Classic Books · Literary Lists · Seasonal Reading

Reading Winter Holidays

Christmas reads

Last year, I began devouring Christmas reads in November – November 16, to be exact. I know this because I’m diligent about keeping reading records. For this reason, I also know that I read twelve holiday-themed books between November 2014 and January 2015. That’s a lot of holiday books!

Apparently, I was on some sort of mission. I blame Starbucks. They released their gingerbread latte (my favorite!) so early that my internal clock became confused, and I thought it was time for Christmas.

I was sipping my latte and minding my own business when I ran into...
I was sipping my latte and minding my own business when I stumbled into…
This massive display of Christmas books...
This massive display of Christmas books.

What I learned through all this reading is, well, loads of writers have written holiday stories, with (inevitably) an impressive genre span. For those of you looking for a holiday-appropriate read (and because I loved these books), let’s do an inventory:

Christmas at Thompson Hall: And Other Christmas Stories (Penguin Christmas Classics) by Anthony Trollope – These are a blast, funny and insightful about human foibles … at Christmas. Also, the Penguin classic edition is so pretty!

The Night Before Christmas (Penguin Christmas Classics) by Nikolai Gogol – Are you sensing a theme? Yes, I am susceptible to those adorable Penguin editions. In this story, the devil visits a Russian village on Christmas Eve bent on revenge against a dude who has been painting icons of the devil being vanquished. Hijinks and hilarity ensue.

The Nightingale Before Christmas (Meg Langslow Mysteries) by Donna Andrews – A design competition leads to murder … at Christmas.

Christmas Crumble: An Agatha Raisin Short Story (Agatha Raisin Mysteries), Kissing Christmas Goodbye (Agatha Raisin Mysteries, No. 18): An Agatha Raisin Mystery, and A Highland Christmas (Hamish Macbeth Mysteries) by M. C. Beaton – Ugh, I love M. C. Beaton’s books so much. And to think, I might not have discovered her if I hadn’t been on the prowl for Christmas-themed books. My favorite was A Highland Christmas because Police Constable Hamish Macbeth is dreamy.

The Nutcracker (Penguin Christmas Classics) by E. T. A. Hoffman – Hey! I snuck in another Penguin version. 😉 The original story of a little girl and her Christmas nutcracker (and the inspiration for the ballet) transported me with its enchanting imagery.

I ramped up the atmosphere by e-reading it next to my Christmas tree.
I ramped up the atmosphere by e-reading it next to my Christmas tree.

Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham – A British man visits Paris at Christmas intent on debauchery but finds something else entirely. This is one of the most insidiously depressing stories I’ve ever read. *shudders*

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – In the word of Severus Snape, always. As in: I always read this at Christmas because it always satisfies.

Inventing Scrooge by Carlo DeVito – An informative and warm-hearted exploration of A Christmas Carol’s back story.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins – This collection of short stories by a who’s-who of YA authors revolves around winter holidays, all (Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice). Each and every story managed to charm me in a different way. An impressive collection.

Christmas on Jane Street: A True Story by Billy Roma and Wanda Urbanska – A sweet and uplifting story of a family that camps out in New York’s Greenwich Village selling Christmas trees.

So what about this year? My Christmas book count is, so far, considerably lower, not that it’s a competition. The new reads I’ve discovered this year have been every bit as enjoyable:

Dolls’ Christmas by Tasha Tudor – The story of children putting on Christmas for their dolls is lovely and sweet, and Tudor’s illustrations make me want to climb into the book and live there.

Seriously, look at these illustrations!
Seriously, look at these illustrations!

Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien – Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Tolkien put his creative genius to work writing letters to his children from Father Christmas in which he recounts his adventures getting ready for the big day. He also shares stories about his Polar Bear helper (who is a bit of a troublemaker) and his Snowman gardener. The letters are astounding. The coolest part is that we get to see the actual letters, envelopes, and the illustrations Father Christmas provided in the letters.

Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan – British romantic comedy + Christmas = fun, cheering read.

Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier – This is the first of her Lucy Stone murder mysteries set in Maine. I’ve read later ones, so it was interesting to go back to the book that started it all.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin rereading A Christmas Carol, and for the week after Christmas, I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting more of last year’s favorites. Meanwhile, I’m still hoping to discover new holiday reads. What do you recommend?

2 thoughts on “Reading Winter Holidays

  1. A delightful list! Several of these intrigue me, especially the Maugham one – at the start of the description, I was like “Sold!” …and then I got to the end of said description and started having second thoughts. That does not sound like jolly holiday reading. Oh Maugham, why must you be so depressing?! 🙂

    1. Seriously! Like Wharton, the writing is beautiful and the story insidious. I do thing it’s interesting to read from the perspective of how Brits conceive of Paris. That part is fascinating, but it’s definitely not a cheerful holiday read!

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