The 12 Books of Christmas

Most of us have heard the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" — it refers to the 12 days of Christmas beginning on December 25 (true story, they begin on the 25th), and consists of a list of gifts for each day given to the singer by his or her loved ones. These gifts include everything from various feathered fowl to, well, fellow human beings. Not the most practical wish list.

What is a practical Christmas gift? A book, of course! Which is why we've rounded up a list of our own: The 12 Books of Christmas.

Of course, you may not have the time to read 12 books in as many days (but if you can, I salute you!), so consider this holiday reading list a menu from which you can pick and choose, based on your holiday-related mood. There may not be any calling birds or geese-a-laying or even swans-a-swimming, but this list does contain lords, ladies, maids, some gold rings (or at least, the marriages they represent), and music (drums? Probably. Pipers? Maybe not). It is a combination of wintry classics, nostalgic YA favorites, and maybe even some new books you haven't even read yet. The 12 Books of Christmas are meet all your winter holiday reads, spanning the festivity gambit from "holy jolly to "ho-ho-go away and leave me alone."

P.S. You don't have to wait to be given these books — grab one for yourself! It's the holidays, so chances are that you're traveling, and be it planes, trains, or automobiles, a good book is essential for your journey.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We’ve all seen a host of film and television adaptations of this classic Dickens tale (Muppets forever!) but this Christmas, go straight to the source by reading the 18 original novel. It’s full of the bittersweet scenarios, political critiques, and quirky characterizations that define his best work.

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Landline by Rainbow Rowell

If you need one more reason to read all-around charming novel and Goodreads Choice Awards’ pick for Best Fiction of the year, then how about this: it’s the perfect Christmas book. Bittersweet, a little wacky, and laugh-out-loud funny, this story follows TV writer Georgie McCool as she is forced to choose between being with her family and landing a big career break on Christmas Eve. A nod to classic film It’s A Wonderful Life in the form of a magic phone that allows Georgie talk back in time to a younger version of her husband and consider what might have been if they never got married, is the cherry on top of this ideal Christmas novel.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Spanning multiple seasons and several years, Little Women can’t quite be pegged down to any one time of year, but it’s hard to argue that some of its most memorable moments are winter ones: the befriending of Laurie, Amy’s icy plunge, Jo’s shocking haircut, and the Marches’ delivery of a delicious Christmas dinner to the Himmels. Little Women is as Christmas-y as rosy cheeks and woollen mittens.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

With a snowy Prague setting, mouthwatering descriptions of steaming bowls of goulash, ballet dancers and puppets, all described in lush, poetic language, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a winter jackpot. Add to all this the beginnings of a swoon-worthy, star-crossed love story (with a handsome, sensitive angel, no less) and this YA fantasy is the ideal holiday reading. Be careful — start reading one and you’ll devour the whole trilogy!

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The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Alternative history meets noir, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is a mystery set in an alternate-world Sitka, Alaska, which has become the site of a Jewish civilization following WWII. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union follows policeman Meyer Landsman as his attempts to track down an elusive, chess-playing killer leader to deeper and deeper mysteries. With its snowy setting, wry sense of humor and Yiddish-peppered dialogue, Chabon’s book is perfect Hanukkah holiday reading.

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My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

Looking to fall in love a little this holiday season? This collection of holiday-themed stories from some of your favorite YA writers — including Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, Ally Carter and Stephanie Perkins — has you covered. Short stories are perfect for when you’re snatching a few quiet moments to yourself, but still want something that packs an emotional punch. And hey, the title is even a reference to the same song this post is based on!

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Between braving overcrowded shopping malls, battling the first wave of winter colds and flus, and dealing with, ahem, challenging relatives, the holiday season can bring out the monster in all of us. Which is why Shelley’s classic novel is so weirdly comforting around this time of year: as Frankenstein’s creature rambles through the frozen mountains, spouting philosophy, cursing his creator, and generally being kind of emo, you think to yourself, Hey, this makes me and my family look normal.

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

We're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes we absolutely can and this is one of those times: Life After Life's simple, beautiful, snowy cover practically announces This is your next winter read. It's not a Christmas novel per se, but Life After Life circles around the holiday season, flipping back and forth November and February in the first three decades of the 20th century as its heroine is born and reborn, and its examination of big existential questions — What happens when we die? What is the meaning of our lives? — are certainly seasonally appropriate.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Like Little Women, Bridget Jones’s Diary is technically a book of all seasons, but again, its denouement and most memorable moment — that snowy Mark Darcy kiss — is a holiday one. Read it again between Christmas and New Year's: light, funny, but not saccharine, it’s a lovely holiday hangover read.

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The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Consider this the atheist's winter holiday read. Philip Pullman’s breathtaking, thought-provoking YA classic has all the requisite winter magic — plucky kids, an Arctic setting, armored polar bears — as well a complex critique of organized religion.

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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Heartbreak happens, even during the holidays. If you’re nursing a bruised heart this winter, looking for an excuse to bail on a series of holiday parties, and longing to indulge your tragic side, then it’s time to tackle Tolstoy. After all, what’s more wintry and melodramatic than Russian literature?

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Maybe there it's the lingering influence of the film adaptations' release dates, but there is something that always feels so Christmas-y about the whole Harry Potter series, and none more so than The Goblet of Fire, which not only features a trip into Hogsmeade, but also the angst and romance of the Tri-Wizard Yule Ball. So curl up, pour yourself a Butterbeer, and indulge in a little Potter-centric nostalgia.

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