The only thing that can make the holidays more magical is curling up with a holiday-inspired book under a blanket and a hot cup of something special in your hand. And talking about said books with friends? Even better. Book clubs are fun all year, but there are some holiday books for book clubs that can get everyone in the spirit. It's not too late to start a seasonally-themed story; in fact, if you're having trouble getting those holiday vibes going, these titles will do the trick.
I reached out to self-proclaimed bookworm Jennifer Welsh — a Barnes & Noble bookseller out of New York who is known for her knack for basing recommendations on a customer’s personal taste and current mood — and asked her what makes a great holiday book (and book club book, in particular).
"A great holiday book is something cheerful and colorful, and either newly released — to increase the excitement of receiving it — or a long-treasured classic, exquisitely bound," Welsh tells Romper in an email interview.
"I often think, too, that the best gifts are ones we want, but would never buy for ourselves," she continues. "A great book club book is one that is easy and enjoyable to read (as a respite from our busy lives), but that resonates and engages the group as a whole with its themes. The best book clubs are the ones where members are stirred by common life questions." These 13 holiday book club books will definitely give you a magical respite from the busy world.
1. 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is the captivating story of four dramatically different sisters and their mother which explores their everyday struggles and what it was like to be a woman in the 1800s. This is my all-time favorite book, and I think I’ve read it at least 25 times. If I had a daughter, I want to name her Josephine, partly because that’s my grandmother-in-law’s name, and partly because Jo March is my favorite literary character. But I digress. This would make a perfect holiday book club book because the Marches have the best Christmases. Reading about them just makes you feel warm, fuzzy, and cozy — like you’re there celebrating with the family. (And if I remember correctly, there are a few Christmas scenes throughout the novel.) Plus, you can talk about how Jo’s feminism and free spirit would be taken today and how she was one of the great early feminist role models.
2. 'You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas' by Augusten Burroughs
Augusten Burroughs is hilarious and one of my favorite authors, and his self-deprecating humor is much appreciated. His book You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas will have you laughing out loud while somehow feeling like you can somewhat to relate to all of the highs and lows of the holiday season. No matter what, Burroughs can make anything funny, and discussing this memoir will have your entire book club in stitches.
3. 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens
Obviously, A Christmas Carol is holiday-tastic as it’s set around Christmas time and it shows what happens to those who are bitter, greedy, and lacking of the Christmas spirit. Let’s just say it ain’t good. And it isn’t the holiday season without a little Ebenezer Scrooge, right? As with most Dickens novels, there is a lot of imagery and symbolism in there that would be great topics for a book club. A couple of Goodreads reviews say that this is a story that must be read, and not just watched in the dozens of movies made about this novel.
4. 'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey
The Snow Child is a whimsical book that's perfect for a holiday read. There’s snow, magic, great storytelling, and it's a hell of a good book to curl up with by the fire. Set in 1920, it's about a couple who works on a farm in Alaska whose relationship isn’t in such a great place. After the first snow of the season, they build a “snow child” and the next morning, a young girl appears. The little girl “could have stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale,” according to the book’s description on Goodreads. Good book club conversation starters: the style of the author’s writing and themes.
5. 'One Day in December' by Josie Silver
And another light, fun, holiday romance novel for your reading pleasure: Book of the Month Club says One Day In December is "The best British holiday meet cute since Love Actually." Now that's a pretty big compliment.
6. 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' by C.S. Lewis
Even if you aren’t into the whole Christian thing, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a beautifully written book. And you can even objectively discuss the allegory of the characters and thematic Christian elements if you so choose. There’s snow, magical lands, and mythical creatures. That screams holiday to me. Travel to Narnia through the wardrobe with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy and discover all of the whimsical characters who live in Narnia while sipping on some hot chocolate.
7. 'Letters From Father Christmas' by J.R.R. Tolkien
Letters from Father Christmas is quite different than Tolkien’s other works, but he did throw in some goblins for good measure, of course. Tolkien put his incredible writing chops to good use every Christmas by penning a letter to his children as Santa Claus. And each letter spun a whimsical tale about Santa’s life at the North Pole and all the mischief Saint Nick would find himself in throughout the year. Perhaps a book club could discuss the similarities and differences of writing style between this work and Tolkien’s other masterpieces. Or you can just talk about how much you enjoyed it, because it’s just that good. If this book doesn’t make you believe in Santa Claus again and bring the magic of Christmas back into your heart, nothing will.
