The 50 best Christmas books ever to read over the festive season

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From Little Women to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, here is Stylist’s edit of the best classic Christmas novels of all time, to read over the holidays.

Turn off the TV and warm your heart on some Christmas classics. From Scrooge’s shock U-turn in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to Roddy Doyle’s Rover the wonder dog saving Christmas, there’s something for the Christmas lovers, Grinches and inbetweeners.

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

    Ebeneezer Scrooge’s literary villainy may not rank as highly as the likes of Patrick American Psycho Bateman or Clockwork Orange’s Alex but remember - this is a man who actively despises Christmas! Luckily, a timely visit from the ghosts of past, present and future forces Scrooge to confront his more challenging personality traits in time for the festivities.

    Shop A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens on Amazon, £5.05.

  • The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

    “’It’s a magic wardrobe. There’s a wood inside it, and it’s snowing! Come and see,’ begged Lucy.”

    Don’t worry, Grandma hasn’t left the Christmas port out, Lucy’s only gone and found a portal to the mythical land of Narnia in the spare bedroom.

    Shop The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis at Blackwell’s, £8.76.

  • A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore

    “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”

    Until 1823, St. Nicholas - a balding Greek Orthodox Bishop who helped the poor, resurrected murder victims and weightlessly multiplied wheat - was a pretty serious figure. So, what happened? American academic Clement C. Moore gave Saint Nic a jolly, fat makeover, some new red velvet threads and eight reindeers in his ever-popular festive poem, making him the Santa Claus we know today.

    Shop The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore at Waterstones, £8.50

  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

    Young Billy’s family doesn’t believe in Santa and now even Billy is having his doubts. Luckily, a mysterious fun train arrives on Christmas Eve to take him to the North Pole to meet the big man himself. 

    Tickets not available on the National Rail website.

    Shop The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg at Waterstones, £6.99.

  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

    Grinch, whose heart is two sizes too small, steals everyone’s gifts because he hates Christmas. But Christmas is not about what’s under the tree, it’s about what’s in our hearts, according to Dr. Seuss. Come December 25, the Grinch sees everyone is still filled with festive joy and he returns the festive booty, resulting in his heart growing three times larger. Sounds painful.

    Shop How The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss at Waterstones, £6.99.

  • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

    If you think the snowman in the John Lewis advert is impressive, wait until you get a load of this guy. And like the ad, it’s all pictures, no words.

    Shop The Snowman by Raymond Briggs at Amazon, £5.24.

  • The Gift Of The Magi by O. Henry, 1905

    It’s Christmas Eve and the only decent way a broke Della can raise cash to buy her husband Jim a gift is to chop off and sell her L’Oreal-worthy locks. Freshly shorn, she splashes out on a fancy watch chain, only to find an equally cash-strapped Jim has flogged his timepiece to buy her a set of combs. 

    The morals being; don’t sell a body part to buy a Christmas gift and always keep the receipt.

  • Letters From Father Christmas

    by J. R. R. Tolkien

    Yes, the Lord of the Rings maestro also wrote some awesome Christmas stories. "Peter Jackson" and "Christmas movie blockbuster" spring to mind.

  • The Greatest Gift

    by Philip Van Doren Stern

    This 1943 short story is the basis for one of the best Christmas films ever, It's A Wonderful Life.

    Still need to know more? It's Christmas and a suicidal George Pratt tells a mysterious stranger he wishes he'd never been born. His wish is granted and George Pratt ceases to exist. He's not dead though, the mysterious stranger lets him visit the people who would have been his loved ones. Be careful what you wish for, and all that.

  • A Child’s Christmas In Wales

    by Dylan Thomas

    Childhood and Christmas Day in a small Welsh town, as based on Dylan Thomas’ own experiences. Not sure what the kids of today would make of it mind. No TV? No PSPs? What did people do for fun?

  • A Christmas Memory

    by Truman Capote

    As the cover suggests, Capote’s Yuletide short story is not exactly bursting with whimsy.

    Set in rural Alabama during the great depression, seven-year-old Buddy’s parents dump him over Christmas on relatives whose gift-buying skills stretch to a religious magazine subscription. Luckily for Buddy, one elderly cousin is quite a gas and the pair get drunk on whiskey, bake cakes, decorate a tree and fly kites.

  • The 101 Dalmatians

    by Dodie Smith

    Cruella de Vil, a huge litter of cute puppies and a heinous plan to make coats in time for Christmas. If you thought the film was good, the book knocks spots off it.

  • The Little Match Girl

    by Hans Christian Andersen

    Faced with going home for a beating or staying out on a freezing cold New Year's Eve to sell matches, the Little Match Girl lights her stock to keep warm and experiences wonderful visions of her late grandmother, the only person who ever showed her love. Terribly sad, terribly good.

  • The Ecco Book Of Christmas Stories

    by Alberto Manguel

    Like a literary version of Now That's What I Call Music!, this book comprises 23 Christmas stories by a random selection of acclaimed authors.

