12 best books about Christmas
This selection of festive fiction is the literary equivalent of roaring fires, mulled wine and carol singers at your door – perfect to read on your own or share with your loved ones.
1. Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva, £6.47
“I like Mr Dickens and His Carol. It’s a fictionalised story about Dickens writing A Christmas Carol and it’s lovely!”
Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas. But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he could lose everything. Grudgingly and increasingly plagued by self-doubt, Dickens meets the muse he needs in Eleanor Lovejoy. With time running out, Dickens is propelled on a Scrooge-like journey through Christmases past and present.
This charming novel perfectly evokes the atmosphere of a Dickensian Christmas, which makes it a lovely read at this time of year.Buy it now
2. Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, £8.99
“It's a book of short stories, starting with a Christmas one. I always enjoy reading it during December.”
The title story tells of a typical Christmas at the farm before the coming of Flora Poste. It's a parody of the worst sort of family Christmas. Adam Lambsbreath dresses up as Father Christmas in two of Judith's red shawls. There are unsuitable presents, unpleasant insertions into the pudding and Aunt Ada Doom orders Amos to carve the turkey, adding, “Ay, would it were a vulture, 'twere more fitting!” A collection of short stories for the festive season that is sure to please fans of Stella Gibbons.
“I love Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm and also the original Cold Comfort Farm. Lovely cosy snuggly reading.”Buy it now
3. Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, £9.99
“Winter Solstice is my annual December read. It's so atmospheric; it always puts me in a Christmassy mood.”
An unlikely group of people find themselves stranded in the rambling Scottish house in December, each of them nursing a past sorrow that looks likely to spoil the festive season. But log fires and the warmth of friends can thaw the coldest heart and, as the bells peal out for the midnight service, they ring in a very magical Christmas. A charming novel by Rosamunde Pilcher that will put you in a festive mood – and possibly make you want to move to the Scottish Highlands.
“A lovely, warm-hearted Christmas book.”Buy it now
4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, £10.45
“I read A Christmas Carol every year and have done since I was a teen.”
A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843, tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man hardened both by his experiences and for his love of money, who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. After the spirits visit, Scrooge decides to be a kinder and gentler man.
The ultimate Christmas classic, this edition is beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake – perfect as a gift for someone on your list (or yourself, of course).
“Every year in December I read A Christmas Carol, which is lovely, and I will read it again this year. This year, I have to share it with my daughter this year. It's such a short story – it only takes a day or two to read. "Buy it now
Related: Here's our roundup of the best Christmas books for kids
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, £5.24
“Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Little Women. My favourite book of all time.”
Little Women tells the story of the four March sisters living in a small New England community. Meg, the eldest, is pretty and wishes to be a lady; Jo, at 15, is ungainly and unconventional with an ambition to be an author; Beth is a delicate child of 13 with a taste for music and Amy is a blonde beauty of 12. The story of their domestic adventures, their attempts to increase the family income, their friendship with the neighbouring Laurence family, and their later love affairs remains as fresh and beguiling as ever.
One of the best-loved children's stories of all time, Little Women makes for a great festive read. It's also the perfect time to read it ahead of the new film adaptation, out in cinemas on 27 December 2019.Buy it now
6. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley, £8.99
“I love it. Total fluff, but it really captures the mood. I want to be snowed in at a country house and eat lovely food and have the space for a giant real tree! I have Christmas envy.”
Christmas has always been a sad time for young widow Holly Brown. So when she's asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire moors, the opportunity to hide herself away is irresistible – the perfect excuse to forget about the festivities. The owner of the house, Jude Martland, is also avoiding Christmas since the last one saw his brother run off with his fiancee. Forced to return home unexpectedly, Jude arrives to find that his family are running amok – with Holly seemingly at the centre of it all. As the blizzards descend, there is no escape. With nowhere to go, Holly and Jude get much more than they bargained for – and a Christmas they will always remember.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is the perfect book to snuggle up with as the cold winter nights draw in.Buy it now
7. The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris, £7.99
“The Lollipop Shoes is set in the run-up to Christmas and is a sequel to Chocolat. Very gentle reading.”
Seeking refuge and anonymity in the cobbled streets of Montmartre, Yanne and her two daughters live peacefully, if not happily, above their little chocolate shop. Nothing unusual marks them out; no red sachets hang by the door. The wind has stopped – at least for a while. Then into their lives blows Zozie de l'Alba, the lady with the lollipop shoes, ruthless, devious and seductive. With everything she loves at stake, Yanne must face a difficult choice – to flee, as she has done so many times before, or to confront her most dangerous enemy… herself.
For all who loved Chocolat, this is the second Vianne Rocher novel – an utterly delicious Christmastime read.Buy it now
8. The Box of Delights by John Masefield, £6.47
“If you're looking for wintry, you can't beat The Box of Delights. I always read it Christmas week.”
A magical old man has asked Kay to protect the Box of Delights, a box with which he can travel through time. But Kay is in danger: Abner Brown will stop at nothing to get his hands on it. The police don't believe Kay, so when his family and the Bishop are scrobbled up just before Christmas, he knows he must act alone…
John Masefield’s classic children’s book is magical, fantastical and filled with vivid, rich characters – brought to life in this edition by Quentin Blake’s stunning illustrations.
“Ok it's kids' fiction, but I read it every Christmas for 20 years until I was 30. May re-read it again this year actually.”Buy it now
9. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, £5.24
“A lovely, comforting big hug of a read.”
It’s Christmastime in the Stanton family house: presents, carol singing, good cheer. But for 11-year-old Will Stanton, something sinister has begun, inching round his subconscious, shouting silent warnings he can’t decipher. Then on Midwinter Day, Will wakes up to a different world – silent, covered in snow and ancient forest, a world of another time. A world where evil lurks. But Will is not the ordinary boy he always thought he was. He is the last of the Old Ones and the power to vanquish the evil magic of the Dark lies within him.
“Oh, Dark is Rising for me too! Have read it every year at Christmas since I was about 12.”Buy it now
10. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien, £6.35
“It looks like a book for kids, but it's not really. More a glimpse into Tolkien's imagination and family life.”
Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R.Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas. They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole.
No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness and charm of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas.
“I have the hardback of Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas and love reading through it in the run-up to Christmas. What a lovely thing to have done for his children, and to have kept it up all those years! And quite poignant at times – apologising for a lack of presents while the war was on.”Buy it now
11. Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie, £6.22
“Hercule Poirot's Christmas is always a good Christmas read.”
It's Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man…
If Christmastime puts you in the mood for a good murder mystery, look no further – you won't be disappointed with this Agatha Christie classic.Buy it now
12. The Country Child by Alison Uttley, £6.99
“The Country Child is very atmospheric and lovely, especially the Christmas chapters. I always love re-reading those when it's wintry!”
The Country Child is a semi-autobiographical story about a girl growing up in the country. Alison Uttley has drawn on her own youth to produce memories so vivid and nostalgic that you can almost smell the honeysuckle and hear the owls calling at dusk. She writes about the small intense joys and sorrows of life on a small farm: the fun of haymaking, the sadness of favourite animals being slaughtered, and the close sweetness of Christmas celebrations in the farmhouse kitchen.
Written from a child's point of view, this lovely book will put you in a cosy Christmas mood with its rich descriptions of country life in times past.
“Early December sees me digging out my copy of The Country Child for the richly evocative Christmas chapter. It reminds me so strongly of how I felt at Christmas as a tiny child, even though I absolutely did not live on an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere.”Buy it now