Because it’s near the end of the calendar, Christmas always feels like a reflective time of year to me. As I think about the people I’m grateful to spend the holiday with, I gravitate toward the stories associated with Christmas—including the Nativity but also classic novels like A Christmas Carol and cozier winter reads like Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. In a way, I can’t imagine celebrating the holiday without them. I think I’m not alone in that, given the number of Christmas books that readers find as essential to the holiday as giving gifts to loved ones or decorating a tree. Read on to find 25 of the best Christmas books of all time and ever written!
Included are books focused on the religious and cultural traditions of Christmas, as well as books that explore the fantastical side of the holiday with figures like Santa Claus, The Grinch, and the mysterious conductor of the Polar Express. You’ll also notice a mix of longtime classics like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas, along with newer books that are quickly becoming holiday staples.
I’ve also categorized the list by Christmas-themed children’s books and books for adults about Christmas. That way, you can find the recommendations you’re looking for more easily. Happy holidays and happy reading, too!
The Best Children’s Christmas Books of All Time
Holy Night and Little Star: A Story for Christmas by Mitali Perkins and Khoa Le
When Little Star discovers that Holy Night is coming, she can’t wait to celebrate with the heavens. Every role seems too scary or exciting for her humble role among the galaxy until Maker suggests one that fits: welcoming the Child to Earth.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Seuss
Everyone in Whoville can’t wait for Christmas to arrive — everyone, that is, except the Grinch. Isolated from and disgusted by Whoville’s celebrations, he sets out to put a stop to the holiday altogether.
But while he can steal the presents and decorations, is it possible that there’s more to Christmas than he thinks?
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Every year, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote letters to his children from Father Christmas. Through this collection, families can make the letters a part of their own traditions and introduce young readers to the adventures of Father Christmas, Polar Bear, and the eccentric residents of the North Pole.
Lullaby for the King by Nikki Grimes and Michelle Carlos
In this rhyming picture book, animals from around the world gather at the Nativity alongside angels to celebrate the birth of the newborn King. Written by New York Times bestselling author and poet Nikki Grimes, this pick makes for a gentle holiday-themed bedtime story.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
When a boy receives a ticket to the legendary Polar Express on Christmas Eve, he almost can’t believe his eyes when he meets Santa Claus himself at the North Pole. But as the classic picture book reminds its readers, “Seeing is believing.”
May Your Life Be Deliciosa by Michael Genhart and Loris Lora
Of all Christmas traditions, Rosie’s favorite is making tamales and telling stories with her abuela, mamà, tià, sisters, and cousins. Through a story inspired by the author’s own childhood, this picture book reminds readers that the joy of Christmas comes from spending it with those you hold dear.
Santa in the City by Tiffany D. Jackson and Reggie Brown
Without a chimney on her apartment’s roof and no room for a sleigh, Rosie worries that Santa won’t be able to visit and sometimes doubts he cares about her city at all. But as she asks her family her questions about Santa, she discovers that Christmas is more than a chimney or sleigh — it’s about celebrating with your community.
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
The Christmas Feast is right around the corner, and Strega Nona can’t wait! With the help of Big Anthony, Bambolona, and the residents of her Italian village, she gets ready for the big day.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Everyone knows the Herdman siblings are the rowdiest kids in town. So why have they taken a sudden interest in the Christmas pageant? Are they planning some kind of prank, or is it possible their intentions are more than they seem?
Dreams of Green: A Three Kings’ Day Story by Mariel Jungkunz and Monica Paola Rodriguez
After moving from Puerto Rico to Ohio, Lucía worries that celebrating Three Kings Day will not feel the same as it did. But with help from her family, she finds ways to celebrate that are different than before but still capture the feeling of being home.
Santa’s Gotta Go! By Derrick Barnes and Courtney Lovett
When a legendary sleigh breaks down in their yard, Monte and Mabel can’t wait to celebrate the holiday with Santa Claus himself! But Santa’s a more mischievous guest than he appears, and the siblings must find a way to get Santa’s sleigh working again before he turns their family’s house upside down.
Christmas Comes to Moominvalley, adapted from Tove Jansson by Alex Haridi, Cecelia Davidsson, and Flippa Widlund
In this adaptation of Tove Jansson’s The Fir Tree, the Moomins excitedly prepare for Christmas after waking up from their Long Winter Sleep. Because they’ve never celebrated Christmas before, they aren’t sure what to expect. But as long as they are together, they’ll figure out their own traditions and have fun along the way!
