12 Christmas Books for a Holiday Mood: The Best Way to Brighten up your Break

reading Christmas books is the best activity for the Christmas break

Create a holiday mood not only by putting on “All I Want for Christmas” but by reading awesome Christmas books. They are full of magic, love, sacrifice, and mysterious events (well, even criminal stories, if you please). Christmas is too of an important cultural and family event to be left untouched by the greatest authors of our times. If you dig deep enough, almost any writer has put in a word or two about this holiday season. It is a lot to choose from, and we’ve made a list of novels, short stories, fairy tales, and memoirs to inspire you to find some holiday mood while reading.

You can use some of these books as presents or add them to your holiday reading list for the next year. Many of these texts were turned into movies and cartoons so that you can double up the pleasure. We suggest you pick a book or two from the selection below, sit in a cozy chair with a mug of warm beverage, and dive into the holiday mood! 

Books are like treasure boxes full of emotions, memories, and feelings. Here are holiday boxes with Christmas inside! And they’re all different: unpack The Polar Express, and you might feel a piercing nostalgia for your childhood. Open Hercule Poirot’s Christmas — and this mysterious crime scene will give you goose-skin. The list is not excessive, but we’ve gathered as many genres as possible to suit your tastes! 

All-time Classic Christmas Books

1. E.T.A. Hoffman, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816)

Upon reading the title — The Nutcracker — you’re probably already humming some melody from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. But what about reading the original story by Hoffman (and Alexander Duma’s adaptation of it) that inspired this great composition and made the nutcracker the symbol of the holiday season? Many theatres are digitally streaming The Nutcracker this season. If you read the ultimate Christmas story beforehand, you’ll be able to decipher all the moves and acts in the ballet!

2. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

Well, how many lists of Christmas Books include A Christmas Carol? All of them, and this one is not an exception. You can’t omit Charles Dickens since he is the man who invented the Christmas spirit by picturing Ebenezer Scrooge learning to appreciate the holiday. You can joyfully read the story alone or with your family from an online version, but you should also pay attention to this Penguin Classics edition that includes other less-known Christmas stories by Dickens. A facsimile edition (a replica of the original from 1843) can become a wonderful present!

3. Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1868)

This nineteenth-century great novel has been returned to us this year, thanks to Greta Gerwig’s marvelous adaptation. Although the story about four sisters growing up amidst the American Civil War is not about Christmas, this family holiday is a crucial highlight of the plot. Whether you enjoy a book or watch a movie, a charge of the holiday mood is guaranteed!

4. Robert L. May, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1939)

Meet Robert L. May — the father of Rudolph the Reindeer. This red-nosed fellow became such an intrinsic part of Christmas so that it’s hard to imagine that a century ago, Rudolph was nowhere to be found. This short illustrated poem is well-suited for enjoying with kids, younger siblings, or on your own, for it creates a festive atmosphere and praises the best in us — our individuality.

5. Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957)

Dr. Seuss created a character that became so classy and inseparable from Christmas as the Nutcracker and Ebenezer Scrooge are. A grumpy creature trying to steal the attributes of Christmas but failing to destroy the festive spirit became an archetypical story enjoyed by kids and adults alike — as a book with Dr. Seuss’s hilarious drawings or as a movie.

6. Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express (1985)

If one doesn’t read The Polar Express on Christmas Eve, then when? This story about a boy catching a train bound North to visit Santa is enchanting, especially when enjoyed with illustrations from the original edition. For all those who truly believe in the magic of Christmas and the New Year’s, the bell still rings!

Romantic Stories 

7. Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996)

Reading the book behind the famous movie with Renee Zellweger can give you a fresh look at the well-known story. Will you discover a connection with Pride and Prejudice? It’s not by chance that Mr. Darcy is one of Bridget’s lovers! Why does this novel appear in the list of Christmas books? Because the miraculous holiday mood plays a vital role in the whole drama and comedy of Bridget’s life!

8. Josie Silver, One Day in December (2018)

If you are in need of a comfortable, easy read for the holiday season, this is it. One Day in December is a story about an ultimate love-triangle that teaches us to trust our faith.

Detective Stories

9. Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938)

The one and only star of detective fiction — Agatha Christie. It is a witty story about a murder at a Christmas party, and one among the guests is a killer. Well, Hercule Poirot can’t even have a rest during his Christmas break! Don’t worry about reading “negative” things on holidays: a classic detective story is a therapeutic genre because you always know that, whatever happens, the truth will triumph in the end.

Memoirs

10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters from Father Christmas (1920–1943) 

This edition comprises posthumously published letters that the author of The Lord of the Rings sent to his children every Christmas. They come with colorful drawings, Christmas adventures, and fairytales spiced up with parental love and wit. Moreover, this illustrated edition can be a perfect Christmas surprise for any Tolkien fan!

11. Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory (1956)

Truman Capote created this story almost as a memoir on his childhood years in Alabama, reminding us that Christmas is about friendship and the feeling of belonging. This touching short story received many adaptations on TV and scene for a reason because it’s hard to remain indifferent to the friendship of Buddy and his cousin.

DIY: Design your own Hygge Christmas

Hygge is often regarded as an art of Danish coziness, togetherness, and enjoyment. It also stands for a unique attitude to slow-living and a secret Nordic skill of being happy despite living in a cold dark region. The hype around hygge peaked in 2016 when it almost became the word of the year (if not for Brexit). If you wonder what Danes think of it, they’ll tell that much of the fuss was artificial and commercial.

12.  Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living (2016)

But there is some truth in it — Danes really know how to celebrate Christmas! Simple things like lighting candles every night and eating Christmas rice porridge (risengrød) with heaps of cinnamon add up to a festive mood and brighten up your spirits. For other secrets about Danish living and Christmas celebrations, check The Little Book of Hygge — a practical guide that can inspire you to level up your coziness during holidays and on any ordinary day.

BONUS: 5 Short Christmas Stories for Busy People

Only have a few minutes on your phone to devote to a Christmas read? No worries, we have something for you as well (all stories are available online)!

Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Match Girl (1846)

This short fairytale can squeeze a sentimental tear out of the harshest soul. 

Mark Twain, A Letter from Santa Claus (1875)

This sweet letter is a reminder that our efforts to keep Christmas alive and brighten it up with magic are always worth it.

Washington Irving, Christmas (1876)

It is the first part of Irving’s timeless festive collection of stories; if you fall for this one, read them all!

O. Henry, The Cop and the Anthem (1904)

A witty novella about our wishes (not) coming true. Perfect for cold December nights!

O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi (1905)

In my opinion, nothing can be more Christmassy and touching than this short story.


This year we can’t do many things we used to do: we limit our traveling, visiting distant relatives and friends, and going to communal events. But books, with their endless energy, are still there with us. We hope that these wonderful Christmas books will create a perfect holiday mood for you.

Warmest and coziest wishes from BooksRun!