9 Books To Read To Get You In The Holiday Mood

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again — time for eggnog and latkes and caroling and clay lamps. Whether you’re celebrating Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali, Posada, Eid-al-Adha, or just holding your breath for New Year's Eve, the holiday season means family, food, celebration, and all the warm fuzzies you could ask for. But when you're not feeling those feelings, there are books to get you in the holiday mood.

It can be difficult to really commit to the holiday spirit at such a busy time of year. You’re probably still recovering from the turkey hangover of Thanksgiving, or else you’re too swamped with finals or work to even think about all the travel and decorating and cooking that’s fast approaching with the holidays. Or maybe you’ve got an… interesting family and you’re still reeling from last year’s shenanigans, hardly ready to survive a repeat again this year.

If you’re not quite feeling the holiday spirit, you might try diving into a good book to get yourself ready for the season of lights and food comas. Some books, it turns out can be really great warm-fuzzy generators, cooking inspiration, or just a really great way to remember how great your family actually is (or how crazy they, at least, aren’t). Give some of these classics and contemporaries a try to get you in the holiday mood.

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The ultimate family novel, Little Women has warm fuzzy and holidays written all over it. It’s been a perfect holiday read for over a century, and it still is. Kick back and enjoy a cozy holiday season with the Marches.

2. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird is a great way to get your dose of that magical fable-like style that the holiday season practically begs for, but without sacrificing more compelling, complex themes. Boy, Snow, Bird is nearly a retelling of Snow White, but it takes on themes like ethnic passing, class, complicated family situations, and real, messy love. All this she writes with the most beautiful language and a dreamy, fable-esque tone.

3. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

You think your family is crazy? Reading this tragicomical memoir of an insane childhood will make you want to hug every single one of your dysfunctional family members and thank your lucky stars for your only slightly crazy family.

4. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

You’re about to be spending a great deal of time in the kitchen. It’s time to get in the mood for making good food. Like Water for Chocolate’s Tita will have you eager to put your all into every dish. And if you’re not the chef in the family (there are certain cousins my family never lets in the kitchen that’s for sure), this book will have you wondering if it’s the wine or some magical spell on the food that’s got you feeling all mushy and weepy after eating the cranberry sauce.

5. Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family by Susan Katz Miller

Maybe your family is less crazy and more… complicated. These days families are more and more diverse, ethnically, politically, religiously, and otherwise. For families navigating the difficulties of multiple religions, Katz Miller encourages an embracing of “being both” rather than picking and choosing. This embracing of two religions in one family is sure to get you in that holiday mood of sharing and caring and maybe even finally put the kibosh on all (or at least some) of the arguments over menorah or tree, latkes or maple ham.

6. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway can be a bit brusque and coarse, but even his terse prose is won over by Paris. He waxes poetic about his time in Paris as a struggling writer alongside an eclectic cast of famous literary giants of the Lost Generation. And whether you’re on a sunny holiday getaway or neck deep in snow and relatives, you’ll be transported by the romantic writers paradise of Paris in the 1920s. Plus, with all of Hemingway’s notorious drinking, it’ll definitely put you in the mood for wine.

7. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

A book full of dwarves, goblins, and a cautiously heroic hobbit might not seem like the perfect holiday book, but alongside all of the ogres and wizards and daring escapes from mortal danger, there are some pretty great moments of cozy, hearty, hobbit living (with lots of tasty food), and even greater moments of camaraderie and friendship that’ll put you in a good mood for cozying up to the fam and raising a pint (or a wine glass) to the trials you’ve all endured together.

8. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Maybe you live in snow-less California or spend your holidays in a more tropical climate, but you’re craving all the cozy, charming feels that a cooler climate lends to the holiday season (you know, that magical feel that those cheesy holiday films give you). What better, then, than a sojourn to the Arctic of Pullman’s magical world?

9. The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher

Fisher’s essays on life, love, and eating are just beautiful. She writes about food not just as something that sustains us, but as completely mixed up in the stuff of life and love and family, the perfect description of the holidays. On top of the beautiful writing and ideologies, The Art of Eating also offers up some really practical advice like how to cook when there’s a food shortage or the best food to serve when giving bad news or asking for favors (rare beef and wine, by the way). Besides all that, it’ll work up your appetite nice and good for all the season’s eatings.

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