Despite the crazy commercialism and frenetic busyness of the yuletide season, Christmas remains my favorite holiday. Throw into the mix a love of reading and it’s inevitable that I would eventually acquire a list of favorite Christmas-themed books and stories. Some are great stories to read with your family, others are more historical and scholarly. Here are my top 10. If you have a favorite or two on this list—or not on this list—I want to hear it. Please do share.
10. The Christmas Box, by Richard Paul Evans (Fiction, 1993)
A man and his wife and young daughter move into a Victorian mansion with an elderly lady named Mary. With the help of an angel who comes to him at night, the man discovers a mysterious box containing old letters written to a young girl who had died many years before. Through them he discovers the true meaning of Christmas.
9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Suess (Fiction, 1957)
At Christmas the Whos in Whoville would “SING, SING, SING.” The unhappy Grinch decided he must “stop this whole thing” by stealing all the presents while the village slept. How could Christmas be Christmas without any presents? The Grinch finds out, and his small heart grows three sizes.
[The next four books were part of a substantial body of material on Christmas that I read several years ago while preparing to write a book on Christmas. I haven’t written that book yet, but I enjoyed reading these.]
8. The Origins of Christmas, by Joseph F. Kelly (Nonfiction, 2004)
Christmas began as the Feast of the Nativity in the third or fourth century. The author gives a fascinating picture of the mixture of Christian and pagan traditions that melded over the centuries to become Christmas.
7. Christmas Customs and Traditions, by Clement A. Miles (Nonfiction, 1976 reprint of 1912 original)
Originally published over 100 years ago, Miles’s book is a classic reference work on Christmas customs and traditions. He traces the history of Christmas music, literature, decorations, food, drink, and other aspects of the season as celebrated around the world.
6. Christmas in America, by Penne L. Restad (Nonfiction, 1996)
Restad traces the development of Christmas from its sometimes bizarre customs of earlier days in America to the more family friendly version we enjoy today, which includes Christmas trees and greenery, gift giving, Christmas cards, Santa Claus, movies, music, literature, and more.
5. The Battle for Christmas, by Stephen Nissenbaum (Nonfiction, 1997)
Nissenbaum argues that Christmas as it is observed today in millions of American homes is the result of deliberate efforts in the 19th century to domesticate an untamed, carnival holiday. These efforts included intentionally commercializing Christmas (!) and publishing new literature with Christmas themes, such as Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” and Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” which were wildly popular in the first half of that century.
4. The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry (Fiction, 1905)
A classic short (very short) story about a poor young couple’s sacrificial love toward each other at Christmas.
3. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (Fiction, first published in 1843)
The all-time Dickens classic about cold-hearted Ebenezer (“Bah! Humbug!”) Scrooge, whose compassionate humanity is restored through a life-changing series of encounters with frightening ghosts and compassionate people like Tiny Tim, who gave us the immortal words, “God bless us, every one.” You may have a favorite movie rendition of this timeless classic, but be sure to read the book. You’ll be glad you did.
2. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson (Fiction, 1972)
This classic holds a special place in my heart as I read it aloud to the family, one chapter a night, every year at Christmastime when our kids were little. It’s about the Herdmans, who were “absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world,” who “lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain.” But when they got involved in the local church’s annual Christmas pageant, they changed, and so did the community. This one will make you laugh and make you cry. “Hey, unto you a child is born!”
1. The story of the Nativity of the Christ in the New Testament. (Nonfiction, first century A.D.)
Without this story, there would be no numbers 2-9 above. Check out Matthew 2:1-20; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-20. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 KJV).
Please share your favorite Christmas-themed books and stories, either on “The Dean’s English” Facebook page or in a comment below. Merry Christmas!
© 2016 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved.