Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Themed Reading List

I love Christmas. Combine that with my love of reading and a list of Christmas themed reading is the natural result! I've created a list of some books and stories you might want to try. I've relied shamelessly on book cover blurbs and descriptions in the About the Book comments following each title. Feel free to leave your favorite Christmas reads in the comments section -- the more the merrier!

(I'm currently reading Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis. Willis is another soul who loves Christmas and that love really comes across in her collection of short stories that you can read about in my list below.)

The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
About the Book: Described as having "the sophistication of a novel with the whimsy of a fairy tale." "Set in an unnamed town in present-day Norway, it tells the story of Joachim, a young boy who finds a faded, handmade Advent calendar in a bookstore on the eve of December first, and begs his father to let him take it home. The next morning, when he opens the calendar's first door, Joachim discovers not just the expected picture but also a tightly folded piece of paper, the first installment of the fantastic tale of a little girl's journey through time and space to be present at the Nativity. Soon the girl's story is making unexpected intrusions into Joachim's own life, and he races to solve the mystery of the calendar before Christmas Eve." -Reed Business Information, Inc.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
About the Book: The classic story that made "Scrooge" the archetypical miser. Filled with ghosts and time travel, this story is the tale of a miser's transformation into a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas.

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
About the Book: "A Christmas Memory is the classic memoir of Truman Capote's childhood in rural Alabama. Until he was ten years old, Capote lived with distant relatives. This book is an autobiographical story of those years and his frank and fond memories of one of his cousins, Miss Sook Faulk." review

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
About the Book: "This is Dylan Thomas's homage to the Christmases of his boyhood, when the snow was thicker and whiter, when everything about Christmas was better than it is now. (Sound familiar? Ah, the good old days!) It's the sheer acrobatic brilliance of the language here that we most love. This is the most delicious read-aloud for having words trip off the tongue." -Publisher's Weekly review by Elizabeth Blumele

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
About the Book: "A young woman makes a drastic decision -- and her husband has a Christmas surprise in return." -book jacket blurb

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
About the Book: "For three little trees who dream of what they will be someday - a holder of treasure, a fine ship, a hilltop beacon pointing to God - life proves to have something rather different in store. They are disappointed that their lives are so mundane. And, as the years pass, "the three trees nearly forgot their dreams." Yet each eventually gets its wish, although not in the way it had foreseen. When that happens, each discovers that things turned out just the way they should have. This is a moving and eloquent story. Its illustrations are simple yet powerful. Readers will be reminded that God has plans for every one of his creations, that He never loses sight any of us. Children will learn that when they don't get what they want, it may be because something even better is in store for them. Adults will understand the concept of true happiness coming when we align our will with God's." review by Dawn Matheson

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
About the Book: "Published in 1955 and appearing for the first time as a picture book, this modest holiday tale from the author of The Good Earth might well have been called The Good Son. On Christmas Eve, a man recalls the holiday many years ago when he gave his father, a struggling farmer, a most-appreciated gift: the boy rose extra early to do his father's biggest chore, the milking. Buck's understated yet moving piece, paired with a sentimental note from the illustrator, will resonate with readers." -Publishers Weekly

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
About the Book: "The wealthy Simeon Lee has demanded that all four of his sons—one faithful, one prodigal, one impecunious, one sensitive—and their wives return home for Christmas. But a heartwarming family holiday is not exactly what he has in mind. He bedevils each of his sons with barbed insults and finally announces that he is cutting off their allowances and changing his will. So when the old man is found lying in a pool of blood on Christmas Eve, there is no lack of suspects. Did Lee's taunts push one of the boys to a desperate act? And how did the murderer escape from the locked room? Intrepid Belgian detective Hercule Poirot suspends his own holiday festivities to sift through the motives and evidence surrounding the crime." product description

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop edited by Otto Penzler
About the Book: "Each year, for the past seventeen years, Otto Penzler, owner of the legendary Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, has commissioned an original story by a leading mystery writer. The requirements were that it be a mystery/ crime/suspense story, that it be set during the Christmas season, and that at least some of the action must take place in The Mysterious Bookshop. These stories were then produced as pamphlets, 1,000 copies, and given to customers of the bookstore as a Christmas present.