The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent and Selom Sunu
As the daughter of the two year-round Christmas celebrators, Holly is distraught when she realizes this year’s celebrations feel different. Starting at a new school after being homeschooled hasn’t been easy for her, and she doesn’t feel like spreading cheer as she normally does. With the help of her family and new friends, can she rediscover the joy of the season?
Christmas is Coming: Traditions from Around the World by Monika Utnik and Ewa Poklewska-Koziello, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Learn about the cultural diversity of traditions and folktales that people share to celebrate Christmas together. Plus, get answers to questions about the holiday you may have always wondered, like “Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th?” or “Why do we decorate Christmas trees?”
Juniper’s Christmas by Eoin Colfer
After meeting a woodsman strangely reminiscent of a certain North Pole toymaker, Juniper Lane discovers that the magic of the holiday season is all too real! But she’s not the only person who knows Santa Claus exists, and some of them have nefarious intentions.
It’s up to Juniper to save Santa and the Christmas season from those who want to steal the magic for themselves.
The Nutcracker, illustrated by Valeria Docampo
This picture book is an adaptation of the New York City Ballet’s production of the Tchaikovsky classic. Every illustration is inspired by the choreography, set, and costuming that make the production so timeless.
The Best Adult Christmas Books of All Time
A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories, edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas
This collection, edited by historian Dr. Bettye Collier-Thomas, shares classic Christmas stories and poems by Black American authors from the 19th century through the 1950s. Included are stories by Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Dubois, and Pauline Hopkins, as well as lesser-known works Dr. Collier-Thomas rediscovered from Black newspapers, periodicals, and journals.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
One of the most beloved Christmas tales of all time, A Christmas Carol is part of a larger Victorian ghost story tradition, which you can read about here in an essay by contributor K.W. Collard. It stars the coldhearted man named Ebenezer Scrooge who, on the night of Christmas Eve, is visited by three ghosts who transform his perspective on his life and what he owes to others — and warns him of things to come if he does not change his ways.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
When Vivian Forest accompanies her daughter on a work trip involving the royal family, she grows unexpectedly close with the Queen’s private secretary, Malcolm Hudson. Vivian knows her vacation in England must come to an end, but she can’t deny the spark she feels around Malcolm and how much she wants it to last.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
When Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is called to investigate a murder over the holidays, he finds a wealthy family torn by millionaire Simeon Lee’s announcement that he has changed the terms of his will — and the millionaire himself dead. Now Poirot must navigate family tensions to discover who among them had resorted to murder.
It’s a Fabulous Life by Kelly Farmer
This modern It’s a Wonderful Life retelling stars Bailey George, who has dreamed of adventure beyond her hometown of Lanford Falls for as long as she can remember. Family and work emergencies have always gotten in the way, however, and Bailey feels crushed by how different her life has turned out than she expected. But after a moment of crisis leads her to an extraordinary new friend, she discovers that there is more value than she believes in her life, which has changed Lanford Falls for the better.
Three Holidays and a Wedding by Uzma Jalaluddin and Marissa Stapley
This warmhearted novel is set in 2000 when three holidays — Christmas, Ramadan, and Hanukkah — all fell at the same time. When their plane unexpectedly has an emergency landing, and they discover they will be unable to spend the holidays with their families, three strangers form a bond and celebrate together.
You Make It Feel Like Christmas by Toni Shiloh
Starr Lewis is dreading her return home this holiday season for a particularly uncomfortable reason: her sister is getting married to her ex-boyfriend. As wedding preparations and winter festivities begin, however, Starr finds unexpected chemistry with her brother’s best friend, Waylon Emmerson.
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
When the legendary Hogfather goes missing, and the children of the Discworld no longer believe in him, Death tries to fill in. But there’s more to Hogswatch than he anticipates, and it’s up to him and his granddaughter Susan to find and rescue the Hogfather from assassins before it’s too late.
This is Christmas, Song By Song: The Stories Behind 100 Holiday Hits by Annie Zaleski
Discover fun facts and behind-the-scenes stories of popular Christmas songs, from classic hymns to newer favorites. The stories of how each song came to be are accompanied by festive illustrations, which makes for browsable and cozy holiday reading.
In the mood for holiday sleuthing? Find more recommendations in this round-up of 8 Christmas-themed Cozy Mysteries.