By Beth Clark • December 03, 2018
Some sentimental holiday reads are practically synonymous with Christmas and considered sacred, while others make us laugh year after year, but are a little too irreverent to be mainstream classics. Below are 12 titles that are a combination of both, so whichever you choose, happy holidays!
If a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle has ever been on your Christmas list despite the fear of shooting your eye out, or you've forgotten the correct pronunciation of the word FRAGILE, then you know why Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story has become the Holy Grail of Christmas stories. (Serious props if you've owned it on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, and now Amazon…that's devotion.) Shepherd's hilarious-but-twisted autobiographical humor manages to be affectionate, realistic, and completely relatable across generations, and it all started with In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. If you haven't read them yet (or heard of them until now), we triple dog dare you to!
Imagine how epic it would be for Christmas if the North Pole and The Lord of the Rings met. Oh wait, you don't have to, J.R.R. Tolkien already did. In addition to being a famous author, Tolkein was the father of four kids who looked forward to the arrival of an envelope bearing a North Pole stamp every December for 19 years. Inside would be a letter in a strange, spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or painting. The letters were from Father Christmas, and they told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place; how the accident-prone North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas's house into the dining room; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house, and many more. If you're not already a Tolkein fan (whaaat?), you will be after reading Letters from Father Christmas.
Every Who down in Who-ville says that every family who-brary isn't complete without a copy of Dr. Seuss's story about the Grinch, Max, Cindy-Lou Who, and how the Christmas spirit can make even the smallest and coldest of hearts grow three sizes in one day. (Also, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is just fun to read.)
The Nutcracker is a timeless Christmas classic for both littles and grownups, so if it's been a while since you visited the land of dancing nutcrackers, little girls, mouse-kings, toys, and the Sugarplum Fairy, there's no time like the holidays.
Rudolph, a youthful reindeer buck who possesses an unusual luminous red nose, is harassed mercilessly by his peers because of it. He manages to prove himself after Santa Claus catches sight of his nose one stormy Christmas Eve and asks him to lead his sleigh for the night. If you know all the words in your sleep (or the shower), but haven't read the book, it's definitely a classic, and the board-version of Rudolph is ideal for kids.
If a Christmas pageant involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kids could totally happen in your world, then you'll laugh every time you read the story of the Herdman siblings' shenanigans. Magic is all around as the Herdmans, who've never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.
Something is not right with the famous "twelve little girls in two straight lines." All are sick in bed except brave Madeline, who has to run the school since even Miss Clavel is not feeling very well. But when Madeline finds help from a magical merchant, the girls embark on a Christmas journey that makes them forget their sniffles and sneezes.
Only Tim Burton could bring Jack Skellington and Halloweenland to Christmas, and he does in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Bored of 'the scaring, the terror, the fright...tired of being something that goes bump in the night,' Jack takes Santa's place as the jolly old elf, but forgetting that he's a grinning skeleton, he brings fear to the world instead of joy. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong (like delivering creepy toys from a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer) does he learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean old man with no friends or family to love him - he's just so miserable and bitter One freezing cold Christmas Eve, Marley's Ghost pays Scrooge a visit and an eerie night-time journey begins. The Christmas spirits are here to show Scrooge the error if his nasty ways. By visiting his past, present and future, will Scrooge learn to love Christmas and the others around him?
Christmas Eve started out so perfectly for Maria. Snow had fallen, the streets glittered, and Maria's favorite cousins were coming over. She even got to help make the tamales for Christmas dinner. It was almost too good to be true when her mother left the kitchen for a moment and Maria got to try on her beautiful diamond ring...
In Mexico, the poinsettia is called "flor de la Nochebuenao" or flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms, and exquisite red stars light up the countryside. A Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Tomie dePaola's paintings capture the brilliant colors of Mexico and the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas, along with the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful.
Lying awake one Christmas Eve, a young boy is welcomed aboard a magical train trip to the North Pole...through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, The Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where he will make his Christmas wish. A classic for decades, Chris Van Allsburg's book has sold more than 7 million copies, and this sturdy, oversized hardcover edition is perfect for sharing and reading out loud.