There is nothing quite like curling up in an old armchair before a blazing fire, perhaps with a cup of tea or coffee and a good book. At my house, we read literally year-round, but the short winter days seem to call to the bibliophile in me in a unique way. Emptying a high cabinet where we store Christmas books during the rest of the year, we find many picture books about Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, and snow. We have pop-up books and easy readers and beautifully illustrated picture books which bring back sweet, warm memories.
However, in the past few years, I’ve learned that “Christmasy” reading doesn’t have to be a contained in a 32-page hardback about a reindeer with a red nose! With this mind, I’ve compiled a list of eleven books that are a bit longer reads, perfect for cozy December nights. Several of them would be great to read aloud to children, others are intended for adults. Each of them is a heart-warming, wintry title sure to put you in the spirit.
1. A Coat-hanger Christmas Tree by Eleanor Estes
I have been an avid Estes fan since I became an independent reader. I cannot exactly explain why I love her books so much; there’s just something special about them. I think it’s the way she wrote real life into her children’s books without being preachy, dramatic or dull. I didn’t read The Coat-hanger Christmas Tree until I was a young adult, and it will never replace Ginger Pye in my heart, but I did really like it.
In the New England-based tale, ten-year-old Marianna desperately wants a Christmas tree but her mother refuses to be “like every Tom-Dick-and-Harry.” As we know, kids find their own ways of doing things, hence the Christmas tree made of coat-hangers. Sadly, this gem is out of print, but I know you could find yourself a copy. Estes is a classic authoress and this can be your new Christmas classic.
2. The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters by William Bennett
This title was new to me a couple of years ago, but I gobbled it up in time to lend it to my grandmother when we saw her for Christmas. She and I both agree, it’s a fascinating little book! If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Santa Claus/Old Saint Nick/Father Christmas your whole life and had some random ideas of who these mythical characters came from, but no clear story in your mind.
This book quickly covers the real person named Saint Nicolas, the myths and legends about him, the other mythical characters who have been combined with Saint Nicolas over the years and the origin of our modern “Santa Claus” traditions, such as why he leaves gifts in children’s’ stockings, etc. Mostly it’s just interesting and super fun. It made me excited for Christmas and for teaching my little siblings about a real man who exemplified the true meaning of Christmas many a year ago.
3. Christmas with Anne by L. M. Montgomery
L.M. Montgomery, Christmas…how could you go wrong? This little collection of stories features our beloved Anne-with-an-E in her tale of puffed sleeves (real Anne fans could never forget that one) and fifteen other heartwarming, holiday tales. This little treasury would make a wonderful gift for any Anne-fan. Montgomery’s eloquence set in P.E.I. during Christmastide will make you throw another log on the fire, I’m sure.
4. Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien
Didn’t know Tolkien wrote a Christmas book, did ya? Well, he did…in a way! This lovely book is a compilation of letters Tolkien’s children received in the mail every December “from Father Christmas.” The letters detail life at The North Pole, the thoughts and work of the author (Santa) and includes original artwork. If you get this book, you will love Christmas a little bit more and might wish Tolkien was your dad.
5. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
If you’ve followed Ann’s advent devotional in the past, you are familiar with the stunning way she weaves the entire love story of the Bible together from creation to the Revelation. Her writings completely changed how I view Jesus’ genealogy (it actually matters a lot!) and the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Grab a copy early and work your way through the season. You won’t regret it.
6. The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’Engle
You know her from A Wrinkle in Time and some really deep theological books, but you might not know that she penned a winter’s tale as well! In this little book (complete with twenty-four short chapters) the Austin family lets you in on their holiday traditions each day of Advent. There’s a lose, sweet plot happening all along. The ending may make you sigh with joy. Maybe.