Now, all of these stories have been collected in one volume—Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop. Some of the tales are humorous, others suspenseful, and still others mystifying. This charming one-of-a-kind collection is a perfect Christmas gift, appropriate for all ages and tastes."
-promotional material

A War of Gifts: An Ender Story by Orson Scott Card
About the Book: Are you an Ender fan? If so, you will want to read this one! "Card returns to his Hugo and Nebula award-winning Enderverse saga (after 2005's Shadow of the Giant) with a heartwarming novella for the holidays. When Zeck Morgan, the young son of a puritanical minister, qualifies for admission into the International Fleet's Battle School, he is brought to the school against his will. Citing his pacifist religious beliefs, Zeck refuses to participate in any simulated war games, but when he sees a Dutch student give a friend a small present in celebration of Sinterklaas Day, he reports the violation of the school's rules against open religious observation and sparks an uproar over religious freedom and the significance of cultural traditions. Meanwhile, Zeck becomes a pariah until series hero Ender Wiggin finds a way to show him the real meaning of the holidays. Exploring themes of tolerance and compassion ...." -Publishers Weekly

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis
About the Book: "Connie Willis loves Christmas. "I even like the parts most people hate--shopping in crowded malls and reading Christmas newsletters and seeing relatives and standing in baggage check-in lines at the airport. Okay, I lied. Nobody likes standing in baggage check-in lines," she writes. Willis knows it's hard to write good Christmas stories: the subject matter is limited, the writer has to balance between sentiment and skepticism, and too many fall into the Victorian habit of killing off saintly children and poor people. Here she presents eight marvelous Christmas tales, two of which appear for the first time.
The stories range from "The Pony," about a psychotherapist who doesn't believe that Christmas gifts can answer our deepest longings, and "Inn," in which a choir member rehearsing for the Christmas pageant becomes part of the original Christmas story, to "Newsletter," where an invasion of parasitic creatures causes unusually good behavior in their hosts, and "Epiphany," a story of three unlikely Magi following signs through a North American winter toward the returned Jesus Christ. "Miracle" is a comic romance echoing Willis's favorite Yuletide movie, Miracle on 34th Street, and "Catspaw" is a homage to the traditional Christmas murder mystery with a sly, science-fictional twist. The collection also includes "In Coppelius' Toyshop," in which a bad guy is trapped in Toyland, and "Adaptation," a Dickensian story about what it means to keep Christmas in your heart.

Those who want only SF stories may find this collection lacking, but anyone who enjoys complex tales with true Christmas spirit will treasure it." review by Nona Vero

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (movie version is Christmas with the Kranks)
About the Book: "John Grisham turns a satirical eye on the overblown ritual of the festive holiday season, and the result is Skipping Christmas, a modest but funny novel about the tyranny of December 25." -from review by Jerry Brotton

This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy
About the Book: "A collection of Christmas-centered feel-good tales about love and family snarls in the season of comfort and joy." Set in England, Ireland, and Australia. -Kirkus Reviews

Mr. Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos
About the Book: "For Edward Ives, a graphic artist employed by a Madison Avenue advertising firm, Christmas has always been an emotionally charged holiday. It was during the Christmas season that Edward's foster father first visited him at the foundling home, and at Christmas a few years later Edward was finally adopted. Ives met his wife at an art students' Christmas party, and-most importantly-it was during the 1967 Christmas season that Ives's 17-year-old son was senselessly gunned down as he left choir practice. Ives has never fully recovered from the killing, and his unshakable depression threatens to destroy his marriage, as does his strange obsession with rehabilitating the murderer. It is significant that Mr. Ives's most prized possession is a signed edition of Dickens's A Christmas Carol." -Library Journal review by Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law School Library, Los Angeles

A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor (read the book or listen to Garrison Keillor read the audio version)
About the Book: "Keillor returns to the snowy Midwest to deliver a Dickensian tale of Chicago yuppies James and Joyce Sparrow, who venture to Looseleaf, N. Dak., to see James's dying uncle, braving a deadly blizzard and equally deadly small town eccentrics." -Publishers Weekly

