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Have Yourself a Bookish Christmas

Snuggling up by the Christmas tree with a fantastic book is like adding extra marshmallows to your hot cocoa—it just makes everything more delightfully cozy! You can read whatever tickles your fancy, but why settle for just any book when you can dive into a magical world of holiday-themed Christmas books that will sprinkle extra cheer on your reading session? It’s like adding a dash of cinnamon to your literary latte! Throughout November, I read and listened to a ton of holiday-themed books to come up with ten that even the grumpiest Grinch would enjoy. These literary gems are like Santa’s secret recipe for boosting your Christmas spirit.

From timeless treasures to Christmas love stories that will make you have a hot flash, mind-boggling mysteries that will keep you guessing, and books for kids of all ages, these are the reads I’ve chosen that will have you flipping pages faster than Santa’s reindeer on Christmas Eve. Here’s my holiday reading list. Enjoy.

My Morelia book club selected this classic for our December read. We figured that it had been poked, prodded, dissected, and adapted so many times that it would be a good thing to revisit the original. I had not read it since childhood, so this was a real treat for me.

There is a reason this story is a classic; it’s brilliant. In 1843, Dickens wrote it as a ghost story with Ebeneezer Scrooge as the target of four ghouls that ultimately gave him a new lease on life. This book deserves a prominent place on any list of best Christmas stories, and frankly, I think it’s a good short read for any time of year.

I love this book, as in really, really, really love it. If you haven’t read it, make it a holiday gift to yourself. It’s short, and your kids or grandkids will love it too. It’s one of those rated-G stories, like Charlotte’s Web that everyone will love.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever recounts the antics of the Herdman siblings, also known as “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The humorous yet sweet tale includes the Three Wise Men, a ham, a group of fearful shepherds, and six rowdy kids who take over the annual Christmas pageant.

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman show up at church for the free refreshments and end up taking over the Christmas pageant. Everyone knows they are up to no good. Since none of them have ever heard the Christmas story before, they reinterpret it in their unique way. This year’s pageant is unlike any other, but maybe that’s what makes it the best.

 

Dave Sedaris is my hero. I have listened to every single thing he’s ever done. If you need a ho-ho-ho hilarious read, this one is for you.

From his celebrated Santaland diaries, in which Dave recounts his job experience as a 33-year-old Christmas elf, to “The Cow and the Turkey,” a fable about greed and revenge starring barnyard animals, Sedaris’ collection of stories offers readers a merry time.

 

Another fantastic holiday mystery I read for the first time this year is Agatha Christie’s 1938 whodunit, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. An elderly man invites his estranged family to his estate for Christmas. But he’s dead by the end of Christmas Eve. It’s up to Hercule Poirot, the perennially charming master detective, to solve this Christmas mystery. And I’ll give you a hint: the butler didn’t do it this time!

This is a collection of 18 stories all written by crime writers. I had never heard of any of them, maybe because they span the globe. And to say that all of the stories involve Christmas is a stretch. If it was snowing, I guess that means it was close to Christmastime. Regardless, I enjoyed this book and loved that I got a taste of a variety of stories from around the world.

I loved this book. Given that it begins with a father admitting to murder, this 2017 novella by one of my favorite authors, Fredrik Backman, may be an unexpected Christmas read. The Deal of a Lifetime is a reflective, genuinely emotional, and rather melancholy read about death and time that may leave you with a huge reading hangover. But, isn’t it part of the Christmas ritual to reflect on family, love, and what makes life worthwhile?

Growing up, every Christmas, my brother and I watched two classic holiday movies: White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life as part of our annual Christmas movie marathon. We watched White Christmas for the music and dancing, and It’s a Wonderful Life for the story. The Greatest Gift is the narrative behind It’s a Wonderful Life. After a dream inspired him to write The Greatest Gift, Philip Van Doren Stern self-published it as a Christmas card after publishers rejected it. Most editions of the story include an afterword by his daughter, who recounts how Stern worked on the 4000-word short story from 1939 to 1943 but couldn’t find a publisher for it. In December 1943, he distributed 200 printed copies to friends as Christmas cards. Marguerite Stern Robinson, his daughter, noted, “I was in third grade and remember giving a handful of these cards to my instructors and my friends… My father, who comes from a mixed religious family, emphasized to me that while this narrative takes place around the Christmas season, and we were sending it as a Christmas card to our friends, it is a universal story for all people in all times.” I’m not so sure the story is better than the movie, but trust me, you will enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember being assigned to read The Gift of the Magi in junior high. I can’t remember actually reading it again until this year. It’s a timeless story with a heartbreaking, ironic twist. Jim and Della, a young, newlywed couple with little resources, both try to figure out what to present the other for the holidays. They make sacrifices to buy their gifts, and they learn tremendous lessons about love and giving that goes beyond monetary goods.

As I listened to the story this year, my audiobook included a segment about the author, William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry. What an interesting life he led. I didn’t realize, or perhaps I just forgot, that Porter changed his pen name to O. Henry out of embarrassment for the fact that he, while working as a teller and bookkeeper for the First National Bank in Austin, Texas, was accused of embezzlement and later sent to prison. He is buried in North Carolina, his birthplace, and it is said that people visiting his grave often leave $1.87 in change since that is the amount that Della lacked to buy Jim’s Christmas gift. The money left is donated to a local library in Porter’s name.

This is a quirky, chick-lit contemporary romance that, yes, I enjoyed. The story centers around Hannah and Finn who are best friends. Since college, the pair have spent every Christmas together. Hannah’s parents have died in a car accident, and Finn’s family has rejected him since he came out. Their whacky holiday exploits have only grown more ridiculous with time. The glitzy Priya and the enigmatic Theo join the couple when they start their adult lives in New York City, giving them the new family and sense of belonging they have always wanted. It’s a bit deeper than a Hallmark movie, but overall a fun read.

Letters from Father Christmas, also known as The Father Christmas Letters in earlier editions, is a collection of letters written and drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien for his children between 1920 and 1943.

The Tolkien Estate released them posthumously on September 2, 1976, the third anniversary of Tolkien’s death. Critics praised the book, and it has been argued that elements of the stories inspired parts of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

I found the book delightful, filled with a father’s love for his children. I’d never considered that Father Christmas has a sidekick polar bear, but since he lives in the North Pole, I guess it makes sense. If you are a Tolkien fan, do yourself a favor and read this one.


I’m an audiobook nut. If you’ve never tried listening to books, I challenge you to give it a try. I’m on the Audible Sounding Board and have become a creative partner with them as well as Amazon Books. Audible offers a free one-month trial, so this is a great time to see if you like listening to audiobooks. Below is the link to enjoy Audible books for a month with no obligation.  Free is good, especially for the holidays. 

Okay, the hard part is done. I’ve read or re-read all of these and think you might enjoy each. I’ve tried to include a wide variety of genres for every well-read Wimpy Girl’s literary taste. There are so many more that I didn’t have time to listen to, but then there’s always next year. Have fun reading!

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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