7. A Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott
I’ll read anything by Alcott. She’s my literary heroine and this story strikes a particular chord in my heart, coming from an adoptive family. Quiet Patty cannot bear another day in the orphanage. Even after a family finally does come for Patty, it is only because they need a servant. But there is one person who does care about Patty and they’re intent on making this Christmas the best Patty’s ever had. I especially enjoy reading about the origin of this story:
“The young Lukens girls had written to Miss Alcott telling her that they were so inspired by the examples of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, that they, too, were launching their own literary publication. Soon the Lukens girls received a very special gift: a Christmas story from Miss Alcott about a lonely orphan girl who finds a family to love her. Following its publication, the story stayed in an old magazine until many years later, a reader chanced upon it.” (from Amazon description)
Kate’s Choice is another very sweet Christmas tale by Alcott.
8. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
If you’ve never read this before, you need to get yourself a cute little copy like mine and get to it! It’s a very un-intimidating read. You may know the story from various plays or picture books or (heaven forbid) Mickey Mouse movies, but Dickens wasn’t just a storyteller, he was a writer. You must read it in his own words at least once. It has some fantastic little quotes and definitely touched my heart!
9. Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian-Carlo Menotti
When I was first drawn to this book, it was because of the name on the spine. Roger Duvoisin illustrated such classics as Petunia, The Happy Lion, and Donkey-Donkey. His artwork epitomizes French children’s books of that era (the 1960’s) and is some of my favorite. I snatched the book from the shelf in the antique section and brought it home, not even investigating enough to notice until much later that it’s actually a Christmas story!
Amahl tells the tale of a young, crippled shepherd boy and his poor, widowed mother. Amahl’s mother pays no mind when Amahl claims to have seen “a star as large as a window…like a chariot of fire.” Besides, she has much more important things to worry about, such as what in the world they will eat tomorrow. But she has to believe him when he wakes her up in the middle of the night because three visitors have appeared at their door and they are dressed like kings! Amahl has a sweet message about Jesus, but the story itself is purely fictional. Written in quirky verse, it’s easy to see how this book was turned into a musical play and even a movie.
10. The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggins
This tale was new to me this year. I broke my “wait for Thanksgiving” rule to check out some new titles. Only, this book isn’t new at all. First published in 1886, The Birds’ Christmas Carol was met with immediate success and is still treasured as a classic short story. Wiggins, most famous for Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, published the story to benefit the free kindergarten she had founded, and her love of children in evident in its pages. The Bird family (humans, not feathered friends) are blessed with a baby girl on Christmas day whom they name Carol.
Carol is an exceptionally loving child, which is why it is especially tragic that she falls ill at an early age and becomes invalid. This story tells of one Christmas Day Carol decides should be extra special for the large, struggling family she watches from her window. This is a very sweet, somewhat sentimental story with a bittersweet ending (perhaps a little too bitter for younger kiddos) that made me want to find my old copy of Rebecca again.
11. Christmas! The Whole Story of the God Who Loves by Natasha Metzler
This book tells the Christmas story, but it starts way before the angels announced tidings of good news and great joy. It starts at the very beginning (a very good place to start!) There’s a one-minute story for every day of Advent, accompanied with unique, engaging illustrations by Brianna Siegrist, reminiscent of stained glass. This book is an enjoyable reminder for children as old as ninety-nine, but appropriate for the very young. There are “learn more” references in the back for the more studious and a cute little grasshopper to hunt for on every page for the more wiggly listener. Christmas! is a delightful, square hardback book, great for reading aloud.
What do you find yourself reading this time of year?
May you walk in His sweet light,
Caroline Rose Kraft
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Here at Club31Women, we recognize that not everyone has the same taste or point of view on books, music, or movies, but we offer these short reviews for your consideration. Our hope is that you will find something new and wonderful on this list of recommended resources!
~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
Caroline Rose Kraft started blogging as a teen in 2007 as an outlet for her wonderful but crazy life. She’s a homeschool grad, sister to eight, passionate advocate for educated adoption and author and illustrator of Always Plenty. She blogs at carolinerosekraft.com and also gladly contributes to kindredgrace.com on a regular basis. Caroline lives at a place called Eyrie Park in Central Texas.