  • Miracle On 34th Street

    by Valentine Davies

    “If you searched every old folks’ home in the country, you couldn’t find anyone who looked more like Santa Claus”.

    No, it’s not an advert for BUPA. It’s the opening line to one of the greatest Christmas stories ever.

  • The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus

    by L. Frank Baum

    “He knew that the best of children were sometimes naughty, and that the naughty ones were often good.”

    Ever wondered how Santa came to be Santa? Well in Baum's imaginings, a lioness and a wood nymph raised him in a magical forest, before he moved to the village of Hohaho with his cat Blinky.

  • Eloise At Christmastime

    by Kay Thompson

    "Oooooooooooooooooooo! I absolutely love Christmas!"

    Six-year-old Eloise loves the festive season so much she scrawls ‘Merry Christmas’ all over the walls of the New York Plaza Hotel. She’s not yet bought into the idea that Santa only visits good children, but she does narrate in cheeky festive rhyme.

  • The First Noel

    by Jan Pieńkowski

    It's part carousel, part shadow box, part Nativity story. The Kinder Surprise of Christmas books.

  • The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding

    by Agatha Christie

    A collection of short stories by the queen of murder mystery. Hercule Poirot followed by Miss Marple? It’s like Christmas Day on ITV3.

  • Little Women

    by Louisa May Alcott

    "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.


  • Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

    by Simon Armitage

    Based on the 14th century poem, this book explores Sir Gawain’s Christmas quest to find the magical Green Knight he beheaded the year before. And you thought Christmas lunch round yours might be a bit awkward this year.

  • Hogfather

    by Terry Pratchett

    The Hogfather, Discworld’s equivalent of Santa, can’t make the present deliveries this year and someone needs to cover for him. Step forward Death. Death might not be the ideal choice for the role, but he’s going to give it a shot.

  • The Christmas Train

    by David Baldacci

    Tom Langdon must get across America to get to Los Angeles in time for Christmas. Think John Candy and Steve Martin in the movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles, then disregard the bits about automobiles, planes, John Candy and Steve Martin.

  • Holidays On Ice

    by David Sedaris

    Six humorous short Christmas stories strung together in one glorious book. The first focuses on the banality of life working as a Christmas elf in Macys. So if you like your humour particularly dark, or know someone else that does, this could be the perfect Christmas gift.

  • The Twelve Terrors Of Christmas

    by John Updike

    If Ebenezer Scrooge borrowed one Christmas book from the library, it would be this one. Well, before the ghosts scared the bejesus out of him. If Christmas cynicism is your thing, this could be right up your street.

  • Christmas In The Big Woods

    by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Little House on the Prairie does Christmas. For small children. More baking cookies and playing in the snow than going to Starbucks and wandering around Westfield.

  • Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

    by Agatha Christie

    No time to open your new beard and moustache trimmer Poirot, someone’s been murdered! This time it’s tyrannical Simeon Lee. Poirot will figure it out though, he always does. Bet no-one wants to play Cluedo against him on Boxing Day.

  • The Christmas List

    by Richard Paul Evans

    It’s December and James Kier has passed. Everyone assumes it’s the repugnant businessman James Kier who has died and a wealth of mean comments about the man are posted on the newspaper website that broke the news. Of course, it turns out it's not that James Kier and he's livid with the response. Eventually he concedes he may not be the nicest of men and decides to draw up a list of people he’s offended and make amends. A bit like a Christmas special of My Name is Earl but with fewer scientologists.

  • Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer

    by R.L. May

    Too much sherry Rudolph? No way, the North Pole is surely an alcohol-free zone in the run up to Christmas. Fortunately for Santa, Rudolph’s red nose it the perfect light to guide the sleigh on a foggy Christmas Eve.

  • The Nutcracker

    by E.T.A. Hoffman

    "Snow was falling gently on the streets, and people were hurrying home, their arms filled with gaily wrapped boxes and paper parcels from toy stores, candy shops and bakeries". So begins the story of The Nutcracker, and with it the dreams of thousands of ballerinas.

  • Skipping Christmas

    by John Grisham

    The Kranks are skipping Christmas this year, escaping on a Caribbean cruise. Or so they thought. Best laid plans and all that…

  • Frosty The Snowman

    by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins

    This musical book is one for the (younger) kids. It illustrates the story of Frosty while playing the well-known tune. Not on repeat though. It’s one play per opening to help maintain parental Christmas sanity.

  • The Faber Book Of Christmas

    by Simon Rae

    The history of Christmas across the world that you might not have heard about. Best not to ask what’s for Christmas lunch on the 19th century American Emigrant trail.

  • The Christmas Mystery

    by Jostein Gaarder

    A young boy’s advent calendar reveals the journey of a girl who travels back in time to baby Jesus’ Bethlehem. Let’s hope he’s not too disappointed about the lack of chocolate treats.