8. 'Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances' by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
Even though John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson are masters of young adult fiction, their storytelling and writing prowess extends to people of any age, and the fun holiday book Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances is no different. Reading about these interconnected love stories all by different authors would be a really fun holiday book club book read to put everyone in the lovey dovey Christmas spirit. Aw.
9. 'The Golem and The Jinni' by Helene Wecker
For those who celebrate Hanukkah, Welsh recommended The Golem and The Jinni. "This is not a Hanukkah book, but it’s a delightful piece of historical fiction, with a bit of fantasy, that acts as a metaphor for immigrant assimilation in 1900 NYC, between a Jewish Golem and an Arabic Jinni," Welsh says. "Because they are not human, they find they must both overcome their limitations, and squelch their powers in order to blend in. They find a great friendship bound by this common struggle."
10. 'A Christmas Memory' by Truman Capote
Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory is arguably an autobiography of Capote's childhood in Alabama, full of unlikely friendships, fruitcake weather, and more, all told through the eyes of a 7-year-old boy named Buddy. This emotionally powerful story will be talked about and discussed for hours at your book club meeting. Guaranteed.
11. 'The Golden Compass' by Phillip Pullman
I've heard about many book clubs discussing whether the metaphors and undertones are Christian, even though the author is an atheist. The cool thing is, I don't think anyone really knows. This first book in Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass, is a magical story about a young girl embarking on an adventure to "the cold, far north" where there are witches, bears, and other scary creatures to save her friend Roger.
12. 'From Paris With Love This Christmas' by Jules Wake
If your book club is into the romantic genre, From Paris With Love This Christmas is the way to go. It's a follow-up to Wake's previous novel, From Italy With Love, and it just may inspire you to believe in holiday magic again.
13. 'Holidays on Ice' by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is the master of wit and creative nonfiction essays, and he and Augusten Burroughs are probably my top two favorite male essayists. Holidays on Ice doesn't disappoint Sedaris fans one bit as he regales his readers with hilarious stories, including the diaries of a Macy's elf, and "what to do if you're locked out of your house during a snowstorm," according to Barnes & Noble. There are even a few stories for other holidays in here, so this read is a great one whether it's the holiday season or not.
14. 'Twelve Days of Christmas' by Trisha Ashley
If you want a Hallmark movie in book form, Twelve Days of Christmas just might be your best bet. The story features a widow, an artist, a remote house, and a snow storm. Even though this book may not provide the most intense and intellectual discussion for your book club, sometimes we all just want a fun book to read and talk about over drinks.
15. 'My True Love Gave to Me' anthology
My True Love Gave to Me includes many well-known YA authors, some up-and-coming authors, and many really thoughtful and heartwarming stories to put you and your book club in the holiday spirit. Some of the stories would be perfect for a miniseries, while others you wish would be the length of an entire novel instead of just a short story. It’s definitely worth checking out — and sometimes there’s nothing like a good YA book to read and discuss at book club. They’re some of my personal favorites.
16. 'Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries' collection
For something a little different for your holiday reads, there’s Christmas “magic” in the form of miracles, and then there are things that mysteriously happen. Magical or crime? You be the judge when you read Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries, a collection of British holiday crime stories.
17. 'This Christmas' by Jane Green, Jennifer Coburn, & Liz Ireland
In my experience, all of Jane Green’s and Jennifer Coburn’s books are fun, quick reads that are highly entertaining. The perfect book club book for the holidays, right? This Christmas focuses on three different women and how they all handle Christmas in their different circumstances as a restless suburban housewife, a newlywed, and a young woman bringing home a boyfriend to meet the family during the holidays.
18. 'The Christmas Mystery' by Jostein Gaarder & Elizabeth Rokkan
A Christmas adventure can be found in this sweet novel, The Christmas Mystery. A little boy finds an old, dusty advent calendar, and opening the doors leads him on a magical journey.
Not in a book club yet but feel inspired to start one? Welsh says every Barnes & Noble nationwide has a free book club night at 6 p.m. "in the early part of each season. Stores have their own sign-up sheets at their customer service desks. The book selection is the same for every Barnes & Noble for that season, and changes each season." So head over to Barnes & Noble in the new year, and in the meantime, give your friends a call to get started on reading a few of these books.
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