Miracle on 10th Street and Other Christmas Writings by Madeleine L'Engle
About the Book: "Madeleine L'Engle writes beautifully about not only Christmas but the entire Christian life and sums it up in this word: Love. 10th Night evoked in me both joy and pain at what Christmas can be but often isn't. Her insights as a mother into Mary's life as the mother of the Savior were poignant as well as the fears, pain and joy she has experienced for her own children. Additionally, as someone only vaguely familiar with the ancient Christian calendar, I came to appreciate what the celebration and meditation on Advent, Epiphany, etc., could bring to me as a Christian. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for the Christian to encouurage them at any time of the year time and for the non-believer to give them a glimpse of Divine Love." review

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins
About the Book: "Collins serves up some little-known holiday history in this interesting book that teems with Christmas facts and legends, arranged alphabetically by topic." -Publishers Weekly

Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins
About the Book: "This year, at least three different titles explore the origins of well-known Christmas carols. Ace Collins's Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas takes on more than 30 popular songs and hymns, from classics such as "O Holy Night" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" to the contemporary Christian hit "Mary, Did You Know?" Secular numbers such as "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" also get their due ...." -Publishers Weekly

The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren
About the Book: "In his powerful yet compassionate voice, Pastor Rick Warren sounds the clarion call to "remember the reason for the season," taking readers back in time to the most wonderful story of all -- the birth of the baby Jesus. When he was just a small boy, young Rick asked his parents if they could celebrate Christmas with a birthday party for Jesus -- and the tradition began that the Warrens have upheld for over fifty years. Now through stirring imagery and compelling personal insights, The Purpose of Christmas honors the significance and promise of this cherished holiday.

Pastor Warren encourages readers to identify and confront what drains peace from their lives. Warren explains that the way to respond to these peace-robbers is to learn how to surrender to God's will and not feel defeated or discouraged when life does not go as planned. True peace of mind is found by having an unshakeable faith in God -- knowing that his empowering Spirit will guide his children through life's challenges.

Beautifully written, The Purpose of Christmas will stir readers to honor the true significance of Christmas and to nurture God's gifts of love and peace in this world." product description

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
About the Book: "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch ...." Can't you just hear the song? It's worth a read (or listen) for the play with language, but you also get a satisfying ending!

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
About the Book: "One couldn't select a more delightful and exciting premise for a children's book than the tale of a young boy lying awake on Christmas Eve only to have Santa Claus sweep by and take him on a trip with other children to the North Pole. And one couldn't ask for a more talented artist and writer to tell the story than Chris Van Allsburg." review

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
About the Book: "Clement Clarke Moore was a professor of religion and the author of several scholarly works. What he is most remembered for, however, is his poem "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," later called "The Night Before Christmas," and written as a Christmas gift for his six children." biography


  1. Ooh - I'm so bookmarking this list! And I envy you that copy of Miracle and Other Christmas stories. I've recently finished Doomsday Book and I was blown away.

  2. Thanks for putting this list together Terri! I think I'll request a couple of them. :D

  3. Nymeth: Miracle is probably my most favorite Christmas themed book. Of course, I'm a HUGE Connie Willis fan. Sounds like you are too! I truly hope you get your hands on a copy of Miracle someday :o)

    Eva: Can't wait to see which ones you read!

  4. These all some like great choices Terri. I hope yo read Snowglobe soon as I have not read ANY Christmas books.

  5. Oh my goodness that's a lot of books! Last year I read A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg and it was a nice story. I don't do a lot of Christmas themed reading, though--not sure why.

    Twas the Night Before Christmas is one of my all-time favorites. Can't wait to read it to a youngester.

    Happy holidays Terri!

  6. What a lovely list! I started out well, reading it and saying" Yup, read that one, yup, and that one, too," and then suddenly I wasn't into Xmas reading territory about which I knew nothing! Which is good!!!!
    Have duly noted those to pursue and after all, Christmas goes 'til Jan 6 (and then in our hearts year 'round, right?)