The holiday season is a time for many things – gifting, eating, sleeping and hunkering down with loved ones. Many of us can resonate then, with Andy Williams, who calls it “the most wonderful time of the year”.
Books won’t just get you in the spirit and bring a small slice of joy, they can also provide some solace from the frenzied pressures of the big day and allow you to take a moment to yourself.
Whether it’s a story to read to a little one or a classic enjoyed with a mulled wine in front of the fire, celebrate the festive period with these titles.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott, published by Penguin Classics
Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, this compelling family drama follows sisters Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth – four “little women”. Beginning with their first Christmas without their father, what ensues is a narrative of navigating both life and death. Through deft storytelling and poignant characterisation, Alcott creates a vivacious tale, one that will stay with you for many years to come.
Buy now £5.94, WHSmith
‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, published by Penguin Random House Children’s UK
Is there anything more synonymous with the festive season than A Christmas Carol? This novella tells the story of a mean-spirited, old man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who hates everything to do with the cursed day. Through following Scrooge’s moral journey, where he is haunted by three spirits and learns the true meaning of Christmas, Dickens touches on themes of personal transformation and the grotesqueries of greed. The perfect book to read in front of a fire with a glass of mulled wine in hand.
Buy now £9.99, Waterstones
‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ by V&A, published by Penguin Random House
Combining a selection of patterns from the V&A’s Willia Morris archive with a number of new illustrations by Liz Cathpole, this book brings the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, to life. Less of a fictional story and more of a celebration of festive spirit, we’re sure fans of art and design will thoroughly enjoy.
Buy now £6.30, Blackwell’s
‘One Day in December’ by Josie Silver, published by Penguin Books
Chosen as a novel to read in Reese Witherspoon’s book club, she said: “Get ready to be swept up in a whirlwind romance. It absolutely charmed me”. Centred around two characters, Laurie and Jack, One Day in December tells the story of friendship, heartbreak and missed opportunities. Equal parts heartbreaking and joyous, it’s a festive feast.
Buy now £8.36, Bookshop
‘Winter’ by Ali Smith, published by Hamish Hamilton
The second in Smith’s seasonal quartet is a shape-shifting tour de force that echoes A Christmas Carol. Winter follows the lives of four people who meet in a 15-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas. This is a warm, funny and painfully sad seasonal tale of survival.
Buy now £7.15, Amazon
‘SantaLand Diaries’ by David Sedaris, published by Abacus
From writer and satirist David Sedaris comes SantaLand Diaries, a collection of personal Christmas accounts, including working as an elf in a department store in New York. Putting his own spin on the holiday season, this provides the perfect antidote to all the frenzied festivities and is a laugh out loud, must-read.
Buy now £9.19, Blackwell’s
‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ by Dr. Seuss, published Harper Collins
It wouldn’t be a round-up of Christmassy reads without this timeless classic. Dr. Seuss ingeniously weaves deep life lessons into his tale of the Grinch, the meanest creature who hates Christmas, to demonstrate that the festive season is a spiritual experience, not a material one.
Buy now £6.55, Amazon
Yet to get your festive fir? Read our review of the best real Christmas trees