10 Holiday Books To Make You Merry
The holidays pass quickly. We find ourselves spending much of our time in tinsel-festooned shopping malls, at holiday parties with enchanting open bars, and on our living room floors, kneeling over our too-long-put-off gift wrapping projects. This holiday season take a night off. Pour yourself a glass of nog, set aside a few cookies, and grab yourself one of these great holiday reads, all of which are sure to keep you merry and mirthful right on through to the New Year. Whether you’re into the classics or you’re just looking for a little laugh (to distract you from the impending stress of your in-laws’ take-over, for example), this list has a little something for everybody. From Charles Dickens to David Sedaris to Nicolai Gogol, keep reading for 10 of the best holiday books out there.
‘A Christmas Carol’
This novella is such an important part of our collective holiday consciousness that Dickens is sometimes referred to as “the man who invented Christmas.” The novella is centered on the life of the most notorious literary Naughty Lister — Ebenezer Scrooge — and tells the story of his Great Christmas Spirit Awakening.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
The plot of this classic novel by Louisa May Alcott spans several years as it chronicles the comings-of-age of the March sisters, four young ladies growing up in Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War. Though not a Christmas novel per se, some of the book’s most extraordinary scenes focus on the special ways in which the little women celebrate the holidays in the face of war, poverty, and illness. Meanwhile, its notions of hope, charity, and love tug at our easily manipulated holiday heartstrings.
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women.
‘Holidays on Ice’
Looking for something a little lighter? David Sedaris, of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls and Me Talk Pretty One Day has just the thing for you — his 1997 collection of short stories, Holidays on Ice. The collection opens with “SantaLand Diaries,” his personal account of working as a Macy’s elf, as told through journal entries. If you’re feeling a little Scroogey this year, this volume is guaranteed to let your heart be light again. Bonus: the updated 2010 edition features six new stories.
David Sedaris, Holidays on Ice.
Sometimes what you need around the holidays is some perspective, and Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections has plenty of that. It’s easy to read books about perfect families and then lament your own family’s comparative dysfunction. Franzen’s Lambert family, on the other hand, will have you feeling right at home. Despite their repression and poor communication skills, Enid, the matriarch of the family, is determined to bring them all together one last time for Christmas in the fictional Midwestern town of St. Jude. A 2001 National Book Award winner, this novel is worth reading any time of year.
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections.
‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’
Bridget Jones of Helen Fielding’s novels (and their subsequent film series) is a very honestly-written character — and that is part of why we love her so much, particularly around the holidays. The first book in the series takes place, in part, around Christmas, a time at which Bridget seems to be almost coming apart at the seams. In the midst of holiday pressures, she is struggling to come to terms with the shortcomings of her career, her love of alcohol, her cigarette addiction, and her tendency to date “alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits, [and] perverts.” We can relate, Bridget. We can absolutely relate.
Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary.
“A Christmas Memory”
“A Christmas Memory” is Truman Capote’s classic and long-beloved memoir of his childhood years spent in Alabama in the 1930s — and a special friendship he shared with an elderly cousin, Miss Sook Faulk, during that time. Tender and joyful, this short piece will give you the warm fuzzies. A holiday classic, “A Christmas Memory” has been the subject of films, broadcasts, and other performances, and is well worth adding to your rotation of holiday-inspired diversions.
Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory.”
‘The Lay of the Land’
Richard Ford’s third installment of his much-decorated Frank Bascomb trilogy takes us back to Thanksgiving week in 2000, as the presidential election results hang in the balance, and as Frank prepares to spend the holiday with his ex-wife Ann and their two children. The sharp wit and the insightful first-person ruminations on home, permanency, the state of the nation, and mortality make this holiday-relevant novel a must-read for anybody interested in brilliant writing and big ideas. (That means you.)
Richard Ford, The Lay of the Land.
‘The Holiday Book of Awesome’
This book by Neil Pasricha, creator of the website 1000 Awesome Things, is a holiday-themed follow-up to his bestselling The Book of Awesome. This latest collection captures all the little things that make the holidays extra good — like just barely wrapping a gift with that tiny scrap of leftover wrapping paper. It’s all in the details, and all these details are just awesome.
Neil Pasricha, The Holiday Book of Awesome.
‘The Night Before Christmas’
This is not The Night Before Christmas you remember fondly from your childhood. Instead, this macabre and playful book by Russian writer Nicolai Gogol tells the story of a different Christmas Eve — one on which the devil steals the moon, hides it in his pocket, and then incites havoc and mischief all about the city. Foregrounded by the story of Vakula, a man who is deeply in love with the famously beautiful (and, unfortunately, disinterested) Oksana, this book recounts his efforts to win her over by doing battle with the devil himself. A fun read.
Nicolai Gogol, The Night Before Christmas.
‘Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand’
Though not categorically a Christmas novel, some of the events of this Helen Simonson book straddle the holiday season. It tells the story of Major Ernest Pettigrew, an aging widow whose brother has just passed away, sparking a fortuitous friendship with Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shop owner in their quaint English village. The book is about new beginnings and taking risks in the pursuit of unexpected happiness —a perfect read to warm you holiday heart.
Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.