  • The Children of Green Knowe

    by Lucy M. Boston

    “'What if my great grandmother is a witch?' thought Tolly”.

    Well, she lives in the old ancestral home of Green Knowe, which is surrounded by a moat and populated by children who have lived there for centuries. So the chances are Tolly's onto something. Not strictly Christmassy, but a snowy, magical winter setting surely counts.

  • Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter

    by Edward Streeter

    George Osborne’s favourite Christmas book. Probably. Mr Baxter’s attempts to bring a touch of austerity to Christmas aren’t that well received by his wife. Written in 1956, maybe Streeter took a trip with the Ghost of Christmas Future to get his inspiration…

  • The Dark Is Rising

    by Susan Cooper

    Christmas is approaching, it’s Will Stanton’s 11th birthday and there’s a surprise in store. He’s about to find out that he’s an immortal guardian of the light and must destroy the evil magic of the dark. All he wanted was an X-Box and a nerf gun.

  • The Box Of Delights

    by John Masefield

    Written in the 1930s by the then Poet Laureate, it’s fair to say this one’s a tad surreal. To summarise: boy hero heading home for Christmas; magic box; gang of crooks threatening to cancel Christmas; ancient greeks; bumbling policemen; pirates; good versus evil; snowy England. They made a TV version in the 80s. Apparently.

  • Rover Saves Christmas

    by Roddy Doyle

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has pulled a Christmas sickie and Santa’s sleigh isn’t going anywhere. But maybe Rover the wonder dog has something to say about that. Or bark about that. Or growl. Delete as applicable.

  • The Stupidest Angel

    by Christopher Moore

    Joshua Barker is convinced that Santa is dead. His prayers for a solution prompt Archangel Raziel to descend from Heaven on a mission to sort things out

  • Winter Solstice

    by Rosamunde Pilcher

    Elfrida Phipps has moved to a new home with her faithful dog and befriended the local Blundell family. Unfortunately, the Blundell family is torn apart in a fatal car crash. Sounds a bit like an EastEnders Christmas special, but it does get better. Elfrida helps Mr Blundell take his mind off things with a winter trip to Scotland, where the Christmas spirit takes hold.

  • When Santa Fell To Earth

    by Comelia Funke and Paul Howard

    Santa’s had better days. Twinklestar the reindeer has slipped the reins and the sleigh’s crash landed. Good job local children Charlotte and Ben are around to help stop Yule Land’s marauding gang of motor sledgers from ruining Christmas.

  • There’s Something About Christmas

    by Debbie Macomber

    Emma Collins is a small town newspaper journalist who dislikes fruitcake, flying and Christmas. Good job her editor has given her the chance to write a breakout piece about the local entries for the national Good Housekeeping Fruitcake Recipe Contest. Even better that she has to fly around the region to interview them. At least the pilot is a decent sort. What are the odds of a Christmas romance?

  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

    by Barbara Robinson

    “The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world”

    They also want to play all the main characters in the community Christmas Pageant. Wholesome American fare from 1972, but don’t let that put you off.

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas

    by Charles M. Schultz

    A 1960’s Peanuts holiday TV special transferred to book form makes the ideal stocking filler for fans of Charlie Brown. Charlie decides to set the tone for Christmas by getting a real tree rather than the artificial one requested by Lucy.

  • The Tailor Of Gloucester

    by Beatrix Potter

    First published in 1903, this book tells the story of the poor tailor of Gloucester, too tired and ill to finish off the Mayor’s Christmas wedding outfit. Good job there’s a mischief of mice around to help out. Now you know where the idea for Bagpuss came from.

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

    by Frank T. Thompson

    The graphic novel version of Tim Burton’s 1993 film. Jack Skellington rules the roost at Halloween, but he’s looking to expand his empire and Christmas seems like the perfect acquisition. Wonder if this is on Johnny Depp’s Christmas List.

  • The Donkey in the Living Room

    by Sarah Cunningham

    A topseller, this new US kids book is for parents who want to introduce a Christian theme to the festivities. It's inspired by the author's family tradition of unwrapping individual figurines from a Nativity scene in the days leading up to Christmas. And it's got rhymes.

  • Belstarr The Lost Toymaker

    by David Jacks, Daniel Morrow, Stella Perrett

    And if you want a new Christmas release for kids that skips religion, but still has rhymes, try the story of a lost toymaker called Belstarr. She holds the key to Christmas in her heart, but faces a battle with a ghastly beast called Drake Hausen, who has a plan to take over Christmas as his own.

  • The Gift

    by Cecelia Ahern

    Set in modern day Dublin at Christmas time, P.S. I love You writer Ahern's novel borrows from A Christmas Carol and The Greatest Gift. It's the tale of an ambitious young executive who puts business before his long-suffering family until he meets a homeless man who gives him magic pills to clone himself. Handy. Or is it?

Images: Rex Features