‘Tis the season to enjoy the December holidays, and whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or simply the Winter Solstice, there’s nothing like a good book to get you in the holiday spirit. From timeless favorites to recent releases destined to become instant classics, there’s a book for every reader on this list of 25 holiday books for children and adults of all ages.
Holiday Favorites for Audiences of All Ages
1. The Night Before Christmas. Clement C. Moore’s classic tale is a Christmas Eve tradition.
2. The Christmas Story. If you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, then this beautifully illustrated story of Christ’s birth (excerpted from the King James Bible) should be at the top of your holiday reading list.
3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Yes, there’s a movie (or two), but the original Dr. Seuss book is full of not-to-be-missed holiday fun.
4. Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. The perfect book if you need to remind your children — or yourself — to believe in the magic of the holiday season.
5. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Barbara Robinson’s chapter book is geared toward readers in grades 3-6, but readers of all ages will enjoy the horrible (and hilarious) antics of the Herdman kids.
6. The Nutcracker. It isn’t just a ballet — there are multiple literary adaptations of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original story. The version illustrated by Maurice Sendak is by far one of the best.
7. The Polar Express. This 1986 Caldecott Medal Winner has become a children’s classic, and is also the inspiration behind the beloved holiday movie of the same name.
8. The Elf on the Shelf. Parents seem to have a love-hate relationship with this fairly recent addition to the holiday bookshelf. Only time will tell if this new tradition is here to stay.
9. Llama Llama Holiday Drama. The Llama Llama books are a favorite among the toddler set, and since Christmas is never specifically mentioned in this holiday addition to the series, it is appropriate for families of any belief.
10. Christmas in the Big Woods. This picture book, which tells the simple story of a Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas, is the perfect introduction to the magic of the Little House series for young readers.
11. A Hanukkah Present. Award-winning author Mark Binder’s collection of short stories is a wonderful choice to read aloud as a family, and will help readers of all ages remember the true meaning of Hanukkah.
12. Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book. Learn how one family celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah. Young children especially will love the playful rhymes.
13. Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins. Eric A. Kimmel’s story offers a unique twist on the traditional Hannukah tale, and is sure to be a favorite among children of all ages.
14. A Hanukkah Treasury. This illustrated treasury (also by Eric A. Kimmel) contains all the recipes, stories, songs, poems, and legends you need to celebrate the holiday.
15. The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story. Despite the title, this is not a Christmas story. It’s a satirical (and spot-on) story from Lemony Snicket that reminds readers that Hanukkah is not the “Jewish Christmas.”
16. The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice. Want to steer clear of religious holidays entirely? Use this book to help explain and celebrate the Winter Solstice.
17. My First Kwanzaa Book. Children will easily relate to this story, since it is told from the point-of-view of a little boy celebrating Kwanzaa for the first time.
18. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story. This traditional folktale will help children understand the Seven Principles that are celebrated during the Kwanzaa holiday.
Holiday Reading for Adults
19. The Gift of the Magi. Although its plot revolves around Christmas, O’Henry’s short story about the true meaning of love and selfless generosity should be required holiday reading for all.
20. Chrismakkuh: Everything You Need to Know to Celebrate the Hybrid Holiday. This humorous book for interfaith families is filled with clever tips for combining Christmas and Hannukah into the perfect “hybrid holiday.”
21. A Christmas Carol. Dickens’ classic tale has been adapted into countless books and movies, but have you ever read the original? It’s a quintessential holiday read.
22. Skipping Christmas. John Grisham proves he can write more than just thrillers in his novel about a couple who decide to ignore the holidays. The Tim Allen film Christmas with the Kranks was based on Grisham’s work — though as usual, the book is better.
23. Being Santa Claus. The recently released collection of stories from real-life Santa Claus Sal Lizard will warm your heart.
24. Miracle on 34th Street. Yes, it’s a classic holiday movie times two, but the original book by Valentine Davies is, of course, better than either film.
25. Holidays on Ice. Don’t miss this smart collection full of dark holiday satire from humorist David Sedaris. Because at some point, we all need a break from the holiday cheer.