patricia and Mark Addison have enjoyed Christmas. Five year old Emily comes into Patricia’s life at work as a social worker. Even though it goes against the rules, she decides to bring the girl home. This decision brings joy and hope to the home that it hasn’t seen in years. Many readers say to grab a tissue box because this one is a tear jerker.
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Short Christmas Stories
What Christmas Book (or Books) are You Going to Read?
What book or books are you going to read? What are your favorite Christmas books? I would love to hear about them! Drop a comment below if there are others you think belong on this list.
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Looking for more Christmas novels? Check out these nine new 2023 Christmas books that you will want to add to your TBR list.